22 Dec 2011

Tomato, Garlic, Olives and Bread Tapas


My mom and I love appetizers. We can make a meal out of them. Currently we are trying to understand more about Spanish cuisine, particularly the concept of tapas. Everyone knows that they are perfect for cocktail parties and the stories about their origin are numerous. But the one that intrigues me most is the vision of wealthy Spanish nobles lounging on couches and consuming food. Apparently they did not like to use cutlery as they reclined on their left arms and used only the right arm for eating! This is how the concept of finger food or nibbles, as I call them, was introduced in Spain.


Olives and tomatoes are like my comfort food. I love lounging with a book and a plate of olive and tomato tapas by my side.


Once the tomatoes are blanched and chopped, these are pretty simple to make. The use of brown sugar and lemon impart a different sort of tangy flavor. I suggest that you keep the flavor simple and do not add any extra garnishes.

Tomato, Garlic, Olives and Bread Tapas
Adapted from Graphiti
 Serves 4

Ingredients
4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
4 – 5 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
Zest of ½ lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1 ½ tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
A few black olives finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
6 slices brown bread
Black olive slices for garnish

Method
  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, add garlic and sauté until it starts to brown.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, brown sugar and lime zest. Cook stirring, until tomatoes turn mushy.
  3. Add olives, lime juice and remaining oil, mix well and cook for another 6 – 8 mins.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, remove from fire and set it aside.
  5. Toast the bread slices and cut into 4 squares each.
Spoon the tomato, garlic and olive mix onto each piece. Garnish with olive slices and serve immediately

18 Dec 2011

Wine Poached Pears



Wine poached pears and the company of good friends. My friends J and V came over one evening and helped me make these pears. Or rather, the sauce for these pears. While V was on the phone the entire time, J helped by stirring the sauce for me. The sauce caramelized (oh, no!) but we had the best time pulling “strands” from the pot and watching it harden in the cold December air. We then proceeded to eat these “strands” and all the wonderful “shapes” we had tried to make in the “air.”  My sauce definitely got ruined (and needless to say my New Year’s resolution is going to be to work on reducing my sauces – especially after the orange marmalade disaster. But that is another story). But the hard wine candy was surprisingly good. In fact I even broke it up and kept some away for foodie.

The next thing was to take pictures. Since my camera had gone on a holiday with my parents, V had to get his. We bounced around the house trying to get the perfect props and lighting in place and V was still on the phone. Though I could not get a very good picture, I now kind of have an idea on the best places to photograph in the house. What followed was a veritable feast of poached pears, vanilla ice cream, wine candy and chocolate sauce. This time V got off the phone!


I would suggest that you start with firm pears. The soft ones will not hold their shape and tend to become lumpy. You can water down the wine a little bit if you prefer. If you do so, a good proportion would be a ratio of wine to water – 3: 1. Add any spices that you like. I put in a stick of cinnamon and 3 star anise. I have a feeling that some orange peel will be great too. The amount of time needed for poaching depends on the kind of pears used and whether you have put them in whole or in pieces. A whole pear takes longer to poach and the firm Asian pears (the ones I used) will also take longer. See how you like them – if you like a bit of crunch, then poach for less time than if you like them to be very soft.  

If you scared of reductions (like me) then just leave the pears in the liquid. If not, reduce the liquid for 5 – 10 minutes or until it becomes half its quantity. This is your sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Wine Poached Pears
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

2 firm Asian pears, peeled
375 ml red wine
125 ml water
130 gms sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 -3 star anise

Method
  1. Pour the wine and water in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, cinnamon and star anise. Heat this until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the pears and cover the pan so that the vapor does not escape.
  3. Keep the liquid on a low boil and simmer for around 45 minutes. Flip the pears on their other side at 22 minutes. Check to see if they are cooked.
  4. Remove from heat and let them cool in their liquid.
  5. Serve with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.


12 Dec 2011

Travelling Diva by Ritu Dalmia


I first came across Ritu Dalmia through her TV show Italian Khana. Her episode on truffles and the dogs hunting them left me staring at the tv set for more than half an hour without blinking. The second time was when a friend promised to tell me when the chef was coming to the city to conduct her classes. She “forgot” and I had to make do with the recipes but without the expert advice accompanying it.

What actually prompted me to buy this book was Ritu Dalmia sitting on a glorified scooter, basket of veggies on the back seat, having the time of her life! Well, that and the great discount I got.

This cookbook has over 120 recipes ranging from wok fried variations of rice and noodles from the streets of Beijing and Bangkok to the very Caribbean jambalaya; the tastiest Swiss roesti to the quintessential Javanese chicken and coconut curry; wicked Austrian desserts to the American red velvet cake; crisp and light Philippino spring rolls to her own version of Bhindi Bhojpuri. Not to mention cookies, dips and other munch worthy tidbits that promises to change the way we snack!

The book is divided into sections such as ‘Sole Food, Soul Food’ – those are easy one – dish meals to pamper oneself with, ‘More for the Merry’ – fun finger food for a party, ‘The Morning After’ – for brunches and picnics, ‘Table for Two’ – for special occasions and ‘After Hours’ – easy snacks for when a craving hits.


It also has sections on tools and ingredients required for the kitchen and a basic recipes chapter that deals with a few sauces and stocks. The stores and suppliers list is exhaustive and covers all the major cities in the country. More than any other chapter, these 3 chapters were the ones I was most appreciative about as Dalmia speaks only for the Indian cook and the Indian kitchen. This means that she doesn’t use fancy ingredients and tools that would be nearly impossible to find – in fact all of the stuff she mentions can be found in Kolkata (which is a very very rare occurrence).

She also has a chapter on where she eats when globetrotting. She recommends “overpriced” as well as “tiny family run shops” in places like London, Scotland, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Turkey and Spain as well as places closer home like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

There is a special introduction to each chapter and not just a general one for the entire book. In each introduction she writes about why she has included the recipes she has. Each chapter starts with a funny quote like, “if we are not supposed to eat midnight snacks, why is there a light in the fridge?” Dalmia does not mess around with different serving sizes for each recipe. There is a general serving size for each chapter and every recipe in that chapter conforms to it. Each of them also come with a personal anecdote mixed with a bit of history about the dish that makes a fun read – yes, many of them had me snickering away by myself! Her style of writing is clear, concise and easy to read. Almost none of the recipes are over a page long.

Though the book deals with a mix of cuisines, it does not seem forced. The categories of chapters are also unique and not your usual appetizers, mains, desserts and drink sections. Personally I could do with a few more pictures but the quirky illustrations at the bottom of most pages (like a fish and pig in a chef’s hat) made up for it. Also, with difficult to understand dishes like the Vietnamese Spring Rolls, she has step by step pictures that clearly illustrate the techniques.

The Chef suggests variations that can be made to each dish at the bottom of most recipes. What I especially love is the fact that she has made most of the recipes veg and has a non veg option to it instead of leaving out the vegetarians altogether. She has a variety of menus at the end of each chapter with titles like ‘Light on the Stomach,’ ‘Ultimate Aphrodisiac Dinner,’ ‘Brunch in the Garden,’ ‘For Those who Love their Greens,’ and ‘For those who Love their Meats.’ And I can say this a millions times – I love the fact that she doesn’t ignore vegetarians!

Having made her deluxe tomato sauce from page 10, I can safely say that it is not only her writing which is brilliant, but her recipes too. She gives you enough creative liberty to spice things up your own way but makes sure you get the techniques right. This is the first time an Indian chef has bothered to write such a book – international food for the Indian audience all the way! Its definitely worth a buy.




30 Nov 2011

Oven Dried Tomatoes


You will never want to go out and buy a jar of flavorless sun dried tomatoes again. I promise.


I love tomatoes. Usually though, I prefer them raw in salads and uncooked. The only exceptions I make to this rule are for sun dried tomatoes – but I am finicky about these too. I hate buying them in jars.



There were lovely ripe tomatoes at the vegetable market the other day. While I was walking around figuring out what all I needed to buy, this particular ‘sabziwala’ insisted that I purchase nothing but tomatoes from him. Indeed, he insisted in a way that I couldn’t get away even if I wanted to! These are ‘desi tamatar,’ he said, full of flavor. You come right back and return these if you don’t like them. Well, needless to say, I certainly didn’t have to return these babies! They were delicious and I even went back and bought another kg the next day.


At first I was toying with the idea of making a tomato tart or tomato jam. But then I realized that I didn’t want to pair it with anything and wanted the tomatoes only for themselves – something that would enhance their flavor. I have attempted sun dried tomatoes earlier and they didn’t work out very well due to the humid weather. So this time around I made oven dried ones. And then I made another batch. And so on the whole weekend long. I am now addicted. I snack on them just by themselves, I have eaten them on a sandwich and tossed them with spaghetti aglio olio. Now I am looking forward to trying out sun dried tomato butter!


 You HAVE to try these out. Period.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1 kg fresh tomatoes (halved or sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp ground pepper
1 ½ tsp garlic sea salt (add more according to taste)

  1. If you are using small tomatoes, halve them. Slice into four if you are using large ones. Scoop out the seeds (don’t throw them away – reuse in a chutney). Place the slices skin side up on some newspaper layered with paper napkins for 20 minutes. This will get rid of the excess moisture.
  2. Put the olive oil in a large bowl and add the garlic, basil, pepper and salt. Let this sit for 10 minutes so that the flavors are infused.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the bowl and toss them well so that they are well coated with the oil mix.
  4. Preheat the oven to 80 C/ gas mark 1/ 175 F or the lowest temperature possible.
  5. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Place the tomatoes skin side up and sprinkle the remaining garlic pieces from the bowl on top.
  6. Bake for 3 – 3 ½ hours. My tomatoes were not completely crispy and still had the teeniest amount of moisture in them. The edges turned black as well. But that is how I like them. Increase or decrease your baking time according to your taste. Some oven dried tomatoes are baked for upto 6 hours.
  7. Let them cool on a wire rack. Put them in a jar and top with olive oil. This will stay for months.



29 Nov 2011

Apple Brown Sugar Meringue Pie



An international food magazine has finally been launched in India!! BBC Good Food India was launched this month and I had to try out a recipe. The beautiful apples available this season made me want to try this variation of an apple pie. 



For me, an apple pie is not just about the apple filling but also very much about the crust. I really appreciate a nice thick crumbly buttery crust in my pies. This one promised a buttery biscuit layer and a brown sugar meringue topping. The filling was simply delicious. My family loved it and ate up every crumb. But I wanted the crust to be much thicker.

I made the biscuit layer mixed with some oats. Also, I used a classic 9 inch pie dish instead of small 3 inch ones. I would suggest that when you try this out, increase the amount of biscuits and butter you use for the crust and use 3 egg whites for the meringue topping. Using 2 ½ apples instead of 3 for the filling would probably be a better choice too – keep the other ingredients the same.

 Here’s hoping that the next time I make this, I am left craving for more!

Apple Brown Sugar Meringue Pie

Adapted from BBC Good Food India magazine

Ingredients:
For the filling:
Tart green apples, 3 peeled, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Sugar ½ cup
Flour 1 tbsp
Cinnamon powder ½ tsp
Cream 2 tbsp
Walnuts ½ cup, chopped finely
Butter 1 tbsp, to dot the filling

For the pie shell:
Digestive biscuits 150 gms, ground into crumbs
Butter 50 gms, melted and cooled

For the brown sugar meringue topping
Egg whites, 2
Cream of tartar 1/8 tsp (I used a pinch of salt as a substitute).
Demerera sugar, 4 tbsp

  1. preheat the oven to 180 C. Keep 6 3” loose bottom tart tins ready. (I used a 9” pie dish).
  2. Toss all the filling ingredients, except the butter in a large bowl, making sure the apple pieces are coated well. Reserve.
  3. Mix the biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and divide between the tart tins. Press halfway up the sides and cover the bottom, pressing gently but firmly into place. Divide the filling equally between the tart tins. Dot with butter, cover the tins with foil and place on a cookie tray. Bake for 35 mins (40 – 45 mins if using a large pie dish) at 190 C.
  4. when there are 5 mins to go, prepare the brown sugar meringue topping. Beat the whites with the salt until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add the brown sugar, one tbsp at a time and continue to beat till the meringue holds stiff peaks and is very firm.
  5. take the tray out of the oven and remove the foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C. Divide the meringue filling equally between the tart tins, making sure it seals the edges completely. Make peaks with the back of a spatula ( I could not do this as I did not have enough meringue – use 3 egg whites please). Return to the oven. Bake for 15 – 20 mins (if using a large pie dish, bake for 30 – 35 mins) until golden brown. Cool the pies on a rack and refrigerate until ready to serve.



21 Nov 2011

3 Grain Olive Oil and Herb Crackers with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip



I feel like a teenager wanting to write a ‘Dear Diary’ entry – ‘Dear Blog, I’m sorry I have been away for so long. I have missed you.’ This has been the season of festivals and birthdays. This should mean that I cook up a variety of new things. But folks, all that people seem to want to eat are mini cocoa fudge cupcakes with a chocolate ganache frosting. So these are what I have been making over and over again all this last month.


Now back to the 3 grain olive oil and herb crackers with a roasted red bell pepper dip. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Serve this up when you want something gourmet – ish but easy to make. This dish should not take more than ½ hour – 45 mins really, to put together from scratch


I cannot pin point what my favorite part of the dish is. Are they the wonderfully aromatic and crisp crackers? Or the roasted pepper blended together with cream cheese and balsamic vinegar? Or simply the underlying flavor of garlic in both? What do you think?



I used regular flour, wholewheat flour as well as semolina to make the crackers (much like the crackers I used for the tzatziki). I realized that merely adding some semolina to the dough makes it so much more malleable than just plain whole-wheat or flour dough. I am quite shoddy at rolling out dough but the semolina made the job so much easier. Also, please use olive oil instead of butter. It’s definitely healthier. Add in any herb you fancy.


Olive Oil Crackers with a Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip
Minimally adapted from Passionate about Baking
Ingredients:

For the crackers:

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup wholewheat flour
1/3 cup semolina
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp mixed herbs
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp water

For the dip:

3 roasted bell peppers
3 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp hung yogurt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A dash of white wine vinegar
2 – 3 cloves of garlic
A pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Crackers:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
2.Mix the 3 flours together along with the garlic, herbs and salt.
3. Add the olive oil and rub it in to form a bread crumb like texture.
4. Add the water and form a dough. Use more water if required. Knead for 2 minutes.
5. Roll out the dough ¼ th inch thick.
6. Cut into strips with a pastry cutter, pizza wheel or knife. Transfer to a baking tray with the help of a spatula.
7. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until crisp and lightly brown.

Dip:
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor. Serve cold. It tastes even better the next day. 



20 Oct 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes


Red velvet – reminds me of royalty somehow. And these cupcakes make me think of princesses having dainty little bites of these for tea.

I have had such a wonderful response to my blog and it is the most flattering thing in the world when friends insist that they want good old ME to bake them important stuff like a birthday cake!! I have tried them out before but the cream cheese frosting never turned out well. So I was pretty surprised when Jahnavi insisted on having a red velvet cake for her birthday with cream cheese frosting. This accompanied by a squeal when I tentatively agreed - all the while hoping that I break my red velvet cake jinx this time.


I read my baking bible religiously and Dorie Greenspan advices that big complicated stuff (read big cakes with icing for me) are best left to really experienced people, and one should start off with easy things. So I decided to break my red velvet cake jinx by baking tiny mini cupcakes instead of one huge cake. And well, what can I say? The advice of this baking guru is never wrong!


This cupcake originated in the southern parts of the United States and has been made famous by Magnolia Bakery and the TV show, Sex and the City. The red colour is formed when the cocoa powder reacts with the acid in the buttermilk. I am also given to believe that white wine vinegar also plays a role in this (apart from the red colouring used of course). Wikipedia tells me that during World War II, when food was rationed, bakers used beetroot juice to enhance the colour of their cakes! For those of you who abhor food colouring, let me know if you try this out!


 Try this wonderfully moist cake out. It has such a satiny finish to it that I almost don’t want to eat it.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yields – 12 mini cupcakes, 24 roses, 1 normal sized cupcake

Adapted from – The Purple Foodie via The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

This recipe doesn’t call for vinegar – though I used it. If you don’t have access to any, you can simply double the amount of baking soda.

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons / 60g. butter, at room temperature
¾ cup / 150g. powdered sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 / 10g. Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp / 20ml. red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup / 120ml. buttermilk or well beaten yoghurt
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (if you’re using unsalted butter)
1/2 tsp teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon white wine vinegar

Method:
1.                 Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F.

2.                 In a bowl, beat butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed.
3.                 Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
4.                 In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured
5.                 Turn the mixer up to slow speed, add a third of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, a third of the flour, half the buttermilk, and ending with the rest of the flour. You can fold in the last third of flour by hand.
6.                 In another bowl, add the baking soda to the vinegar. Be careful – this will fizz. Add immediately to the batter and mix well.
7.                 Spoon mixture into mini cupcake moulds.
8.                 Bake for about 20-25 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9.                 Let cool completely before frosting the cakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/6 cups / 150 gms. icing sugar, sifted
1 ½ Tablespoons butter / 25gms. room temperature
2 ounces / 60 gms. cream cheese, cold
25 grams cream

Method:
1.                  Beat the powdered sugar and butter together. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.
2.                  Add the cream cheese and cream all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated.
3.                  Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Be careful not to over beat or the icing might get runny.





10 Oct 2011

Tzatziki with Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers

I have had a fun weekend reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and munching on Tzatziki with Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crackers. I was too lazy to make tzatziki from scratch so I just used some of the mix I had bought in Greece. As for the olive oil and sea salt crackers, go here for the recipe. (I hand rolled it as thin as I could and pricked it with a fork before baking so that no air bubbles could form). Go wild with the crackers - you can use all kinds of herbs and toppings for it. Just sprinkle it on top before baking. 




6 Oct 2011

World Peace Cookies


These past few days have been extremely relaxing as the entire city celebrates Durga Puja. I have been browsing through Doris Greenspan’sbook and making a mental list of all the desserts that I am going to try. Ms. Greenspan gives foolproof recipes that always turn out well regardless of how hard you try to mess them up! Remember the double chocolate chip shortbread and the apple pear crisp?


She claims that these cookies can achieve world peace. One bite, and I agree. When I put them in the oven, my family started coming into the kitchen one by one within minutes. “Are they baked?,” “When will they be done?,” “Can I eat one NOW?” – this every 2 minutes. These goodies are going to make your entire house smell chocolatey and warm.


I twisted things around a bit when I tried it out. Usually when I bake, I use salted butter even when the recipe calls for unsalted and skip the additional salt. This time I used salted butter and the salt as well. These cookies are supposed to be salty and salt also increases the chocolatiness of chocolate! And instead of using bittersweet chocolate, I used milk chocolate. Since the cookie was salty I wanted a completely sweet contrast of milk chocolate. Also, don’t worry about the granulated sugar that doesn’t dissolve in the butter. Each bite of the cookie will give a fabulous sugar crunch!


Now, don’t wait – try these out today and if the cut rounds aren’t perfect, just call them rustic!


World’s Best Chocolate Cookies

Makes 36 cookies

Ingredients
1 ¼ th cups flour
1/3rd cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons / 115 grams plus 3 tbsps unsalted butter (I used salted)
2/3rd cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4th cup sugar
½ tsp fleur de sel or 1/4 th teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped (I used milk chocolate)

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda together.
  2. Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy.
  3. Add both the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the dry ingredients and pulse 5 times until the flour is just incorporated. The mixture will be a little crumbly. At this stage, don’t work the dough too much.
  5. Add the chocolate bits and mix.
  6. Bring the dough together and divide it in half.
  7. shape the doughs into logs that are 1 ½ inches in diameter and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.
  8. center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 F or 190 C. line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper / foil.
  9. using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are ½ inch thick. Arrange them onto the baking sheet and bake them one sheet at a time for 12 – 15 minutes.
  10. transfer them onto a wire rack and cool them before serving with a glass of cold milk.






30 Sep 2011

Tomato Jam


Tomato jam. When I saw the recipe I was intrigued. It promised to be a jam but with all the Indian spices involved I was convinced that it would be more chutney – like. I tried it out though. I was looking for a spread I could eat with a slice of toast before heading for work each morning and this completely fits the bill. Its thick and tangy but not so jammy that it has only sugar. Its sweet and salty with the perfect dose of spices. 




The best part about this jam is its versatility. I eat it with toast in the morning but I can see myself eating it like a pickle within a sandwich that has cheese and lots of veggies. I can also use it like a chutney with tandoori roti (flat Indian bread).

I put in a bit more of the spices than asked for and the flavor was evident though not powerful. But the best part were the tomato seeds that got roasted while the jam simmered. The white bits made the jam look so good. Go ahead and try it!


Tomato Jam
Adapted from The Wednesday Chef via Mark Bittman
Makes 1 small jar

Ingredients:

350 grams ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne 
1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes (according to the recipe) or ½ hour (for me). Taste and adjust seasoning, then pour into hot, sterilized jam jars, screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down to cool completely.






24 Sep 2011

Apple Pear Crisp


All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and Radhika a disgruntled girl.  I started a new job this month guys. Actually TWO new jobs (it is here that I must interject with an apology for the lack of posts this month). And teaching has not turned out to be such a piece of cake. For the past one month I have been studying like I have exams everyday! But what I did discover was, being disgruntled = awesome food!


I had ordered Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home toYours quite a while back and had been itching to try another recipe from it. However due to a lack of time I got around to making this apple crisp only yesterday! And boy, was I in a rush even then. You see, I had to make some notes (the same ones, again!) for my students because they had been misplaced. But the result was this delicious apple crisp that had an unbelievable contrast in flavor as well as texture.


I played around with the recipe a bit and used only 2 apples instead of 4 and put in 2 pears. I read up a lot on the correct quantity of fresh ginger that would be a substitute for ground ginger powder and ended up using only 1 teaspoon of it instead of the prescribed 1 tablespoon. I didn’t bother getting my measuring scale out and threw in what only looked like a teaspoon of cinnamon, what looked like a teaspoon of ginger and what looked like 115 grams of butter! The result though, was stupendous.



The crispy layer was grainy with a hint of cinnamon and ginger and held together by lots of butter. The next layer which was bubbling all around the crisp in the oven consisted of the apples and pears. They released all their juices and became utterly moist and flavorful. The cranberries all went to the bottom along with the sugar. The sugar caramelized and had a tinge of bitterness that was the perfect foil for the tartness of the cranberries. I had this crisp after / for three meals straight – served straight from the oven after dinner, chilled with a hot glass of milk for breakfast and warm with cold vanilla ice cream as an afternoon snack. Just thinking of it is making my mouth water and I think I need to make this again next week!





Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

For the topping

¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
½ cup oats
½ cup shredded dried coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 stick (115 gms) cold butter, cut into pieces

For the filling

2 medium apples, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
2 medium pears, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
½ cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C. Lightly butter 8 oven proof bowls and place on a baking sheet.
  2. To make the topping: Put all the ingredients together and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed till it all comes together.
  3. To make the filling: Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  4. Divide the fruit evenly among the cups, then spoon an equal amount of topping over each portion. Bake the crisps for 40 – 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up around it. transfer the cups to a rack for 10 minutes before serving.



11 Sep 2011

Crispy Garlicky Baked Fries



I do not have words to describe these fries. How do you describe fries that are not actually deep fried but baked, that induces guilt free eating? Potato wedges that are wonderfully crisp and golden? A batch that makes the kitchen aromatic and smelling of warmth and home-iness?  


I didn’t even get to take proper photos as my family pounced on them as soon as they were out of the oven! We ate them with tomato and red lentil soup and it became a meal all by itself.

Garlic infused olive oil is the best thing that has come out of my kitchen and this is what I used to give the potatoes the awesome flavor. Also, since I find using the microwave a little scary, I parboiled the potatoes, tossed them in garlic and oil and then baked them for 45 minutes. These will give you wedges that are crispy on the outside and really soft and moist on the inside. Just what fries are like!


Garlicky crispy baked fries

Adapted from Lottie and Doof

Ingredients

15 small garlic cloves, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 russet potatoes (about 8oz each), each cut into 12 wedges
2 ½  tablespoons cornstarch / cornflour
2 teaspoon garlic sea salt (thank you, foodie!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Method
1.Preheat oven to 475 F / 250 C. Combine the garlic and oil in a large bowl and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 - 4 minutes. Transfer 5 tablespoons of the oil (leaving the garlic in the bowl) to an aluminum foil coated baking sheet, tilting the sheet to coat.


2.Parboil the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the remaining oil mixture and toss to coat.  Bake for 5 minutes.
                                                         OR

2.Add the potatoes to the bowl with the remaining oil mixture and toss to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and microwave on high power until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, 3 to 6 minutes, shaking the bowl to redistribute the potatoes halfway through cooking.

3.Combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, ½ teaspoon garlic powder (if not using garlic salt), and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30 - 40 minutes. Serve.





28 Aug 2011

Baked Yoghurt with Cinnamon


This is easily the easiest dessert I have made in a fairly long time. It’s something that can be cooked on the spur of the moment and barely takes any time at all. And so creamy and light with a delicious cinnamony taste. You can make so many variations too! Use a vanilla pod, saffron, cardamom, nutmeg, and just about any kind of fruit.

I had read the recipe somewhere but had never got around to trying it out. It was only when I heard my grandmother complaining of the amount of curd we waste everyday that I suddenly remembered I could make this. Since I didn’t have the recipe written down and all I could remember were the ingredients and that they were to be mixed in equal quantities, I decided to try out a little experiment without resorting to the internet to bail me out as always. What followed was a most beautiful, elegant and refined dessert. And I just loved the lovely specks of cinnamon in it!

 So what I did was mix together equal quantities of yoghurt, condensed milk and cream with a bit of cinnamon. And then I had no idea how to bake it! I thought of using a water bath in the oven but gave up just because I was lazy (if you try it out, do let me know). Finally I just baked it normally for 20 minutes.


My experiment – before stirring in the cinnamon, I had kept a bit of the cream - yoghurt mix aside. I mixed in some canned blueberries into this and popped it into the oven for 15 minutes. When I took it out to check, it had a small puddle of water on the top (I’m not sure why this is, it may be because I used homemade yoghurt that has a lot of water). So I scooped that out and found though the top had slightly set, there was water underneath. I stirred the whole thing and scooped out the rest of the water. The mix had now become grainy. I put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes. This was delicious though not as creamy as the cinnamon yoghurt. Though it was grainy and curdled, I was quite surprised at how great it was to eat!
                                           

Baked Yoghurt

Makes 3 large bowls or 6 small bowls

Ingredients

200 gms yoghurt
200 gms cream
200 gms condensed milk
1 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 120 C / 250 F
  2. Stir the yoghurt well so that no lumps remain.
  3. Stir in the cinnamon.
  4. Mix in the condensed milk and cream.
  5. Divide the mixture into the bowls and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.
  6. Refrigerate it and serve cold.


20 Aug 2011

Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread


This shortbread reminds me of the Amul advertisement. It is utterly butterly delicious, my friend. And to think that I cringed when I read the amount of butter in the recipe. And then cringed some more while weighing and transferring it to the mixing bowl. Don’t go by its homely and plain appearance. It’s the most crisp and utterly butterly piece of shortbread/ cookie I have had in a long time. What, do you need proof of that? Fine. While the first batch was baking and cooling, I took the rest of the dough and made these really cute animal shapes with it for my little cousins. I was determined that the shapes should come out perfect and put a lot of effort into it. But alas, I was so consumed by eating the first batch that I completely forgot about the second one baking in the oven and they were burnt to a crisp! I am in fact nibbling on one while writing this.


Now, what is the difference between a shortbread and cookie, you ask? A shortbread is more crumbly and has a lot more butter than the traditional cookie. A shortbread has to be chilled and rolled out whereas a cookie need not be rolled. The texture of the two also differs – a shortbread is thicker and denser than a cookie.



Since this recipe is originally by Dorie Greenspan it had to be fail proof. But just to double to fun I used salted butter instead of unsalted and added about 40 gms of grated semi sweet chocolate to the dough. I skipped the espresso but put in ¼ teaspoon dissolved in some warm water with the vanilla if you are fond of coffee. I also put them back into the oven for 3 mins, 5 mins after taking it out! Turns out to be much crisper that way!


Try variations with almonds, hazelnuts, butterscotch and just plain chocolate chips without the grated chocolate.

Double Chocolate Chip Shortbread


 Yields 16 cookies

Ingredients

1 stick / 115 gms salted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2/3 tablespoon / 65 gms castor sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup / 125 gms flour
1/2 cup / 60 gms chocolate chips
1/3 cup / 40 gms grated chocolate
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)


1.                  Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla (and espresso, if you are using). Add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate with a rubber or silicone spatula.
2.                  Using the spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag (I used parchment paper since I did not have a zip lock bag. You can even substitute with cling wrap). Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a rectangle that’s 1/2 inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days ( I froze mine for 8 hours).
3.                  Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 F/160C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4.                  Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 – 1.5 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet.
5.                  Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be dark brown–they are not burnt. It's just the colour from the grated chocolate. Transfer the cookies to a rack.
6.                  If you’d like, dust the cookies with confectioners’ sugar while they are still hot. Cool the cookies to room temperature before serving.