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


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

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

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


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.

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