22 Dec 2012

Candied Orange Peels

Hello, December.
‘Tis the season to be merry, to sing carols and eat copious amounts of candy. It’s the season when friends from all over world come home and the season when a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate can become your best friend. If I could, I would hug December. Its my favorite time of the year.

Christmas time calls for candy and this time I made some candied orange peels. I can imagine filling stockings with it, it is so Christmassy.

1.       First, cut 5 oranges into 4 segments each and carefully turn the pulp out.
2.       Next, cut each segment into 4 -5 strips depending on how large the segments are. Don’t worry about the pith – there will be no bitterness left after blanching the peel.

1.       Then, drop the peel into a pot of boiling water and blanch it for 2 minutes. Drain the water and rinse the peel with cold water. Repeat this process twice more.
2.       Boil 4 cups of water along with 2 cups of sugar and 1/4th cup lemon juice.
3.       Return the peel to the pot and simmer. Stir every now and then so that the peel doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook the peel for 1 ½ hours until soft and translucent.
4.       Once cooked, lay out the strips of peel on a cooling rack and leave them overnight. It will be very sticky.

1.       The next day, toss the peels in some castor sugar until well coated.

Tip: instead of coating the peels in castor sugar, you can melt some chocolate and coat the cooked peels in it to make orangettes.

Recipe from Baking: From my home to yours.

11 Nov 2012

Chocolate and Pear Cake

Sunday has become my bake-a-cake day. The planning for the Sunday cake starts a few days before when I scan my cookbooks and favorite blogs for a recipe that I might want to try out. Early on Sunday morning, my dad and I go to the market to shop for eggs, butter and whatever fruit I want to use in the cake that day. For some reason, some kind of fruit cake has become traditional on Sundays – I would never make a plain chocolate cake for example. Then, after breakfast, I get down to baking and by lunch time the cake is made. I photograph it when everyone is having a quick snooze in the afternoon and finally, by tea time we all sit down for a scrumptious feast.

The reason this cake appealed to me was because of all the brown butter that the recipe calls for. It was the first time I had to use this technique and was really surprised at the wonderful nutty smell that the brown butter gives off. Be careful with it – the butter foams a lot and you have to be careful to take it off the stove as soon as the butter has turned brown. It doesn’t become brown for a while and then quite suddenly a point is reached when the butter at the bottom of the saucepan starts scorching and all of it turns brown.
The eggs are whipped beyond fluffy. In fact you need a hand held mixer for this at the very least and beat it for at least 9 minutes until it becomes thick, increases in volume and becomes custard like.

The cake is so delicious – soft and airy, moist and light. You whip up the eggs and sugar, brown the butter, mix in the flour and pour it into the pan. Then you scatter the pears and chocolate pieces. I couldn’t wait for it to finish baking. I wanted the batter to enfold the fruit and chocolate and have it spread evenly throughout the cake and I wonder why it all sank to the bottom. It was fruity and delicate still, and as you can guess, didn’t last very long.

Chocolate and Pear Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 pears, peeled, in a small dice
3/4 cup chocolate chunks

1.    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (I used flour), set aside.
2.    Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
3.    Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)
4.    Brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
5.    Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
6.    Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to lose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.
7.    Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes, or a tester comes out clean.
8.    Serve it with slightly whipped cream or just by itself.

30 Oct 2012

Apple Crumble Bars

I found another way to use my favourite flavors! This time apples and dried fruits combine to make an apple crumble bar, very similar in flavor to the apple pear cranberry crisp I had made last year. I found the recipe in Cake Days (the one I made the salted caramel cupcakes from). This book is magical – even the colour of the cover (pink and white) transports me to the land of gorgeous cakes and cupcakes of different shapes and sizes with lip smacking buttercream and chocolate frosting. The recipes are absolutely fool proof, provided one reads their basic instructions at the back as well.  I had read somewhere that there are no bad cooks, only bad recipes and this book caters to that belief. The recipes are easy, not at all intimidating and you couldn’t fail if you tried!

 This apple crumble bar has been made keeping halloween in mind. The top and bottom layers are the bar which is absolutely crumbly and full of buttery goodness and there is a soft layer of cooked apples and plump moist dried cherries, cranberries and raisins in between.  The smell of cooked apples, cinnamon and nutmeg warmed up the house and brought the feel of autumn along.

The bar is made by combining all the ingredients for the crumble in one bowl and tossing together the fruits and spices in another bowl and then simply assembling the two.

Apple Crumble Bar
From Cake Days (USA / UK / India)
Makes 12 bars

200 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
200 gms unsalted butter, softened (I used salted and skipped the salt)
250 gms light brown sugar
120 gms rolled oats
300 gms apples
4 tbsp cornflour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
175 gms mixed dried fruits like cherries, cranberries, raisins

1.       preheat the oven to 170 C (325 F) and line the tray with baking parchment.
2.       Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, add the butter and rub together until the consistency of breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar and the rolled oats. After mixing, press half the mixture into the prepared tray, and set aside.
3.       Peel and core the apples, then cut into slices and mix together with cornflour and ground spices. Place the spice-coated apple slices in lines on top of the oat mixture in the base of the tray, the sprinkle over the dried fruits. Spoon the remaining mix over the apples and dried fruits and press down gently.
4.       Place in the oven and bake for 30 – 40 mins or until the mixture is golden brown. Allow to cool completely in the baking tray before cutting into slices to serve.  

16 Oct 2012

Sweet Corn and Edamame Bean Salad

Here is one of my favourite salads this year.
Edamame beans taste great and the texture is so velvety. Here is a video by Mark Bittman that teaches you how to cook edamame beans and another article.   I haven’t listed any quantity for the salad – use as much or as little of any ingredient and toss together to serve. 

Sweet Corn and Edamame Beans Salad

Edamame beans, steamed
Sweet corn kernels
Tomatoes, chopped
Onions, chopped

For the dressing
Olive oil
Soya sauce
Grated ginger
Chopped garlic
Chilli pepper flakes
Coriander leaves to garnish

Toss well together and serve. 

29 Sep 2012

Scones for Tea

As I read through some of my earlier blog posts, I realized that I reminisce about food that reminds me of my childhood quite often. I also became conscious of the fact that when you really like some kind of food, it has evoked some kind of special memory in you. You might rave about a particular dessert because it has hints of your mother’s pound cake in it, or that pasta tastes just like the one you ate at an anonymous village restaurant during that unforgettable trip to Italy.

The peach and cinnamon scones that I made today took me right back to my primary school days when I used to devour Enid Blyton books like they were Lindt chocolates. Apart from the exciting adventures that the Famous Five and all the girls at St.Clare’s and Malory Towers used to have, I would be thrilled to bits reading about their picnics, start of term suppers, high teas at farms and midnight feasts. The mouth watering descriptions of homemade jam, ginger cake, scones, treacle tarts, pop biscuits, Moonface’s Hot and Cold treats, lemonade, cans of peaches, sardines, and pies to be finished off with a ginger beer was stuff dreams were made of. Even bread and butter sounded exciting in her books.

Since then it had been my dearest wish to have scones with clotted cream and treacle pudding for tea. I had never had scones before and I was quite disappointed when I finally did have some at a bakery. They were nowhere near what I had imagined them to be. However, seeing how delicious they looked on Kelly’s blog, I couldn’t resist giving them one last chance. And I was glad I did. Make these for the days you want to revisit the adventures of George and the gang and raise a toast to Enid Blyton.
Now, does anyone have a recipe for treacle tarts?

Cupcakes I made just because they remind me of Silky, from the Magic Faraway Tree.
Peach and Cinnamon Scones
Adapted from Eat Make Read
Makes 12
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 Tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream works as well)
2-3 peaches, diced
cinnamon sugar
Whipped cream to serve
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees F or 220 C.
2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.
Use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps.
Remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Transfer dough to large bowl.
4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds. Gently fold in the peaches until fully incorporated into the dough.
5. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Dust the scones with a little cinnamon sugar and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with some whipped cream.

7 Sep 2012

10 Foodie Things to Do When You’re Feeling Blue

There are some things that you just need to do to take care of yourself. 

Banana Coconut Bread with a big dollop of Dulce de Leche
10. Bake this Coconut Banana Bread and eat it with dulce deleche. Every single piece. Hide it so you don’t have to share it.
9. Watch Eat Drink Man Woman and Ratatouille (possibly the best food movies ever) on an unexpected day off from work (yay me!).
8. Buy that new set of measuring spoons and cups you have had your eye on for a while now.
7. Sit by that big window, watch the rain and drink some hot cocoa.
6. Wear your favourite pink apron, put on some earphones and dance around the kitchen singing to Phil Collins and Kishore Kumar. If someone asks you what that awful humming noise is, flatly deny that it was you.
5. Go to helenjane.com and read. It feels like breathing in great gulps of fresh sea air. Read this and this and this.
4.  Make a list of things that you do have. Try gratitude and count your blessings. Literally.
3. Take a walk through your local fruit and vegetable market and give free rein to your senses.
2. Fill in your shopping bag with big bunches of all the fresh herbs you can find. Just because the smell soothes you. Don’t start thinking about what you are going to do with all of them when you get home.
1. Take comfort from the fact that in this topsy turvy world, when you put in a batter of flour, sugar, butter, eggs and chocolate in the oven; it will always always always make you a cake.

Banana Coconut Bread with Cardamom

Makes 1 loaf
Note: I have changed some flavors in the recipe – the original recipe calls for ½ tsp of nutmeg instead of ½ tsp of freshly ground cardamom and 1 ½ tbsps of dark rum instead of which I have used Mastica, a liquor I got in Greece that has a slight cardamom flavor.

3 large, very ripe bananas
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon freshly crushed cardamom seeds
Pinch of salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon white vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons Mastica
½ cup dried shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a standard-size loaf pan.
2. Purée the bananas and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vinegar and rum, and beat to mix well. Add the banana purée and the flour mixture alternately, about 1 cup at a time, beginning with the banana and beating to just incorporate. Use a spatula to fold in any flour that has not been absorbed, and stir in the coconut. Do not overmix.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top, and sprinkle evenly with the demerara sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes; then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool completely. The loaf will keep, wrapped well, for at least three or four days.

3 Sep 2012

French Yogurt Cake with Gondhoraj Limes

When I was in Bangalore, I used to eat out in restaurants all the time – mainly because the hostel food sucked. By the time the last year of school rolled around, i used to eat out (by that I mean hog) at least 4 -5 times a week. Though that might not seem like much to people who eat all their meals at restaurants, for me it was a big deal. I love food. And I love dining out. I like trying out new things. I really appreciate innovations in a menu. I am delighted when I see some beautifully presented food. So why was it that I kept going back to Sethji’s or to the Punjabi Aunty’s restaurant over and over again? They had the same menu without any season’s specials and even I could do better presentation with my food.

What was it that made me go back again and again? One, it was definitely because the Punjabi aunty and uncle (they were always aunty and uncle to their customers, I don’t know anyone who knows their real name) always came to greet us and stopped for a chat. Aunty even remembered our favourite dishes. Two, most importantly, the dishes were simple, home cooked meals. They were humble yet fully packed with flavor. Each dish was authentic – none of the frills and extras of a proper restaurant.

For all of the above reasons, Molly Wizenberg’s “A Homemade Life” really appealed to me. She doesn’t write about fancy recipes but ones she herself cooks every day. Her French yogurt cake with lemon is what I tried out and I cannot even pretend to be modest about it. According to Molly, it is a simple cake made in French homes and is considered to be a humble offering of maybe a grandmother to a special family occasion. I would however beg to differ. It may be humble in looks maybe, nay, definitely. But whatever it lacks in the attractiveness department, it more than makes up in the taste department.

The flavor explodes in your mouth with a bite. I made this with the zest and some juice of a lime that is indigenous to Bengal – the gondhoraj. It has a much stronger flavor than just a lime and its name literally means ‘The King of Limes.” You taste the lime first and then your tongue envelops the fine crumb, the soft texture and the sweet – sour syrupy icing. The almonds give it a very delicate flavor and texture. According to my Mom, this cake would not look out of place in a patisserie and coming from her, it is the highest compliment anyone can get.

The King of Limes

Don’t change anything in the recipe. If you cannot find the gondhoraj, make it with limes or lemon or even oranges. But make it, and invite me for tea when you do.

French Yogurt Cake with Gondhoraj limes
From A Homemade Life  US / UK / India 
I cannot say how many it will serve as I could have eaten the whole cake by myself.
For the cake:
1 cup sifted flour
½ cup very finely ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 tsp grated lemon zest (I used gondhoraj)
½ cup well stirred plain whole milk yogurt (not low fat)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4th tsp vanilla essence
3 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
For the syrup:
1/4th cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 th cup lime juice (not gondhoraj)
For the icing:
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbsp lime juice (I used gondhoraj limes here)
1.       Preheat the oven to 350 F or 175 C. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper, and grease it too. This part is important, butter both the pan and the parchment.
2.       In a small bowl, take the lime zest and a tbsp. of sugar and rub it together so that the sugar becomes fragrant and the lime zest releases all its flavor.
3.       In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lime zest and whisk to mix thoroughly.
4.       In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla essence and stir to mix it well. Add the flour mixture and stir to just combine.
5.       Add the oil and stir well. At first it will look like an oily mess but keep stirring. It will combine to form a smooth pale yellow batter. Pour into the cake pan.
6.       Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. It might not look baked – it will still be a pale yellow color.
7.       Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then invert the pan onto a flat plate.
8.       In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup ingredients. I like to prick holes with a fork all over the cake and then spoon the syrup slowly on the warm cake.
9.       In a small bowl, whisk together the icing ingredients. Spoon he icing over the cooled cake.
10.   Serve immediately – the icing will be soft and juicy. 

25 Aug 2012

One Year, and Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cupcakes

This month I complete one year of blogging! When I started, I wanted a place where I could document all my recipes and the changes I had made to them. It was a place where I could keep a record of my little kitchen experiments. After 12 months of this (yay!), blogging has almost become like a way of life for me.
I find myself thinking about ingredients, food styling and photography whenever I see a new recipe that excites me. I don’t look at food as just something to eat now. I make a big effort at creating food that is visually appealing as well. I shop for cutlery now! When I travel, instead of clothes, I look for interesting mats/ bowls/ plates/ anything that I can maybe use to display food.

I have developed a growing interest in photography. I get into intellectual discussions with photographers about the best light and angle! It is like I am discovering a whole new me.
I think about twists I can make to everyday food so that it gets more interesting. The kind of books I read has varied.  Instead of fiction, I turn to cookbooks and chef biographies as a bedtime read. I even research on the history of the different kinds of food that I cook, and this has taken my knowledge to another level altogether.
I have met so many people through my blog – it has made me, a recluse, social! So many nice things have occurred; I have been featured in the Deccan Chronicle and gone on to write some columns for them. I have even written for the Twenties Hacker! I had the opportunity to meet one of the chefs I admire most, Ritu Dalmia, and even cook with her! I have become so much more confident and sure of myself.

I am so happy that I started blogging. I bought myself ‘Cake Days’ (the cookbook from the Hummingbird Bakery) as a Blog anniversary present and made the Caramel Cupcakes from it.
The instructions are different from the usual method of cake making but it all comes together beautifully in the end. Instead of the icing they suggested, I just used some salted dulce de leche as frosting. I cannot stop gushing about how great these are!

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Adapted from Cake Days (USA / UK / India)
Makes 12 – 16 cupcakes

80 gms unsalted butter (I used salted, and skip the additional salt in the recipe)
280 gms castor sugar (I ran out and used powdered sugar instead)
240 gms all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ th tsp salt (skip this if using salted butter)
240 ml whole milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 large eggs
Additional dulce de leche for frosting

1.       Preheat the oven to 190 C or 375 F. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners.
2.       Sift the flour and baking powder. Keep aside.
3.       Whisk together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat it until it is really light and fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed until crumb like in consistency. Don’t mix too much at this stage.
4.       Place the milk and vanilla essence in a jug with the eggs and whisk by hand until combined. Pour 3/4th of this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix together on low speed. Then increase the speed to medium and keep beating until smooth and thick. Add the remaining milk and the dulce de leche and continue to mix until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth. The batter might look a little runny but it bakes perfectly.
5.       Divide the batter between muffin cases (2/3rd full) and bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until well risen and springy to the touch.
6.       Cool it for ½ an hour on a wire rack and then frost it with the additional dulce de leche. I used all of the remaining 250 gms. 

15 Aug 2012

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit

With this book, I feel like Hermione Granger in the Hogwarts library, taking down a huge dusty book from the topmost shelf of the loneliest corner of the library and discovering what a well kept secret it was.  I feel like it’s a magical book – that each time I open its pages, I will come across some new information, something I didn’t spot the last time I read it.
Ever since I gifted myself this book last year on my birthday, I have wanted to write a review.  I was really scared to do so as I did not feel that I could ever do justice to it.

 The ‘Mighty’ Flavor Thesaurus, as I call it, is a compendium of 99 flavors and their pairings and seeks to give ‘recipes, pairings and ideas to the creative cook.’ It is divided into 16 categories like roasted, cheesy, earthy, brine and salt, woodland, citrusy and fresh fruity. Each category has a number of flavors and their pairings range from the traditional (apple and cinnamon) and contemporary (chocolate and chilli) to the bizarre (strawberry and avocado).  
Each pairing is also accompanied by a short description regarding why the pairing works and how to use the flavors together. Apart from that there are numerous recipes, personal anecdotes, tips from chefs all over the world, scientific facts,  and even restaurant reviews! At no point of time does the book get boring. It is a heady, imaginative, creative, inspiring and an extremely informative mix of history and culture (for example, did you know that in 1993, the Clinton’s pastry chef made gingerbread White House and no fewer than 21 marzipan likenesses of Socks, the cat?).  

This book makes you travel the world through its pages. You can visit Thailand to learn how to mix coconut and bananas, understand chocolate and chilli in Mexico or even stop over for a meal at El Bulli in Spain.
The anecdotes are hilarious and the observations are particularly witty. ‘Chocolate and Almond: is that what parental guilt tastes like?’ ‘People get superstitious about asparagus. Otherwise sane cooks will insist on cooking it in special pans, or turning the spears three times anti clockwise but never under the light of a full moon.’ ‘By reputation parsely is the Hail Mary to the sin of garlic breath.’ Other such gems dot each and every essay.
When I was not awed by the ceaseless imagination of the author, the food geek in me (or some would say the OCD part of me) thrilled at the neatness of the index, the alphabetical order, and the fact that I could find any pairing at any point of time just by referring to the flavor wheel.
This book is a must buy not necessarily only for the culinary geek but for anyone who enjoys food.

Buy it: US / UK / India  

9 Aug 2012

Dulce de Leche

When I was a kid, it seemed like the entire human race loved to eat condensed milk straight out of the jar except me. I just didn’t seem to like to the taste, or even pretend to like it. It felt like there was a whole world out there of which I was not a part - like that one unpopular person in school whom no one invites to their condensed milk consuming parties.
Cut to 2012. And I discovered dulce de leche (dool  say – deh – leh chay). This is a South American sweet (though different forms may be found all across the world from Mexico to India) made from condensed milk and you can say it’s a form of milk jam if you like. Its basically a rich caramel sauce that can be used as a topping for desserts, in ice creams, a filling in cakes, cookies, cupcakes, as a spread on a piece of toast or eaten by itself!

The story goes that a woman was heating a mixture of sugar and milk in an army camp. Rushing to smooth out a discord between two captains, she forgot about her stove. When she returned, she found a smooth, rich and creamy jelly like substance in her pot that we now know as dulce de leche. A fortunate mistake indeed!
I had heard so much about this form of caramel that I decided to give condensed milk another chance. When I was looking for recipes, I found ones that seemed a little dangerous to me - recipes that involved immersing a can of condensed milk in boiling water for 3 – 4 hours. Uh – huh. No way, I thought. I do not want to like condensed milk that much. But then as usual, David Lebovitz came to the rescue. His method of making this is really simple. All you need to do is empty a can of condensed milk in a large shallow dish ( I used the one I make lasagnas in). The milk needs to spread out to caramelize well. It takes about 1 ½ hours in a hot oven. And the best part is that you can add sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg or whatever you fancy to take the flavor to another level.

As of now, having gotten through the entire jar of dulce de leche, I’m quite content to call myself the queen of condensed milk. 

 Dulce de Leche
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).
Pour one can (400 gms/14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in half tsp of sea salt.
Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.
Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

15 Jul 2012

Plum and Peach Crisp

I find the monsoon weather a little puzzling. The moment I think that the heat is really oppressing and I need to make a dessert that is served cold, the weather takes a turn, there is a storm and I find myself wistfully thinking of something that is warm and comforting. In this season that has its own twists and turns, I thought of the apple pear crisp I had made a while ago and how it could be served both hot and cold. It could be eaten warm, out of the oven or even chilled the next day! Ah! Now that had so many possibilities. I remembered the lovely stone fruits that we get this season and thought I would replicate that using my favourite fruits – peaches and plums. Really, there is nothing in the world that beats a delicious crisp with a crumbly crust, and some fragrant fruit paired with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. 
I do not like my crisps and crumbles to be too sweet so I drastically cut down on the sugar. As the plums are quite tangy, I used less sugar and allowed the vanilla ice cream to provide the sweet edge. If you do not intend to serve this with ice cream, I suggest doubling the quantity of sugar with the fruit.
I made a really thick topping as I like a deep crust. You can use half the crust mix to line the bottom of the pan, put in the filling and use the remaining half of the crust as a topping.

I also like the fruit to retain its shape and texture and thus, I keep my baking time to a minimum – just enough so that the topping gets nice and golden and the fruit juices start bubbling along the sides of the dish.
Feel free to swap the fruits – mango and bananas would be a great combination as well!

Plum and Peach Crisp
Inspired by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6 – 8
For the filling:
4 medium size peaches, peeled and chopped
8 plums, peeled and chopped
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp flour
For the topping:
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup oats
A large pinch of cinnamon
A large pinch of ground cloves
115 gms/ 8 tbsp of butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt)
1.       Preheat the oven to 350C or 180F.
2.       To make the crisp, add all the ingredients except the butter in a large bowl and sift it with your fingers to blend them. Melt the butter and add it to the mix. Use your hands to moisten all the ingredients thoroughly.
3.       For the filling, toss all the ingredients together.
4.       Pour the filling into a 8 inch baking dish. Scatter the crisp topping over the filling evenly.
5.       Slide the pan in the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until the topping is golden and the fruit juices are bubbling up all around the edges.
6.       Let it cool and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

6 Jul 2012

Chocolate Mango Banana Loaf

I call this my exotic tropical cake. It is dark, and the bits of mango in it remind me of a little bit of sunshine. It has the perfect texture, not too moist, not too dry. It’s  perfect for tea time, to be shared with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I found this recipe on Joy the Baker’s blog. This is one blog I would recommend to everyone! Her recipes are simple and reading her blog is like chatting with your best friend on the phone.
I tweaked her recipe a little by adding some cocoa powder and chocolate chips to the batter. This oomphed it up and added some glamor to the loaf.

The method is effortless though I do find chopping mangoes to be quite tiresome. When my grandma cuts one, its perfect, all the pieces are the same size. Somehow I can never achieve that and I’m glad that this loaf does not require perfection. I’m glad that I don’t have to waste fruit, trying to get the same size and shape (what always happens when I try and make cakes look pretty). Its only about enjoying your favourite fruit albeit a bit messily. Although I would suggest that the mangoes you use should be firm so that you don’t lose their texture when folding it in the batter. Also, the softer the bananas, the easier it is to mash them.
Go ahead and try it out before the mango season gets over. You know you want to!

Vegan Mango Banana Bread
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes one 9×5-inch loaf
3 medium or 2 large ripe bananas
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoon  vanilla extract
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe mango, sliced into chunks
A handful of chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas well. Add the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract, and whisk briskly to incorporate.
Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, spices, and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.  Fold in mango chunks and chocolate chips.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and a knife inserted through the center should come out clean, or with just a few crumbs.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before transferring out of a pan and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Banana bread will last, wrapped at room temperature, for up to 5 days… but you wont want to wait!!

25 May 2012

Cold Coconut and Raw Mango Soup

I quite lose my appetite during the summer. The blazing heat and intense humidity of a tropical climate make me want to survive on just cold water or lemonade. It leaves me very doleful, to be honest.
So this month I thought of forgetting about baking and the oven and instead focus only on cool liquids and fresh salads, ice cream and sorbets. I wanted to eat stuff that was healthy, light and refreshing – preferably something that I could make without cursing the heat and wishing for an air conditioner in the kitchen.

The coconut and mango soup I made fit the bill effortlessly. Keep the ingredients ready and it can be made in a jiffy. Good Food magazine suggests that you drink it as is or mix it with plain boiled rice.

Cold Coconut and Raw Mango Soup
Serves 6
1 tsp oil
2 green chillies
½ cup grated fresh coconut
2 medium raw mangoes, peeled and grated
1 litre, water
2 tsp salt
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried red chillies, torn into bits
1 sprig curry leaves
½ tsp asafetida
1.       Roast the green chillies in oil in a small wok. In a mixer, grind the green chillies, coconut and raw mango to a fine paste. Use a little water if necessary.
2.       Mix the ground paste with 1 litre of water. For the seasoning, heat the oil in a small wok and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, put in the curry leaves, asafetida and dry red chillies.
3.       Pour the hot seasoning into the soup, add the salt and mix. I like having it cold – chill it for a few hours before serving.

8 May 2012

Bailey's Chocolate Ice Cream (Easy!)

What if I told you that I found a really easy chocolate ice cream recipe to make at home? And that it doesn’t involve an ice cream maker or even a copious amount of hand whisking? Until a few months ago, I didn’t think that I would ever attempt to make ice cream or sorbets at home.  I couldn’t imagine that ice cream without the creaminess that an ice cream maker gives would be worth eating.

Now I only long for a scoop to make nice balls of ice cream with.

 This recipe from David Lebovitz is the easiest chocolate ice cream recipe ever. It maybe that it freezes so well because of all the alcohol in it, but the Bailey’s does hit the right spot! This is what you make when you are having a fancy dinner party and realize in the morning that you do not have any more inclination or time to spend on dessert. It takes very little effort to put together and requires only a few hours in the freezer. But it is so very impressive.
On an aside, David Lebovitz’s site (remember the nutella and poached pears?) is a must visit for all of you who want to learn the tricks of ice cream making. The articles here and here are worth a read. 

The World's Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream

From David Lebovitz

Makes 4- 6 scoops


55 grams of semi sweet chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp / 80ml milk
6 tbsp / 80 ml Bailey's liquor
1 medium sized banana, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tbsp / 15 ml vodka (or rum)


1. In a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave), melt the chocolate with the milk.

2. Blend the melted chocolate the Baileys, the banana, and rum until smooth.

3. Pour into a plastic or metal container, cover, and freeze for at least 4 hours.
4. Sprinkle chocolate chips and serve.

30 Apr 2012

The BFG's Cold Cucumber Soup

If you ever read Roald Dahl as a child, you would understand how fascinating the worlds he created were. The first book of his that I read was The BFG and I was utterly enthralled by the giant who ate the huge repulsive snozzcumbers. Snozzcumbers seemed to be from the cucumber family but were revolting in taste – to the BFG that is. I remember I used to grimace everytime the BFG had to eat one and dream of drinking the delicious frobscottle someday.
I made this cold cucumber soup thinking of the BFG and how if he had had this, snozzcumbers (or cucumbers) wouldn’t have seemed so vile after all.

2 cups cucumber, chopped finely
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
3 cloves garlic
½ tsp lime/lemon zest
2 tsp lime juice
1 cup hung curd / cream
1 ½ tsp salt
1/4th tsp black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

1.       Blend all the ingredients apart from the curd in a food processor with 1 ½ cups of water. Chill it in the fridge for a few hours.
2.       Before serving, add the curd and mix thoroughly. 

24 Apr 2012

Aubergine and Bell Pepper Foccacia

Whenever I think about food and psychology, the one thing that comes to my mind is bread making. There is something wonderfully therapeutic about it – kneading the soft supple dough with your hands, manipulating it and the hours of work that finally produce the baked bread is so fulfilling. All the accumulated stress of the week just flows out of my fingertips whenever I knead bread, leaving me tired but happy.

All aspects of bread making – the yeast which makes it magically rise, shaping the dough, the smell of bread baking are all extremely satisfying. And who can remain stressed out when there is freshly baked, still warm from the oven bread to eat?

It took me two attempts to make this and it still was not perfect – more pizza than foccacia. But I didn’t really care. It was delicious, and like I said, any thoughts of stress just vanished! The recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday. Though the recipes in his book are extremely detailed and time consuming, paying attention to the small details yields a flavor like no other (I strongly recommend buying this book and using it for weekend cooking). You have to mix the dough batter and leave it overnight to rise. Once you take it out, it needs to be put aside for 2 hours before you can start working it. You knead it, let it rest, repeat the cycle 3 -4 times. You pan it, let it rest, again repeat the cycle 3-4 times. You use a fabulous topping like me – aubergine and red bell pepper (I was surprised at how good it was). You bake it! Then you take a bite while it is still warm. You chew silently, surprised at the amount of flavor bread can have and then you take another bite. You keep taking bite after bite, marveling at yourself for having made this. 

1 Apr 2012

Homemade Nutella

Everyone in my family loves chocolate, chocolate spreads, all kinds of chocolate sauce but somehow they had escaped the Nutella craze. There is never any Nutella in my house! So I decided to remedy the situation once and for all. I armed myself with David Lebovitz’s recipe and a box full of fine Turkish hazelnuts. Whiz, whiz, whiz goes the food processor and you don’t even realize when it’s done. Honestly, this is the easiest -quickest -most- awesome recipe ever. .

And now, I’m suddenly everyone’s favourite. I wield a whole lot of power. I’m the girl who can make Nutella at home..

 David Lebovitz’s  Homemade Nutella via Encyclopedie du Chocolat
I agree with Lebovitz and think that the almonds can be swapped with hazelnuts. And though I would go with the honey, I would reduce the milk by 100 gms. Next time, I would also use only dark chocolate.
Makes 2 jars (I made half the recipe and it turned out well)
1/3 cup (40g) whole almonds
1 1/3 cup (160g) hazelnuts
1 3/4 cup (400g) whole milk
7/8 cup (60g) powdered whole milk
3 tablespoons (40g) mild-flavored honey
pinch of salt
6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces (140g) milk chocolate, chopped
1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet, keeping the almond separate, and toast the nuts in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven, stirring a few times, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the hazelnuts are browned.
2. While they are roasting, warm the whole milk and powdered milk in a small saucepan with the honey and salt just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat.
3. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave oven, melt the chocolates together until smooth.
4. Once the nuts are well-toasted, remove them from the oven and use a spatula to place the warm hazelnuts in a clean tea towel, then fold them inside the towel and rub them vigorously to remove any loose skins. They don’t need to be pristine; just try to get as much off as possible.
5. In a food processor, grind the warm hazelnuts and almonds until they’re as fine as possible. You may not be able to get them completely smooth, depending on your food processor. (I have a brand new one and even after five minutes, there were little bits of nuts in mine, which is normal.)
6. Add the melted chocolate and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl, as necessary.
7. Once the mixture is smooth, add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well-combined.
(The original instructions here said to strain the paste, which I didn’t do because I don’t mind the little bits of toasted nuts, but you can.)
9. Transfer the mixture into two jars and refrigerate until ready to use.
Storage: The Chocolate-Hazelnut Paste will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week ( it easily kept for 2 weeks for me).