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).