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.