Saturday, March 18, 2017

Savoury Pumpkin Muffins With Pea Shoot & Strawberry Salad

The other day I used a whole pumpkin to cook rice in it. The seeds and stringy bits were discarded and the shell made a lovely and fragrant 'rice pot'. Since some pieces were left over (after sharing with friends), two slices were mashed and made into chutney and the remaining slices went into these muffins.

These are the ingredients that went into the muffins:
A bunch of tender amaranth (picked from my pots)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbs dried basil (from my potted garden)
1 cup pumpkin pureed with
1/3 cup milk
3 eggs (the picture shows 2 but I added one more)
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup crumbled Feta
A few rashers of bacon
2 chillies, one green and one red, chopped
1 tbs ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for frying the onions and the greens

Wash and chop up the greens. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the bacon for a few minutes. Remove and set aside. You can chop/break them up into smaller pieces.
In the same oil, add the onions and cook til they turn pale. Remove.
Add the greens in the same pan and cook till they are almost done. Remove and let it cool.
Add all the wet ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.Then add the dry ingredients and mix well. 
Fill the muffin moulds with the mix and bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
I used a silicone mould for 6 and the rest of the batter went into a paper-lined muffin tin. Which is why I did not have to use extra oil/butter to grease the moulds.
The batter yielded 14 muffins. The ones baked in the muffin tin were smaller in size.

Since the muffins were savoury. I thought a salad would make a lovely accompaniment. I used pea shoots (again from my pots) and strawberries and a handful of spinach. The dressing had mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, spring onions, salt and extra virgin olive oil. For a bit of crunch I added pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin I had used in cooking. It was indeed a good combination. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Broccoli & Strawberry Salad With Sweet Bavarian Mustard Dressing

I had never been innovative with salads preferring to stick to the ones I was familiar with. Like a cucumber/tomato/onion combination or cabbage/carrot/spring onions, you know, certainly not varied. It is only after I started blogging that I started looking at salads with much more respect than before.:) This is a salad that's good to snack on if you're peckish. The broccoli still has a bite to them as they were blanched only for a couple of minutes. 
The mustard for the dressing is a brand of sweet Bavarian mustard gifted to us by our German guests, friends of my children.

I clicked this picture of Dario and Kathi outside our front door just before they left. I'm so happy with our German connection. It started with my sons studying in Delhi where they met. And now Dario's mother, Christina, is a good friend of mine. We often mail each other, talk about our lives and our children and the signs of our times.:) Some friendships come late in life but remain solid for eternity...
1 cup broccoli
5 strawberries
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
5-7 toasted almonds, sliced
Edible blooms
I used a small broccoli so the stem was removed and the whole head was plunged into boiling water. I took it out after a couple of minutes and plunged it into ice cold water to stop the cooking as well as keeping it a vibrant green. After it had cooled down, I cut off the florets and they went straight into a bowl.
To that I added hulled and quartered strawberries and the sliced onions.

The dressing:
1/3 cup strained yogurt
2 tbs mustard
A dash of salt
2 tsp honey
Freshly cracked black pepper, as per taste
If the strawberries you are using are sweet, you can reduce the amount of honey. Ours are quite acidic.
Pour all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix it thoroughly.
Now add the dressing to the bowl where the other  ingredients have been placed. If you feel that the mixture is a little too thick, you can thin it down by adding a bit of water. Mix well and then transfer the contents to a serving platter. Scatter the sliced almonds and top with the edible blooms.

I had never used such a dressing before. But it tasted so good! There will be plenty of trials for other recipes before the mustard gets over...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Smoked Pork Sausage Quiche With Braided Edges

Not a quiche again!! I know. I know! But it's the first day of March and I wanted to try out something new regarding quiches. I had been reading up on coconut oil crusts and I had wanted to make one. But the dough didn't really come together. Maybe it was the use of whole-wheat flour along with all-purpose flour. Or maybe it was something else. So I went ahead with the usual chilled butter routine to which I added half and half of the two kinds of flours mentioned above.
The result was a crisp crust and wonderful to dig in to. to the dough I added a dash of ground pepper and instead of binding it with egg, I used chilled water only. For the salad, I grabbed whatever I could from my pots including basil and brassica blooms. The pairing worked well. And it feels good to start a new  month with something that's easy to make and comforting to eat!

The pastry:
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
50 grams butter, chilled and cubed + extra for greasing your tin & parchment paper/foil
Iced water as needed
A dash of freshly ground black pepper

Mix the two flours in a bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter in the flour using your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the chilled water and bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 40 minutes.
Take it out and cut in half. Put the other half back in the fridge. Roll out the dough on a surface with a slight dusting of flour. Then place it in a greased tin and refrigerate it as you work on the filling.

The filling:
3 smoked pork sausages
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
1 green capsicum
1 tbs olive oil
A dash of ground pepper+ extra top add later
2 cubes of Amul cheese, grated
1 green capsicum, seeds and white bits removed and chopped like the onions
Salt, as per taste
2 eggs + 1 yolk for the egg wash

Heat a pan and add the oil. Throw in the onions and fry till they turn translucent. Add the capsicum. Remove the casings of the sausages and crumble them into chunks. Add the chunks to the pan. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt because of the cheese that's to be added later.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Take out the tin with the pastry from the fridge. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper with the greased side touching the pastry. This makes it easy to remove the paper and the beans. Place the baking beans and bake for ten minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the paper and beans. Brush the surface with egg and bake again for another ten minutes.
Remove and let it cool down as you work on the braids for the border.

Take out the remaining chilled dough from the fridge and roll out narrow rectangular shapes a little longer than the length of your baking dish. Work quickly as it becomes difficult to plait if the dough is not cold. Cut three thin strips and start braiding. I made 2 separate sets and cut out 2 leaf patterns for the corners. I didn't want the 'joining' areas to look messy so I hid them with the leaves.:)
Place the braids on the borders of the blind-baked shell with the use of egg yolk as a binder. Stick the leaves in the corners with egg. Put the onion/sausage/onion mixture in the shell. Mix the eggs with some cream and ground pepper. Pour it on top of the filling. Then scatter the grated cheese on top. Brush the braided edge and the leaf cut-outs with egg yolk and bake for about 30 minutes.
If you feel that the edges are darkening a bit too much, place a piece of foil about 10 minutes before the quiche comes out of the oven.

I had never used whole-wheat flour for a quiche. This was buttery and oh-so-crisp! I loved every bite! I teamed it up with a salad that I made in a jiffy. From my pots I grabbed a little bit of each:
Carrot tops
Onion leaves
Garlic leaves
Basil blooms
Brassica blooms
Cherry tomatoes
Baby spinach
And from the fridge, a small carrot.
The dressing was made with a mix of honey, salt, ground pepper and apple cider vinegar.
I didn't measure the cream as I added just a little bit. Moreover the baking dish I used was small. Its breadth is 4" and length is 6". About 2 spoonfuls of the sausage/capsicum mix also remained. But the flavour of the sausages made the quiche even more delicious. Happy March everyone!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Beet & Onion Galette (baked in a pressure cooker)

The other day with the wind and the rain our power supply was erratic. Particularly in the kitchen and two more rooms. I had bought some beets and the Parmesan cheese, a gift from my friend Christina from Germany, was waiting to be used. But without power for my oven, I decided to use my good old cooker. Years ago most of my cakes were baked in the pressure cooker.

I couldn't roast the beets. So they were boiled till done but with a little bit of bite still left in them.

The pastry was made with one cup of flour and 50 grams of butter. To this I added some crushed dried basil. The basil was grown in my pots and the surplus that I snipped off before the flowering started were dried and stored.

I roasted two medium onions in the cooker. They were wrapped in foil and I kept the flame at medium till the wonderful oniony smell filled the kitchen. They were taken out, cooled, peeled and sliced. The pastry, poor thing, had to rest on the counter as my fridge was dead! But it wasn't as bad as the thought of not resting pastry in the fridge. If I can help it, I'd never do such a thing. I couldn't have imagined doing it in the first place but I had to bake!!

Surprisingly, the pastry was well-behaved and could be rolled out well. I scattered the sliced onions on its surface, layered it with some grated cheese, grated pepper and a dash of salt. Then the beet slices went in which was followed by more cheese and some seasoning.

In the end I scattered some dried thyme on the surface. Then I folded the dough inwards and made some pleats, With a bit of egg wash it was ready to go into the oven cooker. The cooker was kept on a low flame earlier so by the time I was done with the rolling and the filling it was already 'preheated'.
I used a couple of tart tin bottoms for the galette to sit on. The galette itself was placed on another 'bottom' of a tart tin so that made three layers. Then the lid was closed. The gasket was left on but the whistle was removed. It baked on a low flame for about 35 minutes.

After it was done I took it out with the help of a steel spatula. It was placed on a wooden serving board. Some more cheese was shaved on top of the hot galette and a little more scattering of thyme was the finishing touch.

By the way, this strawberry galette was baked in the oven on Valentine's Day. Looks-wise there isn't so much of a difference, right?

I couldn't wait for it to cool down. And I didn't make any other accompaniment. The combination of beets, onions and cheese was more than enough. Yum!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pea Shoots Salad With Chicken & Cucumber

If I am sitting down and enjoying this with a little more gusto than I usually do, it is for a very good reason. My kind of small space gardening was never about competing with the birds. But since last year the sparrow population in our area has grown by leaps and bounds. Any seed that sprouts becomes food to an army of these tiny birds. Looks like now I'll have to stick to plants that the sparrows wouldn't dream of pecking. And those include tomatoes, beans, chillies, carrots and herbs. I have been looking forward to making this salad. Anything home-grown is so much better. But first I needed to protect the seeds/shoots.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Pea shoots salad with chicken & cucumber
I sowed the peas in the first week of this month. An old kitchen drawer was turned upside down and that became a good protection from the sparrows. After about fifteen days, the shoots were ready to be picked. There's some wire mesh lying in our shed. Some more protective cover should be made soon...
Pea shoots are a wonderful source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, enzymes, minerals and vitamins. For more on the nutritive value of pea shoots do check out this site.

1 cup loosely-packed pea shoots, washed and drained in a colander
2/3 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 small cucumber, sliced thin
1 tsp sliced ginger
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
Brassica flowers for the garnish

The dressing:
Rice wine vinegar
Ground black pepper
Sesame oil
Dash of salt 
Moran ginger

I removed most of the 'tendrils' from the shoots before making the salad. The ginger I used is a variety of ginger locally known as Moran ginger. Grown in the Moran area of Assam, it is pungent and has more zing than regular ginger. You can see from the picture that the skin has a reddish tinge. This was given to me by a friend two years ago. Since then it has flourished survived in one corner of my backyard.
Pea shoots salad with chicken & cucumber

For this salad, if I had simply drizzled the dressing over the ingredients, it would not have tasted good. I made the dressing and used more than half of it to mix the ingredients really well with a fork. Then the cucumber slices were placed on the edge of the platter and the middle portion was piled up with the chicken, onions and the shoots. The tiny yellow blooms were placed last. The remaining dressing was drizzled on the salad.
I did not use exact measurements while making the dressing. The chicken was well-seasoned so I went easy on the salt and pepper. This is a wonderful salad and the taste is just out of this world. I did toy with the idea of adding more colour to the dish by using roasted beets but didn't go ahead with it. It didn't really matter. A forkful of this confirmed it.:)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Matcha Cake With Chocolate Frosting & Candied Pansies

Matcha cake with chocolate frosting and candied pansies

This was a week ago. When we had a sudden shower at night, my first thought was about how glad I was that I had picked my pansies during the day. Or the rain would have caused some damage to the delicate petals that I had so gently picked to decorate this cake. I had made the same kind of cake a few weeks ago for a family meet and it was well appreciated. And this time we were expecting guests all the way from Germany, friends of my sons, and I thought this would make a good 'welcome' cake.
I started with the flowers. Since drying them takes some time, I did not wash them after they were picked. But in the morning while watering my plants I sprinkled a lot of water on them so they were as good as 'washed'.
Candied pansies

Then they were placed on a platter and I brushed each with egg white. Then I dusted icing sugar on them and they were left to dry for about 4 hours. In the meanwhile I made the cake.

11/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 grams butter at room temperature + extra for greasing your cake tin
I used a 7" round cake tin

Sift the flour, matcha powder and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar till the mixture becomes pale and fluffy.
Add one egg and mix till it is well incorporated in the mixture. Repeat the process with the other two eggs.
Add the milk and mix again.
Fold in the flour/matcha powder/baking powder mix.
Transfer the batter into the greased tin and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove and let it cool. Then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack.

For the chocolate frosting:
200 grams dark chocolate
200 ml cream (I used Amul Fresh Cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Break the chocolate into small pieces by putting it in a plastic bag and bashing it with a rolling pin.
Melt the chocolate on a double boiler. Make sure that no lumps remain.
Add the cream and the vanilla extract, Give it a good mix and set aside till it cools down. 
Assembling the cake:
As soon as the cake is cool enough to be handled, cut it into two vertically.
Cut the 'dome' from the top so that the surface is even.
If you feel that the cake is a little dry you can add some sugar syrup all across the surface of the two 'roundels'.
Place the bottom part on a plate and pour the frosting on it. Spread it with the help of a palette knife.
Now place the next layer and pour the remaining frosting. Cover the sides with the help of the knife with the frosting.
Place the candied pansies all across the surface of the cake.
Let the cake remain in the fridge till the frosting is 'set'.
Candied pansies

Our guests loved the cake. And they loved the flowers! It was worth making this cake. Despite its simplicity, the pretty edible blooms made all the difference. And no prizes for guessing which annuals yours truly will be growing again next year.:)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Toffee Bananas

Toffee bananas
Toffee bananas
When I first saw this classic Chinese dessert on Food Safari, I couldn't wait to try it. But other recipes came in between and this one never got made. So when my sis-in-law sent me two bunches of beautiful bananas the other day, I thought I should do them justice by making this dessert. These bananas are locally known as Jahaji.
I only used one and a half.:) Receiving produce in that quantity, I have to gift some away as well. With three people in the house and one who does not have bananas, even one bunch is too much!
With bananas, the variation that is mashed and mixed with flour, sugar, cream/milk and made into fritters is a popular snack.
Coming back to the recipe, it's the one on the SBS website. The recipe is by Danny Yeum.

50 grams self-raising flour
25 grams cornflour+ extra for dusting
90 ml cold water
Vegetable oil for deep frying
2 bananas, peeled and cut into thick slices diagonally
120 grams white sugar
A bowl of iced water for 'setting' the caramel
Black and white sesame seeds for sprinkling
Ice cream to serve
I halved the recipe and left out the ice cream. Maybe another day. And since I do not usually use self-raising flour, I added a pinch of baking powder to the flour.

Whisk together the flour and the baking powder mix. Add the cornflour. Then add the water and whisk into a smooth batter. Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil in the mixture.
Heat a wok and add enough oil to fry the bananas.
Coat each banana slice in cornflour (you can toss them in the flour). Dip each banana slice in the batter and fry. The frying can be done in batches till they turn golden and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
Place the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and cook till it turns into caramel. Shake the pan in between.
Remove from the heat and add one fried banana to the caramel. Turn so that all sides are coated.
Then plunge the caramel-covered banana to a bowl of iced water to harden the caramel. Drain immediately.
Remove. Repeat till all the bananas are used up.
Transfer the bananas to a serving platter and sprinkle the black and white sesame seeds on top.
The crunch of the caramel as you bite into a fried banana slice is wonderful. 
I couldn't make mine look as good as the one on that site but as for the taste, I'm happy!