Monday, December 30, 2013

Baba cakes in a brandy/apple syrup

Year endings are pretty special. There's more cooking happening.:)With all the cooking/blogging that's going on in my life, I have become addicted to online shopping but it isn't all kinds of stuff that I buy. Baking tins and platters and kitchen tools are what I look for, look at, look look....And am I glad I got this donut pan although it was a bit pricey. I happened to see another one that was cheaper only after I had already bought it and drooled at the shapes of the cakes that I had baked!!
About two months ago I made rum babas but without using the traditional tins. I used this pan and the size was right for individual servings. Although the size is small, adding the other components to the dessert made it just enough. For the dinner that we had the other day I made these cakes but instead of rum I used brandy and apple juice. I had seen the recipe in a special anniversary issue that Good Food India had brought out in November. The recipe is by Matt Moran but I had to make some adjustments as I didn't have all the ingredients. The picture that accompanied the recipe was so stunning I knew I had to try it! Mine is of course nowhere near it but my guests loved the taste! The recipe included Calvados but I used regular brandy for soaking the cakes.
Soaking in the syrup...& the compote (below)
 The accompaniments can be of individual preferences but here's the recipe for the cakes from the magazine.
4 tbsp milk
2tsp maple syrup
2 tsp dried yeast
3 eggs
A pinch of salt
120 grams of all-purpose flour
3 tsp butter, chilled and diced
Combine the milk and maple syrup in a bowl, then add the yeast. Keep aside for ten minutes to activate the yeast. Beat the eggs lightly using a whisk, then stir into the yeast mixture. add salt to the flour, then add flour gradually to the yeast mixture combining well to avoid any lumps. Sprinkle diced butter on top but do not mix in. Cover the bowl with cling-film and allow to stand for one hour until the batter has risen. Fold in the butter.
Grease a few small muffin or dariole moulds with butter, then pour in enough batter to half-fill the moulds. Cover and leave for thirty minutes until the mixture has doubled in size. Meanwhile prepare the syrup. Put the apple juice, Calvados (or brandy) and sugar in a pan, and heat until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180C and bake the cakes for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the moulds. Unmould the cooled cakes, then prick them with a skewer before soaking them in the Calvados syrup, then refrigerate.
The yeast cakes were served with a compote of apples, prunes, and dates. It was then topped with a small scoop of  vanilla ice cream.The batter from these ingredients produced 11-12 cakes in my mould. I made fifty three cakes and only a few remained!

Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you check out my page on Facebook and like it! I wish all my blog friends and visitors a....
                         Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dundee Cake

Dundee cake with mustard blooms in the background
 Winter is usually the time when I tend to meet more people than the rest of the year. Our getting-together dinners and lunches have started which is why I haven't had a new post for the last so many days! The other day I baked a Dundee cake. My sisters and I had planned a trip to a village not very far from where we live and I'm glad I got the opportunity to take these pictures with the mustard fields in full bloom. A heavy lunch followed soon after this walkabout in the fields of not only mustard but peas, cabbages, cauliflowers, chillis, tomatoes, and eggplants.

My sisters and nieces. My nephew was busy running around the wide open spaces!

As for the recipe, it's Jiggs Kalra's again. I have always made it this way. The only thing I left out were the molasses as I didn't have any. It's added after the beaten eggs go into the bowl. I only cut down the amount of raisins and added some dried currants.

175 grams all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
125 grams castor sugar
3 eggs
100 grams almonds
125 grams butter+ extra for greasing the cake tin

275 grams raisins
60 grams lemon peel
A handful of almonds
About 6 tbsps rum

For the fruit and nut mixture first wash the raisins and pat dry. Cut the lemon peel into small pieces. Chop the almonds and put all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover with cellophane and reserve for at least two hours. or overnight.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Break and beat the eggs in a bowl.
Cream the butter and the castor sugar with a wooden spoon. Then fold in the beaten eggs. Add the flour, and fruit and nut mixtures, fold gently with a wooden spoon to ensure that the fruit and nut mixture does not settle at the bottom of the bowl.
Blanch the almonds in boiling water for five minutes, and then drain. Cool in cold water, drain, spread in a cloth napkin, fold, rub vigorously to peel.
Preheat the oven to 175 C.
Grease a 9" cake tin with butter, line with butter paper, and transfer the cake mixture to the tin, spread with a spatula, and gently thump the tin on the work surface to remove any air pockets. Then cover the top with the blanched almonds.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until the almonds turn golden.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Piece of cake!

It's the season of cakes and baking during this time of the year is indeed the most enjoyable! I thought I'd be blogging more in December but somehow I'm spending more time experimenting in my kitchen!. The collage shows some of cakes I made recently. The latest to grace my kitchen/table was the chiffon cake. That's the first photo in the collage.
I have mentioned before that I now have the book Baking With Julia and the chiffon cake is the second recipe I tried from the book. The recipe uses nectarines but I made do with good old apples. It's such a light cake and the crunch in between comes as a pleasant surprise as you bite into it. I did save some of the streusel and strewed it on my plate on top of the cream. It was worth the effort of making it. I'm certainly not going into details here as most of you are such good cooks and must have baked chiffon cakes several times before.
Everybody loved the chiffon cake!
 The marble cakes in the collage also had two ripe bananas in them. They tasted pretty good. The last picture was an attempt at making a flour-less chocolate cake. Too rich for me...I don't think I'll be baking that anytime soon. As for the sugar my cakes aren't as sweet as "normal" cakes. Next on my list is Rachel Khoo's savoury cake and of course, the much-loved Dundee cake!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Curry of Cashew nuts, Mushrooms and Puffed Lotus Seeds

I first came across the word makhana in Jiggs Kalra's recipes but it wasn't only recently that I used them in my cooking. Lotus seeds are pretty common in pickles but the puffed ones never really came my way.:) So when I saw the seed packets at Delhi's INA market, I immediately picked up one. And the recipe that had been at the back of my mind for ages was finally created.
In the 90s, The Telegraph, one of our region's popular newspapers, carried supplements of wonderful reads. And Jiggs Kalra's food columns were my favourite! I'm glad I've kept most of the cuttings in the form of a scrap book. Culinary terms that I'm not really familiar with, are all there. It's just that I didn't go that deep into food back then. This recipe is adapted from a recipe called Kaju Khumb Makhana. It's a combination of cashew nuts, mushrooms, and puffed lotus seeds. Fresh mushrooms are used in the recipe but I used the tinned ones. And the original recipe uses 600 grams of mushrooms.
100 grams whole cashew nuts
200 grams button mushrooms, drained
30 gram makhana
Groundnut oil to shallow fry makhana
50 grams ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
200 grams onions
1 and a half tsp ginger paste
1 and a half tsp garlic paste
2tsp black peppercorns
100 gram yoghurt
3 tbsp coriander powder
One and a half tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
One and a half cups tomato puree
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
A quarter teaspoon of mace powder
1 tbsp lemon juice (or 1 tbsp honey)

Soak the cashew nuts in a panful of lukewarm water and drain.
If using fresh mushrooms, slice off the earthy base of the stalks  and wash to remove grit. Boil water, add 1 tbsp lemon juice, blanch for 5-6 minutes, drain and refresh in chilled water unrtil ready to cook.
As for the makhana, heat oil in a pan, add the seeds, shallow fry over medium heat until they puff up. Remove and reserve in a panful of water until ready to cook.
The vegetables: Peel, wash, and finely chop onions. Clean, wash and chop coriander.
The yoghurt: Whisk yoghurt in a bowl,add coriander, Kashmiri chilli powder, turmeric and whisk to homogenise.

  • Heat ghee in a pan,add cumin, stir over medium heat until it begins to pop, add onions, saute till translucent, add the ginger and garlic pastes and stir fry till the onions are golden. Add black pepper and stir for a few seconds.
  • Now add the mushrooms, fry for a few minutes, add the yoghurt mixture, fry until the fat leaves the sides, add tomato puree and salt. Add one and a half cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, add cashew nuts and makhana, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes.
  • Uncover, sprinkle the cardamom and mace powders, stir and cook, stirring constantly until the gravy is of sauce consistency. Remove, add lemon juice (or honey if the tomatoes are too sour). Adjust the seasoning.
  • Remove to a serving dish and serve with Indian flatbreads like phulka or tandoori roti.
The only ingredient I left out was black cardamom/motti elaichi powder. As for the dish, the look and the taste was worth the time and the effort in cooking it.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Cooking With Lai /Brassica juncea

From left, clockwise:Brassica juncea, lai hon, lai with fish & lai bhaji

Cliched as it may sound, the leafy greens that make us go lie la lie ( easiest lines to remember from Boxer) is actually Lai/Brassica juncea. Soon after the heat of summer bids a reluctant goodbye, backyard gardens and markets in every neighbourhood include tender plants of this popular vegetable along with the other leafy greens of the season. This vegetable also makes its appearance during the monsoons as farmers work harder to produce vegetables that aren't officially their season. And they come, the worse for wear with light green leaves punctuated by holes that make you wonder why they are being planted in the first place. But that's not the case in winter. To pick these greens in the morning with the dew still glistening on them tells you what you already know. That the flavour and the taste will be delicious!  Lai is also known as Indian mustard, Chinese mustard and mustard greens. It has a slightly more pungent taste and smell compared to other leafy greens. All mustard greens are high in vitamin A and vitamin K.

Lai hon shown in the collage is a Dimasa dish cooked with fermented fish and thickened with rice flour. It can be cooked in plain water or in chicken or pork stock. The other ingredients that go into the dish are chillies, alkali, salt, and crushed garlic.

The best part is that they can be teamed up with several other veggies, meat, fish, or dried fish. They can be fried with fresh peas, or boiled with pork and fermented bamboo shoots, steamed on their own with a touch of ginger...a versatile vegetable indeed!

This photo shows steamed lai with a few pieces of fatty pork. The same can also be steamed in a colander, in a pressure cooker or in a bamboo hollow. For added flavour, the leaves can also be wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked. A simple fried dish can be made according to the recipe below:
1 thick bunch of lai
Oil to fry
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
6-7 green chillies, chopped
A bowl of fresh peas
Ginger juliennes for the garnish
Salt to taste
Turmeric (optional)
Coriander powder (optional)
Wash the leaves in running water to remove any dirt and grit. Drain and chop fine.
Heat about two tablespoons of oil in a pan. Add the garlic and the chillies.
Add the chopped greens, stir and keep covered.
After five minutes or so add the peas and the salt. Keep stirring from time to time.
Cook till the water dries up and the leaves are thoroughly cooked.
Remove to a serving bowl and garnish with ginger juliennes.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ah, Delhi!

Pretty blooms sold on the roadside

Now that my sons are (studying)  in Delhi, my trips and stay there is helping me familiarise with certain parts of  this city. Ber Sarai in south Delhi where my address is when I'm there, is centrally located and it's pretty much easy to access areas that matter to me. Well food and ingredients for my recipes are on the top of my list so my usual haunts are the stores at Basant Lok and INA market. The carts in "our" area are laden with the freshest of produce. If I didn't have a food blog, I don't think I'd have ventured too far sourcing/scouring for precious ingredients. The narrow lanes have cycle carts selling fruits and nuts of the season. The sights and sounds of another city is so different from the one that I live in!
A fruit-seller arranges his wares at Ber Sarai

The nankhatai(Indian cookies) seller appears every winter
& the vegetable vendor does brisk business

From the top of the building where my sons live, the Qutub Minar is a towering structure through the winter haze. I spent an afternoon there recently clicking pictures of this beautiful structure and the other monuments within the complex. This is the tallest minar in India (73 mtrs) and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Qutub Minar & the other monuments in the complex

Chaos thrives on the roads of Chawri Bazar. In the midst the orange vendor was merrily peeling the fruit!!
Street food at Mina Bazar was delicious!

India's largest mosque, the Jama Masjid
Other food highlights were dropping in at the Gourmet Jar and at Diva Kitsch. The latter happens to be Chef Ritu Dalmia's newest restaurant.
Diva Kitsch

Food on our table...photographed @ Diva Kitsch
The restaurant serves European food with an Asian twist. Interesting flavours, particularly the desserts. We had the basil panna cotta with passion fruit coulis and jaggery creme brulee.
I came back with several ingredients, cake and tart tins, and of course the jam bottles. These will keep me going (with my baking mostly) till it's time to head up north again!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Undying Inc& Apple Desserts

Undying Inc

I had mentioned in my last post that one of India's best-known metal bands Undying Inc would be performing in our city. They did and the show was awesome! And it was such a pleasure to have them here in our house. It was a short stay but the days simply flew. It was a joy to cook for them and to interact with them. I'm glad my son is the drummer of this extremely talented band. This picture was taken outside our front door just before they left for the airport. Back row, from left: Biswarup  (guitars) & Reuben (bass). Front row: Shashank  (vocals), Nishant  (my son on drums)& Angshuman (the sound engineer).
There's no recipe in this post but I'm including some of the pictures of the desserts I made when they were here. All of them were with apples. I have often mentioned that we get very acidic fruits in our region so when it comes to baking pies and tarts, it's safer to stick with apples. Everybody loved them and it helped that apples are a hit with all. As for the mains, it was rice, dal accompanied with a meat or fish dish, salad, and a baked or fried vegetable dish.
I had recently got the book Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan and I decided to make the French Apple Tart from there. What a pleasure to create something simple but looked so exotic with the concentric circles of sweet apples. The other desserts I made were the usual apple pie and a crumble tart where I added apples, a couple of star fruits, dried currants, and some rum-soaked raisins. Whereas the first two desserts were served with cream, the last one was served with vanilla ice-cream. To see the boys going for seconds was absolutely worth it!! You can see what they wrote here on their Facebook page.
Thank you so much for stopping by today. And for the new likes on my Facebook page!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Gourmet Jar

When I first read about Apeksha Jain's The Gourmet Jar in the November issue of Good Housekeeping magazine I knew I had to taste her creations. It's a feeling that is similar with a particular recipe that I have to make or bake when I first read it or see it on a food show. And that doesn't happen with every recipe. I happened to be in Delhi last month spending time with my sons so we headed to Shahpur Jat and into Apeksha's confiture shop. A new term for me. I'm not a jam person except for baking jam tarts and pies but boozy jam? How interesting!
The tasting table
The Gourmet Jar is pretty. Pink and blue shelves packed with jam jars tied with pink ribbons. The symbol of the French capital decorates one wall of this pretty store. Tasting banana jam on a holiday in France led to a business venture. Apeksha's husband liked the flavour so much that he wanted her to recreate the same. The banana jam is absolutely delicious as we found out at the tasting table. With banana being such a common ingredient I'd never have thought that such a sensational taste could even be created out of this humble fruit. It is indeed the best jam that I have ever tasted! The other flavours that we tried out were Fig Contreau, Bitter Orange Whiskey Marmalade, Fig Orange Liqueur Jam, Spicy Onion Relish, Date and Prune Jam. All the jams have very little sugar added and no preservatives. Apeksha uses a lot of locally sourced fruits for her jams.

I wish Apeksha the very best. I hope many more delicious and interesting flavours find their way into the pink and blue jam shelves at The Gourmet Jar. 

Thank you for stopping by today. Would be delighted if you connect with me/Like my page on Facebook as well.:) I've been a little occupied lately. One of India's best-known metal bands Undying Inc will be performing in our city on December 8 and the band members will be staying in our house. My younger son, Nishant, happens to be the drummer of this band. So you can imagine the excitement....regular posting will happen after the show is over!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cheddar Cheese Cookies

Some time back I made these cheese cookies with pepper and some chilli flakes. Not the best looking cookies but they tasted pretty good. The best part is that these are so easy to make. By now regular visitors here know of my fascination for BBC Good Food (India) magazine's recipes. The October issue had a special on cookies by Sabina Gupta and this was the first one that I chose to make from that issue with just a few minor changes.

250 grams flour
150 grams butter
6 tbsps heavy cream
150 grams Cheddar cheese, grated
Dash of salt
A quarter teaspoon of pepper
Chilli flakes, 1 tablespoon
1 egg yolk, beaten
A tablespoon of white sesame seeds and poppy seeds

  • Preheat the oven to 170*. Beat the butter with an electric whisk until soft. Add the cream and blend well.
  • Sieve the flour and salt together and gradually add the mixture to the butter, just a little at a time. Add the cheese, the pepper, and chilli flakes and bind together.
  • Chill the dough for thirty minutes and then roll it out to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut the dough into circles (or desired shapes). Brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame and poppy seeds.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or till they turn golden brown. Cool completely before eating or storing.
These cookies pair beautifully with a hot cup of tea and can be stored for about two weeks. 
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