Monday, April 28, 2014

Mango Chutney

This year April has been a cruel month with the temperature soaring to 40+ degrees. I wonder what torture lies in wait for us in the months of May and June. Thank God Mother Nature provides some other jewels of the season in the form of water melons and mangoes. The last of my amaryllis lilies are still blooming but the petunias are about to call it a day. 
With tender green mangoes on my tree, I have had the raw chutney a few times. It's basic. Peel and grate one or two mangoes. Add sugar and salt. Mix. Add one chopped green chilli and a few sprigs of chopped mint. Drizzle a bit of mustard oil and give it a mix. Enjoy.

But today I made the cooked variety. The recipe is almost the same as for tomato chutney I had made earlier. This type of chutney is usually made with acidic fruits, sweetened with sugar or jaggery and some spices.

5 green mangoes
3 tbs mustard oil
A few Indian bay leaves
Panch puran-a mix of five whole spices consisting of fennel, cumin, mustard, fenugreek and nigella seeds
A quarter tsp of turmeric powder
1 tbs red chilli powder
A quarter tsp yellow chilli powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Grated jaggery, half a cup or more depending on how sweet you want it

Wash the mangoes and wipe with a kitchen cloth.
Cut lengthwise without peeling and remove the tender seeds.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the bay leaves and the panch puran
Add the magoes, cook for a few minutes.
Then add all the other spices. Sprinkle some water as powdered spices burn easily. Keep cooking.
It doesn't take long for the mangoes to cook. Once they are nearly done, add the jaggery.
You can taste at this point as green mangoes are acidic and more jaggery might be needed.
Stir gently and as soon as all the jaggery melts, remove from the flame.

This chutney is a great addition to rice/dal/vegetable meal and also goes very well with Indian flat-breads.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Bread Dessert

This post has been inspired by watching David Rocco's Dolce India on Fox Traveller.In one episode he makes dessert with bread, mascarpone, nutella, and sliced bananas. The method is the same as for French toast. I love loading up my French toast with peanut butter and I'm sure there are endless sinfully rich and delicious variations.

Here is my version made with what I had in stock. It was a bit of this and a bit of that so no measurements are given here.
Some dark chocolate, melted and cooled
Hung curd
Banana slices
Beaten eggs
Oil for frying
Icing sugar for dusting the fried dessert

Remove the crusts from the bread slices.
Heat some oil in a pan.
'Butter' the bread with the hung curd.
Add the melted chocolate.
Arrange the banana slices on top of the chocolate.
Take another slice of bread and place it on top of the bananas.
Apply a bit of pressure as you sandwich the two pieces.
Dip in beaten egg and fry till golden brown turning once so that both sides look the same.
Remove from the pan and place them on absorbent paper. Transfer to a serving platter and dust with icing sugar.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mutton Biryani

Biryani with mutton
The combination of rice and meat or vegetables is always a wholesome and comforting meal and I'm glad I made mutton biryani for lunch today. It turned out to be just the way it should be and it was better than the last time I made it. It was worth lighting up the coals and doing the finishing touches the old-fashioned way. For the accompaniment it was cucumber raita. Two tender cucumbers grated and mixed into whipped curd, seasoned with rock salt and sugar, and garnished with red chilli powder and toasted and ground cumin. A Sunday lunch couldn't have been more satisfying.
Mutton biryani and cucumber raita

Creating the layers

The meat:
500 grams mutton cut in larger-than-usual pieces
3 onions chopped fine
10 cloves of garlic
Thumb-size ginger
Biryani masala (I used the one I bought in Kashmir)
Chilli powder, according to taste
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
A tsp of coarsely grated pepper
Garam masala paste made of a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves, 3 cardamoms, 5 cloves & a bit of mace
1 star anise/a few bay leaves/1 stick of cinnamon to temper the oil before adding the meat
4 tbs curd
Bay leaves/tejpatta

Make a rough paste of the garlic and ginger. Marinate the mutton with the spices and keep aside for at least two hours.
Heat oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the star anise, cinnamon stick and bay leaves.
Add the onions and fry for a few minutes.
Add the meat and stir. Keep cooking, stir during intervals.
Let it cook till the oil separates. Add the curd (beaten) and then the garam masala.
After a few minutes, remove from the flame and keep aside.

The rice:
400 grams basmati rice
3 large onions, finely sliced
A large pinch of saffron
3 tbs warm milk, to soak the saffron
Some butter or ghee
Whole spices to be added to the rice
Two bunches of coriander leaves, washed and chopped fine
A thick bunch of mint leaves, chopped fine
Oil to fry the onions

Wash and soak the rice for a short while. Then drain in a colander.
In a large pan, heat water. The volume should be a little more than double the quantity of the rice. Add salt and whole spices of your choice to the water. I used two star anise, a few crushed cardamoms, some cloves, three sticks of cinnamon and some peppercorns.
When the water comes to the boil, add the rice. Cook till it is almost done as the final stage of cooking will be after the layering.
Drain in a colander. You can remove the whole spices at this point.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the sliced onions till they turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper.
Grease a heavy-bottomed pan with butter.
Put a layer of rice and top with half of the meat. Scatter the fried onions, the saffron, and the herbs on top of the rice.
Dot the surface with butter.
Create another layer in the same way. Dot again with butter.
Cover with a lid and cook on hot coals for about 25 minutes. Hot coals must be placed on the lid as well. Alternately, this can be cooked in a hot oven.

The pan that I used was not heavy-bottomed. So I added  the round 'plate' from a loose-bottomed pie tin which sat comfortably at the bottom of the pan. So there was no browning there.
I did not put it on dum, the method where you seal the edges of the pan with freshly kneaded wheat dough although that is also a popular way of cooking biryani. I usually do that when I cook larger quantities. There are so many ways of cooking biryani and I'm sure everyone will have their own version. But the result of putting meat and rice together in a dish will always be delicious!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Brinjal Curry

For most of us Indians, curry is indeed the easiest thing to make. My brinjal plant is doing well (it's the sweet variety) and my harvest of three of these purple veggies was more than enough for the two of us. I used the two in a curry that had a rich gravy, the kind that would also be good with flat-breads. But being hard core rice-eaters we decided to have it with rice instead.:)

The grinding stone is a kitchen staple in most homes. Although I use the mixer/grinder, for small amounts of spices, I prefer to use this stone.
The brinjal:
Wash, pat dry with a kitchen cloth and cut each brinjal into four pieces lengthwise. Leave the stalks on. Rub with some salt and fry in hot oil till golden brown on all sides. Remove and keep aside.

Ingredients for the curry:
About four tbs oil
2 onions
1 tsp garlic and ginger paste, freshly ground
2 tbs poppy seeds, soaked and ground to a paste
1 tsp cumin seeds, broiled and powdered
1 tsp of coriander seeds, broiled and powdered
1 tsp yellow chilli powder
A quarter tsp of freshly ground pepper
A quarter cup of tomato puree
10 whole cashews ground to a paste
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
A few Indian bay leaves 
A piece of raw mango, grated
Coriander leaves for the garnish

Roast the onions on the gas flame till the outermost skin is charred. Peel, wash, cut into bits and pieces and blitz.
Heat the pan (where the vegetable was fried) and check whether you'll need some more oil, add the bay leaves and the onion paste. Fry till the onion paste changes colour. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and all the powdered spices. Fry till the oil separates and then add the tomato puree. Season.
When the spices come together, add the cashew paste and a bit of water. This paste will thicken the curry. For that bit of tang I added the raw mango paste.
Add about a cup of hot water, let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently add the fried brinjal. Cook for another 7-8 minutes before taking it off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Adding the grated raw mango to this dish created a balance or else the curry would have tasted a little too sweet for my liking. With the wind and a bit of rain, tender mangoes fall off the tree. I use these for that hint of sour in my dal and curried dishes.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Galette des rois

Bitten by the pastry bug, my latest attempt was to make galette des rois or French Epiphany cake particularly after seeing David Lebovitz's post on the same. How could the combination of these ingredients taste anything other than fabulous? But the results are far from perfect as you can see from these pictures. The first time I made it, the patterns that I scored on the surface were so faint that they did not even show up in the pictures. The second time was this (pictured above) and I didn't realize I had handled the knife a little too enthusiastically. I'll need a whole lot of brushing up here....

Tradition has it that if you find a tiny figurine in your slice you'll be either king or queen for the night. You might be interested in reading more on this tradition here.
The stages
This recipe has been adapted from David Lebovitz's website.
100 grams almond flour
100 grams sugar
A pinch of salt
Zest of half an orange
100 grams unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp rum
A bit of almond extract

450 grams puff pastry divided into two pieces, chilled
a whole almond or piece of candied fruit

1 egg yolk
1 tsp milk

For the almond filling, take a medium bowl and combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mash in the butter till fully incorporated. Stir in the eggs one at a time along with the rum and almond extract. Cover and chill.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough on a floured surface and trim it using a plate. I used a 9" pie dish (the loose bottom only). Place the rolled dough on the baking sheet. Cover it with another piece of parchment paper then roll the other piece of dough into a circle. Lay it on top and chill for thirty minutes.

Take the filling from the fridge, remove one circle of pastry dough and spread the almond filling on the circle leaving an inch of exposed border. Place the whole almond or candied fruit in the filling.

Brush the exposed portion of the dough with water. Place the other rolled-out dough on top of the filling and seal the edges well. You can flute the edges and score patterns on the surface with a knife. I used my leaf cutter and made tendrils along the leaves. Make a few holes for the steam to escape while baking.

Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and milk mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes. After it is done, slide the galette on to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

It was indeed a joy to bake this dish. At a family gathering the moment I started cutting it into wedges, the portions vanished so fast that only miniscule crumbs were left to remind me that I had indeed baked galette des rois.:)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Black Rice Wine & Savoury Cake

A glass of judima/Dimasa rice wine made with black rice
I have been using quite a bit of black rice in my recipes lately. Every time I get the new stock the first thing I do is make rice pudding. It's a celebration since no other rice compares to this nutty and oh-so-fragrant taste. We do get a lot of other fragrant varieties of rice and the most-consumed in Assam must be joha. The aroma wafts through the house and beyond. But black rice happens to be special. After the first rice pudding was made and relished it was time to think about something different. And so rice wine it was.
Black, brown & glutinous rice

I added three equal parts of black rice, brown rice, and glutinous rice. I have written about the process on my post titled The Dimasa Rice Wine. Needless to say that pouring a glass of wine is done with pride!:)
And checking out Google images on savoury cakes I had come across one that made me gasp! Cooked black rice on one such cake!
Savoury cake with black rice, cheese, salami & a lot more
So this cake came about by throwing in several ingredients together. The first recipe that I tried was Rachel Khoo's and you can see it here. I simply changed some of the ingredients adding three tablespoons of cooked black rice, black raisins for that hint of sweetness, bits of chicken salami, grated carrots, cheese and ground pepper. The rest of the ingredients like eggs, milk, olive oil, flour and salt are the same as in that recipe. The colour purple in all things edible is indeed fascinating.
Savoury cake with a pretty salad
 I love savoury cakes with a salad and in this case I teamed up rocket leaves, strips of cucumber and a few strawberries from my pots to make this pretty salad. The dressing was made with lemon juice, a hint of salt and sugar, olive oil and grated pepper.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Coconut Loaf Cake

I often use coconuts in cakes and muffins but these are usually rustled up in a jiffy so photographing and blogging about those goodies take a back seat. But I decided that today's freshly grated  coconut from my one and only tree deserved a mention here. So a loaf cake it was. I rounded up the usual suspects:) and added the grated coconut. The topping made it extra special with honey, butter and toasted walnuts. One good thing about baking this kind of cake is that it's easier to cut (or to carry). No fancy wedges here. Just a straight clean cut...

One and a half cups plain flour
One and a half tsp baking powder
Half a cup of grated coconut
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup softened butter + extra for greasing the tin and for the topping
2 eggs
A handful of raisins
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping:
3 tbs honey
3 tbs toasted walnuts
1 tbs butter 

Grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and keep aside.
Wash the raisins and pat dry with a kitchen cloth. Keep aside.
Cream the sugar and the butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the vanilla extract and the coconut.
Fold in the sieved flour. Add the raisins. Pour the batter into the greased tin, tap on the kitchen worktop to remove air bubbles and bake in a 180C oven.
It will take 30-35 minutes for the cake to be done.

For the topping 
Melt the butter and honey, stir in the toasted walnuts. About ten minutes before the loaf is ready, spoon this mixture over the top.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Strawberry & Hung Curd Tart

Strawberry and hung curd tart
Looks like there's going to be a lot of baking this month. With shortcrust pastry, a bit of the dough gets left over and I use that for the recipe that had been on my mind but never got around to actually baking it. The time has come...:) I was wondering how to use the strawberries still left in my fridge but an earlier issue of Good Food came to my rescue. I made my own adaptations. In most cases adaptation is a euphemism for ingredients that are beyond our reach unless we travel to bigger cities and in some cases the same word will also mean being innovative! In this recipe it surely stands for the former. The recipe included mascarpone but since I didn't have any, I made do with just the hung curd.
Strawberries from Shillong

300 grams hung curd
100 ml double cream
3 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 500 grams strawberries, hulled and halved

I used shortcrust pastry that I had in the fridge. It was enough for an 8 inch tart tin. I baked it blind at 190C for 15 minutes without trimming the edges. Then I removed the beans and baked it for another ten minutes. After it cooled down I trimmed the edges.

For the filling, whiz the hung curd, icing sugar, vanilla extract and double cream until thick. Spoon into the cooled pastry case and level. Top with the strawberries (leaving some for the puree) and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
Blitz the remaining strawberries with the icing sugar. Check the sweetness. Just before serving, spoon it over the tart.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Very Berry Pie

Mulberry & strawberry pie
A bagful of seasonal berries arrived from Shillong and pie was the first thing on my mind. It was a mix of mulberries and strawberries. The sight of mulberries always remind me of my childhood. One of the highlights of the season was picking them from a neighbour's tree where some of the branches stretched out across the wall. We would revel in the taste and in the purple colour that our fingers and mouths were magically transformed. But we never thought of the fruit in cooked form then. My mother's garden has a couple of trees now but mulberries are so highly perishable that by the time the packed fruit arrive here, they ooze a lot of their juices and nearly rot as they travel a little more than 300kms. 
I used more mulberries than strawberries in this recipe. For a change it was good to bake with a different variety of fruit rather than apples and pears.

The pastry:
250 grams flour, sieved
125 grams butter chilled and grated 
Two eggs, one for binding the dough and the other to be used later to brush the pie
About a tablespoon of iced water
Grate the butter over the bowl of flour. Mix using your finger tips till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Break an egg into it and knead gently. Sprinkle the water (if necessary) and let the dough come together. Divide into two portions, flatten and chill in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm for at least thirty minutes.

The filling: 
2 cups of mulberries and strawberries
Half a cup of brown sugar
A quarter cup of flour
A tsp of freshly grated lemon zest
A pinch of cinnamon powder
Butter to dot the filling

Roll one ball of the pastry dough on a floured surface. Roll a little bigger than the tin. Fold the dough on the rolling pin and unfurl it gently on the tin. Press the bottom edges. Roll the pin over the edge of the tin to remove any excess dough. Chill in the fridge as you prepare the filling.

I left most of the stems on the mulberries. Hull and halve the strawberries. Add the sugar, the lemon zest, cinnamon powder and gently mix with a spoon. Add the flour and give it another gentle mix. Transfer the berries to the chilled pie shell. Dot the filling with butter.

Roll out the other half of the dough and cut them into strips. Arrange the strips on top of the berries creating any pattern that you like. Join the edges with some milk.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes or until the pie is golden brown and some of the purple juices bubble and flow. Cool before serving.

Although this is the usual recipe I follow while making a sweet fruit pie, I blind-baked the pastry for a change. I thought writing PIE would turn out really nice. But attempting calligraphy any form of writing isn't as easy as ABC. Which is why I have stuck to lattices and made some leaves with the extra dough.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Amaranth Polenta Quiche

Jamun/Indian blackberry blooms...sign of Spring
March moved on to April with some hint of rain but never a full-fledged storm the kind that we usually associate with the month. There's this film of dust that clings to surfaces and housework takes so much longer. How I wish for rain now. Without the March storms, my mango tree has every branch intact and it surely looks like I'll have a good crop this year. Buds on my jamun tree have burst into gorgeous creamy, feathery blooms and there's no dearth of winged pollinators on my tree. The heady mix of floral and fruity sweetness surely bring a spring to my step as I head to the terrace to water my plants. The thought of making some new dishes with this summer fruit and the images from a past issue of Good Food magazine splash purple, burgundy and magenta desserts on my mind. Bliss!
The tree draws the most attractive visitors!
And this also the season when leafy greens like the amaranth, goosefoot and purslane spring up in abundant clumps. Weeds on flower beds but wonderful greens otherwise. Amaranth tastes delicious during this time of the year. Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate; they are also a complementing source of other vitamins such as thiamine,niacin, and riboflavin plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. (Facts taken from Wiki).

Ingredients for the shell--
1 cup instant polenta
2 cups chicken stock

The filling:
1 thick bunch of amaranth
2 eggs
150 ml cream
Half a cup of cheese, grated
Butter for frying as well as greasing the tin
1 onion, chopped fine
A pinch of grated nutmeg 
A quarter tsp of grated ginger 
Chilli flakes, optional

Grease a loose-bottomed tart tin with butter and keep aside. Cook the polenta by heating the stock and pouring the polenta in a thin stream. Keep stirring to ensure that there are no lumps. This will take about 12-15 minutes. Cool for a while and then transfer to the tin and spread on all sides with the help of a ladle/or the back of a spoon. Bake in a 170C oven for about 20 minutes.

For the filling, wash the greens and drain. Chop fine. Since I used tender amaranth there was no need to separate the stems from the leaves. Or else the stems need to have the skin removed, the same action as for stringing beans. 
Heat the butter in a pan, add the onions and fry till they change colour. Then add the greens. Cook till they wilt. Season with salt and pepper. You can go easy on the salt as the cheese will be added later. Add the grated ginger. Remove from the flame and cool. 
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the cream and the grated cheese.
Now take the tart shell and layer the bottom with the cooked leaves. Place it on a tray and add the mix of wet ingredients. Dust with grated nutmeg. Sprinkle some chilli flakes, if using. Bake in a 180C oven for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cherry Frangipane Tart

It's not cherry season now but the tinned cherries I got from my recent trip went into making this cheery tart with a frangipane filling. I used some pastry dough left from making a pie and it was just enough for one little tart shell.

The tart shell was baked blind before the filling went in. The ingredients used were:
1 cup ground almonds
Half a cup of fine sugar
1 egg and 1 yolk
3 tbs soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs all-purpose flour
A pinch of grated nutmeg
Half a tin of cherries (seeds removed)
Beat the sugar and the butter till pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, the vanilla extract and the grated nutmeg. Fold in the almond flour as well as the all-purpose flour. Top with the pitted cherries. Bake in a 170C oven for thirty minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. 
For the glaze heat some jam (I used a mixed fruit jam) and brush over the cherries. 
Instead of a skewer I used a knife and regretted doing so as the knife "wounds" showed up in the picture.:( But the taste was so good that I made another the very next day!