Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemon Tartlets

I spent the major part of the afternoon yesterday making two batches of shortcrust pastry, one batch plain and the other with the addition of cocoa. There's some cooking chocolate sitting around so I thought I'd better get going. Maybe double chocolate tarts, a layer of dark chocolate and another of white. Drool! But chocolate can wait for another day as the hot weather calls for something sweet with a bit of tang and these little lemony delights happen to fit the bill.

It's been quite a while since I made these tarts and that was when I made an extra effort with candied zest and mint for extra flavour. The bits and pieces of lemon rind in the picture above were only used for decoration. The recipe was also from my previous post here. That was for one large tart but I used the same measurements to make these mini ones. As for the pastry with cocoa, I'll be making chocolate tart-lets later. And here's a picture of the lemon tart I had made earlier. Regular readers might remember seeing this picture on my blog. It's now on my header photo too. I'm not including the recipe here since I have given the link to my previous post. 

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Peach galette
With leftover pastry dough that remained in the fridge I used them up (on different days) to make these galettes. There was something so comforting about creating these rustic pies that it left me wondering why I was not baking them more often.
There are hardly any additions as such, apart from the sugar and the starch that holds the juices. A bit of grated lemon rind, some lemon juice, a dash of cinnamon and sugar. That's all we need for the simplest of 'em all.
Cherry galette

For the peach galette:
Stone the fruits and slice them thin and even. Mix with sugar, a dash of cinnamon, grated lemon rind and a bit of lemon juice. Mix gently and add about a tablespoon of sieved flour.This will help it from being soggy and it'll also be easy to cut the tart later. Layer the baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roll the pastry dough into a circle and transfer it to the tray. If the edges are not fine you needn't bother. Gives a more rustic look to the tart. Fill the centre with the prepared fruit. Fold the edges inwards. Brush with beaten egg and bake in a moderate oven till evenly golden in colour. Remove, cool, dust with icing sugar (optional) and slice.
 With the peaches, I only removed the stones and the skin was left intact. The tart was 7" in diameter and I used two peaches.

The cherries:
With the cherries, after removing the pits, I cooked them till they were a little softer and took out some of the juice before I added the sugar and starch. I also added a bit of grated ginger. The galette was baked till the fruit bubbled and frothed and the edges were uniformly brown.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Asparagus & Cherry Tomato Cheese Tarts

Asparagus is an exotic ingredient for me and one I have had just a few times. It's not available in our city but when I come to Delhi (that's where I am now) I go almost berserk at the range of foods that I can use (mainly) for baking. In the past week, I have made fresh cherry pies and cherry galettes, baked different kinds of bread with herbs that we don't get back home and as I type this, the juiciest peaches sit in the fridge waiting to be baked. Waiting in line are ripe apricots begging to be brought home and more fruits waiting to be lovingly wrapped in sheets of pastry. I could go on and isn't that we don't get peaches in our region. It's just that they are more acidic and turn sweet only when overly ripe and ready to disintegrate into a messy blob at one touch.

But today is all about these tarts that I saw in the May issue of BBC Good Food India. The recipe is Kunal Kapur's who is one of India's well-known chefs and has just written a book titled A Chef In Every Home. These are what I baked yesterday. The only adaptations I made were regarding the small tins that I used.

These can be made into one large tart or six-seven small ones.

The Tart
all-purpose flour (maida) 220 g
butter 100 g
water 4 tbsp, chilled
The Filling
eggs 2 cream 300 ml
cheddar or gouda 11/2 cups, grated
salt 1/4 tsp
pepper, a pinch
rosemary 1 sprig, chopped
nutmeg a pinch
asparagus spears 10
cherry tomatoes 10, halved
  • To make the tart, rub the flour and the butter until you get a nice crumbly texture. Add the chilled water to make the dough. Knead it well, cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  • Peel the asparagus and blanch them in boiling water. Immediately plunge them in cold water and drain. Cut into 4cm pieces.
  • Mix the eggs, cream, grated cheese, salt, pepper, rosemary, and nutmeg together.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out about 1/2 cm thick. Cut into circles a little bigger than your mini tart tins. Gently push the dough towards all the edges of the tin so that it is well covered. Continue with the other tins. Press gently on top to cut off the excess dough. Prick with a fork and bake in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the tarts. Remove and place the asparagus and cherry tomatoes inside the tart shells.
  • Pour the egg and cream mixture into the shells. Bake at 180C till a knife inserted comes out clean. For a large tart it will take about 25-30 minutes. Smaller tarts will need less time. Remove from the oven and let the tart(s) rest for at least five minutes.
Although the tarts looked as though they could have done a little more time in the oven, they were cooked through. Instead of Cheddar or Gouda that the recipe stated, I used Amul cheese cubes that I had in the fridge.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eggs Fried In batter

Recipes with eggs must be the easiest and the least complicated. Take this one for instance. Hard-boiled eggs, halved, dipped in batter and fried to a golden brown. Crisp on the outside, soft inside with a hint of spices. A perfect snack or an accompaniment to a meal. Either way you'll love this!
Recently I bought the book titled The Pondicherry Kitchen by Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Loius and this recipe has been adapted from the book. I made my own changes with the batter. Pondicherry or Puducherry as it is now known is on the eastern coast of India not far from the city of Chennai. A former French colony, its cuisine is a blend of Tamilian, Indian, Portuguese, Malaysian, and of course, French cooking. Although I have chosen the simplest snack there are other recipes in the book where the fusion is obvious.

5 hard-boiled eggs
Oil to fry the eggs

For the batter:
5 tbs gram flour
1 tsp red chilli powder
A quarter tsp coriander powder
A pinch of coarsely grated pepper
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A small bunch of coriander stems and leaves, chopped
Water to mix

Cut the hard-boiled eggs into halves, lengthwise. Keep aside.
Mix all the ingredients for the batter with water. It should be thick.
Heat the oil in a pan, dip the eggs in the batter and fry them in batches till they are golden brown.
Remove from the oil and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve with a dip of your choice.
The original recipe for the batter contains rice flour, crushed garlic cloves, and aniseed powder. In Pondicherry this dish is known as Muthaiy kavapu.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Dish Made Of Banana Blossom

Banana blossom cooked with spices

In our cuisine banana blossoms are traditionally made into hon, naphlam shaphinyaba and mudru. The tender portions are also steamed and made into chutney with or without dried fish. All of  these preparations are made without the use of oil. When it comes to preparations with oil I love the fritters and the sabzi that totally changes the appearance of the vegetable.

Fritters made with the blossoms/onions/chillies & served with  mango chutney
The following recipe is of the dish shown in the first picture.

1 medium banana blossom
4 medium boiled potatoes, quartered
2 onions, grated
1 quarter tsp freshly grated ginger
About 6 cloves of garlic, ground
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
1 level tsp coarsely grated pepper powder
Garam masala paste made from 3 cardamom pods, a few cloves, and one stick of cinnamon
Tejpatta, 3 or 4
Dried chillies soaked and ground to a paste
1 star anise
3 tbs mustard oil
Finely chopped serrated coriander for the garnish
Note:- The coriander and cumin seeds are roasted separately and powdered.
After the water is drained

  • Remove a few outermost bracts of the banana flower. Banana flowers stain badly so one should be careful while handling them. Oil your hands before you start. 
  • For other recipes (as in the second picture) the stigma and the papery portions are removed from each individual flower but in this case the whole flower (bracts and all) is chopped up. That is, after removing the harder outer bracts. When you get into the heart of the vegetable, that conical portion can be cut off.
  • Blanch the chopped vegetable for a few minutes. Drain, cool, and squeeze out the water. 
  • Alternately you could cut a lemon and squeeze out the juice into a pan of water. As you start to chop up the blossom, keep adding  the chopped pieces to the water. This will prevent oxidization.To prevent the browning the chopped vegetable is also soaked in watery buttermilk. This is another option. 
  • Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the star anise and the tejpatta. 
  • Then add the onions. Fry till they turn translucent. Add the rest of the spices excluding the garam masala.  Stir. Put in the tomatoes and the boiled/soaked vegetable. Continue to cook till the dish looks almost done and the oil separates. Add the potatoes. 
  • Stir and put the lid on. Continue to cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add the garam masala and remove the pot from the flame. Transfer the contents to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped herbs.
The different stages of cooking banana blossom
Usually coriander leaves or serrated coriander leaves are used but since I didn't have any on that day, I decorated the dish with some chopped chives. This preparation goes well as an accompaniment with rice or roti.

I usually keep the larger flowers (after removing the outer bracts) aside. These are then cleaned as shown in the largest picture in the collage above, to be made into fritters.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Mini Cherry Pies!

Mini cherry pies
With cherries in season the first thought was..a cherry pie! Dark and luscious with all the goodness of fruits that come in shades of maroon and purple. I had some pastry dough left over so I made two little pies.

The cherries:
Wash and drain in a colander. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the stems and the pits. I don't have/use a cherry-pitter but I had heard that  chop sticks come in handy for this job. I used the thinner end of a chop stick to push the seed out. Voila, it came out neat. Continue with the rest of the cherries adding the pitted ones to a pan. I had bought 500 grams but some of them went into tasting!

Put the pan on the stove with some sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of vanilla essence, and a teaspoon of grated lemon rind. Cook till the cherries turn a little soft but not mushy. There was a lot of liquid so I drained the cherries and got half a glass of purple sweet juice.
Then I checked the sugar, added just a wee bit more and also mixed in a tablespoon of flour so that the pies wouldn't turn soggy.
The Pies:
While waiting for the filling to cool down, I rolled out the pastry and lined my small tins. They went back into the fridge right after and sat there for another fifteen minutes.
Then they were taken out and the beautifully luscious filling went in. I made the decorations with some lattice work before they were given a generous egg-wash and off they went into a preheated oven to emerge beautifully browned and oozing cherry goodness!

Pies make delightful gifts!
Cooking is therapeutic but baking pies, more so. I love creating the lattice. The pictures in the collage show the pies I made and carried for a friend and for my sister-in-law. One was filled with orange marmalade and the other had a filling of fish and sweet potatoes.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sbai Rujung/A Dish Of Beans

One kind of bean that is common in our region, particularly in the hilly district of Assam, Dima Hasao, is this one. A variety of jack-bean, it resembles the black-eyed ones but the seeds are speckled. In my mother tongue the name of this bean Sbai rujung literally translates to "carry". It must have got its name because it's happy enough to carry its own load on a pole and will bear fruit generously without the luxury of a trellis that's usually reserved for the various varieties of hyacinth beans. Planted during the same time as corn, both crops are harvested towards the end of July and in August.

The blooms are in such a pretty shade of yellow. You can imagine how a row of blooming beans will look! The beans come in more mottled shades too. I won't be able to say about the blooms of those varieties as the ones I have planted and also seen were always yellow. With garden produce that have long associations one usually have images tucked away in the crevices of the mind. The sight of these beans reminds me of my parents' backyard with mats laid out and the beans basking in the sun! In the strong sun, the beans would burst with a snap and a crackle thus making it easier to separate the "chaff from the grain". And then they would be stored to be taken out a regular intervals, soaked overnight to be cooked on their own like dal or with smoked meat or dried fish. These were never bought from the market then. But now they are easily available in neat packets and in the amount that you need.

The first picture shows the simplest dish of beans. The beans were soaked overnight and the cooked in the pressure cooker with turmeric powder and salt. Then in a bit of oil I fried up some finely chopped onions, added some garlic and ginger paste, two chopped green chillies, a quarter teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder and chopped tomatoes. Then the beans were added and cooked for a few more minutes. The garnishing was done with a generous handful of of chopped coriander leaves.
Smoked meat enhances the taste of this dish. The meat is fried with spices and then the cooked beans are added. In the case of dried fish, the fish pieces are lightly fried and added to the dal. Whatever way the dish is cooked, it goes very well with steaming hot rice.

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This is a re-post from my old blog. I was going through some of the food pictures and thought this was worth sharing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Pumpkin must be one of the most abundant vegetables in our country. It's an important ingredient in many vegetable dishes as well as meat and fish-based ones. However baking with it isn't often done in my kitchen. The other day I tried a cake baked in a loaf pan and it turned out pretty good.

For the pumpkin puree I roasted a whole pumpkin cut into halves after removing the seeds and the thread-like innards, cooled them and took out the golden flesh. Some of it went into the cake and some in a soup that we had with freshly baked wholesome bread on another day.
Pumpkin soup with bread

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup  sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp spice mix (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 quarter tsp grated ginger
Pinch of salt 
Milk as needed depending on the batter (could be less than half a cup)

~Grease a loaf pan and keep aside.
~Sieve the flour with the baking powder.
~Sieve again with the spice mix.~Cream the butter and the sugar in a bowl.
~Mix in beaten eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, ginger, and salt.
~Fold in the sieved flour.
~Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan.
~Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
~Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then remove and cool on a wire rack.
~Dust with icing sugar.

I did leave out the last bit but having a slice of this cake at tea time was wonderful! Thank you for stopping by today. Do check out my Facebook page as well!:)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nathu Graain Jang Daodi/Eggs With Dried Shrimp

Every cuisine has its own variation of scrambled eggs. It's one of the easiest dishes to make. Here is one variation that I love with dried shrimp and some cherry tomatoes.

50 grams dried shrimp
100 grams cherry tomatoes
2 medium onions
4 green chillies
3 eggs
a pinch of turmeric
salt to taste
a touch of coarsely grated pepper
a bunch of coriander leaves, chopped fine
2 tbs mustard oil

Wash the dried shrimp and drain in a colander. Wash the tomatoes and cut them into halves. Chop the onions and the chillies fine.
Heat oil. Mix turmeric and a pinch of salt to the shrimp.  Fry for a few minutes and remove from the oil. Keep aside. In the same oil fry the onions and add the chopped chillies. Add the tomatoes a little while later. Season. Let the mixture cook for a few more minutes before you add the shrimp. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add them to the pan. Stir continuously so that the eggs do not remain in one solid mass. Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

This is great as a side dish with rice/dal or with glutinous rice known as maiju in Dimasa. Here's the link to another variation of scrambled eggs with okra that I had posted earlier

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Makhana Kheer

Makhana kheer
Today's recipe is of a kheer that's made often in most Indian households. In summer it's eaten chilled and in winter it's served warm.For years I had thought that makhana were lotus seeds but a recent Google search made me realize that the seeds actually belong to the genus Euryale. These are also known as fox nuts/Euryale ferox and is said to have many medicinal properties. The plant is also known as the Gorgon plant. Here's more from Wiki.
Euryale is a perennial plant native to eastern Asia and found from India to Korea and Japan as well as parts of eastern Russia. It grows in water and produces bright purple flowers. The leaves are large and round more than a metre across with the leaf stalk attached in the centre of the lower surface. The underside of the leaf is purplish while the upper surface is green. The plant is cultivated for its seeds in lowland ponds in India, China and Japan. In the northern and western parts of India the seeds are often roasted and fried and eaten with a mix of oil and spices.. These are then eaten like popcorn. The seeds are also used as "prasad" (religious offering).

A little makhana goes a long way!!

Sometimes I use nuts(left) and sometimes it's raisins

For the kheer:
500 ml milk
1 cup  makhana
Half a tin of condensed milk
A handful of raisins or flaked almonds
1 tbs ghee
A pinch of saffron (soaked in milk and lightly crushed)
2 cardamom pods, bruised

~Heat the milk on the stove till it is reduced and becomes thick. The cardamom pods can be added too.
~ Roast the makhana in ghee and remove.
~Add them to the milk after crushing a quarter of the seeds. This will help in the thickening process later.
~Let it cook for a while then add the condensed milk. You could increase/decrease the amount depending on how sweet you usually have your kheer. Alternately, you could also use sugar or jaggery.
~Add the saffron, stir. Let it cook for a little longer before removing from the flame. It should be of regular kheer-like consistency and will thicken a little more as it cools down.
~Add the flaked almonds. Cool/chill before serving.
~ If using raisins, they can be washed, patted dry and shallow-fried in a bit of ghee before cooking along with the kheer.