Monday, September 29, 2014

Sabudana Kheer

Sabudana kheer
The blogosphere has been sweetened to a great extent by posts on kheer, mainly the ones made with sago.:) I couldn't resist the temptation as kheer is a dish that I love although sabudana kheer was something I tried for the first time. 
Sabudana or sago is extracted from the starch of the tapioca tuber. The commercial production of sabudana is in the shape of small pearls. It is an easily digestible food and is also said to have a cooling effect on our system. The pearls need to be soaked before they are cooked. They turn translucent after cooking and become soft and spongy. More facts on sago can be read here.

1/4 cup sabudana
1 litre milk
Condensed milk  (I poured out half from a 400 gram can)
A pinch of saffron
About 15-20 raisins
10 pistachios
10 cashew nuts
1 tbs ghee
3 cardamoms
Wash the sabudana in several changes of water and soak them for an hour. This will depend on the size of the pearls you are using. Mine were small and didn't take long to become soft.
Wash the raisins and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
Heat the ghee and fry the nuts for a minute or so. Remove and keep aside.
In the same oil, throw in the raisins and take the pan off the heat. The raisins will swell up and will not burn. Keep aside.
Transfer the milk to a pot. Crush the cardamoms and add to the milk. Heat it till it becomes thick and reduced.
Take a little bit of the milk from the pot and soak the saffron in it.
Add the pearls and cook stirring from time to time. When the dish almost reaches kheer consistency, add the condensed milk.
Then add the soaked saffron  with the milk it was soaked in along with the fried raisins.
Continue to cook till the dish reaches a creamy consistency.
Let it cool. Or you can have it chilled too. Before serving, scatter a few fried nuts into individual bowls.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Marvel of A Bread!

There are some food images that haunt you till the food spirits coax you to not waste precious days or weeks in replicating it. Or in trying to replicate it. This happened to me recently after seeing Gloria's post on her blog Pepper Chilli And Vanilla about a chocolate marble bread. And although bread isn't something that I bake often I loved it so much that I have already made it four times. I won't be including the recipe here as I followed Gloria's and the link is given...

The different stages of making a chocolate marble bread
The first time I made it I thought I'd braid it with four strips. I thought I could do it then realized that braiding hair is easier. So the whole dough was kneaded back again and turned into a very pale kind of brown-coloured bread! The second time I put in a bit too much cocoa. There was just a bit left in the tin so I used it all up! Hmm, doesn't look all that good on bread. The third one (shown in the collage above) was photographed in stages but without slicing as I sent it to my nephew.

The fourth time I divided each of the three strips in the middle and twisted them. The result was rather clumsy but I'm glad I tried. The original is indeed the best. I don't think I'll be baking this for a while. But if I do, it'll be with three strips, as in the recipe that captivated me... 
Bread-baking isn't my forte but with all the experiments in my kitchen, it may take a while but I think I'll get there.:)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Potato, Salami & Bamboo shoot Soup

Cooking is more fun when you add your own twist to it. Like today. With the rain that showed no signs of stopping, I thought a filling soup would be just right. I had been flipping through an older issue of BBC Good Food magazine and came across a picture that I liked. It was a Goan soup called 'Caldo verde' and its main ingredients are potatoes, Goan sausages and spinach. It's served hot with olives. With the ingredients I had in my kitchen today, I went ahead giving it a very North-eastern twist.
The 'verde' part comes from serrated coriander and I threw in a handful of bamboo shoots as well. For that bit of extra zing, a few thin slices of a hot chilli were used for the garnish. The seeds were discarded and the heat wasn't so much as to knock you out but it made a statement! I chose to make this soup because it was so simple. Maybe on another day I'll make the Goan version as well.
3 potatoes, boiled, peeled, & cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
vegetable oil, 2 tbs
chicken stock, 2 cups
water, 4 cups
bamboo shoots, 1 cup, boiled
serrated coriander, 1 bunch, chopped
chicken salami, 10 (quartered)
salt to taste 

Blitz the potatoes with 2 cups of water in a mixer. Keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and lightly fry the salami. Remove and keep aside.
In the same oil, fry the onions and garlic. When the colour changes, add the bamboo shoots and fry for a few more minutes.
Add the rest of the water, the potatoes, the chicken stock and cook till the mixture thickens.
Then add the salami and the serrated coriander. Cook for a little while longer.
Before serving, chop a red chilli diagonally for garnishing the soup. Some more finely chopped serrated coriander can also be added.
This soup resembles our dishes where bamboo shoots are used. The salami I had in stock was of the same colour as that of the shoots. A pinker version would have stood out in this dish. Which is why I used the chillies as a garnish. No pepper was added as the stock was seasoned well.

Thank you for stopping by today. Do check out my Facebook page as well.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Chocolate Mousse

Today's recipe was chosen from a tiny book titled "Everyday Chocolate". The recipe isn't everyday for me as mousse is something I don't make often. Rose water was included in the recipe but I added a tablespoon of dissolved instant coffee. I changed the white chocolate into dark but the rest of the measurements for the ingredients remain the same. Since the cooler days are around the corner I think I should stock up on chocolate and almonds.:) I was also dying to use my chai glasses.

Serves 6
250 grams dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100 ml milk
300 ml double cream
2 egg whites
1 tbs of dissolved instant coffee
Place the dark chocolate and the milk in a saucepan and heat gently until the chocolate has melted.
Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.
Place the cream and the coffee in a separate bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
Whisk the egg whites in a separate spotlessly clean bowl until stiff but not dry.
Gently fold the whipped cream into the dark chocolate, then fold in the egg whites.
Spoon the mixture into 6 small glasses or dishes. Chill for at least 8 hours or overnight to set.
For the decoration which is optional.
Melt 115 grams of white chocolate broken into pieces.
Let it cool and then pour evenly over the mousses.
Stand until the chocolate has hardened, then decorate with rose petals before serving.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Khlimbra Hon/A Dish Made Of Basil Leaves& Fermented Fish

Khlimbra hon
Every culture has a broth of some sort that they have with bread or with rice. For us, Dimasas, the basic broth is made with fermented fish, alkali, chillies and salt. The mixture is cooked till homogeneous and garnishes like crushed garlic, slivers of ginger or herbs are added. The dish I made today was thickened with a bit of rice flour, the most popular thickening agent that we add to our dishes.
Khlimbra, a variety of basil used in Dimasa cuisine
This is the picture of the herb that I used today. It's a kind of basil called khlimbra in our language. The smell and the taste is stronger than the variety of basil shown below.
Bahanda/Ocimum basilicum, a popular herb for chutney and for garnishing
Bahanda, pictured above, is more widely used than khlimbra.
khlimbra leaves, a handful
Fermented fish/naphlam, 2 
Alkali, 2 tbs (or a pinch of soda bicarbonate)
Green chillies, 7-8, scored lengthwise
Ginger, a small piece, crushed
Rice flour, 2 tbs
Salt to taste

Heat about 500 ml water in a pan. 
Add the chillies and let the water come to a boil.
Cook till the chillies are half-done.
Add the alkali and reduce the flame because the liquid will boil over.
Season with salt, throw in the crushed ginger and add the fermented fish.
Cook till the mixture is homogenous. This will take about 15 minutes.
Mix a bit of water to the rice flour and make a paste.
Add this paste to the dish stirring all the while with a ladle so that there are no lumps.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with some more fresh sprigs of khlimbra if you wish.
This goes best with rice.
(The crushed ginger can be removed before serving).

Today's lunch was rice with khlimbra hon and pork fried with daomalai which is vegetable fern.
Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you check out my Facebook page too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Banana Chocolate Tarts

These tarts were inspired by a show on Food Safari about Mauritian cuisine. The first time I saw that particular show, the thought of using banana didn't really inspire me. Since bananas are available throughout the year and is so much part of our Lives, the thought of using the same in a dessert certainly did not give me any adrenalin rush. I do make/bake the occasional banana cake/muffin or malpuas. But watching it again after a gap of maybe a year, I thought that I should give it a try. It helped that there were a few things in stock like bananas and even shortcrust pastry.
The recipe has bananas cooked with sugar but I gave it my own twist by adding chocolate. You can find the recipe here. I made six little tarts. These tarts are delicious and adding the chocolate makes them more so.

Ingredients for the tarts:
2 bananas, mashed
100 grams chocolate, grated
A touch of lemon juice
(This filling was enough for 6 small tarts).

Put a pan on the stove and add the mashed bananas.
Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.
Add the grated chocolate and the lemon juice.
Stir and take it off the heat. The chocolate will melt in no time from the heat of the cooked bananas.
Let the mixture cool down as you prepare the pastry.
Grease the tart tins.
Take the dough and let it come to a stage where you can start rolling.
Skim your work surface with flour.
Roll out the pastry and cut out the circles a little bigger than the size of your tin.
Take one circle and place it on the tin. Press on the sides and prick with a fork.
Repeat with the rest of the dough according to the number of tarts you are making. 
Spoon the prepared filling into each pastry shell.
Roll out another large circle of dough and cut accordingly to make the lattice on the tarts.
Place six strips on each tart, three below and three above (as shown in the picture).
Brush with a beaten egg and bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 15-20 minutes or till they turn golden brown.
These tarts taste best on the day they are made.

I have not included the recipe for the pastry as the link to the original recipe was given. Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomato Soup

I made an easy peasy tomato soup the other day. Tomatoes tend to get used more in sweet and sour chutneys than in soups. And to team it up with, I baked a dozen buns. I'm looking forward to the cooler season when the soil turns drier. Then I can plant at least a dozen tomato plants. With all the rains we have had this year, the soil is still slushy, so planting will have to wait for a little while longer.
Tomato harvests from the past
For the soup I used...
4 firm ripe tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A quarter tsp of coarsely ground pepper
A knob of butter
500 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp flour 
Salt to taste
3-4 serrated coriander leaves, chopped fine

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin. Chop them up roughly.
Heat the butter in a pan. Fry the onion and the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook till they start to break down.
Blitz in a blender, then strain the mixture so that the seeds can be discarded.
In the same pan, heat the chicken stock and then add the strained tomato mix.
Stir and season with salt and pepper. cook for about 15 minutes.
Mix the flour with a bit of water so that there are no lumps.
Add it to the soup. Adjust the seasoning and take it off the heat.
Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of the chopped herbs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chicken & Potato Pies

Chicken & potato pies
One of the most heart-warming snacks that I'll never tire of are these mini pies. Filled with the goodness of chicken and potatoes, seasoned with touch of salt, pepper and chilli flakes and oh, did I forget the cheese? Made in 9 cm tins they are filling and may leave you craving for a little bit more....I honestly felt that when they came out of the oven all burnished from the egg wash, they were all smiling at me!

The pastry (was made the previous day so it got plenty of time to rest).
450 grams of flour  
200 grams of butter+ extra for greasing the tins
2 eggs+ 2 yolks for the egg wash later
ice-cold water to sprinkle

Break the eggs in a bowl, lightly beat them and keep aside.
Sieve the flour into a large bowl.
Grate the cold butter over the flour and rub till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
(The butter that remains on the grater can be used to grease the pie-tins). 
Add the eggs and lightly knead the dough till it comes together.
You may need to sprinkle a bit of water at this stage.
Shape the dough like a sausage (makes it easier to cut as needed while rolling out the pies), wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes. I usually make mine a day ahead.
(No salt is added to the flour as the butter I use is salted. Although pastry recipes call for unsalted butter, it's hard to come by in our parts. I mention unsalted butter when I actually get to use it).
Just before going into the oven...egg wash done.
To make these pies I needed 1 kg chicken. I cooked the chicken for about 40 minutes with onions, and a bit of ginger, pepper and salt. After it was cooked and had cooled down, I shredded the meat. So the actual quantity leaving aside the bones and other non-pie-filling-friendly bits and pieces came down to less.
Ingredients for the filling:
Shredded chicken
5 potatoes, boiled/peeled and diced
2 onions, chopped fine
Chilli flakes, according to taste
1 tbs black pepper, ground
Salt to taste
The sauce: In order to hold the filling I made a sauce with butter, flour, milk and 5 slices of Amul cheese. 
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add a chunk of butter. 
Fry the onions till the colour changes.
Then add the potatoes, the chilli flakes and the seasoning.
Add the chicken and give the mix a good stir. Check the seasoning.
Add the sauce, stir again then take it off the heat. Let the mixture cool.
The filling was enough for a baker's dozen.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour the work top. Roll out the dough, cut out the circle a little bigger than the tin. Place the circle on the tin and press into the corners. Take a tablespoon (and maybe a little bit more) and place it in the tin. Roll out another circle of dough and cover the filling. Press all across the edge of the pie with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the rest of the dough till the filling is used up.
The prepared pies can rest in the fridge as you keep rolling and filling more pies.
Make a small cut/or create patterns with a fork on the surface of all the pies for the steam to escape.
Brush with egg yolk and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 25-30 minutes or till they are golden brown.
Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Corn (Manglai Maiju) & Chicken Soup

I have a weakness for this delicious multi-coloured corn that grows abundantly in my home district of Dima Hasao. These are available till the end of summer and we love them best either boiled or roasted. Called manglai maiju(manglai/corn, maiju/sticky rice) this variety of corn is fragrant and has the texture of sticky rice.Today I made a simple soup using these corn kernels. The kernels are smaller than regular yellow corn kernels but high on taste and flavour. The smell wafts across the house when manglai maiju is cooked.

Although I have used the description multi-coloured, this particular batch was all purple. But darker varieties look better in dishes whether they are mixed into fried rice, pulao, savoury muffins, or in this case, soup. There is a slight difference in colour between cooked and uncooked varieties as you can see from the photos.

450ml chicken stock
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
A quarter tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tbs dark soya sauce
A small piece of ginger, crushed
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 chillies, one green and the other red for the garnish

Bring the stock to the boil and add the corn.
Put in the shredded chicken, soya sauce and crushed ginger and simmer for about 12-15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

Add the beaten egg, give it a gentle stir and remove from the flame.

Remove the chunk of ginger from the soup.

Serve the soup in bowls garnished with fine slices of red and green chillies.
I used chillies that were not all that hot so all the seeds were not discarded. This dish is a great way of using up left-over boiled corn or chicken.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spiced-up Bread Pudding

If you love a hint of cardamom and saffron in your desserts, you'll love this bread pudding. I usually make the regular bread pudding but the other day I spiced it up. The idea came from watching a new food show on TV (The Incredible Spice Men) where two Indian chefs open up a world of spices. I didn't see the entire show but it was enough to inspire me to make this dish.
 I  reduced one and a half litres of milk and threw in 5 bruised cardamom pods and a few Indian bay leaves for the infusion. Later the milk was strained and made into custard with the addition of 5 whisked eggs and sugar. A few strands of saffron soaked in a bit of warm milk were added to the custard.
12 slices of bread were buttered on both sides (after removing the crusts) and placed on the baking pan. Then the cooled custard was poured over the slices. With the help of a butter knife I lifted each slice making sure that the liquid went into each layer and space. I washed a handful of raisins and patted them dry with a cloth. These were scattered all over the top and into a few nooks and crannies. Then it rested for two hours to soak in the goodness of eggs and milk and sugar. Then it went in a preheated 180C oven with the top covered with greaseproof paper. I poured some warm water in the oven tray and baked it for about 30 minutes till the top was slightly brown.

The layer looks uneven but it didn't matter. As I cut it after it had cooled a little, the taste was really good with just a subtle hint of spices. It did remind me of having a mithai but the feeling was lighter. My niece said that it was like having a cheesecake.:)
Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you check out my Facebook page too!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sweet Steamed Sticky Rice Parcels

Last year while watching a food show/Lao cuisine on Food Safari, I loved seeing some of the similarities that we had in our cuisine. I promptly made one with bamboo shoots and posted it. Another recipe of sticky rice remained in my mind and I never really got to actually cooking it. And finally I made it today.
There are many varieties of sticky rice available in our region. We Dimasas love to have it as a breakfast dish with naphlam/dried fish chutney and scrambled eggs or with fried fish or meat as accompaniments. Occasionally we also make it into dessert but that isn't often done. With the Lao dish I love the fact it is steamed with the addition of coconut milk, cooked red kidney beans, and a piece of cooked taro or a piece of banana. Since I had most of the ingredients, I gave it a try. The steaming process shown in the collage below is the traditional way we steam sticky rice. The pot at the bottom is usually shaped (almost) like a pitcher. But this one works well too. To prevent the steam from escaping, a strip of wet cloth is wrapped at the point where the colander meets the pan.
Top: the mix and before the wrapping Bottom: Ready for the steamer  & steaming going on

4 cups sticky rice, cooked
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
Sugar to taste
Banana (I used one)
Coconut milk 200ml
Banana leaves, 12 pieces

The recipe starts by soaking the rice overnight. But I used the pressure cooker so that part was omitted. The beans were also soaked overnight and cooked in the morning. Instead of using fresh coconut milk I used the packaged one, Dabur's.

In a large bowl, mix the rice, the beans, sugar and the coconut milk.
Cut the banana leaves into regular sizes.
Hold them over the flame for a minute or so. This will make it easy to fold them.
Cut the banana into diagonal pieces.
Take a banana leaf and place a heaped tablespoonful of the mix.
Place a banana slice on top of the mixture.
Fold the parcel neatly. Repeat till all the mix is used up.
Steam the parcels in a colander for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the colander and transfer on to a serving dish.
Unwrap and enjoy!
The Laotian name for this recipe is Khao tom.