Monday, October 27, 2014

Apricot & Almond Tart

It's always a good thing to have some leftover pastry dough so that you can try out the recipe that's been on your mind but never really got around to making it.:) That's what I did the other day (and several times before with other recipes) with the orange-hued dried apricots that I had got from my Kashmir trip in March and soaked in rum a few months ago. All kept for the dessert I was going to make and the cake I was going to bake...but prunes came in the way and most of my baking included prunes and apricots remained where they were, in a jar sodden with rum.
Left: the dried apricots, and right, the rum-soaked ones

They were taken out the other day and a few were torn in uneven shapes, the seeds were removed, and then the fruit was placed on the prepared tart shell. Then some almond pastry cream was poured on top of the apricots. The shell was half-filled before slivers of almonds were placed on the top of the almond cream.

It went into a 180 C oven for about 25 minutes. It didn't look all that tempting right then. But once it cooled down, I cut it into half. It looked beautiful with the amber tones of the apricots and the taste was lovely. I should be making more of this kind of tart in the days to come...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Starfruit & Apple Pie

Diwali came and went. Taking a break from the usual mithai, I'm back to baking with renewed vigour.:) With all the Diwali hampers of dry fruits and nuts, the ribbons and the sweets, I'm re-using the baskets and the ribbons. As in this picture where I wrapped the pie for meeting up with my sisters yesterday. I also used up whatever was left of the starfruits on my plant. This batch of fruits is gone but the blooms are back again. Life goes on...
The combination of starfruit and apple goes wonderfully well together. I teamed up a couple of apples and the fruits from my potted plant to make this delicious latticed pie.

The collage shows the stages of preparing the pie. Top pictures: The cut fruit and the stewed apples with raisins. The ones below show the piling up of the cut fruits and the pie ready for an egg wash.
The pastry:
200 grams flour, sieved
100 grams butter, grated
2 eggs, I used small ones + 1 yolk for the egg wash later
Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Break the eggs into the mixture and mix gently till the mixture comes together.
Divide the dough into two portions, flatten, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least thirty minutes.
The butter left on the grater can be used for greasing the pie tin. I used an 8" tin.
I usually add 1 egg and sprinkle some iced water to bring the pastry dough together. But since the size of the eggs were smaller I went ahead by skipping out the iced water. Anyway, the less water you add the less the pastry will shrink. Dividing the dough also makes it easier as one portion can remain in the fridge till the filling is done.

The filling:
2 apples
2 cups of starfruit, measured after cutting off the hard ridge, slicing, and removing the seeds.
A handful of raisins, washed and patted dry with a kitchen towel
5 tablespoons of brown sugar (both fruits had a lot of natural sweetness)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 teaspoons of flour
Peel, core and dice the apples. Place them in a pan with a wee bit of water. Add 2 tbs of brown sugar and stew them till they turn a little soft but not mushy. Remove and let the mixture cool down.
Add the rest of the sugar to the starfruit slices, mix well and set aside as you roll out the pastry.
Take one portion of the pastry dough and roll out a little bigger than the size of the tin. With the help of the rolling pin, transfer the pastry to the tin unfurling it on the surface of the tin.

Press all along the edges. Again with the help of the rolling pin, trim the overhanging dough by running the pin all along the border.
Prick the pastry all over with a fork. 
Place the stewed apples and the raisins on the pastry.
Add the vanilla extract and the flour to the starfruit slices. Add this mix on top of the apples. 

Straight out of the oven
Take the other portion of dough from the fridge. Make a lattice or roll out a large piece of dough and cover the pastry (whichever way you prefer). Crimp the edges. In this case I rolled out strips and created the pattern to add to the border using the egg yolk as glue.
Brush with the egg yolk and bake in a preheated 200 C oven for 15 minutes. Then bring the temperature to 180 and bake till it turns golden brown. This may take 25-30 minutes.
Remove and let it cool before you cut it into wedges.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sticky Rice Phirni

A dessert that is delicious and easy to make is phirni. It's ground rice flour cooked with milk to which dried fruits are added. Generally the rice that is used for making phirni is basmati rice. I made my variation with fragrant sticky rice. And to stick (no pun intended) with that fragrance I added Indian bay leaves, which came all the way from my mother's garden.No other flavours went into this phirni.

This recipe is for 6-8 servings.
4 tbs rice, soaked in water till soft
1 litre milk
300 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
2 cardamom pods, crushed
A handful of raisins
2 tbs ghee
A handful of cashew nuts
5-6 Indian bay leaves
Rose petals, optional

Grind the rice after soaking for about 30-40 minutes.
Heat the milk on medium heat till it becomes thick and is reduced. Add the crushed cardamoms.
Wash the raisins, pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Heat the ghee in a separate pan and toss in the cashew nuts. Fry till they turn golden brown. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add the raisins and turn off  the gas. Raisins burn easily so it's best to turn off the heat. They will puff up and change colour. Add them to the milk along with the bit of ghee left in the pan.
Throw in the bay leaves after bruising them a little.
Stir the milk. Add the ground rice and stir at regular intervals ensuring that it does not catch at the bottom.
Add the condensed milk, stir well. It will soon become thicker. Switch off the gas.
Let the phirni cool down. Chill it for an hour or so. Serve in individual bowls with a scattering of the fried cashew nuts.
Decorate with rose petals.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Starfruit Saffron Upside-down Cake

With another harvest from my starfruit plant, I was wondering about how to use them in my recipes. Cake was certainly not on my mind but after watching Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries, I was inspired to bake this cake. Rachel made one with peaches and saffron and the idea of incorporating saffron in my cake was interesting. The cake on the show used peaches and since these starfruits are the sweetest ones, more like apples, baking with them is a good option. And I was happy that I tried it out because the flavours work wonderfully well together. I won't be surprised if I find myself baking this cake again...
My plant doesn't seem to be doing well at the moment and the size of the fruits have grown smaller. I used five of them for this cake. The hard ridge was removed and the fruits were sliced into even sizes. Some of the seeds remained, I didn't discard all of them.
For the topping:
Heat about 3 tbs butter in a pan. When it melts add about 5 tbs brown sugar.
Let it simmer on a low flame till all the sugar melts.
Pour this into the cake tin.
Add the prepared fruit pieces in a circle making sure that all the spaces are filled up.
For the cake:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1& half cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A big pinch of saffron
A little milk depending on the consistency of the batter
(I used a 9" tin)

Sieve the flour with the baking powder.
Cream the butter and the sugar using a whisk.
Add the eggs one by one beating them well into the mixture.
Add the vanilla extract and the saffron.
Fold in the flour and transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin.
Give a little tap to remove air bubbles and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or so till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down a bit before you turn it upside down on to a serving dish or plate.
Cut into wedges. Enjoy!

Other starfruit recipes you might like to read:
1.Starfruit Chutney
2.Starfruit Pie

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Braided Poppy Seed Bread & Pumpkin Soup

I have baked poppy seed cakes but not poppy seed bread. So when I saw the recipe in a book titled Baking:100 Everyday Recipes I couldn't wait to get started. I still had a jar of poppy seeds from Kashmir and they had to go into something interesting and delicious. I have added my own twist to the recipe and I have also cut down on the quantity of seeds. The recipe uses much more. The first time I made this, everyone appreciated it and yes, no pictures were taken. But this time a shot graces my post before we break bread...

3 cups whole wheat flour + extra for dusting
Half tsp salt
2 tbs milk powder
2 tbs fine sugar
1 tsp dry yeast (I used Bluebird)
Lukewarm water ( I didn't measure here but it could have been around 200ml)
3 tbs vegetable oil + extra for brushing
3 tbs poppy seeds
1tbs dried basil ( I'm finding ways and means to finish off my stock of dried basil)

For the topping:
1 tbs milk
1tbs poppy seeds

~Add the yeast to the bowl of lukewarm water. Put in the sugar to activate the yeast. Leave aside till it froths up. It will take about 10 minutes.
~Sift the flour and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the milk powder. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and the oil. Mix well.
~Add the poppy seeds and knead till the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl.
~Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about ten minutes.
~Brush a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Leave to rise for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
~Turn out the dough, knock back, and knead for a few minutes.
~Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Cut it into three equal strips and braid.
~Grease a bread tin with oil and place the prepared dough in the tin.
~Cover again with a damp cloth and leave to rise for another thirty minutes.
~Brush the surface of the bread with milk and scatter the poppy seeds all across.
~Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
~Cool on a wire rack.
Produce from the beautiful Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh
Recently my husband was in the Ziro valley to attend a music festival. He got some wonderful local produce and I have been using many of them in my recipes.
For the pumpkin soup:
1 cup roasted and mashed pumpkin
500 ml chicken stock
1 small onion, finely diced
Pinch of salt & a pinch of pepper (the stock was seasoned earlier)
A quarter tsp smoked and pounded chillies
1 tsp vegetable oil
3-4 serrated coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they turn golden brown.
Add the mashed pumpkin, stir and add the stock. Mix again.
Let it cook for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and the chillies.
Add half of the chopped herbs leaving the rest for the garnish.
Cook till the mixture starts to thicken. This will take about 5-6 minutes.
Remove from the stove and let it cool down a bit.
Transfer to serving bowls and add the garnish.

The soup is good for 2-3 servings. The chillies are not the hot variety and it added a little zing and a hint of smokiness in the soup. The pairing with the bread was wonderful!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Savoury Pumpkin & Hung Curd Tarts

Continuing with my pumpkin post this is a tart made of pumpkin and hung curd. I did look around for recipes and finally chose one with butternut squash and ricotta tart and substituted the ingredients with what I had in stock. It isn't exactly like the recipes I checked but I loved trying out this version. It helped that I had some of the roasted pumpkin that I had made before. The curd was hung last night so it was just right to be mixed with the other ingredients and baked.

The pastry:
250 grams all-purpose flour
125 grams butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg+ extra for the egg wash
Iced water to sprinkle on the pastry

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Break the egg into the mixture and bring the dough together.
Sprinkle some iced water as as soon as the dough comes together, flatten it and wrap in clingfilm.
Let it rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.
Grease the loose-bottomed baking tins and take the dough out of the fridge.
Roll the pastry a little larger than the tins. Place the rolled pastry in the tins and run the rolling pin all along the edge to trim off excess pastry. Or you can trim off after blind-baking them.
Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill them up with baking beans.
Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 10 minutes.
Remove the beans and paper, brush with egg and bake for another 5-7 minutes.
Remove and keep aside as you prepare the filling.

The filling:
Half a cup of roasted and mashed pumpkin
200 grams hung curd
3 cubes of Amul cheese cubes, grated
Salt to taste 
A quarter tsp grated black pepper
A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbs olive oil
More coriander leaves for the garnish 

Mix the hung curd and the mashed pumpkin well in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the cheese reserving a bit for the topping.
Add the seasoning, the oil and the herbs. Pour the mix into the pumpkin/curd bowl. Mix well.
Spoon the filling into the pastry cases and sprinkle a bit of the grated cheese on top. (Halfway through the cooking process I decorated the tops with coriander leaves).
Bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or till the filling is set.

This was a delightful variation to the usual sweet tarts that I make. If I were to make this again, I'd add more pepper or maybe some chilli flakes for a little heat. When chives are in season, I'd love to add them instead of coriander. You can understand why I'm looking forward to our short cool winters....

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reigning Pumpkins

It's raining pumpkins now. Particularly in the hilly areas of our state. Pumpkins are planted during the summer months and are ready to be harvested by September onwards. Planting seasons vary slightly between hilly and plain areas which is why fresh pumpkins are available throughout the year. 
Pumpkins for sale at the weekly market in Maibang
Recently we had gone on a short trip to my ancestral village where we bought several and also got this humble vegetable as gifts. A wonderful addition to vegetable curry, with meat, and also with pulses and soups, I'm adding them to a whole lot of dishes and there might be quite a few posts with this versatile vegetable.
I first started with our favourite khari and also teamed it up with dried shrimp that we polished off with sticky rice. Later some generous chunks were roasted in the oven and made into a few delights like..... 
...a very creamy pumpkin soup with chicken stock. Toasted and halved pistachios added the final touch to this delicious soup that we had with freshly-baked bread.
Another creamy concoction was this roasted pumpkin raita. Raita is made with yoghurt to which the fruits or vegetables are added. They may be cooked (bottle gourd raita) or raw (as in cucumber raita). The variations are many. Toasted and roughly pounded cumin seeds add a wonderful flavour to this dish. The other ingredients that go in are chopped or ground herbs, chilli powder, sugar and salt. This raita accompanied the chicken biryani I made the other day.
Pumpkin parathas made with whole wheat & amaranth flour
I added some of the mashed roasted pumpkin to the dough and made parathas. We had them with curried French bean seeds. These seeds are usually made into dal throughout the winter months. Another favourite food of our region.

I have not included detailed recipes in this post. I am still experimenting and trying out pairings I hadn't tried before. Watch this space for more!:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Prune Tart

The last time I made prune tarts, I had written that it would be a joy to bake them again and again during the cooler months. It isn't all that cool as yet but it's October and the thought about how pleasant the weather will soon be made me want to bake prune tarts again. With almond pastry cream. The only difference from my earlier post is that the prunes were not soaked in rum. I think I'll use those in December.:)
Ready for the oven (left), and fresh out of the oven
There is more reason to feel happy about the coming months as our summer floods were horrific this year. For the first time, our ground floor was inundated with water. Although the water didn't remain for long, it did enough damage in its wake.

I am not adding the recipe in this post as the measurements are the same in the link to my earlier post given above. Instead of making 7-8 tarts I made one in a 9" tin. I scattered the prunes and poured the pastry cream and then decorated the top with flaked almonds. My younger son is home now and with his friends dropping by, the joy of cooking/baking has gone up immensely...

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thukpa/Noodle Soup

There's something comforting about throwing in ingredients into a pot and leaving the mixture to cook in its sweet time. Another such dish is thukpa or noodle soup. Famous as a Tibetan soup, it is also popular in Nepal. In India, it's popular in the eastern states particularly in Sikkim, the hilly areas of West Bengal and in Arunachal Pradesh. Most contain meat and meat stock. I made mine with some chicken stock and some smoked ham thrown in for good measure.There are many variations depending on regions. This is my version.
Ingredients (for two servings)
A few slices of ham, cut into rough pieces
1 onion, diced
2 green chillies, sliced fine
Half an inch of ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
About 2 cabbage leaves, roughly chopped
A handful of tender greens, chopped (I used radish)
A quarter tsp Schezuan pepper, ground
A cup of boiled noodles
Coriander for the garnish
500 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a pan and lightly fry the ham. Remove and keep aside.
In the same pan fry the onions then add the garlic, chillies and ginger. Stir.
Then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes,
Add about 2 cups of water and the chicken stock.
Add the ham pieces and season with the pepper and salt, if needed.
Remove when all the vegetables are cooked but not overdone.
To serve, divide the boiled noodles in individual bowls and add the soup to each bowl.
Garnish with chopped coriander.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fusion Pie

This is a pie with a filling that is cooked in most Indian homes, the ubiquitous aloo sabzi. I often use left-over vegetable dishes as a filling for pies. Particularly when I have shortcrust pastry in the fridge. It's just that I haven't posted or photographed any of these pies before. And they work very well with chutneys and pickles...a variation from parathas.
A pie with a filling of aloo sabzi
A good breakfast or teatime dish, here's the pie ready to be eaten. The morning sunlight streams in through the kitchen window creating patterns from the lacy edges of the plate.

Ingredients for the filling:
6 potatoes boiled, peeled and diced
2 onions, grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
A tiny bit of ginger finely chopped
2 green chillies, diced
A quarter tsp of fenugreek and cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander powder
A quarter tsp of cumin powder
8-10 curry leaves
A pinch of turmeric 
A quarter tsp freshly grated black pepper
Salt to taste
2 tbs vegetable oil
Butter to grease the pie tin
1 egg yolk for the egg wash
Shortcrust pastry enough for a 9" pie dish

Take the dough out and keep aside till it's good enough to be rolled out.
Grease the pie tin.
Skim your work surface with a bit of flour. Divide the dough into two parts (one portion can be chilled till it's ready to be used) and roll out one a little bigger than the pie tin.
Place the dough on the tin and press all around the corners. Run a rolling pin over the edges so that all the extra dough falls off.
Prick the surface with a fork. Chill in the fridge as you prepare the filling.
Heat a pan and pour the oil. When it comes to smoking point, add the curry leaves and the whole spices.
As soon as they crackle add the onions and the chillies.
Fry till the onions change colour before adding the rest of the spices. Cook for a few more minutes till the raw smell disappears and the masala looks done.
Add the potatoes and stir well. I mashed some with the back of a spoon so that the potatoes would stick better as a filling for the pie.
Season with salt and pepper. Check so that you can adjust the seasoning.
Take it off the heat and wait for it to cool.
Take the pie tin from the fridge and place the filling in it.
Roll out the other piece of pastry to cover the filling. Make little incisions with a fork or a knife for the steam to escape.
Press a fork all around the edges of the pie so that the dough sticks well and also creates a nice pattern.
Brush with the egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven at 180 C for 30-35 minutes or till it's golden brown.
This is best eaten when still warm and also goes well with mint or mango chutney.