Tuesday, December 30, 2014



Although chickpea dishes are a regular feature in my kitchen, having the same in the form of hummus happened only a few years ago. And every time I have it I wonder at how a few basic ingredients can make this Middle-Eastern dip taste so good! This was what I made the other day (again!) as a dip for fried stuff and for potato chips. I only used the basics and no extra spices. Whenever I soak chickpeas (usually for curry) I keep some aside and that comes in handy for making hummus in a jiffy. There were no cake-like measurements taken for this recipe. It was all "andaz" as we say in India.:)

Chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained (reserve the water and a few whole chickpeas for decoration)
White sesame seeds, toasted and ground
Salt to taste
Pepper powder
Extra virgin olive oil
A few cloves of garlic, chopped fine
A bunch of chopped coriander for the garnish
Instead of using store-bought tahini, I use freshly toasted white sesame seeds.

Grind the chickpeas in the food processor adding a bit of the reserved water.
Add the lemon juice, tahini, salt, garlic and pepper. Check and see if adjustments need to be made. If it is too thick, add more of the reserved chickpea water. Add the olive oil and whiz again.
Transfer to a serving dish. Make a well in the centre and pour some more olive oil.  Add some of the whole chickpeas that had been set aside earlier.
Decorate the sides of the dish with chopped coriander. Add a few coriander leaves in the centre if you like.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Orange & Almond Syrup Cake

Orange & Almond Syrup Cake
Orange & Almond Syrup Cake
Hello everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Other commitments kept me away from the world wide web but I have been cooking and baking. This cake was inspired by Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries and I have been baking it ever since the orange season started. And going by how the cakes get devoured in no time, I think I'll still be baking a dozen more.:)

The recipe was adapted from here. But I did reduce some of the ingredients so mine is a smaller cake.As soon as the cake cooled down, I turned it upside down. A "naturally" flat surface is so much better!
120 grams butter softened + extra for greasing
100 grams caster sugar + extra for the orange peel decoration
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup almond flour
3 eggs, beaten
Finely grated zest of one orange

The Syrup:
The juice of two oranges
Sugar to taste
(I used the peel of these oranges for the decoration)

The Icing:
75 grams butter, softened
150 grams dark chocolate broken into bits and pieces
1 tbs orange juice

Butter the sides of the tin and line the base with a disc of parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 160 C.
Cream the butter and the sugar till the colour turns pale. Add the orange zest and mix well.
Add half of the almond flour and continue to mix. Beat in the eggs one by one. Sift in the flour along with the baking powder. Add the rest of the almond flour. Fold in gently till all the ingredients are well combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and level the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 40-45 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
For the syrup, put the pan of orange juice and sugar on the stove. Boil for a minute and remove.
After the cake is done and cools down a bit pour the syrup all over the surface.
To make the icing, place the chocolate, butter and orange juice over a double boiler till the chocolate melts.
Pour the icing over the cake and leave to set. Decorate with crystallised orange peel.

Although the orange peel looks a little underdone in the photo, it was all right. The sliced peel was boiled in two changes of water and then mixed with some fine sugar.  The mix of flavours in this cake is truly wonderful. Which is why I would love to bake it again soon!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Hornbill Festival

The most famous festival in our region is the Hornbill Festival. Named after the Great Indian Hornbill which figures in the folklore of many tribes of our region, the festival is held every year from 1-10 December. The best of everything that about the state of Nagaland is beautifully displayed in this festival. Being an agrarian society, many of the dances are connected with sowing and harvesting. The clothes that the performers wear are vibrant. Each tribe has their own distinctive colours and patterns.
Hornbill Festival
A view of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, seen from our hotel window

Hornbill Festival
The venue of the festival at Kisama about 12 kms from Kohima
Kisama, the Naga Heritage Village where the festival is held every year, is about 12 kms from the capital city of Kohima. Nagas are fine craftsmen. The objects on display and sale had many figurines of humans, birds and animals. I loved the horticultural section where local produce were sold. Spices, fruits and vegetables vied for space in the shelves.

Hornbill Festival

The pictures below show the different tribes performing. All the tribes take part and for visitors, it is a wonderful opportunity to see them all on one platform.
Hornbill Festival

Hornbill Festival

Hornbill Festival

Hornbill Festival
The Dimasa troupe at the festival

Hornbill Festival
The horticultural section had many different begonias

Hornbill Festival
Contests held during the festival

Hornbill Festival
Kitchen and garden equipment for sale

Hornbill Festival
Finely crafted bamboo and wooden cups, containers, stands and trays

Hornbill Festival
The representation of the tribes were also in their dwellings, or the replica of the village dwellings that also had a kitchen from where the food was cooked and served. We feasted on rice beer, fried pork, chicken, and snails cooked with perilla seeds. Food and drink were served in bamboo glasses and banana leaf plates. The outer area displayed (also for sale were) traditional clothes, jewellery and bamboo and wooden decorative as well as utility items. 
Hornbill Festival
One of the kitchens

Hornbill Festival
Young girls enjoy a nutritious drink made of locally-grown maize
Hornbill Festival

Right from top the view of the "morungs" or dwellings built on different levels. This is by far the most well-arranged festival in our region. No wonder it has grown over the years. We spent a day there but a day isn't enough.Maybe next year we'll find ourselves heading back to Nagaland to spend more time at the Hornbill Festival.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Apple Pie With A Leafy Crust!

Apple pie with a leafy crust
One of my favourite pies to bake is...apple pie! I have done quite a few posts here on my blog with just apples or teamed them with other fruits like pears and star fruits. Usually I make it with a lattice top but this time I decided to add some vines and leaves.:) The idea came from Ms. Google. I was going through pie crust images and came across one that was so beautifully done. 
I decided to go with leaves since I am in a bit of a hurry as we are leaving for the neighbouring state of Nagaland for the Hornbill Festival. It's one of the biggest festivals in our region and it'll be a first time for me there. Coming back to the pie, I'll get on with the recipe.
For the pastry:
100 grams butter, chilled
200 grams all-purpose flour, sieved
1 egg
Keep a small bowl of cold water to sprinkle on the dough
Transfer the flour into a large bowl and grate the butter on top of the flour.
Mix with your finger tips till it resembles breadcrumbs.
Break the egg and add to the mixture. Sprinkle some cold water at this point.
Bring the mixture together. Divide it into two, shape into discs, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for at least 40 minutes.

The filling:
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
The juice of one small orange (all the juice will not be needed)
A quarter tsp grated orange rind
A handful of raisins, washed and patted dry with a kitchen towel
Sugar to taste
A quarter tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp flour
1 egg yolk for the eggwash

As the pastry chills, mix the cut apples with the orange juice so that they do not turn brown. I usually add lemon juice but it's the season of oranges....
Add the grated orange rind, the cinnamon, the vanilla extract, the raisins, sugar and the flour. Give it a good mix and set aside.
Roll out one disc of the pastry dough by skimming a fine dusting of flour on your worktop and line the loose-bottomed pie tin. Run the rolling pin along the edge of the tin to remove any extra dough. That can go back to the fridge to be taken out a little later for more 'leaves'.
Prick the rolled-out pastry with a fork and chill it as you work on the other disc.
Roll out the other disc and using a cutter, cut out as many leaves as you think you'll need. Work as fast as you can. 

Take the rolled out dough from the fridge (the bottom portion) and place the prepared filling in it. 
Even out the surface with a spoon.
Arrange the leaves in a circle all across the circumference of the pie by adding a bit of the egg yolk. Cut off a few strips and make some curves. Add to the crust creating a pattern that you like.Keep on adding more leaves (with a little help from the yolk) till most of the surface is covered.
Brush with egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven till the pie is golden brown. I baked this pie for 40 minutes at 200C for the first 15 minutes and then at 180C till it was done.
This time I did not use extra butter to grease the pie tin. There's enough butter in the dough and the pie came off (the tin) effortlessly. The amount of sugar I used wasn't much. I do taste the filling to see if it's (sweet) enough. There's no sugar added to the pastry as I'm happy with the hint of sweetness from the filling. The freshness of citrus comes through as you bite into it. It's refreshing! Carrying this on our journey. I must sign off now and do some packing...

Friday, December 5, 2014

Plum Cake

Plum cake

Coming back home after a two-week stay in Delhi, I brought a whole lot of ingredients and a small packet of pricey plums! Browsing the tempting shelves at Modern Bazar, I had visions of a cake, sitting pretty on my new cake stand. The sliced pieces tinged with the deepest shades of red!! I couldn't wait to get back to my oven! But returning home and the routine that follows (after each trip) is a punishing one. There's SO much to be done. 
Despite all that work it was a joy to see the new blooms and today's harvest. Two kinds of beans, French and hyacinth. The latter is symbolic with our winters. There are many shapes and sizes but this is the only one I am growing. It's more than enough for us. Most of the beans are distributed between family and friends.
This morning's pictures...caught the dew on the nasturtium too!
Just a thought about plums...when we were kids we had 5-6 plum trees in our backyard. The blooming period was beautiful and the fruit-bearing/ripening season, more so. We used to call them alu-bakra, our own version of the Hindi word for the fruit- alu-bukhara. Although the fruits were sour and turned sweet only at the over-ripe stage, we loved them to bits. They were consumed with salt and crushed or powdered chillies and my mother made them into jelly that tasted so good with bread. But for baking they wouldn't have been good at all as they were too acidic.

I used only three plums for this recipe and it looked as though the slices were overcrowding the cake tin. But as the baking progressed, the batter rose, the plums sank a bit, enough to create a pattern on the top. I don't remember why I didn't snap a picture before the cake went in. Could be the thought of all the chores waiting to be done!

140 grams plain flour+ extra for dusting the tin
50 grams almond meal
110 grams fine sugar
120 grams butter at room temperature+ extra for greasing the tin
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon powder 
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
Some milk
3 plums, sliced evenly

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Grease a 9" cake tin and dust it with flour.
Combine the flour, almond meal, the cinnamon and baking powders and keep aside.
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs one by one and whisk till fully incorporated.
Add the vanilla extract. Add a bit of milk (about 4 tbs).
Fold in the flour mix and transfer the batter to the baking tin.
Even out the batter with a knife or a spatula.
Arrange the sliced plums all along the surface forming a pattern.
Bake for 45-40 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack and serve while still warm.

Because of the browning, I reduced the the temperature to 160C after 35 minutes. I did not use a foil as I felt that the slightly singed look on the plums would look attractive, rather like the appearance of a well-baked French apple tart.
The wooden cake stand that happily followed me home!:)

Although the cake looked a little too brown, that didn't make any difference to the taste. It's a lovely moist cake and I had it with a cup of tea and a little bit of whipped honey-cream.
Thank you for stopping by. Do check out my Facebook page as well.:))

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mutton Curry With Vegetables

Mutton curry has always been comfort food. With the usual spices and chunks of potato. The potatoes are rubbed with a mix of turmeric and salt and shallow fried till they turn golden brown. They are later added to the curry when the meat becomes almost tender. By the time the curry is done, the potatoes are thoroughly cooked too. I started to make the same yesterday but with winter vegetables in abundance now who can resist the temptation of adding some peas and  some spinach to nearly everything?

500 grams mutton, cut into regular pieces
6 medium-sized potatoes
A small bunch of spinach, washed and halved
A bowl of peas
2 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped 
2-3 Indian bay leaves
3 large onions, sliced thin
10 cloves of garlic
Thumb-size ginger
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tbs coriander powder
A quarter tsp ground pepper
1 tbs cumin powder
A quarter tsp turmeric+ extra for frying the potatoes
A quarter tsp garam masala
Salt to taste +extra for the potatoes
4 tbs vegetable oil
Chopped coriander for the garnish 

Grind the garlic and the ginger and transfer the paste to a large bowl.
Add the powdered spices (except the garam masala) and mix well.
Marinate the mutton in this mixture as you prepare the potatoes.
Peel and halve the potatoes. If the potatoes are large, quarter them. The sizes should be even.
Rub a mixture of salt and turmeric on the potatoes and set aside.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the potatoes.
Fry for a short while turning them all over till they turn golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen paper.
In the same oil add the bay leaves and fry the onions till they turn translucent.
Add the meat and continue to cook till the oil separates stirring at regular intervals. This will take about 35-40 minutes. 
If the curry looks like it's going to burn, add a quarter of a cup of water and stir. By now the colour will also look good. Season with salt. The chopped tomatoes can go in now.
Add the potatoes and stir well. Add about two cups of hot water. This will depend on the amount of gravy you want.
After 8-10 minutes, add the spinach and the peas and cook till the vegetables are done.
Check the seasoning and make any adjustments, if needed. Sprinkle the garam masala and stir gently.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving dish.
Garnish with the chopped coriander.

This dish goes best with steaming hot rice!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Potato, Leek & Broccoli Pie

Potato, leek & broccoli pie
And pie it is again. A savoury vegetable pie with bits and pieces of chicken thrown in for good measure. With my boys preferring savoury to sweet I threw in as many vegetables in a pan of well-seasoned chicken stock. Potatoes, leeks, and broccoli were cooked till done. Then I added about half a cup of cream cheese and gave the mix a good stir. More pepper went in before the filling cooled down and went into the pie shell. Although the browning looks like it is a bit too much, the taste was fine. And here in my sons' student accommodation, the oven I am using is much smaller than I have at home. I did cover the pie with the last piece of silver foil but it didn't cover the whole pie!
Unsalted butter from the Farmers' Market & the 'before/after' shots of the pie
I had earlier picked up some wonderful unsalted butter at the Farmers' Market and it was a pleasure to incorporate it into the pastry dough. There's no recipe in this post because the only measurement I made was to see whether there would be enough filling for the shell/tin. When I saw there was space for more, the broccoli florets went in. So it turned to be more of a very mixed pie!! But the combination was delicious. As I type this not a crumb remains. My boys and their two friends along with my b-i-l finished it off. Good for me as I have another excuse to go and bake another one!:)
Thank you for stopping by today. Happy December!