Saturday, January 31, 2015

Warm Hyacinth Bean Salad

Warm hyacinth bean salad
A salad of hyacinth beans with chilli-infused mustard oil and garden flowers
I was away for a week visiting family and relatives. The place where I grew up and where my mother lives, is a pretty town about 300 kms from Guwahati. But before I left, I had a minor accident. My tomato plants needed to be staked so instead of using freshly-cut bamboo, I used the old stakes that I pulled out from other plants. As I applied some pressure while doing the needful, the bamboo broke and I lost my balance. In the process my right cheek landed on the stake that was closer to me. It was bad but I didn't need any stitches. With prompt medication the pain lasted for only about an hour. For the next six days I had this large black spot and I had to repeat how it happened to everybody I met!! It's healed now but this bad experience has made me wiser. I'll never be using old bamboo stakes again if they are not sturdy enough.
Yesterday's harvest of hyacinth beans
I am growing two varieties of hyacinth beans this year. Both the vines are doing well. It's a common sight in many home gardens during this time of the year. The purple blooms (some varieties have white or cream-coloured ones) attract a lot of bees. These beans are also known as lablab/Dolichos lablab.
We usually have them in chutney with fermented fish or in khari. We also add them to fish curry and in dried fish recipes. Tender beans are fried or mixed into vegetable dishes.
The salad that I made goes really well with tender French beans. But with such lovely produce from my backyard I thought it would be a good idea to adapt that recipe with these beans by adding ingredients that are popular in our part of the world.
About 30 tender beans
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp of coarsely grated pepper
1 tsp of chilli-infused mustard oil or according to taste
Bean blossoms, nasturtium flowers/leaves and brassica blooms for the garnish 
Herbs of your choice (optional)

Top and tail the beans and string them. Set aside.
Heat about 3-4 cups of water. When it comes to the boil, add the beans.
Add salt and let the beans cook for about 5 minutes or till tender but not too soft.
Hyacinth beans take a little longer than French beans. Drain the cooked beans in a colander.
Arrange the drained beans on a serving platter. Sprinkle the grated pepper all across.
Drizzle the oil over the beans and arrange the blooms and the leaves on the salad.
This is indeed a lovely salad despite being so simple to make. Fresh vegetables have their own natural sweetness and the slight heat from the oil strikes a fine balance. As for the visual appeal...what are flowers for? This salad will serve 3-4 people. I keep small quantities of chilli-infused olive as well as mustard oil. The simplest pickle of bird's eye chillies in mustard oil is very popular in our region. A bit of a drizzle over mashed potatoes takes the dish to another level.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Labneh, again!

Labneh with chopped mint and coaresly ground black pepper
Ever since I started making labneh, I have it on the menu. It may not be all that regular but it does show up on our table from time to time. I am now the proud owner of my first Yotam Ottolenghi book, The Cookbook. I know I am way behind but gradually I'll get hold of some more by the same author. Going through the book I felt like making labneh again. As I type this, half a jar of these yogurt balls sit in my fridge waiting to adorned with freshly chopped mint and coarsely ground black pepper. Earlier, I used to add the herbs to the olive oil in the jar but I think it makes more sense this way.

The strained yogurt and the labneh in olive oil
And I have it with our usual rotis and parathas. The whey that remains after straining the curd is mixed into the dough. If any remains, it goes into the filling for tarts. I use it as a substitute for cream cheese and it works out quite well. Or it gets turned into tzatziki.
I am not including the recipe here (for the labneh or the tart) but the links to my other posts are included.
Labneh tart
Labneh tart
The picture above shows a tart I made the other day. Apart from the usual ingredients, I also added a dash of honey. Despite the fact that my labneh tart did not remain pristine white, the taste was delicious. At least that's what my son's friends said!:-))
You might like to check out my other recipes for tarts made with strained yogurt. The links are given below.
1. Strawberry & Hung Curd Tart
2. Hung Curd Tart
3. Savoury Pumpkin & Hung Curd Tarts

Sunday, January 18, 2015

White Chocolate & Cardamom Tart

White Chocolate & Cardamom Tart

Don't I love my tart-filled days...? The most recent one I tried was this white chocolate tart with a subtle hint of cardamom. I had come across the recipe in a tiny book about chocolates and this recipe was at the back of my mind for a while. I finally made it yesterday.
My hands have been full. Mika, our new pet, is in his most playful mood particularly when I need to get on with my chores. And he's at his active best when I am watering my plants.  The picture below shows him checking out my snapdragons.:)

I usually have pastry dough at the ready. A quick quiche or a tart-let and I don't have to start from scratch! So I took out the dough and got on with the rest of the recipe.
The pastry should be enough for a 9" loose-bottomed tart tin.
 The filling:
Seeds of two cardamoms
350 gram white chocolate chopped into pieces
6 gram fine gelatine
Cold water
425 ml whipping cream
Shavings of white chocolate to decorate

Roll out the pastry dough and line the tin that has been lightly greased.
Chill it for at least thirty minutes.
Remove from the fridge, and bake blind for 12-15 minutes in a preheated 180C oven.
Remove the  paper and the beans and bake for ten more minutes.
Set aside to cool completely.

White Chocolate & Cardamom Tart

Crush the cardamom seeds until powdery and put in a large bowl with the chocolate.
Soak the gelatine in a little cold water in a heatproof bowl for 5 minutes, the stir over a saucepan of simmering water until dissolved.
In a separate pan heat the cream until boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted. 
Add the gelatine and stir the mixture until smooth. Let it cool and then pour it in the tart shell and chill for at least three hours.
Before serving you can dust the tart with cocoa powder. Then decorate the border with the chocolate shavings. 
The recipe actually says 8 cardamoms. But that would have been too much for me. Two was just right for this tart. And with the peel I usually put them in my jar of tea leaves. That faint smell is good enough!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Orange Chocolate Cake

Orange Chocolate Cake

When it comes to baking I can't seem to see beyond oranges at the moment. The season will soon be over and thoughts of more orange recipes cross my mind. So I should get on with it! Although I often use the zest and the juice, this is the first time that I have used the entire fruit in a cake. The orange flavour is delightfully refreshing and fragrant. The cake is moist and so soft. despite the crack on the surface, it was still good!

The oranges:(I used 2)
Wash and pat dry. Cut them into quarters and boil in water that is just enough so that the oranges turn soft and are cooked through.
Let the mixture cool and then remove the pips.
Blitz in the blender and set aside.
The zest from a third orange can be readied for decoration.

The cake:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup fine sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
80 grams dark chocolate, melted
3 eggs
2 tsp milk (if the mix looks a bit dry)
Grease a tin and line the base with grease-proof paper.
Sieve the flour with the cinnamon, cocoa and the baking powder.
Cream the sugar and the butter till pale and fluffy.
Orange Chocolate Cake

Add the eggs one by one beating each one till well incorporated in the mixture.
Add the vanilla essence and the beaten chocolate.
Add the orange mix and beat it into the batter.
Fold in the almond meal and then the prepared flour.
Transfer the batter into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven 180C oven for about 40 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. 
Remove and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Then take it out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Dredge some icing sugar after the cake cools down. Cut into wedges and serve with a dollop of cream. Decorate the cream with a few thin slivers of orange zest. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Spiced Pear Loaf With White Chocolate

Spiced pear loaf with white chocolate
Spiced pear loaf with white chocolate
When I first saw the pear cake and pear loaf images on the internet I was completely bowled over. Of course I couldn't wait to get started. But there were oranges, chocolate chips, spring onions and more ingredients patiently waiting for their respective turns. Looking up more Google images one recipe that I really liked was here. But I made some changes and came up with something similar to my recent post on coffee loaf with orange frosting.
Spiced pear loaf with white chocolate
Clockwise: the golden pears, infusion, the reduction, boiling the peel/spices and chanting...thicken...thicken!!

The pears
3 pears, peeled, cored, and cut vertically. Leave the stalks on.
1 1/2 cups water
Star anise...3
2 sticks of cinnamon
3-4 cloves
4 cardamoms, bruised (If you don't find the smell overpowering {like I do}, you can use the powdered seeds according to taste)
6-7 fine slices of fresh ginger
Sugar to taste

Heat the water in a pan. Add all the spices and the sugar and let it come to a boil.
Add the pears, cook for about 4 minutes and switch off the flame. Leave to infuse for about 15 minutes.
Remove from the liquid and place them in a colander till ready to use.
Put the pan back on the gas, add the peel and reduce till the liquid thickens.
Strain into a bowl. Set aside till ready to use.

The loaf
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup softened butter+ extra for greasing the tin
2 cups flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
A pinch of saffron
100 grams white chocolate broken into bits and pieces
2 tbs double cream

Spiced pear loaf with white chocolate
A slice of pear for every slice that you cut!
Heat the milk to near-boiling point.
Remove from the flame and add a pinch of saffron. Leave to infuse.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and cinnamon powder.
Line the base of the loaf tin with grease-proof paper and grease the sides well.
Cream the butter and sugar till the mixture turns pale.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well till fully incorporated.
Add the milk and the flour alternately adding them in small quantities. Fold in. Repeat till all the milk and the flour has been incorporated into the batter.
Transfer the batter in the tin. Put in the pears vertically. The idea is that every piece will have a slice of pear.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about an hour or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let it cool down.
Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. Add the cream and mix well.
With a spoon, drizzle the mix all across the loaf horizontally. Let the mixture trickle down all across the sides as well.
To serve, cut the loaf into thick pieces ensuring that a slice of pear is encrusted in that piece.
Drizzle the reduced pear liquid over the loaf. Enjoy!!

Spiced pear loaf with white chocolate

When this loaf was baking, the aroma that wafted across the house was phenomenally Exotic! A small 'e' wouldn't do justice here!! I loved the taste but somehow the loaf would have sliced better/cleaner if (I think) I had followed a tried and tested recipe from the link I loved. Maybe next time...

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Corn cakes With Cheese

Despite seeing the recipe and pictures, cornbread is something I hadn't made earlier. But with the packet of polenta left in stock it was high time I used it before its shelf life was over. Help came when I read Mark's post on cornbread and corn cakes. I mixed up some of the ingredients from the two recipes and made these cakes.
The cheese I used wasn't anything fancy. I usually have either Amul or Brittania and the latter was what I used. But it did turn out well so I wasn't disappointed.

The measurements and the recipe is adapted from here.
200 grams polenta
50 grams plain flour
200 ml milk
2 eggs
3 level tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dried dried mint
1 medium red chilli, seeds discarded
4 cheese cubes, halved
Butter for greasing the ramekins

Grease the ramekins well with butter.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients except the cheese. In another bowl mix the wet ingredients.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix well.
With a spoon, transfer the batter to the greased ramekins. I used 8.
Halve a cheese cube and put in the middle of the ramekin. Repeat with the rest.
Bake in a preheated 200C oven for about 20 minutes or till a skewer inserted comes out clean. The cheese will stick but you can tell when it's done.

This is a recipe that has made me realize that polenta should always be a part of my shopping list!! Although I have used it for tarts and muffins, this is indeed the best polenta recipe I have made. When I make this again the whole cube of cheese will go in. A little bite from the chilli and the faint minty smell was a heady combination!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Coffee Loaf With Orange Frosting

Coffee loaf with orange frosting
Coffee loaf with orange frosting
With oranges in season, it's only fair that nothing edible from the fruit goes wasted!  I make candied zest in small batches and a bit of the zest takes the recipe to another level. Just a little effort but what a delightful change! So when I saw the picture of a tea loaf in the latest issue of BBC Good Food magazine (India), I couldn't wait to get started by adding a few twists of my own. This is simple to make and if you are a regular here you know that's the kind of cooking I usually stick to.

Instead of tea, I used instant coffee and instead of sultanas, a handful of dried cranberries went in. I love using dried cranberries particularly in chocolate cakes. The contrast in colours and taste makes it even better. The recipe had muscovado sugar but since I didn't have it in stock I made do with caster sugar.
225 ml milk
2 tbs instant coffee
100 grams raisins
80 grams dried cranberries
100 grams butter
100 grams caster sugar
1 egg
225 grams flour
1 tsp baking powder
Juice and zest of 1 orange

For the frosting:
125 grams soft butter
200 grams icing sugar
Juice of 1 orange
 Coffee loaf
Heat the milk in a pan and let it come to near-boiling point.
Take it off the gas and stir in the instant coffee. Leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
Add in the dried fruits into the coffee/milk mix.
Cover, and set aside for an hour.
Heat the oven to 180C. Grease a 900 gram loaf tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
Beat the butter and the sugar until creamy, then beat in 1 egg.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and fold in the same along with the fruit mixture in alternate batches.
Add the juice and the zest of an orange.
Spoon the mixture into the tin. Level the surface with a spoon and bake for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin then transfer to a serving platter.
For the frosting, beat the butter and the sugar then add the juice of an orange till creamy.
Frost the top (and the sides if you wish) and leave to set for an hour. Decorate with more orange zest.

Coffee loaf

I reduced the temperature to 160C in the last 15 minutes of cooking as the cake had browned well. It took 50 minutes to be done.
I'm glad I had the candied zest ready to splurge on the frosting. This loaf was indeed a joy to create and I think a few more orange recipes would do justice to the fruit as well as this season.:)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chocolate Chip Muffins (With A Dash of Cinnamon)

 Chocolate Chip Muffins
The weather turned a little harsh yesterday with the rain and the wind. Although it didn't go on and on, the thought of having something nice and warm, a little moist, and a little sweet, made me look for ingredients that I might have kept and not used. Found a packet of chocolate chips at the back of my pantry and these were born.:)
80 grams butter
80 grams granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 &1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 grams chocolate chips
Chocolate Chip Muffins

Melt the butter and let it cool.
Place the paper moulds in your muffin tin.
Sieve the flour, cinnamon and the baking powder. Set aside.
Mix in the sugar to the cooled butter and beat till the mixture turns a little pale.
Beat in the eggs one by one, whisking all the time..
Add the vanilla extract. Then fold in the flour mixture.
Lastly, add the chocolate chips. Fold in.
With a tablespoon, fill the batter in the muffin cases. This will be enough for 12 muffins.
Bake in a preheated oven at 175C for about 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove and cool on a wire rack. These taste good when still slightly warm.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Steamed Fish Chutney With Spring Onions & King Chilli

The title of this post is long but the effort it takes to make this chutney is minimal. Fish either steamed or roasted on hot coals is a favourite with Dimasas. Both small or large varieties of fish are used for this type of chutney. Roasted green chillies, salt, finely chopped onions and herbs of one's choice go into the fish. it's all mashed together to be eaten with rice as an accompaniment. 
Instead of using regular chillies, I used the hottest of them all. The King Chilli or Bhut Jolokia. Known as morshai gibbir in our language it translates to "mad chilli". I have grown them before and the picture from the collage below is from a few years ago. Although they are widely available in our markets, my interest in them was rekindled on our recent visit to Nagaland. There the chillies are an essential ingredient in Naga cooking. Although it's really hot it doesn't cause a stomach upset unlike the bird's eye chillies that are so abundant in our region. This site has more details about this chilli.

We got two packets of dried chillies that I have started using sparingly. I discard the seeds (sow them, rather) before I proceed with my cooking.

One of the joys of this season is using spring onions so lavishly in most of my dishes. The picture is from my shallow wooden container and harvesting started about a week ago.
The fish pieces, steaming in a colander and bones discarded.

4 pieces of fish, washed
1 King chilli, seeds discarded
Salt to taste
Half a teaspoon of thinly sliced ginger
A generous helping of chopped spring onions
A piece of banana leaf for steaming

Hold the banana leaf over the flame of the stove till it wilts. This will make it easier to make a packet.
Place the fish pieces on the leaf and add the chilli.
Fold the leaf on all sides till it forms a neat packet.
Put it in a colander. Place the colander on a pan of boiling water. Cover it. Take a strip of wet cloth long enough to seal the point where the pan meets the colander. Seal and tuck the end piece so that the strip stays intact. This is done so that the steam does not escape and the cooking is faster.
After twenty minutes or so (depending on your flame) remove the packet and let it cool.
Be careful while handling the chilli. 
Remove the bones and mash the fish with the back of a ladle.
Add all the other ingredients and mix well.
Transfer to a serving dish and decorate with spring onion flowers if you wish. 
This a lovely accompaniment to the main dishes of rice and curry.

Thank you for stopping by. Hope you check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Year-end Guests & Quiches!

A groupie in our front-yard before heading to the airport.
2014 ended on a busy and interesting note as we had three guests from Germany. They were here for a week with a lot of travelling thrown in and they did get to see some of the most beautiful areas of our region. As usual I was busy with my cooking but there wasn't much of photos and posts. You really need some alone time for that. In between cooking I munched on excellent German cakes and chocolate that Dario's (one of the boys) mother had sent. So many of them, an assortment of goodies, each tasting better than the other. As for the boys, they loved the curries, the stir-fries and the baked food. The last meal they had before they left was a couple of medium quiches. One included ham, and the other, paneer.
The picture above also shows the latest addition to our family, the cutest little pup, an Alsatian. Mika, that's what my son has named him, keeps us on our toes!! He came into our lives on December 10 and it hasn't been the same since!
Paneer quiche

For the paneer quiche, I used 200 grams of paneer. I cut it into squares and fried them with a bit of salt and pepper till they turned golden brown. As for the pastry dough, I had kept several batches in the fridge and kept on using as and when needed. After the pastry shell was baked blind, I layered the bottom with the fried paneer. Some of the squares were crushed so that the layering was even.
Then some fried onions went in with finely cut spring onions. On top of that three cubes of Amul cheese went in. I did not grate the cheese but tore them off into smaller uneven chunks. Then a mix of three eggs and about 150 ml of cream went in with a seasoning of salt and pepper. The quiche was baked for 30 minutes at 180C. Towards the last ten minutes of baking I brought the temperature to 160C as I didn't want it to get into a darker brown than what is shown in the picture.
Layering the fried paneer (left) and the cheese broken into bits

Quiche made of ham, spinach & spring onions
Another quiche that was also relished was made with ham, spinach, and spring onions. What a joy it was to cook for people who appreciated all the food that was placed on the table. My sons and a few more friends joined in so it was a full house for a very brief period.:)

The Bridal Veil, a variety of clerodendrum blooms in my front yard. I wish all my blog friends and visitors a wonderful 2015! 
                                                       *Happy New Year!*