Saturday, February 28, 2015

Orange Polenta Cake

orange polenta cake
Orange polenta cake
It's the last day of February and I am still left with some pictures from last month that I hadn't posted. Rather than feeling I-wish-I-had-posted-earlier, I might as well, now. When I go visiting, I usually bake a cake and carry it along. Nothing fancy. So when I went to my hometown I packed a bucketful of cakes for family and relatives. It made sense to pack them together in a confined space where they would stand the bumps of our hilly roads on a 7-8 hour drive. I had photographed a Dundee cake in a mustard field with the flowers in full bloom some time ago and it was a wish that I would take a picture of the scenic view with my cake in the foreground. But before we reached the place with better views, the sun started playing hide and seek. Worried about the light, I told my son to hold the cake and clicked this picture. The hills beyond aren't the prettiest but at least I had a picture! Without a wall in the background!:))
Dundee cake
The picture below, taken a few years ago on the same route would have made a better setting. Sigh. Anyway this is the first recipe that I made from Yotam Ottolenghi's book. I still had some polenta left over and oranges were (still is) in season. And what would be better than an orange/polenta cake?
On the way to my hometown, Haflong

50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
240g ground almonds
2 tsp orange blossom water
120g quick-cook polenta

Caramel topping:
90g caster sugar
2 tbs water
20g butter, diced
2 oranges, and maybe another extra one

Glaze (optional)
4tbsp orange marmalade
1 tbsp water
orange polenta cake

Grease a 20cm round baking tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the water. Let the sugar come to a boil. When it turns to a nice golden colour, remove the pan from the heat. Add the chunks of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon and pour the mix on the prepared cake tin. Tilt so that the caramel spreads evenly.
Grate the zest of two oranges and set it aside. Slice off 1 cm from the top and bottom of each orange. Standing each orange on a board, follow the natural curves of the orange with a knife and peel off the skin and the white pith.
Cut each horizontally into 6 slices. If the space in the tin is not filled up you might need to cut another one.
Heat the oven to 170C. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar. Gradually add the eggs. Next the reserved orange zest can go in followed by the orange blossom water. Then add the almond flour, the polenta and sifted dry ingredients.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin without disturbing the orange layer. Level the top with a palette knife. Then bake the cake for about 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
Place an inverted plate on top of the tin and turn over. Remove the lining paper and let the cake cool completely.
orange polenta cake

For the glaze, bring the water and the marmalade to a boil. Then pass the mixture through a sieve. Lightly brush the top of the cake while the mixture is still hot.
The only ingredient I didn't use was orange blossom water because I didn't have it. But since the ingredients are from the book, I felt I shouldn't leave it out. I still use a hand whisk for my cakes but the recipe in the book mentions an electric mixer. This a rather unusual-tasting cake but my nieces (for whom I had baked) loved it!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stuffed Bottle-gourd

Stuffed bottle gourd
Stuffed bottle gourd in a rich gravy garnished with roasted almonds and coriander
Some dishes, like this one, remain at the back of your mind and you never really get around to cooking them. But with my bottle gourd vine bearing fruit it is only fair that I make as many different dishes as possible before the gifting to family and friends start...
This was inspired by Chef Jiggs Kalra, one of the first food writers in our country whose articles and recipes (published in The Telegraph) I read voraciously. Some of the chef's recipes are here and here. I made a few adjustments with the recipe. Let's get on with it starting with the filling.
6-7 potatoes
2 onions, finely grated
1 tbs besan
1 bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
2 green chillies, diced
A quarter tsp coriander powder
A pinch of cardamom powder
A quarter tsp ginger paste
Salt to taste
Oil to fry
Boil the potatoes tilled cooked through. Cool, peel and mash.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and fry till the colour changes. Then add the besan and fry till the raw smell goes off and it gives out its unique aroma. The rest of the ingredients can go in now. Cook for a few more minutes till the spices are done then add the mashed potatoes. Mix well and keep the mixture on the heat for 4-5 minutes. Remove, cool, and check whether any adjustments need to be made with the seasoning.
The gourd:
1 bottle gourd, medium
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp chilli powder
Oil to fry
Cut off the ends of the gourd and peel off the skin. Core the inside till you get a hollow as shown in the collage.
Mix the pastes, chilli powder and lemon juice. Rub the gourd, both inside and out with this mix. Leave aside for at least 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a pan and fry the gourd on all sides till almost done. Remove and set aside.

The Gravy:
30 g unsalted butter
2 tbs oil
1 tbs besan
2 tbs yogurt
Almond paste (with 10 almonds)
2 tbs fried onion paste
4 tomatoes
1 tsp coriander powder
Chilli powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of cardamom powder
A pinch of saffron soaked in warm water  
The garnish:
12 roasted almonds
Some coriander leaves
Remove eyes from the tomatoes, cut and boil in a cup of water. When the mixture becomes soft and mushy, force through a fine mesh and set aside.
Whisk the yogurt.
Heat the butter and oil in a pan, add the besan and fry till the raw smell goes off.
Stir in the yogurt, the onion paste and the almond paste. Fry for a couple of minutes and add the tomato puree.
Now the chilli and coriander powder and the saffron can go in. Season with salt.
If the gravy is too thick, add about half a cup of warm water and mix well. Let it thicken a bit.
Sprinkle the cardamom powder and remove from the flame.
The Final Cooking:
Stuff the fried gourd with the potato filling.
Grease a baking tray with oil and preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the stuffed gourd on the tray and bake for about 10 minutes.
Then take it out and coat it with part of the gravy and bake till it's done. This will take another 15 minutes or so.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Slice into similar sizes. Coat the roundels with the gravy. 
Chop the almonds and scatter them over the dish. Sprinkle the coriander leaves as a final garnish.
Stuffed bottle gourd goes very well with Indian flatbreads. The coriander powder I used was from broiled coriander seeds. I usually keep cumin and coriander in in powder form in small batches. So much easier to use and the aroma is heavenly!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Banana Jam Cake With Canola Oil

Banana jam & jam cake
On our recent trip to my hometown we came back with a lot of garden produce Among them were several bunches of bananas given by my husband's aunt. Although these were shared with others we still had about two more bunches that ripened at the same time. Not wanting to make another banana cake, I made a batch of banana jam. It made sense to bottle up memories of that trip in a concoction of sweetness and intense flavours. And not waste a single fruit even if all of them were blackened and looked more than ready to join their ever-rotting cousins in the compost pit. So with a bit of help from Ms. Google I settled for the easiest version. And that came to:
2 bunches of ripe bananas
Juice of 3 lemons
Cinnamon powder
Clove powder
Cardamom powder
Dark brown sugar
Banana jam
Banana jam
I got about 3 cups of mashed bananas to which I added a cup of sugar. This mix was put in a heavy-bottomed pan. The lemon juice and the spices were added and the mix was left to simmer for nearly 40 minutes. I kept stirring at regular intervals so that it wouldn't catch at the bottom. 
As for the spices, it was a quarter spoon of the clove and the cardamom and a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon. Once the mix looked "jammy" I put out the flame and left it to cool. Then it was transferred to a clean jar. Now that the jam was ready, I had to move on to the next step and that was baking a cake using the jam as a core ingredient. I decided on a cake and I wasn't disappointed. The best part was that all the ingredients were thrown in together in a large bowl and given a good mix. Then it was baked for about 45 minutes.

The jam cake:
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup banana jam
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbs milk, optional 
Butter for greasing the tin (I used a bundt tin)
banana jam cake

Take all the wet ingredients together and give it a good mix. With the eggs, add one at a time and whisk till fully incorporated in the batter. Sieve the flour with the baking powder and fold into the mixture. Add the milk if you think the batter is too dry.
Transfer the batter to the tin and level the surface with a spatula. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Let it cool down a bit and then remove from the tin.

The caramel sauce: (this a Donna Hay recipe)
3/4 cup brown sugar
250 ml cream
Place the sugar and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir till the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer rapidly till the sauce thickens.
Remove, cool and drizzle over the cake.

As I type this not a crumb remains. I had gone to meet my mother (who is here for a health check-up), my sisters, nieces and nephew and they all loved the cake! It was soft and moist and delicious (their words) and I'm glad I baked it. No picture was taken of the sliced wedges but sometimes I think it doesn't matter at all!
The cake stand interestingly has the 60s Make love not war sign.  The stand is inscribed with these words---- Peace of cake!:) The beautiful yellow gerberas came from a friend's garden.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Broccoli & Chicken Quiche

Broccoli & chicken quiche
Broccoli & chicken quiche
My mini baking moulds are best suited for single servings and when I am alone in the house, a one-pot or one-dish meal is usually what I make. The boys aren't home and of late, my husband has been travelling with his band to perform within and outside the state. He isn't a full-time musician but at certain times of the year it feels like he is one.:)
Quiche can be very filling and fulfilling! The meat and the vegetables coupled with the cheese makes a delicious combination. And I teamed it up with a simple salad of lettuce that I had bought at the recent horticultural show. The lettuce plants are doing well in their respective containers now.
Broccoli & chicken quiche
The different stages...
I didn't make the pastry from scratch this time. There was some left over from a previous pie-baking day and in order to finish off the dough, I tucked in the overhanging pieces and made a double edged border on one of these two. Then I rested them in the fridge and baked them blind. As I waited for them to cool down, I prepared the filling.
The filling:
1/2 of a small broccoli head
1 cup boiled chicken pieces, no bones
1 onion, finely chopped
100 ml cream
3 small eggs
2 cubes of Amul cheese
1 tsp grated pepper
A dash of salt
2 tbs oil
Cut the broccoli into florets and plunge them into boiling water for a couple of minutes.
Drain and plunge into iced water. Drain again and set aside in a colander.
Heat the oil in a pan. Fry the onions till translucent.
Add the chicken pieces and the drained broccoli florets. Fry for a couple of minutes. 
Season with a dash of salt and grated pepper.
Remove and let it cool as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Grate the cheese and keep aside.
In a bowl, break the eggs and whisk along with the cream. Add the cheese and give it a good mix.
Divide the chicken/broccoli mix between the two shells.
Pour the egg/cream/cheese mix and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 20-25 minutes or till it turns a golden brown.
Remove, cool, and have it at room temperature with a green salad.
Broccoli & chicken quiche
Broccoli & chicken quiche with salad
The chicken was boiled with ginger, garlic, pepper and a touch of salt, so despite just a little bit of frying, it was good! The salad I made had lettuce and a few leaves/blooms of nasturtium. Nasturtium season doesn't last long and I make it a point to use them in my salads. The dressing had honey, grated pepper, salt, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mudru Shamlai/A Dimasa Dish

Mudru Shamlai
Picking the first bottle gourd from the vine in my back-yard today the thought that came to my mind was, mudru. The other ingredients like the leafy greens, chillies and beans are all home-grown too! Mudru is a dish that combines a mix of vegetables and stewed till tender. The vegetables are generally a mix of greens, bottle gourd, beans, and banana blossom. The variety of greens used are numerous. Tender leaves of the bottle gourd and pumpkin, leaves from the brassica family, spinach, goosefoot, amaranth, even the tender leaves of the squash/chayote and teasle gourd are all added to mudru. At the near-end of cooking, toasted and ground oil-producing seeds like sesame and perilla/snem are added to the dish.The seasonings are salt and a little bit of heat. Either herbs or crushed garlic is used as a garnish.
Not only the bottle gourd but the beans, chillies and lettuce are all home-grown!
I like to cook this dish in chicken stock as it greatly changes the taste and makes it delicious. Going by the colour, it may not look attractive at all but the ingredients are fresh and tender with a natural sweetness that you get in the freshest of produce. This year the bottle gourd in my back-yard is showing signs of bearing in abundance. The past few years I have not been lucky but when my boys were very young I used to have an enviable harvest of bottle gourds. Who knows I might be blessed with that kind of bounty all over again...

The ingredients:
2 cups chopped bottle gourd
1 cup hyacinth beans
8-10 lettuce leaves
3 green chillies, scored lengthwise
Salt to taste
3 tbs perilla seeds, toasted and ground
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cup well-seasoned chicken stock
The ingredients:only a quarter of this gourd was used for the mudru.
For very tender bottle gourd, there is no need to peel off the skin. Simply scrape it off lightly. Then chop into 1" pieces.
String the beans and chop into a similar size.
Heat 1 1/2 cups of water in a pan. Add the gourd pieces. When they are half-done, add the beans, the chicken stock and chillies .
Cook till the beans are tender. Season with salt keeping in mind the salt content in the chicken stock.
Wash the lettuce under running water to remove any sign of grit. Tear into pieces or halve each leaf.
Add to the mudru. Cook for a few more minutes then add the toasted and ground snem. Give it a good stir. Then add the crushed garlic.
Remove from the flame and transfer to a serving bowl. Additional garnish with coriander or serrated coriander can be used also.
This is best eaten with steaming hot rice. Something fried or crispy (like potatoes) makes a good accompaniment to this dish.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quiche Your Greens!

Quiche made with salami and foraged greens.:)
When I bake a quiche I usually go around my potted plants for a little foraging. Who'd have thought that the forces of nature would be so kind as to distribute an amaranth here and a goosefoot there? And there's another edible 'weed', well, almost missed it behind the little eggplant! And I have a little bunch that will surely enhance the flavour of the dish! Both the greens mentioned here taste somewhat like spinach and can be cooked in very little time and that suits me fine. Soon the first rains of the year will make a sporadic appearance and more gems will surely crop up in my little space...

The basket on the left has a few young amaranth sprigs, goosefoot, a few leaves of a variety of brassica and some spring onions. These yellow blooms of the brassica attract many tiny pollinators. I use them in my salads and I thought that a bit of sunshine on my quiche would look pretty!! Goosefoot (of the genus Chenopodium) is also known as lamb's quarter and as bathua in Hindi. It's available in abundance particularly during the cooler months. 
The pastry:
220 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams butter, chilled and cubed+ a little extra for greasing the tin& the silver foil
1 large egg+ 1 yolk for the egg wash during blind-baking
Pinch of salt
Ground pepper (optional)

Transfer the butter to a large bowl. Add the ground pepper and mix it well.
Add the butter and rub till the mixture turns crumbly.
Add the egg and bring the dough together.
Shape like a sausage and wrap in clingfilm.
Chill for at least 40 minutes.
Take it out and roll into a circle larger than the tin.
With the help of the rolling pin, place it on the greased tin unfurling as you go.
Press the sides and trim off the edges. Sometimes I make a double-edged border by tucking the surplus dough inwards.
Chill it again for 15 minutes or so.
Butter a piece of greaseproof paper or silver foil and place it on the pastry with the buttered side downwards. Taking no chances here as sometimes, the paper gets stuck to the dough!
Place the baking beans and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the beans and brush the pastry with the egg yolk.
Put it back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove and set aside as you prepare the filling.

The filling:
6-7 chicken salami pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
Coarsely ground pepper
4 cubes of Amul cheese, grated
150 ml Amul cream
1 cup of washed and chopped greens
3 eggs
Oil to fry
Heat very little oil in a non-stick pan and fry the salami for a few minutes. Remove.
In the same pan, add the chopped onions and fry till the colour changes.
Add the greens and cook till done. This will take a few more minutes.
Take a bowl and beat the eggs in it. Add the cream and whisk till well-blended.
Add the pepper. I did not use salt here as the salami and the cheese had enough of it.

Place the salami on the bottom layer. If you like, you can tear them up.
Scatter the onion and greens mix on top of the salami.
Scatter the grated cheese on top of this mix.
Finally, the cream and eggs can go in.
Bake at 180C for 25-30 minutes. Remove when it is golden brown. Cool and cut into wedges. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Starfruit Jam Tarts

Starfruit jam tarts
Starfruit jam tarts
These jam tarts are pretty special. How so? Because the fruit for the jam used here is from the plant that's growing in one of my containers and I made the jam from my most recent harvest a couple of days ago. It's the first time I'll be posting about home-made jam. Another recipe for jam tarts is here. There are quite a few starfruit recipes in my posts. There's pie, chutney, salad and an upside down cake with the fruit. I have mostly been a pickle person and most acidic fruits are pickled. But this is the sweet variety so jam (with the intention of using it in tarts) was what I made.
The starfruit jam:
For the jam I looked up online for recipes and adapted mine from here. Starfruit jam is not something I have tasted or made earlier. I used about a little over a kilo of fruit. The ridged edges were trimmed and the fruit was cut into long pieces. It was easier to discard the seeds this way. A thumb-size piece of fresh ginger was grated into the fruit bowl. Seeds from four cardamom pods were pounded and added to the mix. The proportion of sugar was half the quantity of the fruit. All this was mixed together, covered, and left overnight in the fridge to infuse.
More fruits from my plant joined this batch later
The next morning the bowl was taken out and the fruit went into the blender. The mix then went to a pan on the stove where it simmered for nearly 45 minutes. I kept stirring at regular intervals and later did the plate test. A steel plate chilled in the fridge was taken out and a bit of the jam was dropped on the surface. The first test proved to be runny. And the second after a few more minutes remained a blob that did not budge. So the flame was put out and the jam was left to cool. Later, they were transferred to clean jars to be stored in the fridge.
starfruit jam
Starfruit jam
The jam tarts:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg
Rub the butter into the flour till the mixture is crumbly.
Break an egg into the mix and let the pastry come together.
If one egg isn't enough, sprinkle a bit of chilled water to the mix.
Bring the dough together and shape it like a sausage as that makes it easier to cut and use then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least at least 40 minutes.

Lightly grease a muffin mould. Take the dough out and roll out a large circle. 
Cut out the approximate size using a small bowl or plate for measurement. Continue till all the spaces in the muffin mould are filled.
Take a tablespoon of jam and place it on the tart shell.
With the remaining dough, roll out and cut out stars with the help of a cookie cutter.
Place them on top of the jam. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 15-18 minutes or till the tarts are golden and the jam bubbles away merrily.
Remove from the oven and cool. Jam takes a longer time to cool down as compared to other baked goodies.
These are so good at teatime! Like a proud mother I am bursting with pride! Using home-grown fruit and home-made jam! They certainly aren't good-looking jam tarts but they are stars in their own right!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fig & Cape Gooseberry Chutney

Fig & Cape Gooseberry Chutney
Fig & Cape Gooseberry Chutney
This chutney recipe is the same that we use for tomatoes and other acidic fruits. After the tart I made with the cape gooseberries I was wondering about how to use up the rest of the fruit. I haven't made this kind of sweet and sour chutney in a while. And the sight of the cape gooseberries reminded me of the first memories of tomatoes from my mother's garden. No, they were not golden but the delightful freshness and the way some of the "vines" clambered up the bamboo fence in our backyard with large clusters of ripening fruit would have made any gardener proud. Much as the sight of these golden berries! And the recipe for this chutney is the same that we had as children, with tomatoes. The only addition I made is with the figs, or in other recipes scattered across my blog, it's with the addition of pitted and soaked dates, prunes, apricots, and sometimes, raisins.
There are other fruits that are made the same way. Indian olives, a variety of jujube, green mangoes, the fruit of the roselle, and elephant apples are some of them. Two ingredients for this dish came from my mother's garden. Turmeric and the tej patta/Indian bay leaves.
2 cups cape gooseberries
12 dried figs
A quarter tsp panch puran ( a mix of 5 spices:equal parts of fennel,cumin, mustard,fenugreek and nigella)
2-3 Indian bay leaves
5-6 dried chillies
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
A quarter tsp cumin powder
A quarter tsp coriander powder
3 tbs grated jaggery
Salt to taste
1 tsp tamarind pulp
2 tbs mustard oil
Freshly-pounded turmeric from my mother's garden
Soak the figs in warm water for about 15 minutes. Cut them lengthwise and set aside.
Wash the cape gooseberries. Halve the larger ones and make small cuts on the smaller ones. This will be easier for the berries to release their juices.
Heat the oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add the bay leaves and the panch puran.
Break the chillies into bits and add them.
Add the turmeric powder with a little sprinkle of water so that the spice does not burn. Stir. Add the other powdered spices too.
Now the berries can go in. Stir in between. Let it cook till the juices are released and then start to thicken.
Then add the soaked and cut figs. Season with salt.
When it comes together, add the grated jaggery. As soon as the jaggery melts, the chutney will be done.
During the last two minutes of cooking, add the tamarind pulp and give it a good stir. This is to balance the sweetness in the chutney.
Turn off the gas and transfer the contents to a serving bowl. The bay leaves can be discarded at this point.
It takes only about 12 to 15 minutes for the cooking to be done. Chilli powder can be added but today I used bird's eye chillies and I didn't want all that heat so I broke them into pieces. 
If you feel that it's thickening up a bit too much, a little bit of the water used in soaking the figs can be sprinkled into the pan.
Although this chutney forms part of a meal with rice, I like it best with puris. More so when dried fruits are used in the dish. In this case the quantity of sugar/jaggery can be reduced because of the natural sweetness in these dried ingredients.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cape Gooseberry Tart With Almond Cream

cape gooseberry tart with almond cream
Cape gooseberry tart
Baking with fruit is something that I absolutely love! A tart wasn't what I had intended for my latest post but my husband returned home from Mumbai with these wonderful golden fruits encased in papery husks. He was there for the Mahindra Blues Festival. Although I have tasted them before, that didn't happen where I had a kitchen and an oven!!
The other day at the horticultural show I had photographed one plant that was on display. The flower was so pretty and the fruits looked like tiny lanterns hanging from the plant. It's not commonly seen around here so I was fascinated.
Cape gooseberry plant behind the tree tomato, the flower and fruit.

The plant is a perennial that's about 2-3 ft in height. The berries resemble tomatoes. They are juicy and have many small seeds. It is aptly named in Hindi, rasbhari which stands for juicy.
For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 large egg
( Although some sugar is added to sweet pastry, I usually leave out this part as I love it this way. The sweetness in the filling is good enough for me).
Transfer the flour to a large bowl. Add the butter and rub till the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and bring the dough together. A little sprinkling of iced water may be necessary at this moment but I left it out as the egg was enough.
Shape the dough into a sausage shape (as that makes it easier to cut according to the quantity needed).
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 40 minutes.
The almond cream:
100 grams almond flour
100 grams soft butter
100 grams fine sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Blend these ingredients together and chill till ready to use.
The cape gooseberries: I used about 20
Remove the husks. Wash and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Set aside.

Cape gooseberry tart
Cape gooseberry tart with almond cream

Take the dough out of the fridge. Cut half of it and check to see if it can be rolled out.
Skim a fine dusting of flour on your work surface and roll out the dough.
I don't grease my tins every time as there is enough butter in the dough and it doesn't stick at all!
With the help of the rolling pin, place the dough on your tart tin.
Press the sides and trim off any excess dough. Put it back in the fridge as you prepare the other ingredients.
Take it out and transfer the almond cream into the shell. Place the cape gooseberries all across the surface. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes.
Cool and serve with a dollop of cream.

I thought the baking would make the fruit more acidic but that was not so. The tartness is mild and I realized that this is indeed a great fruit for baking. But if I hadn't checked out images on the internet, this wouldn't have happened. This tart was inspired by a picture from Eat Your Tarte Out. I didn't go through the recipe so it isn't exactly the same. The idea of placing these golden fruits across the top was what I loved! 
Some portions where the fruit had released its juices looked as if the tart could have done some more time in the oven. But as I dug in, I knew no more baking was necessary...
Other tarts that I have posted with almond cream are in these posts:
Prune tart
Prune and rum tarts
Apricot and almond tart
Cherry frangipane tart

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Linzer Torte For Valentine's Day

Linzer torte
Linzer torte
Ever since I saw a photo of Linzer torte by a friend, I couldn't get the picture out of my mind. Pastry that was so beautiful I knew I had to bake it. Then it was the most enjoyable trip from URL to URL and finally I decided to bake it for Valentine's day. The Like angels have been visiting my blog and I was showered with more than 60 page likes over two days. It's not something that happens on my page on a regular basis!
Linzer torte is a crumbly pastry with a lattice pattern on top. The filling is made of  redcurrant, raspberry, plum or apricot jam. Cranberry jam is said to be popular in America. It is said to be the oldest cake recipe in the world and it originated in the city of Linz, Austria.
I did go to buy a bottle of raspberry jam but couldn't find it. So I got a bottle of cranberry and blueberry preserve which I used for the filling. I also used flaked and slivered almonds to decorate the pastry border.
For the pastry:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into little squares+ a bit extra for greasing the tin
1 egg+ 1 yolk for the egg-wash
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sugar to taste
15-20 whole almonds
Rub the butter into the flour, add the almond flour and the other dry ingredients.
Mix gently. Add the vanilla extract and the egg. Let the dough come together.
Divide the dough into two, wrap in clingfilm and chill while you prepare the almonds.
Linzer torte
The stages of making Linzer torte
Soak the almonds in hot water for about 30 minutes. Drain. take each almond between your thumb and index finger and rub. The skin will come off easily. Chop or flake them.
Take one half of the dough and roll out by skimming a touch of flour on your work surface.
Place it on a lightly greased loose-bottomed tart tin.
Trim off the edges and chill it as you work on the lattice design.
Take the other half of the dough and roll out. Using a pizza slicer, cut as many strips as needed.
Take out the pastry shell and fill it with jam.
Create the crisscross pattern on top of the pastry and seal the ends with one egg yolk.
The remaining strips can be used to fortify the edges, tightening the seal with the tines of a fork.
Brush with egg all across. Scatter the almonds all across the border.
Bake in preheated oven at 180C for about 25-30 minutes till golden brown. 
If the pastry turns too dark, place a sheet of greaseproof paper on top till the baking is complete.
Remove and cool. Dust with icing sugar before cutting it into wedges.

The friend I mentioned is Trudi Staeheli of the beautiful blog Lavender & Vanilla.
This pastry is said to taste better if kept for a day or two after baking. I had wanted to make it the day before but somehow I couldn't roll out the dough and they were turned into biscuits. The taste wasn't bad at all!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lettuce, Plum Tomato & Starfruit Salad

Lettuce & Plum Tomato Salad
Lettuce, plum tomato & starfruit salad
In our city, all roads seem to be leading to the grounds where the horticultural show is being held. That's where I headed to yesterday and that is why this salad came to be. I had gone with the intention of getting lettuce and plum tomatoes and also to see if I could a variety of herbs. With flowers, I only wanted sweet peas. But I ended up buying fruit trees for an area we are in the process of developing. So sweet peas took a back seat but I did get two varieties of lettuce, one plum tomato plant, a zucchini plant and plenty of local produce from all over our state.

I loved the way herbs like mint and Asian pennywort were planted on bamboo hollows (picture above). The picture below also has lavender basil and plum tomatoes. Most of the herbs used in western cooking were on display. They will need a while to be ready. By March, I hope I can plant some cinnnamon and lavender basil, thyme and oregano. The future looks good!!
The salad that I made today not only looked attractive but it was delicious. And with fresh produce, can it be anything else? For the dressing I used honey from Nagaland that we had bought at the Hornbill Festival. It's from rock bees and has a bitter-sweet taste as the bees feed on cane flowers. The lemon (about a dozen) came from a relative's garden), the red tomato is a local variety and the plum tomatoes came from the plant that I bought. The starfruit was plucked this morning and the mint came from my potted garden.
Ingredients for the salad
A dozen lettuce leaves (both dark and regular green), wash and drain in a colander
1 starfruit, cut off the hard ridge and slice thin into stars
1 red tomato, cut into quarters
6 plum tomatoes, halved
6-7 green grapes, halved
A few sprigs of mint, leaves can be roughly chopped or left whole
1 red chilli, discard the seeds and cut into thin strips
The dressing:
2 tbs sesame oil
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs honey
Salt to taste
1 clove of roasted garlic, crushed and chopped
Brassica and nasturtium blooms to decorate
Toasted nuts for an extra crunch (optional)

Tear off the lettuce into uneven bits and put them in a bowl. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and mix.
In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the dressing. Check to see if any adjustments have to be made. Pour the dressing over the salad and give it a good toss. Add the toasted and roughly chopped nuts, if using. Transfer to a serving dish and decorate with the edible blooms.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Lemon Curd Layer Cake With Crystallized Flowers
Lemon Curd Layer Cake With Crystallized Flowers
When I saw the latest issue of BBC Good Food/India magazine, my heart skipped several beats as the cover photo was a cake that was straight out of a fairy tale. I knew I had (to try) to replicate it even if  I'm usually stick to the simplest forms. Regular visitors will know that I' am always inspired by the contents of this fabulous magazine.
Because of blogging about food I am willing to try out certain techniques in baking now. Why didn't I do certain things earlier? Like baking pastry, making different kinds of simple frosting, or even making crystallized flowers? Growing up without an oven (still very common in our parts) the processes that go into baking seemed very time-consuming. Alternatively, curry or chutney was so much easier! But now I am raring to go....
Although I have come across sugar flowers on recipes like 'Blow-away sponge with crystallized rose petals' or something like that, the idea of brushing the flowers with egg white and drying them seemed like an endless chore!! But the said cake had edible flowers so I picked some of my best nasturtiums and a three strawberry flowers. I didn't have the heart to pluck the strawberry blooms but a bit of variety always looks better.
The sponge...divided into three
The sponge:
250g soft butter + extra to grease the tin
250g caster sugar
250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
1-2 tsp milk
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and set aside.
Heat the oven to 180C. 
Butter and line the base of a 20 cm tin.
Beat the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and lemon zest together using a beater till the batter is smooth.
Add enough milk so that the mixture drops off a spoon.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.

The lemon curd:
50g butter 
50g sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 egg yolks
Melt the butter, sugar and lemon juice over a double boiler. When the butter and sugar melts, add the egg yolks one by one and whisk continuously till it becomes thick. This may take 10-15 minutes. When it is ready, it will coat the back of the spoon.

The crystallized flowers:
Drying the blooms.
1 egg white
3 tbsp water
100 gram caster sugar
Mix the egg white with 3 tablespoons of water and lightly brush it on the edible petals.
Dust them with the caster sugar and dry them on a wire rack overnight in a warm place.
They can be stored in an airtight container to be used when required.

The icing:
250g soft butter
350g icing sugar
juice of zest of 1 lemon
lemon curd (recipe given above)
Make the icing by beating the butter with the icing sugar, lemon zest and juice till light and fluffy.
Divide the sponge into three. Use 2/3 of the icing to fill the cake and top each layer with some lemon curd.
Frost the top with the remaining butter cream and decorate with the crystallized flowers.

There were quite a few changes that I made with the measurements. I cut down on the sugar and also the lemon juice. I baked the sponge in one tin as my tin had enough space and I could slice the cake into three pieces. As for the edible flowers, other blooms might have looked prettier but home-grown blooms are safest. I don't use any pesticides and I only use cow manure and vegetable waste from my kitchen. The sponge should not have been that brown but .....
I loved the cake. It's sinful indulgence but it's not something that's made often. The sweetness of all that sugar and the tartness of the lemon made me reach out for another slice!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Curried Chickpeas With Pumpkin

Curried Chickpeas
Curried chickpeas with pumpkin
Curried chickpeas are a favourite breakfast dish in our house (and in several parts of our country). They are versatile and can be teamed up with so many other vegetables. They are also packed with proteins, minerals and vitamins. 
We also often use the smaller variety of chickpeas known as Bengal gram. This is also comfort food. So easy to make and the associations that one has with this kind of food goes back to the time the taste buds could discern the differences between sweet and savoury, or delicious and never-going-try-this-again!
The other day I made curried chickpeas with pumpkin which I teamed up with rotis made with yeast. Sometimes I keep aside some bread dough and make them into wonderfully soft rotis with a texture and taste that's a cross between a nan and bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight before the cooking begins...
Curried Chickpeas
The curry served with yeasted rotis

200 grams boiled and drained kabuli chana (reserve the water)
1 cup of diced pumpkin, skin removed
1 large onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
A quarter tsp ginger paste
1 heaped tsp cumin and coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
A quarter tsp garam masala
1 star anise
2 chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste
3 tbs mustard oil
Chopped herbs for the garnish 

Heat the oil in a pan. Let it come to smoking point.
Throw in the star anise and add the onions. Fry till the colour changes.
Add the ginger, garlic, and the rest of the spices except the garam masala.
Keep cooking till it all comes together then add the chickpeas.
Cook till they soften up some more then add the diced pumpkin.
Stir from time to time. The tomatoes can go in now. Season with salt.
Add about a cup of the reserved water. This will depend on how much gravy you want your dish to be. You might need to add some more water later.
Continue to cook till the curry becomes thicker. It doesn't matter if the pumpkin pieces turn mushy.
Add the garam masala then give it a good stir. Remove from the flame and add the garnish.
This type of curry goes best with all varieties of Indian flat bread.
You can squeeze a bit of lemon juice for that slight tang in the curry.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Banana Loaf With Chocolate/Hazelnut Frosting

Banana Loaf
Banana loaf with chocolate/hazelnut frosting
Some recipes are planned and executed but most come together because one needs to finish off the ingredients before they reach their expiry date. Well I try to include exact recipes in most of my posts but I have been blogging about food for less than two years and have been a-handful-of-this and a-handful-of-that practitioner for donkey's years. Believe me, the latter still works out best for me.;)
And this was how this cake came to be. The two overripe forlorn bananas sitting in the fridge had to be cooked. And the chocolate/hazelnut spread that nobody was keen on using seemed a good idea to be used as frosting for the cake. So here we go....
2 overripe bananas
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup fine sugar
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/3 cup raisins (wash and pat dry)
1 tsp candied orange peel 
For the frosting:
I used the remains of a 200g container of chocolate/hazelnut spread. Only a bit of it had been used.
3 tbs double cream

Line the base of a loaf tin and grease the sides with butter. Set aside.
Peel and mash the bananas well. 
Beat in the egg and whisk till it is incorporated in the mixture.
Mix the rest of the wet ingredients.
Sieve the flour with the baking and cinnamon powder and transfer the mixture into a large bowl.
Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.
Make a well in the centre and pour the wet ingredients.
Bring it all together and transfer the batter to the greased and lined tin.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 40 minutes until golden brown.
Check the centre with a skewer to see if it comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and cool. After about 15 minutes, cool on a wire rack.
Banana loaf

For the frosting, transfer the chocolate/hazelnut spread to a bowl.
Place it on a bowl of simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the water.
Stir and keep it on the heat till the mixture melts. Then add about three tablespoons of double cream and mix well. 
Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Spread it on the top of the loaf and create a pattern with the back of the spoon.
Chill till the frosting is set.
Cut into slices. This is a wonderful cake to serve as a tea-time snack maybe with a dollop of cream.
Banana Loaf
Coffee and banana cake with a dollop of cream
I carried the cake with me when I visited my sister-in-law. We had it with tea and with some other savoury snacks she had made. The banana flavour was subtle in this cake. It was much more during the process of baking. But the best part about adding fruit, apart from the taste, is that the cake remains moist. I thought it would be a dense cake but it wasn't. At least the ingredients I mentioned at the at the beginning of my post did not go to waste.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Spring Onion Naphlam Chutney

The spring onions that I am growing in a wooden container are about to bloom. Very soon the season will be over and we'll have to wait for the cooler months before we can add them to our dishes as lavishly and generously as we want. There are so many chutney recipes but this is what we have quite often. It's made with naphlam.
Naphlam or fermented fish is a word that comes up again and again in my posts. It's an acquired taste but for us most meals would not be complete without a dish made with this vital ingredient. We usually buy it from the dried fish vendor but this time I came back with the home-made variety that my mother had made. 
A bunch of spring onions
Roasted chillies...7-8
Roasted tomato...1
A pinch of soda bicarbonate
Salt to taste
Wash, drain and finely chop the spring onions. Set aside.
Roast the naphlam on a tawa till done on both sides.
Chop the chillies.  Peel the skin of the tomato and chop it fine.
In a bowl mix the naphlam and the salt with the back of a tablespoon. Mixing is best when it is done by hand but I'm sensitive to chillies...
Add the chillies and the soda bicarb. Then add the finely chopped tomato and the chopped spring onions. Mix well. Check the salt and adjust accordingly. 
The chutney is now ready.
The only ingredient missing in this picture is the soda bicarbonate. Next to the spring onions are fish mint leaves. They are pungent but equally popular as a chutney ingredient. These two were not mixed together but fish mint can also be made in the same way.
These are the basic ingredients for the simplest form of naphlam chutney. Tomatoes are optional. The herbs usually used in this kind of recipe are: coriander, serrated coriander, bahanda (a variety of basil), mojokhmao/fish mint, mugongre/Blumea balsamifera. Chopped onions are added to enhance the taste but again, that is optional.