Monday, February 29, 2016

A Salad of Beets, Strawberries & Nasturtiums

February came and is almost over. And I have not been regular with my posts. But outside much is happening. The air is filled with the faint aroma of mango blossoms. Looks like this year the harvest will be very good. It's also that time of the year when I get to add these pretty little edible blooms to my salads. How I wish this was possible throughout the year but the blooming season (for nasturtiums) is only during the cooler months and before the heat comes with a fierceness that we tend to forget temporarily as we wrap ourselves in warm clothes, sit by the fire and get mesmerised by dew on leaves and grass...

I grow strawberries in pots and I have enough to add them to salads or decorate my desserts. But not so much that I can make preserves. Maybe such a harvest will happen in future.:) 
2 beets, roasted in the oven 
A bunch of baby spinach
A few sprigs of mint
3-4 strawberries, hulled, halved and quartered
A handful of nasturtium flowers
A few cherry/globe tomatoes, halved
About a dozen walnuts, toasted
For the dressing: 
1 tsp lemon juice
A quarter tsp freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
1 tbs wild honey
About 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Peel the beets and cut into even slices.
In a bowl/platter add all the ingredients except the blooms as you don't want to bruise them.
Mix the ingredients of the dressing and drizzle it over the salad.
Give it a gentle toss and garnish with edible flowers.
This serves two. I love to have this as a snack. The taste of roasted beets mixed with the other ingredients is wonderful. The strawberries, nasturtiums, spinach and tomatoes are all home grown. I also added some brassica flowers.
The wild honey I used was bought at our city's horticultural show and was marketed by the Udalguri Farmers' Society.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Raisin & Orange Brioches

Raisin & Orange Brioches
The last bakeware I ordered online in 2015 was a silicone briochette mould. I imagined this enriched bread with a topknot would look best in its fluted nest(s). Although this holds six brioches, I usually make the rest of the dough into round little buns. We had these for breakfast yesterday. They are so good on their own with a cup of tea but I made some orange butter and that took the taste a notch higher. I imagine food bloggers everywhere must be tempted with serve-ware and baking dishes. For me, sometimes it's the crockery and the cutlery that grabs my attention rather than the food.:) On to the recipe now.
My silicone briochette mould from Urban Dazzle
55 grams butter, melted + extra for greasing
225 grams all-purpose flour
A quarter tsp salt
2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
1 tsp fine sugar
55 grams raisins
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 tbsp lukewarm water
2 eggs, beaten
1 beaten egg for the glaze
Orange butter to serve

Sift the flour and salt in a warmed bowl and stir in the yeast, sugar, raisins and orange rind. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, water, and melted butter. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet mix and make a soft dough. Transfer the contents on a floured surface and knead for at least 12-15 minutes.

Brush a clean bowl with oil and place the dough in it. Cover with clingfilm and set aside for about an hour or until it doubles in size. Meanwhile grease the moulds if you're not using silicone bake-ware.
Turn out on a surface dusted with flour and knead lightly for a minute. Roll the dough into a rope shape. Divide equally setting some of the dough aside for the topknots. Place the balls in the moulds. With a floured finger, press a hole in the centre of each ball. Shape the remaining pieces of dough into small balls and press into the holes. Flatten the tops slightly.
The classic way of making the topknot is shown in this video.
Cover the mould with a baking sheet and let the dough rise for another hour.
Brush the brioches with beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven at 200C for about 18-20 minutes or until they turn a rich golden brown.
Serve warm with orange butter.
Raisin & orange brioches
Raisin & orange brioche with orange butter
To make orange butter, I added a teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of orange rind and the reduced juice of 1 orange to 50 grams of soft butter. This was all mixed together. The orange juice was reduced down to 1 tsp.
Raisin & orange brioches

The orange butter complemented the hint of orange in the brioche. It was a mildly sweet breakfast but filling and extremely satisfying.
Although I have baked brioche several times, the inspiration for this particular recipe came from a tiny little book titled Baking: 100 everyday recipes by Parragon Books.
Brioche buns
Sometimes I make them into the usual round buns
This recipe is enough for 12 brioches but I made them rather large and ended up with 8. Two were baked in a small tart mould.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Banoffee Pie Again!

Banoffee pie
A slice of banoffee pie
Because I had blogged about banoffee pies in December, it just seems so soon to write on the same recipe. But with my younger son home (he divides his time between Delhi and Kathmandu) I have been making a few desserts. And one advantage of being a food blogger is that the children can go through my posts and choose what they would like to eat!:)) And since he leaves tomorrow this is his last dessert on this trip home.
I have been making dulce de leche quite often. It may sound tedious...boiling condensed milk tins for 3-4 hours until it turns to toffee but the joy of opening that tin to discover the golden caramel is such a delight. Sometimes I make a simple dessert of broken bits of biscuits, a few coarsely ground nuts, some cream and a scoop of dulce de leche. That's heaven in a shot glass!
Ingredients for the filling:instant coffee, whipped cream, dulce de leche, bananas & chocolate
I made the pastry shell from left-over pastry dough that I usually keep in the fridge. Rolled it out and baked it blind till it was golden brown. After it had cooled down, I started assembling. While the pastry was baking, I whipped the cream till it held its shape. The other ingredients were all ready and waiting to be used...

I layered the cooled pastry shell with about 3 heaped tablespoons of the caramel. Then two bananas were peeled, chopped and scattered over the caramel. Forgot to take a picture here. I sprinkled instant coffee powder on the banana slices. That gives a really nice taste as you dig into the pie. The cream was piped on top of the bananas. The final garnish was a bar of milk chocolate grated all over the cream layer.
Banoffee pie
Banoffee pie
Voila, the banoffee is ready! This tastes best at room temperature. As I type this only one wedge remains. And that piece, I know forsooth, will not see the light of day!!

I only made a single layer of everything. You could make two banana layers with more chocolate in between. And more coffee too! The desserts I make aren't overly sweet. First of all, I commit the cardinal sin of making sweet pastry shell without adding sugar. No sugar is added to the whipped cream. The only sweetness comes from the caramel, the bananas and the grated chocolate. The last isn't much. And the darker the caramel the less sweet it tastes. It's almost like having a guilt-free dessert.:)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Almond & Basil Pesto

Ever since the horticultural shows in our city got bigger, more herbs and vegetables that were available only in the metros came our way. Earlier, no nursery stocked basil and oregano and other herbs used in Western cooking. I could use these only on my trips to Delhi to visit my sons. It's only been two years that I'm growing basil but there were never enough leaves to make pesto! My three plants are doing well and today I made pesto for the first time with home-grown basil leaves.
For the uninitiated here's a description from Wiki.
Pesto or pesto alla genovese is a sauce originating in Genoa, the capital city of Liguria in Northern Italy. It traditionally consists of crushed garlic, European pine nuts, coarse salt, basil, Parmesan cheese and pecorino sardo (cheese made from sheep's milk), all blended with olive oil.

There are several variations online with so many other additions. I checked out some sites to find the easiest ones. I had actually checked almond pesto as I usually have a good stock of almonds and pine nuts are frightfully expensive. So here's the very simple dairy-free recipe which will be enough for 3-4 people.
11/2 cups basil
40 almonds
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
(I didn't measure the oil as I kept adding it till I felt the consistency was right).

Wash the basil leaves and drain them in a colander.
Toast the almonds in a pan till they let out a nutty and fragrant aroma. Set aside.
Blitz the almonds in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients till you get to the consistency you like. I made it almost fine.
This must be the easiest pesto recipe and it was so delicious with the pasta we had for lunch today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Drumstick Flowers With Eggs

Drumstick flowers fried with eggs
The days simply flew by...I should have been my most active but the reconstruction of our ground floor and the shifting of furniture upstairs and cooking in my kitchenette upstairs has taken its toll. It's only now that the tiles have been laid and the walls are getting readied to be painted that the whirring of machines has stopped. When the house turns upside down, the motivation to take food pictures becomes greatly reduced. This dish was made about a week ago when I bought the drumstick flowers on our return journey.
Drumstick flowers
The season of the blooms will soon be over and the flowers will soon turn to seed pods that we recognise as drumsticks. Our landscape is filled with these creamy blooms that the birds and the bees love to feed on. This picture was taken a few years ago when a crimson sunbird was feeding on the blossoms. The blooms also signify the end of our short winters and the beginning of our hot and punishing summers.
Drumstick flowers
In our cuisine edible flowers are usually mixed with eggs. It's the most simple form of cooking but tastes delicious too. The flowers are slightly bitter but is said to be loaded with vitamins.
2 bunches drumstick flowers 
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 green chillies, chopped fine
2 tbs mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp ground black pepper
4 eggs, beaten
Some coriander leaves for the garnish 

Separate the flowers from the stems. Wash and set aside.
Heat about 2 cups of water in a pan. Blanch the washed flowers for a couple of minutes. Remove and drain in a colander.
When the blanched flowers get cool enough to be handled, take a handful and gently squeeze out the moisture. Repeat with the rest of the flowers in the colander.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and let them sweat a bit till they turn a little pale.
Add the chopped green chillies, stir, and throw in the flowers. 
Cook for a few minutes till the flowers wilt. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the beaten eggs and stir briskly till the eggs are done.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves.
This preparation goes well as an accompaniment to rice and dal. This is usually one of the side dishes of a meal and will serve 3-4 people.