Sunday, April 16, 2017
East meets west in this simple meal. One is a hearty Indian soup referred to as shorba in the northern part of our country. And the other has its origins in Italy. This year my tomato plants took a beating as our garage floor had to be raised. I usually grow my plants next to the garage as there's any other space left. Work went on while I was away and many tomato plants were destroyed. I did get some green ones and a few ripe ones but that was about it.
So when my husband's cousin turned up bearing a bagful of ripe home-grown tomatoes, I was over the moon! The first thing that I made was a tomato tart with left-over pastry dough. Several more went into butter chicken with store-bought tandoori chicken.:)
Tamatar ka shorba:
2 cups ripe tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
1 red chilli, scored lengthwise, seeds intact
Salt to taste
Sugar for the balance
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp paprika powder
1/2 tsp toasted and ground cinnamon powder
1 star anise
A few peppercorns
2 tbs vegetable oil
A quarter tsp cumin seeds
In a pressure cooker, add all the ingredients except the sugar, oil, and cumin seeds. Add a little more than a cup of water.
Let it cook for 4 whistles. I used a small pressure cooker.
After the steam goes off, open the lid. Discard the whole spices.
Blitz in a mixer. Check the seasoning and make adjustments.
Add the sugar, as per taste, and blitz again.
Transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat the vegetable oil in a pan.
Throw in the cumin seeds. Switch off the gas as soon as they sputter.
Pour this oil on the bowl of shorba.
Garnish with herbs. I used a bit of serrated coriander in this shorba.
There are quite a few variations in shorba recipes but I think this is also really good!
I came across this saffron focaccia recipe from a book by Martha Day. The dough is made in a food processor. But I knead with my hands for all the bread that I bake.
Pinch of saffron strands
150 ml boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp easy-blend yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
For the topping:
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 small onion cut into thin slices
1 tbsp olive oil
Infuse the saffron in the boiling water. Leave to cool till tepid.
Place the salt, yeast, flour and olive oil in a large bowl.
Make a well in the centre and add the saffron water.
Mix till the dough comes together then tilt the contents to a work surface and knead for 10-15 minutes.
Then place the dough in a bowl, cover and let it rise till double in size.
Punch down the risen dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it into a thick disc.
You could roll it in other shapes too. But I used a circular ceramic pie dish. This was lightly greased. The recipe had an oval bread.
Preheat the oven to 200 C. Press indentations in the dough.
Set aside for 25-30 minutes.
Cover with the topping ingredients, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes or till the loaf sounds hollow.
Leave to cool.
This was a lovely combination. And a first for me. In kitchen gardens it's the end of the season for tomatoes. They usually last till May but the rains came early this year . I can imagine a lot of households busy making use of the last tomatoes from their gardens. As for me I still have to make some sauce and some chutney.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
I made this about two weeks ago. It was simply cooked but full of flavour. I'm so stuck into curried versions that I don't really try to make other variations as often as I should. (Food blogger's point of view:)).
2 chicken leg quarters
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground
1 small piece of ginger, peeled and ground
Salt to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
A dash of cumin (roasted and ground)
1/2 tsp roasted and ground coriander
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Enough vegetable oil to deep-fry the onions
A bunch of cooked spinach to serve along with this dish
Marinate the chicken with the first four ingredients for an hour.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they are crisp and golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper.
Let them cool then grind the lot into a paste.
In another pan, take about two tablespoons of the oil that the onions were fried in.
Add the marinated chicken and cook by turning at regular intervals for about 15-20 minutes.
Then add the pepper, chilli powder, coriander, cumin and the onion paste.
Pour a bit of water so that there's some sauce-like gravy. Cook for some more minutes till the chicken is done and the gravy is thick.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and pour the sauce on top.
Arrange the spinach on the sides. Decorate with herbs or edible flowers.
With the spinach, I removed the stems and used only the leaves. These were washed and cooked in a pan for a few minutes till they wilted. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of ground pepper.
The stems went into a dish of curried potatoes on another day. I also love to add the stems to dal.
I had intended to use the onions for another dish. But I changed my mind and ground them up. It worked like magic.This dish goes well with both rice or rotis.
Monday, April 10, 2017
The haul of goodies that came back with me from Kashmir included a bottle of mulberry jam. And pie was the first thing that came to my mind. What's new...you all must be thinking...A pie with the fresh fruit would have been ideal but we are talking about a fruit that spoils easily. And since I don't have them growing in my garden (although the seeds I sowed have sprouted and grown) jam isn't a bad choice.
I was happy to get this bottle of jam in a supermarket as I was looking for a particular brand of masala. It is mentioned on the label that this was introduced for the first time by JKAIDCL (Jammu & Kashmir State Agro Industries Development Corporation). Mulberry or shahtoot has medicinal properties the details, in case you are interested, can be found here.
|Walnuts, sour cream and the mixture.|
|A saffron field in Pampore|
For the pastry
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
100 grams butter, chilled and cubed
Iced water to sprinkle if the egg isn't enough to bind the dough
( I did not add sugar to the dough as I didn't want the pie to be overly sweet).
Beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the flour in a large bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour till the mixture is crumbly.
Add the egg and bring the dough together.
Shape it into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.
If you plan this ahead, let the dough rest overnight.
Take out the dough and cut enough out to roll into a circle that's a little bigger than your pie dish.
Prick gently with a fork on the surface. Let this rest in the fridge as you get the filling ready.
Mulberry jam (I used half from the 500 g bottle)
2 yolks + 1 yolk for the egg wash
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbs almond extract
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Beat the egg yolks and add the sour cream to it. Add the next four ingredients and give it a good whisk. Lastly, add the walnuts.
Take the rested pastry bottom and spread the jam on it.
Quickly roll out the other half of the dough and set it aside.
Pour the egg/sour cream mixture on top of the jam.
Cover the pastry with the other half. Cut off excess dough and tuck the sides inwards..
Create a pattern with a fork on the edges to make it more secure.
Cut out patterns with any left-over dough and paste on the surface by using the egg wash.
Prick with a fork on the surface for steam to escape while baking. I left this out as the dough tore in three places. Which is why these flower patterns are not symmetrically placed. Tearing is always asymmetrical.:)
Brush with egg and bake in a preheated 200 C oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 180 C and bake till the pie is golden brown. This may require another 15-20 minutes. Before the pie went into the oven, it did feel that the filling was not enough. But as it baked it swelled up and did its bit of filling the kitchen with magical aromas. The addition of eggs/sour cream mixture and also not adding sugar to the pastry dough cut down the sweetness of the jam. I had a slice with a dollop of sour cream and fennel leaves. Better than a regular jam pie.:)
Sunday, April 9, 2017
I got back from a wonderful holiday in Kashmir. Though it was a short trip, it was so enjoyable that even now, going about my regular chores, I think I'm smiling most of the time because my head is filled with images of blossoms of every hue! Walking out of the airport in Srinagar, the sight of cherry and almond blossoms lifted our spirits. There was a slight drizzle and rain-bearing clouds in the distance.
The next morning was spent exploring the area surrounding our guest house. We stayed in the outskirts, near the railway station. But this was nowhere like any other station in India. Plum and peach orchards dotted the area and we had such a lovely time walking around with our cameras.
In the afternoon we headed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. Spread over 12 hectares this is the largest tulip garden in Asia. Two million tulip bulbs have been planted here in 48 colours. Apart from tulips many cooler climate flowers like hyacinths, primroses, cyclamens and others were blooming. The air was fragrant with all these blossoms and the colours were a sight to behold.
The Zabarwan range of hills in the background had clumps of blossoming fruit trees.
Other flowers that were blooming in the garden.
Although dinner was usually at the guest house, lunch was Kashmiri wazwan. Here's a sample from Shamiana restaurant near Dal lake. It consisted of rista/meat balls in red gravy, rogan josh/aromatic lamb curry, seekh kabab in gravy, nan and rice.
On the way to Pahalgam we stopped at a bakery and bought some local bread called baqerkhani. The baker was happy to have us drop by that he gave us a large coconut biscuit to taste. There are many bakeries all along the route and Kashmiris are known to be experts at baking bread.
The Lidder river in Pahalgam.
More Kashmiri wazwan. Chicken curry, gushtaba, Kashmiri pulao and seekh kabab. All very delicious! A description of wazwan from Wiki. Wazwan is a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine, the preparation of which is an art and a point of pride in Kashmiri culture culture and identity. Almost all the dishes are meat-based.
My post isn't done but Blogger is imperative that I do not post any more photos. I wonder if others are facing the same issue. There's more to follow as we also went to Gulmarg and did some of the sights in Srinagar. My haul consisted of all kinds of nuts, dried berries, saffron, local honey and local mulberry jam. In fact I had baked a pie using the jam. Too bad I can't post the pictures. I'll try again later.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Despite the threat of rain it's beginning to feel humid. And it feels just right to have a bowl of this refreshing cold cucumber soup. The recipe is from the book Pomegranates & Roses by the noted Iranian chef, Ariana Bundy. I often watch her shows on TV and love her recipes. The first recipe I tried from the book was again to do with yogurt...a yogurt cake.
The rose petals are from my garden. I am now growing a few rose plants in the colours shown below. Since I love edible flowers, I think I'll get a constant supply of roses from now on.:)
Although the idea came from the book, I made my own version. Some ingredients are not readily available. This recipe serves 4.
400 grams full fat yogurt
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tbs raisins, soaked and chopped
3 tbs toasted walnuts, chopped
Spring onions, chopped
1/2 tsp dried mint
1 tbs chopped fresh mint
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
1 tbs dried rose petals to decorate (optional)
Whisk the yogurt with the salt. Then add all the ingredients except the rose petals. Just before serving in individual bowls, sprinkle the rose petals. When the weather gets very hot you can add some ice cubes.
This is a most refreshing soup and just right for our kind of weather. If you want, you could add a bit of powdered sugar or honey. But for me, the sweetness from the raisins was good enough.
I had ordered this book online and it arrived when I was drying some rose petals that had come in a bouquet the previous day, So I couldn't resist taking this picture!
The recipe in the book uses a mix of Greek yogurt, full-fat natural yogurt and some sour cream. It also uses some finely chopped tarragon sprigs.
I came across a variation of this recipe in another book...The Moti Mahal Cookbook by Monish Gujral. Here it is named Iranian Raita (Iranian Relish) and made like our Indian raita with the addition of honey, salt, white pepper powder, chopped raisins, roasted and powdered cumin seeds and garnished with chopped coriander. Sounds delicious!
Friday, March 24, 2017
Although I often bake tarts, I usually use shortcrust pastry. But a brioche tart had been on my mind for a while. I finally got around to making it the other day. It is still pleasant to work in the kitchen with the March showers making the weather a little cool. My only regret is that my mango tree has not bloomed this year. Not to see the blooms/tiny mangoes and the sparrows feeding on them/on the insects buzzing around them is certainly not a sight I am accustomed to. Not at this time of the year.
There's a recipe for brioche buns here. I left out the raisins and orange zest and used the rest of the ingredients. I had used half of the dough for a trial run, baking a small tart without the custard and adding prunes and walnuts only. It turned out a little dry.
With this one, the dough rested overnight and the next day I used a 10" ceramic pie dish. I didn't roll the dough to cover the dish like one would do with shortcrust pastry but used it for the rim it would create to hold the filling.
Then I folded the border and crimped it. You can see here that I need to work on my crimping.:)
I made a bit of custard with three egg yolks, 150 ml milk, some cream, vanilla extract, grated nutmeg and sugar. I forgot to add the grated lemon zest so I scattered them on top before the tart went into the oven.
After about 40 minutes, the dough had risen so I made dimples all across the base.
The quantity of the custard was not much. This was made so that the prunes would have a moist base as an earlier small tart I had made turned out to be too dry for my liking. First the custard was strained and poured on the base. Then I arranged a handful of prunes. This was followed by a scattering of walnuts that were coarsely broken. The last was a scattering of grated lemon zest. It looked quite nice although my camera didn't do justice to the dish.:(
Then it went into a preheated 180C oven for about 25 minutes. The browning happened soon so 15 minutes into the baking, I used a piece of foil to cover the tart.
This turned out to be one of the most delicious tarts ever! Now I'll be looking at other options with fruits. There's a whole brioche (tart) world out there waiting to be explored!
Saturday, March 18, 2017
The other day I used a whole pumpkin to cook rice in it. The seeds and stringy bits were discarded and the shell made a lovely and fragrant 'rice pot'. Since some pieces were left over (after sharing with friends), two slices were mashed and made into chutney and the remaining slices went into these muffins.
These are the ingredients that went into the muffins:
A bunch of tender amaranth (picked from my pots)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 tbs dried basil (from my potted garden)
1 cup pumpkin pureed with
1/3 cup milk
3 eggs (the picture shows 2 but I added one more)
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup crumbled Feta
A few rashers of bacon
2 chillies, one green and one red, chopped
1 tbs ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for frying the onions and the greens
Wash and chop up the greens. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the bacon for a few minutes. Remove and set aside. You can chop/break them up into smaller pieces.
In the same oil, add the onions and cook til they turn pale. Remove.
Add the greens in the same pan and cook till they are almost done. Remove and let it cool.
Add all the wet ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.Then add the dry ingredients and mix well.
Fill the muffin moulds with the mix and bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
I used a silicone mould for 6 and the rest of the batter went into a paper-lined muffin tin. Which is why I did not have to use extra oil/butter to grease the moulds.
The batter yielded 14 muffins. The ones baked in the muffin tin were smaller in size.
Since the muffins were savoury. I thought a salad would make a lovely accompaniment. I used pea shoots (again from my pots) and strawberries and a handful of spinach. The dressing had mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, spring onions, salt and extra virgin olive oil. For a bit of crunch I added pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin I had used in cooking. It was indeed a good combination.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
I had never been innovative with salads preferring to stick to the ones I was familiar with. Like a cucumber/tomato/onion combination or cabbage/carrot/spring onions, you know, certainly not varied. It is only after I started blogging that I started looking at salads with much more respect than before.:) This is a salad that's good to snack on if you're peckish. The broccoli still has a bite to them as they were blanched only for a couple of minutes.
The mustard for the dressing is a brand of sweet Bavarian mustard gifted to us by our German guests, friends of my children.
I clicked this picture of Dario and Kathi outside our front door just before they left. I'm so happy with our German connection. It started with my sons studying in Delhi where they met. And now Dario's mother, Christina, is a good friend of mine. We often mail each other, talk about our lives and our children and the signs of our times.:) Some friendships come late in life but remain solid for eternity...
1 cup broccoli
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
5-7 toasted almonds, sliced
I used a small broccoli so the stem was removed and the whole head was plunged into boiling water. I took it out after a couple of minutes and plunged it into ice cold water to stop the cooking as well as keeping it a vibrant green. After it had cooled down, I cut off the florets and they went straight into a bowl.
To that I added hulled and quartered strawberries and the sliced onions.
1/3 cup strained yogurt
2 tbs mustard
A dash of salt
2 tsp honey
Freshly cracked black pepper, as per taste
If the strawberries you are using are sweet, you can reduce the amount of honey. Ours are quite acidic.
Pour all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix it thoroughly.
Now add the dressing to the bowl where the other ingredients have been placed. If you feel that the mixture is a little too thick, you can thin it down by adding a bit of water. Mix well and then transfer the contents to a serving platter. Scatter the sliced almonds and top with the edible blooms.
I had never used such a dressing before. But it tasted so good! There will be plenty of trials for other recipes before the mustard gets over...
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Not a quiche again!! I know. I know! But it's the first day of March and I wanted to try out something new regarding quiches. I had been reading up on coconut oil crusts and I had wanted to make one. But the dough didn't really come together. Maybe it was the use of whole-wheat flour along with all-purpose flour. Or maybe it was something else. So I went ahead with the usual chilled butter routine to which I added half and half of the two kinds of flours mentioned above.
The result was a crisp crust and wonderful to dig in to. to the dough I added a dash of ground pepper and instead of binding it with egg, I used chilled water only. For the salad, I grabbed whatever I could from my pots including basil and brassica blooms. The pairing worked well. And it feels good to start a new month with something that's easy to make and comforting to eat!
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
50 grams butter, chilled and cubed + extra for greasing your tin & parchment paper/foil
Iced water as needed
A dash of freshly ground black pepper
Mix the two flours in a bowl and add the butter. Rub the butter in the flour using your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the chilled water and bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 40 minutes.
Take it out and cut in half. Put the other half back in the fridge. Roll out the dough on a surface with a slight dusting of flour. Then place it in a greased tin and refrigerate it as you work on the filling.
3 smoked pork sausages
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
1 green capsicum
1 tbs olive oil
A dash of ground pepper+ extra top add later
2 cubes of Amul cheese, grated
1 green capsicum, seeds and white bits removed and chopped like the onions
Salt, as per taste
2 eggs + 1 yolk for the egg wash
Heat a pan and add the oil. Throw in the onions and fry till they turn translucent. Add the capsicum. Remove the casings of the sausages and crumble them into chunks. Add the chunks to the pan. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt because of the cheese that's to be added later.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Take out the tin with the pastry from the fridge. Place a piece of foil or parchment paper with the greased side touching the pastry. This makes it easy to remove the paper and the beans. Place the baking beans and bake for ten minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the paper and beans. Brush the surface with egg and bake again for another ten minutes.
Remove and let it cool down as you work on the braids for the border.
Take out the remaining chilled dough from the fridge and roll out narrow rectangular shapes a little longer than the length of your baking dish. Work quickly as it becomes difficult to plait if the dough is not cold. Cut three thin strips and start braiding. I made 2 separate sets and cut out 2 leaf patterns for the corners. I didn't want the 'joining' areas to look messy so I hid them with the leaves.:)
Place the braids on the borders of the blind-baked shell with the use of egg yolk as a binder. Stick the leaves in the corners with egg. Put the onion/sausage/onion mixture in the shell. Mix the eggs with some cream and ground pepper. Pour it on top of the filling. Then scatter the grated cheese on top. Brush the braided edge and the leaf cut-outs with egg yolk and bake for about 30 minutes.
If you feel that the edges are darkening a bit too much, place a piece of foil about 10 minutes before the quiche comes out of the oven.
I had never used whole-wheat flour for a quiche. This was buttery and oh-so-crisp! I loved every bite! I teamed it up with a salad that I made in a jiffy. From my pots I grabbed a little bit of each:
And from the fridge, a small carrot.
The dressing was made with a mix of honey, salt, ground pepper and apple cider vinegar.
I didn't measure the cream as I added just a little bit. Moreover the baking dish I used was small. Its breadth is 4" and length is 6". About 2 spoonfuls of the sausage/capsicum mix also remained. But the flavour of the sausages made the quiche even more delicious. Happy March everyone!
Saturday, February 25, 2017
The other day with the wind and the rain our power supply was erratic. Particularly in the kitchen and two more rooms. I had bought some beets and the Parmesan cheese, a gift from my friend Christina from Germany, was waiting to be used. But without power for my oven, I decided to use my good old cooker. Years ago most of my cakes were baked in the pressure cooker.
I couldn't roast the beets. So they were boiled till done but with a little bit of bite still left in them.
The pastry was made with one cup of flour and 50 grams of butter. To this I added some crushed dried basil. The basil was grown in my pots and the surplus that I snipped off before the flowering started were dried and stored.
I roasted two medium onions in the cooker. They were wrapped in foil and I kept the flame at medium till the wonderful oniony smell filled the kitchen. They were taken out, cooled, peeled and sliced. The pastry, poor thing, had to rest on the counter as my fridge was dead! But it wasn't as bad as the thought of not resting pastry in the fridge. If I can help it, I'd never do such a thing. I couldn't have imagined doing it in the first place but I had to bake!!
Surprisingly, the pastry was well-behaved and could be rolled out well. I scattered the sliced onions on its surface, layered it with some grated cheese, grated pepper and a dash of salt. Then the beet slices went in which was followed by more cheese and some seasoning.
In the end I scattered some dried thyme on the surface. Then I folded the dough inwards and made some pleats, With a bit of egg wash it was ready to go into the
I used a couple of tart tin bottoms for the galette to sit on. The galette itself was placed on another 'bottom' of a tart tin so that made three layers. Then the lid was closed. The gasket was left on but the whistle was removed. It baked on a low flame for about 35 minutes.
After it was done I took it out with the help of a steel spatula. It was placed on a wooden serving board. Some more cheese was shaved on top of the hot galette and a little more scattering of thyme was the finishing touch.
By the way, this strawberry galette was baked in the oven on Valentine's Day. Looks-wise there isn't so much of a difference, right?
I couldn't wait for it to cool down. And I didn't make any other accompaniment. The combination of beets, onions and cheese was more than enough. Yum!
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
If I am sitting down and enjoying this with a little more gusto than I usually do, it is for a very good reason. My kind of small space gardening was never about competing with the birds. But since last year the sparrow population in our area has grown by leaps and bounds. Any seed that sprouts becomes food to an army of these tiny birds. Looks like now I'll have to stick to plants that the sparrows wouldn't dream of pecking. And those include tomatoes, beans, chillies, carrots and herbs. I have been looking forward to making this salad. Anything home-grown is so much better. But first I needed to protect the seeds/shoots.
Pea shoots are a wonderful source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, enzymes, minerals and vitamins. For more on the nutritive value of pea shoots do check out this site.
1 cup loosely-packed pea shoots, washed and drained in a colander
2/3 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 small cucumber, sliced thin
1 tsp sliced ginger
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thin
Brassica flowers for the garnish
Rice wine vinegar
Ground black pepper
Dash of salt
I removed most of the 'tendrils' from the shoots before making the salad. The ginger I used is a variety of ginger locally known as Moran ginger. Grown in the Moran area of Assam, it is pungent and has more zing than regular ginger. You can see from the picture that the skin has a reddish tinge. This was given to me by a friend two years ago. Since then it has
For this salad, if I had simply drizzled the dressing over the ingredients, it would not have tasted good. I made the dressing and used more than half of it to mix the ingredients really well with a fork. Then the cucumber slices were placed on the edge of the platter and the middle portion was piled up with the chicken, onions and the shoots. The tiny yellow blooms were placed last. The remaining dressing was drizzled on the salad.
I did not use exact measurements while making the dressing. The chicken was well-seasoned so I went easy on the salt and pepper. This is a wonderful salad and the taste is just out of this world. I did toy with the idea of adding more colour to the dish by using roasted beets but didn't go ahead with it. It didn't really matter. A forkful of this confirmed it.:)