Saturday, February 25, 2017

Beet & Onion Galette (baked in a pressure cooker)

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 oven cooker. The cooker was kept on a low flame earlier so by the time I was done with the rolling and the filling it was already 'preheated'.
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

Pea Shoots Salad With Chicken & Cucumber

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 salad with chicken & cucumber
I sowed the peas in the first week of this month. An old kitchen drawer was turned upside down and that became a good protection from the sparrows. After about fifteen days, the shoots were ready to be picked. There's some wire mesh lying in our shed. Some more protective cover should be made soon...
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

The dressing:
Rice wine vinegar
Ground black pepper
Sesame oil
Dash of salt 
Moran ginger

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 flourished survived in one corner of my backyard.
Pea shoots salad with chicken & cucumber

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.:)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Matcha Cake With Chocolate Frosting & Candied Pansies

Matcha cake with chocolate frosting and candied pansies

This was a week ago. When we had a sudden shower at night, my first thought was about how glad I was that I had picked my pansies during the day. Or the rain would have caused some damage to the delicate petals that I had so gently picked to decorate this cake. I had made the same kind of cake a few weeks ago for a family meet and it was well appreciated. And this time we were expecting guests all the way from Germany, friends of my sons, and I thought this would make a good 'welcome' cake.
I started with the flowers. Since drying them takes some time, I did not wash them after they were picked. But in the morning while watering my plants I sprinkled a lot of water on them so they were as good as 'washed'.
Candied pansies

Then they were placed on a platter and I brushed each with egg white. Then I dusted icing sugar on them and they were left to dry for about 4 hours. In the meanwhile I made the cake.

11/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100 grams butter at room temperature + extra for greasing your cake tin
I used a 7" round cake tin

Sift the flour, matcha powder and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar till the mixture becomes pale and fluffy.
Add one egg and mix till it is well incorporated in the mixture. Repeat the process with the other two eggs.
Add the milk and mix again.
Fold in the flour/matcha powder/baking powder mix.
Transfer the batter into the greased tin and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove and let it cool. Then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack.

For the chocolate frosting:
200 grams dark chocolate
200 ml cream (I used Amul Fresh Cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Break the chocolate into small pieces by putting it in a plastic bag and bashing it with a rolling pin.
Melt the chocolate on a double boiler. Make sure that no lumps remain.
Add the cream and the vanilla extract, Give it a good mix and set aside till it cools down. 
Assembling the cake:
As soon as the cake is cool enough to be handled, cut it into two vertically.
Cut the 'dome' from the top so that the surface is even.
If you feel that the cake is a little dry you can add some sugar syrup all across the surface of the two 'roundels'.
Place the bottom part on a plate and pour the frosting on it. Spread it with the help of a palette knife.
Now place the next layer and pour the remaining frosting. Cover the sides with the help of the knife with the frosting.
Place the candied pansies all across the surface of the cake.
Let the cake remain in the fridge till the frosting is 'set'.
Candied pansies

Our guests loved the cake. And they loved the flowers! It was worth making this cake. Despite its simplicity, the pretty edible blooms made all the difference. And no prizes for guessing which annuals yours truly will be growing again next year.:)