Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mast O Khiar/Iranian Cold Cucumber Soup

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

Prune & Custard Brioche Tart

Prune & custard brioche tart

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

Savoury Pumpkin Muffins With Pea Shoot & Strawberry Salad

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

Broccoli & Strawberry Salad With Sweet Bavarian Mustard Dressing

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
5 strawberries
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
5-7 toasted almonds, sliced
Edible blooms
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.

The dressing:
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

Smoked Pork Sausage Quiche With Braided Edges

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!

The pastry:
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.

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:
Carrot tops
Onion leaves
Garlic leaves
Basil blooms
Brassica blooms
Cherry tomatoes
Baby spinach
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!