Thursday, 25 November 2010

Kerala Puffs (Non-Veg)



Next week I am off to UAE for a couple of months to spend some quality time with my parents and siblings and let me share this wonderful recipe before I leave. I have never been a regular blogger during my stay in UAE, so I might not be able to answer your queries or respond to the comments promptly. UAE is going to have its best weather during this time of the year (December, January and February) and UK, it’s the worst. It has already started snowing today with temperature hitting minus 1. I am kind of fleeing away from horrible British winter at least this year and I think I should plan the same every year ;). Earlier I had plans to visit in June-July when it would be scorching hot there in UAE, and I had postponed my trip to a much pleasant time even though the wait was a bit long.


Anyways, let’s discuss about today’s recipe, shall we? Puffs and recipes using puff pastry is very popular all over the world and Kerala (A state in South India) is not behind at all. Puff is one of Keralite’s favourite snacks enjoyed by everyone. Puffs filled with spicy stuffing like egg, meat and vegetables have always been a favourite evening snack. Memory of having puffs date back to my early school days, where these were sold in school canteens during the breakfast break along with vegetable samosas and crisps. But to get hold of puffs, we had to reach the canteen as early as possible, as that was the only item that used get over in no time. Light and flaky puff pastry filled with spiced chicken is just mouth-watering and a must try one. I have been making these puffs for couple of years now and I think it’s high time to post it so that you can make it too. You may use minced beef or mutton instead of chicken here. I have used mutton and chicken and mutton mince was always the favourite.


I have used an unrolled block of puff pastry which had to be thawed and rolled for use. These days ready rolled puff pastries are also available and sometimes these are rolled and cut which makes the puff making even more easy. You just have to prepare the fillings and then the rest is all easy. Ideally you should get around 10 puffs with this amount of masala, but as I have over stuffed the pastries, I just got 8 of them.

On another note, One of my readers (I guess it is Jehanne) had asked me to share some tips on photography long back. If you are reading this, please pass me your E-mail ID once more. I have been searching for it for couple of days and I am sorry, I think I misplaced it. I know I am still a beginner in photography and I don’t know many things in photography. But I am more than happy to share the little things that I know. Please leave your E-mail Id here once more, so that I can send you the draft of a photography tutorial that I prepared to send you a while ago.
 Kerala puffs

Makes 8-10 pieces

Ingredients:
1 block of puff pastry sheets, thawed – 340g
1 ½ cups (300g) chicken/Mutton minced
1 large onion chopped (I cup)
1 teaspoon grated Ginger
2 Green chillies, finely chopped
1 medium size tomato (90g), chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, grated
1 1/4 tsp Garam Masala
1 teaspoon mild chilli powder
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
3 Tablespoon coconut milk powder
water- as required
15 curry leaves finely chopped
Salt - As reqd
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
Oil - 3 tbsp
little flour- to dust the work surface

Preparation:



1.Cook the minced meat in with salt and turmeric along with couple of tablespoon of water until almost done .
2. Heat a non stick frying pan and add oil. Keeping the lid open, fry the onions by adding little salt until they are golden brown.

3. Throw in ginger-garlic paste, chillies and fry until the raw smell goes off.

4. Add in tomatoes and cook till it turns soft and mushy and oil clears from sides..

5. Add coriander and chilli powder .Stir for a min for the spices to cook.

6. Add in the prepared meat, mix well and cook until the water evaporates.

7. Meanwhile, add enough hot water to coconut milk powder to make ½ cup of coconut milk (You can use any coconut milk here).
8. When the mixture is almost dry, add coconut milk and stir continuously until the mixture is well combined and slightly wet, not too dry and crumbly.

9. Stir in the garam masala and chopped curry leaves, cook for a minute and keep aside to cool.

10. While the meat is cooking, thaw the pastry sheets.

11. Flour the work surface lightly and roll out the pastry into a large rectangle. Cut it into 8 portions.

12. Divide the masala mixture into 8 portions. Add a heaped tablespoon of the stuffing to one half of the pastry leaving about a centimetre from the edges to seal the stuffing in.

13. Lightly beat the egg whites with water and brush the sides of the pastry sheet with egg wash. Fold over the pastry to cover the filling in and press firmly to seal the edges (This can be done with fork to get nice ridged edge). Lightly brush the top of the filled pastries with egg wash to give it a glaze once baked.

14. Place all the sealed puffs on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake it for 15-17 minutes @ 220 degrees Celcius until the top is nice and golden in colour and the puff has puffed up well. Serve hot along with a nice cup of tea.

Notes:

1. I make these puffs with chicken and mutton. I found it tastier with minced mutton than chicken. When using mutton, the masala is lightly brown compared to chicken where it is less brownish.

2. With this amount of masala, you can easily get 10 puffs, but I over-stuff the pastry to use up all the masala and I get only 8 pieces of pastry sheet from one block. You may use a bigger block of puff pastry to use up all the masala.

3. These puffs can be frozen before baking and then baked directly from the freezer. But the baking time will increase accordingly. For freezing, place them between parchment paper to avoid sticking.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting


Eid-al- Adha Mubarak to you all. Hope you all have a wonderful day with family, friends and relatives.

For me, before I start on my cooking and daily chores of the day I thought I will post something for the day to make it special. This is something that I have typed long back, shot pictures even longer before, actually few months back, but just dint find time or gap to post it. Life’s been so busy that I can’t get my head around on anything these days. I have moved to this new place couple of weeks back, and I am travelling to Dubai in another two weeks time. So it’s all a chaos, settling down, shopping, unpacking and packing for travelling on other side. And my little baby (read Blog) is the one getting affected by all this chaos :D. It’s been hard to log into my blog these days, I just peep into it if I need to cook something. Anyhow, let me break all that chaos and give you another fabulous recipe to enjoy.


Today I am posting the recipe of cupcakes that I made a while ago. These beauties were prepared to send off to my little one’s nursery on his last day there. I thought it was nice way of conveying a ‘Thank you’ message by baking something home, rather than getting a ready-made one. I made around 50 mini cupcakes, that turned out perfectly spongy and chocolaty. I had a plan to frost them with my favourite chocolate frosting, but I then thought that would be too chocolaty and sweet. So I frosted them with strawberry as mentioned in the recipe. I made a thin glace rather than a large blob of frosting as it would turn out to be too sweet again. These could be made into large ones, which would come around 16-20 of them. Follow the recipe to dot and get perfect results all way long. Please read Cupcakeblog and the comments given on the site for any doubts.


Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
Recipe Courtesy: Cupcakeblog

Ingredients:
226 g (2 Sticks) butter at room temperature
2 ½ cups castor sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 ¾ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa powder (I used Cadbury’s)
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Hundreds and thousands – to sprinkle

Preparations:

1. Beat butter and sugar for 3 minutes on high speed until soft and fluffy.

2. Add egg, one by one at a time to the above mix, mixing well after each addition.

3. In a separate bowl, sieve together flour, baking powder and soda, cocoa powder and salt twice or thrice.

4. Mix vanilla essence with milk.

5. Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg-sugar mixture followed by little of the milk and mixing well. Repeat the process until milk and flour is all used up. Add flour and milk alternately, starting and finishing off with flour.

6. Scoop the mixture to muffin liners filling just below half or just half full. Bake for 20 minutes in a preheated oven of 180 degrees Celsius or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool them on wire rack completely before frosting them.

N:B:Batter rises quite high, so don’t get tempted to fill more than half full as it will overflow.


For the frosting:

400g icing sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons strawberry Pulp (see notes)
Few drops of strained strawberry juice

Prepareation:

1.Mix all until you get a thick glace. Spread on the cooled cakes as required. Add more puree or icing sugar to get the right consistency. Sprinkle with Hundreds and thousands.

Notes:

For making strawberry pulp, I used frozen strawberries. After reading few comments mantioneing about runny frosting, I pureed strawberries in a blender and placed them in a sieve to drain off every drop of juice from it. I heated the strained juice to get thick syrup and used few drops of it to loosen the icing as required and to give some natural colour. I used the frosting as a glace rather than a thick frosting.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Fish Cutlets - Malabar Style


Cutlets are one of the dishes that I used to prepare during my initial stages of cooking. It is easy to make and tastes great. But I have to agree to the fact that it takes a bit of time to cook. Again, plus point is that these patties can be frozen without frying and can be fried when ever you feel like treating yourself. For freezing the patties, shape them and place them in a container in layers, one layer of cutlets over another layer of cutlets, and baking paper or wax paper in between so that they don’t stick to each other. i.e, one layer of uncooked cutlets, a sheet of baking paper and another layer of cutlets on top of baking paper. You can take a few out s required, thaw them and fry them as per need and it would taste as fresh as new. No one would even know that they were frozen once. These are usually served along with evening tea, or during Iftar or to serve any guests. My mom always tricks my sisters into eating these fish cutlets  as they don't eat fish and these almost tastes like chicken cutlets and fish taste is not very obvious. 
Here, I have used only egg whites as the yolks make the oil frothy while frying the patties.



Ingredients:

2 Canned tuna in spring water
1 large potato, 250g
500g onions, chopped (3 ½ medium size, 3 ½ cup chopped)
1 Tablespoon pureed Garlic
1 Tablespoon pureed Ginger
3 medium hot Green Chillies, cut into thin rounds
½ cup chopped Coriander Leaves
A pinch of Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
2 teaspoon Kashmiri Chilli Powder
2 Tablespoon Lime Juice
Oil – as required to fry the cutlets
4 egg whites
Breadcrumbs – as required

Update: I have forgotten to add potato in the ingredients, which is now added.


Preparations:

1. In a large non stick frying pan or a wide saucepan heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil.

2. Add chopped onion and salt and sauté until onion becomes soft and translucent.

3. Add chopped chillies along with pureed ginger and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the raw smell goes off.

4. Add all the spices and coriander leaves. Cook for couple of minutes.

5. Add drained tuna; stir well breaking all the lumps.

6. Add lemon juice and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cook on low - medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until the flavours are well blended.

7. Meanwhile Cut the potato into 4 large chunks and cook it in salted water just until soft. Make sure the potatoes don’t go really soft and fall apart. They have to be firm, but cooked through. If it goes really soft, cutlets will fall apart while frying.

8. Drain water completely and peel potatoes. Mash them with fork lightly with little lumpy texture; whilst hot/warm. (Don’t make it into a paste or a smooth puree).

9. Add mashed potatoes to the fish masala prepared earlier and mix well.

10. Make lemon size balls out of this mixture, flatten it into 1” thick patties; dip it in lightly beaten egg whites and roll it in breadcrumbs. Tap off extra crumbs and leave it aside for 5 minutes to dry a bit.

11. Heat a frying pan (any size) and add vegetable oil to a height of 1-2 centimetres. Fry the patties on medium heat until they turn golden brown colour, flipping them over a couple of times to ensure even browning.

12. Serve hot or warm with ketchup.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Swiss Oatmeal Soup with Chicken and Vegetables and a Thank You Note!


Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of hot steaming soup and a rustic bread to dunk in to it on a cold winter evening. On such a cold evening I decided to make my favourite Cauliflower and Potato Soup when my hubby put forward his suggestion of having a thick, creamy chicken soup and not a chicken and sweet corn soup that I make on a regular basis! I din't even ask his opinion as I knew he would come up with some non-veg plan and ruin my already set mind of making cauliflower and potato soup. He was adamant on having chicken soup that was of some creamy consistency and I came up (had to come up) with these. It is a modified version of Swiss oatmeal soup that I got from one of my old scribbled recipes and I just sneaked some chicken in it! I don’t really know if it is appropriate to call it a Swiss Soup anymore. Anyways, here is the recipe that made way to another good soup in my kitchen.

Swiss Oatmeal Soup with Chicken and Vegetables
Serve 6
Ingredients:
1 large potato peeled and diced (315g, 1 ¾ cups)
2 medium carrots diced (230g, 1 1/3 cups)
1 large onion chopped (165g, 1 cup)
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
270g Chicken on bone (I used a large legpiece)
3 dry bay leaves
2 cubes of chicken maggi bouillon
3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup Quaker Oats
2 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
½ cup whole milk (optional) or water

Preparations:

1. Place a non-stick saucepan on medium heat and add oil+butter. Add bay leaves and oats and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until it starts changing colour or lightly coloured.

2. Add all vegetables and sauté for 2-3 minutes adding few tablespoons of water when it starts sticking to the pan. (I added 1/3 cup of water here.)

3. Add chicken cubes, chicken and water. Cook until chicken is very well cooked and starts falling off the bone. Take it out using a slotted spoon and shred it into titbits and keep it aside. Discard the bone.

4. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the vegetables to make a chunky soup. Add chicken, boil for 3-4 minutes. Add milk, stir to combine and turn off the heat. Serve hot alongside any rustic bread like garlic bread, foccassia, Ciabatta etc.

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This post also comes along with a Thank you note to my lovely reader and a friend - Nasi who tries my recipes and sends me pictures whenever possible. After I posted the recipe of BFG, she immediately tried it on the very same day (including assembling and decorating) and sent me a surprising mail with gorgeous pictures of her creation. Along with Black Forest Gateaux, Celebration chocolate cake, Orange cake, Cardamom and Pistachio Cookies are some of them that she tried with success. Thank You Nasi for your constant support and encouragement. It means alot to me. Below is her mail that that she sent me few days back and the pictures she shot. Don’t they look perfect?


"I baked the cake the moment I saw it on your blog. I couldn’t resist!!!It was not for the eating part but for the thrill of baking it. I didn’t have cherries with me and I didn’t use them as I don’t like them in my cake ( I know this can’t be called as a black forest cake!!!).I also used sugar syrup instead of cherry syrup and also use Raspberry jam as decoration instead of the cherries...I know mine is not anywhere close to yours but I enjoyed making it very much.......and the taste??....It was delicious and I felt it tasted much better the next day after it was refrigerated...it was soft and delicious.....enjoyed every bit..The photos are taken from my mobile...but I hope at least you could get a glance of how my cake looked....Thanks a ton for the easy recipe......."

 

Thank You for stopping by!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Black Forest Gateaux (BFG)



Note: This post is overloaded with pictures. You may straight away head over to the recipe at the end, but I have given little tips in the last paragraph before the recipe and little information about the cake, it's origin etc..You may read it if interested..

I feel there is no better dessert than a Black forest to celebrate any occasion like Birthdays, potlucks and even informal gatherings. It makes way to a perfect party dessert and it is always liked by kids and adults alike. Today is my Birthday and we are also moving to a new home on the very same day. My dad and one of my sisters will also be celebrating their Birthdays next week. So, let me share my happiness with this bit of indulgence that looks elegant, tastes brilliant and an all time favourite dessert – Black Forest Gateaux.


Black Forest Cake also known as Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte in German or Black Forest Gateaux is a cake that is adorned with several layers of whipped cream and cherries. To add an extra elegance, it is also topped with extra whipped cream, cherries, chocolate shavings and chocolate curls. In the traditional recipe, a brandy named Kirchwasser is added which is related to its name, Kirschtorte. I have substituted that with cherry syrup by cooking cherries with sugar and water. This is a non alcoholic version of the traditional Black forest, so I cant name it Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte, But it is still a black forest gateau without Kirschwaser.

I thought it had some steps involved in making, but it was a straight forward recipe that even a kid could master it! A basic sponge, some whipped cream, some cooked cherries and a basic sugar syrup and doesn’t require a pro-skill. Does that sound so complicated?? But I have to accept the fact it takes a bit of time, as I did everything from scratch, like pitting the cherries, making chocolate shavings etc, which requires quite sometime. But these thigs dint worry me at all, all that I was worried about was the cake. I wanted a perfect cake, that is spongy and not dry, something that uses less ingredients and that needs less skill to make it. Googled it and came through millions of recipes which even confused me more. So I just gave it up and relied on a the cake book that enjoy flipping through every now and then. To make the job easier, you can substitute the fresh cherries with the crystallized ones, buy ready made chocolate curls and sprinkles.


Here, I have used English dark cherry of Kordia variety which is sweet, juicy, fleshy and huge compared to the regular variety. It is deep red in colour and it is around 3-4 times larger than the regular cherries. They are as pricey as their size too compared to the regular varieties. They were so sweet that most of the time they were guzzled as fresh as they are and dint make its way to my baking. They are quite cheap during the season, but shoots up as soon as the season starts changing. That was when I bought some extra and stashed in the freezer so that I could save something for this cake. And despite using frozen cherries, they pretty well held together without being squishy, that I could use them for garnishing as well. I know I am sharing this cheery-licious cake waaay after the cherry season, but I was so obsessed with making Black Forest Gateaux that I had to bake it this time. . You can easily make it with glaced cherries (Maraschino cherries) and syrup substituting fresh ones whenever fresh echerries are off the season. I have also seen recipes using canned cherries. I have never used them and dont know how good they are.

Photography Technique: Coutesy of Lovely Sala Kannan @ http://www.veggiebelly.com/ . Hope over to her place to have stunning  visual treatment and her special recipes.


Here to make the procedure easy, I have shared some tips all along the way through out the preparation processwa instead of giving it all at the end. Hope you find it useful. I baked cake and made chocolate shavings the first day. I whipped some cream, made cherry syrup and assembled them the next day. But let me warn you something, If you are trying to make it all in a day, it might be a bit tiring and a very long procedure. I have been there, So try to split the work and do it in a matter of two days. I would make this recipe again, not once, but every occassion I get. It is simply delicious.

Note: Recipe of Sponge is adapted from My cake decorating book which is already packed away for shifting. Will update its name and authors later as appropriate.
Ingredients :
For the sponge/Gateaux:
5 medium eggs
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
75g unsalted butter, melted

For Whip cream filling:
570 mls/ 2 ¼ cups double cream
4-5 tablespoons caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence

For cherry filling and syrup:
½ kilo ripe dark cherries like Kordia variety, pitted and chopped, reserving 8 whole cherries or more depending on the size of cherries for decoration
¼ cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water
¼ tsp vanilla essence

Garnishing:
150g plain chocolate
Few fresh cherries reserved

** Number of eggs in the recipe has been changed from 3 large to 5 medium eggs. Sorry for the typo.


Preparation:

1. For the sponge: Grease 2 deep 8 inch round pans, line the bases and sides with baking paper.

2. Place eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric beater at high speed for about 10 – 15 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale yellow in colour.

3. Sift together cocoa and plain flour, then sift again to the egg and sugar mixture. Fold in gently, then trickle in the melted butter and continue to fold until everything is well mixed. Note: Do not over mix the batter here as it will knock out air bubbles and result in a hard cake than a soft and fluffy sponge.

4. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius for 10 minutes. Divide the mixture equally (if you can manage) into the prepared tin and smooth the surfaces. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until springy to touch and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave it in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn the cake over to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I couldn’t divide the batter equally in both pans. One pan had more batter than the other. So I baked the one with more batter for 30 minutes and the one containing less batter was done in 22 minutes. But they were baked well.

To prepare the cream filling:

In a large bowl, place whipping cream and sugar and whip until it holds soft peaks. Add vanilla essence and whip until combined. Set aside.

To make cherry filling and syrup:

Place chopped cherries, sugar, water in a sauce pan and gently bring to boil. Once it has come to boil, reduce heat and simmer until cherries have become slightly soft. Strain the cherries and place the liquid back to saucepan and gently simmer it until you have around ¾ cup of liquid left. If you had just around 1/2- 3/4 cup of syrup after boiling the cherries, that should be enough. Dont reduce it further.

Notes: Here, I bought fresh cherries and froze them for later use as I could not make the gateaux as planned. I made it after a while when cherries were not season as well. The frozen berries when thawed had released some juice already before cooking them hence I added only less amount of water while cooking it. You can also adjust and add more sugar if needed, if your cherries are sour ones. I also discovered that freezing cherries makes pitting them a lot easier. You can just squish them to pit them and them chop them further if they are large. If you are using fresh cherries that are not frozen, please add couple of tablespoons more of water before cooking. You need to have around ¾ syrup however for soaking the cake.

If you don’t have fresh cherries in hand, just substitute them with glace cherries and simple sugar syrup. You can use around 300g of glace cherries chopped or even less if you like it less.


For chocolate shavings and curls:

1. Melt chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, or in a double boiler. Make sure water doesn’t touch the bowl containing chocolate. Once they are all melted, spread the chocolate on a plastic/wooden chopping board/ marble set on a damp cloth to prevent it from slipping. Spread the chocolate evenly over the surface with a flat palette knife or any large knife.

2. leave the chocolate to cool slightly, it should feel just set, but not completely hard. Hold a large, sharp knife at a 45 degree angle to the chocolate and push it along the chocolate in short sawing movements from right to left and left to right to make curls. Remove curls by sliding knife underneath each one and lifting it off. Keep in fridge until ready to use. You can crush these curls gently to make chocolate shavings. Or you can grate a chocolate using a box grater or a vegetable peeler. Make sure the chocolate is at room temperature to do this.

For assembling:





1. Slice each cake horizontally into two. (I cut one cake into 2 and other one I just left it as one piece as it was quite thin to slice it into two. So I had three pieces of cake)

2. Place one slice of cake on a serving plate/dish/cake stand. (Snip the baking paper into several 8-10 cm long pieces. Gently slide these papers all around underneath the cake. This will gather all the mess that has occurred in the decorating process. Once decorating is done, these can be taken out slowly leaving the serving plate clean and mess free.)

3. Sprinkle 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup all over the first cake. Add 1/3rd of the whipped cream and spread it all around.

4. Sprinkle half of the cherries all over the whipping cream. Place another layer of cake and press gently. Sprinkle all over again with 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup, add cream, spread it and scatter cherries equally all over. Top with the last piece of cake and gently press down. Sprinkle again with 3-4 tablespoon of cherry syrup all over. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and sides of the gateau, spreading evenly with a palette knife. Using a piping bag, swirl few extra cream on top as well to place cherries, if wished.

Note: I haven’t used all of the syrup. I just sprinkled 3-4 tablespoon of the syrup on each layer of cake just enough to moisten it. Around ¼ cup was left behind after the use. Don’t sprinkle more than mentioned as it may result in a soggy cake.

5. Using hands, stick chocolate shavings on to the sides of the cake. Place few chocolate curls on to the centre of the cake and decorate with reserved cherries with stalks intact if possible. Cherries can also be coated in melted chocolate before arranging on the cake. Dip the cherries in melted chocolate and place it on a baking paper to dry if you are doing that.

This post of mine goes for the Monthly Mingle - Fruits in baking hosted by Deeba who writes at her gorgeous blog Passionate about baking.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Rosemary and Sundried Tomato Focaccia



Ever since I moved into the present flat of ours I have become kind of a plant aficionado. Most of the things around look edible in my eyes. I pluck few leaves and sniff them to see if they give out any scent, pluck berries, fruits etc and research on their details with some vague information. It wasn’t a waste of time at all. Among quite a few other stuffs, I also discovered that the outrageously growing bush all around our estate is Rosemary! Wow. I was quite exited and have been looking out for recipes that use rosemary. Talking about rosemary, it is a herb with quite hard and spiky leaves and that has a mint-like smell.


Among the entire set of recipes that I came across, focaccia was something that really fascinated me. I have also come across some lamb shank recipes that use rosemary for flavouring. Rosemary grows wildly like any grass or bush you see anywhere. I thought I have to use into something before I shift from here and decided to give a go with focassia. I referred James Martin’s recipe for the basic dough but tweaked it much by adding Sundried tomatoes in olive oil


Focaccia is an Italian staple which is enjoyed by old world bakers as a snack between laborious efforts of bread baking. Focassia has ever since made a name for itself as a premier sandwich loaf. This rustic recipe with rosemary and sundried tomatoes through out can be made into 2 smaller loaves or one large loaf and used in sandwiches ~ Sandwiches Panini and Wraps by Dwayne Ridgeway.
I made a swiss oatmeal soup to go along with it and it tasted great. I read focassia is something like a pizza base, but I thought it had its own difference. The bread was slightly chewy and crumbly rather than soft and tear-apart kind of texture. You can try your own variations of it like adding black olives, cheese, tomatoes, different herbs etc. Here is the one that I baked last week and this goes to 5th World Bread Day.
World Bread Day 2010 (submission date October 16)

Ingredients:

500g Bread flour (3 cups plus 6 Tablespoons)
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon castor sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary leaves
300 mls tepid (Lukewarm) water
3 Tablespoon olive oil (I used flavoured oil from the sundried tomato Jar)
75g (1/2 cup) chopped sundried tomato in flavoured olive oil
Few extra twigs of rosemary

Preparations:


1. In a large bowl sift flour, salt, sugar, yeast, chopped rosemary and mix well.

2. Add 2 Tablespoon of oil and rub well. Gradually mix in the water and knead for about 8-10 minutes until a soft, smooth and elastic dough forms. When the dough is smooth, smear the dough with the remaining tablespoon of oil. The dough should be elastic but not sticky at all.

3. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it loosely with oiled cling film. Leave to rise in a warm place for about 1-2 hours or until the dough has risen well and has doubled in size.

4. Knock back the dough by punching it down with fist. Add chopped sundried tomatoes and knead for couple of minutes to incorporate them well into the dough.

5. Lightly flour a work area and roll the dough into ¾ inch thick and 9” round. You can also divide the dough into 2 smaller loaves instead of a making a single massive loaf. You can also make it in rectangle. Place it on a greased baking tray and leave it to rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. If the weather is dry, like in the UK, cover it loosely with oiled cling film (If the cling film is not oiled, dough will stick to it and make a mess).

6. Meanwhile heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Take off the cling film and make several indentations with your fingers all over the surface of the dough. Lightly brush with olive oil (I used oil in the sundried tomato jar) and lightly insert few rosemary twigs into the indentations.

7. Bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. If you tap the underside of the bread at this point, I should sound hollow if it is well cooked. Cool on a wire rack and slice into wedges if made in circles or squares if made into large rectangles. Serve alongside your favourite soup or use it in sandwiches.

Notes:

1.I used plain flour instead of bread flour.

2. It is important to oil the cling film as the dough sticks to it otherwise.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Simple Vegetable Pulao/Pilaf


Here is another simple rice preparation that I made recently. Easy to put together and tastes divine. Recently I was watching Master chef program where the contestants had to prepare pulao and none of the participants go it right! Some were undercooked, some were chewy and some were soft outside and crunchy inside. Most of the mistakes would have occured as they were preparing it under pressurised circumstances and the nerves would have just got better of them. Anyways, preparing rice is one of the easiest thing to do if the instructions are clearly followed, and something that can be messed up easily if not prepared appropriately as well. It can be intimidating to many and it can take quite a few trials to get it right. But you will get there one day.


My initial attempts of rice making were a disappointment to see as well as eat. My first rice used to be cakey, something that could b easily cut into shapes. Sometimes it took the other edge being like porridge or a soup. Sometimes undercooked and sometimes overdone. Nothing seemed so hard than preparing rice. I am not talking about the complex biriyani or pilaf here, it’s just the plain rice. Oh, it was a hard time. It took me umpteen trials to perfect it. But once you get the hang of it, it is just a piece of cake.

What I learnt from all these years experience is that while cooking rice, heat adjustment is one of most significant factor. It should be adjusted at the right time. Then comes the water quantity. Water quantity slightly differs depending on if you have soaked the rice prior to cooking or if you are using rice right out of the packet (Well, you have to wash before using). You can use lot of water to cook, and then drain rice once they are cooked, or add just enough water for the rice to cook in without having water to be drained. Rice can be cooked in number of ways; every one would have their own means of cooking. But this is one method that I come back to all the time, as it gives me just the right outcome, just the way I want it. Soft, fluffy and each grains separated. Just follow simple steps, do the flame adjustment properly, if you don’t get it right for the first couple of times, you sure will get it right quick. Believe me, this method would be one of the easiest way to cook rice once u get the hang of it.


Simple Vegetable Pulao/Pilaf
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
2 cups Basmati Rice
3 cups boiling water
Salt to taste
1 large carrot finely chopped (3/4 cup, 120g)
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup onion finely chopped (optional)

Whole spices:
2 whole black cardamoms
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
3 small pieces (1” long) cinnamon stick
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
4 Tablespoon clarified butter (Ghee)


Preparation:

1.Wash rice and soak it for about ½ hour - 1 hour. Place a wide, non-stick saucepan on low-medium heat and add ghee. When ghee has melted, add whole spices and sauté for 30-40 seconds or until it leaves aroma.

2. Increase the heat to medium and add vegetables and sauté for 3 minutes stirring frequently.

3. Add drained rice to these vegetables and sauté for further 3 minutes.

4. Add boiling water and required amount of salt and stir well. At this point of time, it is important to turn the heat up to high. Keep the pan open and cook until you see NO water floating in the bottom of the pan when you part rice with a ladle. Make sure rice doesn’t get really dry here as it needs moisture to get it cooked. As soon as you see no water is left in the pan, reduce heat, cover the pan tight to hold in all steam and cook on very low heat for 10-15 minutes or until rice is perfectly cooked. Once it is completely done, toss rice with a spatula once or twice to avoid rice grains sticking to each other.

Serve hot with any spicy curries.

Notes:

You can use your own choice of vegetables here, including green beans, cauliflower etc..

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kakkiri Pacchadi (Cucumber in Tempered Coconut and Yogurt Sauce)


Kakkiri pachadi is something like cucumber Raita. But Raita is grated or chopped vegetables of any kind, mixed with yogurt and generally no coconut is involved. Here in kakkiri pachadi, uncooked, green cucumber is mixed with coconut which is ground along with few other ingredients to impart fresh flavours. It is then mixed with yogurt for a refreshing tangy taste. And then tempered in coconut oil. Here mustard is used in two form, one while grinding and other is used to splutter while tempering. Pachadi can also be made with other vegetables like beetroot, mango, pineapple, carrot, Okra, Indian cucumbers etc. Most of these vegetables are cooked prior to adding the ground mixture though and are integral part of Kerala Onam Sadya menu. This is my mother’s version of kakkiri pachadi and she normally serves it along with some fish curry, fried fish and pappadum.


Kakkiri Pacchadi (Cucumber in tempered coconut and yogurt sauce)
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 cup grated cucumber
A tiny piece of ginger
1 medium size clove of garlic
1/3 cup grated coconut, fresh or frozen (not desiccated)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ - 1 green chilly (Omit if you don’t like it spicy)
½ cup creamy yogurt

For tempering:
2 teaspoon coconut oil
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 twig of curry leaves
1 dried red chilly, broken into 2*



Preparation:

1. In a bowl tip in the grated cucumber. If wished, you may chop them into tiny pieces as well instead of grating.

2. Grind coconut, green chilly, ginger and garlic into smooth paste by adding 2 Tbsp of curd.

3. Crush mustard using pestle and mortar and add to the coconut mix. You can also add mustard directly to the smooth coconut paste and just whizz them just to crush. But make sure that you don’t over-do mustard as the flavour is very strong and overpowering. So to be on the safe side, crush it on pestle and mortar.

4. Add the whole ground coconut mixture to grated cucumber. Add yogurt and salt and mix well.

5. In a separate small pan, heat oil. When the oil is hot enough, crackle mustard seeds and add chilly and curry leaves. Sauté for few second until it leaves aroma. Add it to the prepared mixture and mix well. Serve with hot plain rice and curries.

Notes:

1. My mom uses round dried red chilly for tempering, I am not sure what it is called though. I have never come across that kind of chilly here , so I use long twisted Dried kashmiri chillies instead. I am sure any dried variety should work fine.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pudina ki Chutney (Mint Chutney)



Mint chutney is one of the favourite chutneys and quite a popular condiment in the Indian sub continent. It is normally served alongside any mail meal like hyderabadi biryani’s and pulaos, naan bread and curries or as a dip for samosas and even used as spread in sandwiches. I first had mint chutney on a get together at friend’s place which was prepared by her Mother in law. This was one of the many things that she prepared that day. Her food was simply amazing and tasted so good. This chutney’s recipe was given to me by that aunty and I thank her with all my heart for sharing her wonderful recipes. She gave approximate measurements as any other mom would do. I adjusted it accordingly and the outcome was real good. I served it alongside a spicy vegetable pulao and some chicken curry. You can add few tablespoon of water or dilute it with yogurt and serve as dip for samosas, spring rolls, tortillas, veggies etc.



Pudina ki Chutney (Mint Chutney)
Serves 8

Ingredients:
¼ cup chopped Pudina (Mint leaves)
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
1 ½ teaspoon tamarind pulp
½ of a green chilly (Add according to taste)
½ cup grated coconut
2 medium size cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoon water (30ml)
Salt to taste

Ingredients:

1.Add all the ingredients except salt to grinder and grind until smooth by adding little bit of water. When it is ground to smooth paste, add salt.

Notes:


1.Mint and coriander was washed prior to use and I discarded the thick stalks of coriander and used only leaves for mint.

2.I added 2 tablespoon of water as I like thick chutney to serve along with rice. But if you want to use it as dip, dilute it by adding couple of tablespoon more of water to make a smooth paste. You can also try adding yogurt and a little sugar to make sweet mint chutney.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Peach and Blackberry Crumble Cake



These days weather is changing as frequently as it could manage! It started getting cold, windy, cloudy and rainy ans sunny mornings are becoming a rare sight. It’s all giving me a warning alarm for winter. Before the winter strike us again, let me share this beautiful cake before the summer fruits and berries completely vanishes from the supermarket Aisle. I know it’s way past late to submit this recipe but I could still see blackberries in the shops, so If you could manage to grab some bake this cake. It would make you famous;).


 Blackberries also called as ‘Brambles’ in the UK are deep purplish, soft berries that look like clusters of small juicy balls. Wild blackberries are generally smaller in size and tarter than the commercial ones which are really sweet . When i came across these for the first time, I thought they were something wild and inedible. All I did was plucking and squishing them to squirt out the purplish juice of of it.  And this happned every time I came across them just for the fun of doing it. It was when I saw this gorgeous Blackberry cake prepared by Archana that I realised it was an edible berry. There were loads and loads of them growing wild in the bushes on the way to our local library and my son’s nursery and hence I get chance to pluck few of them every once in a while. As these grow on thorny bushes and there are quite a lot of spooky spiders all around, it was a bit of pain gathering them...There were quite a few peaches sitting in the fridge and quite a lot of wild blackberries which had to sacrifice their freshness in one way or the other. So I threw them into this cake and I am glad I did. As there was a get together that was to be held the very next week I thought of baking a bigger cake to take away for the potluck. Everyone who had a piece of the cake absolutely loved it!

The cake was super moist, perfectly balanced by all means, had the right amount of sweetness, and the crumble on the top gave it a light cookie-like bite. I loved the slight tartness that came through blackberries and the soft and sweet peaches in the cake. My son screamed “Jam” as he took in the first bite! I couldn’t wait for the cake to cool down completely before I cut them, so blackberries were very soft and almost like jam! You can see that in the picture. It had the perfect buttery cake base which was rich and fluffy at the same time. One of the best cakes I ever made! If I make this cake again, I would add more peaches, may be one more as I loved the peaches in the cake much. I personally hate peaches as they are, but when it comes to desserts and sweets, they are real good!!

If you don’t find blackberries try substituting them with raspberries, blueberries or chopped strawberries. I haven't done that, but if I were you, I would do that.  And if berries are inaccessible, add 2 cups of peaches instead of berries and peaches. I am also looking forward to try the same recipe with apples, pineapples, plums etc.

Peach and Blackberry Crumble Cake
Serves 8-10
Baking time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients:

100g soft unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs (133g)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (Maida)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup whole milk
½ Tablespoon vanilla essence
1 cup fresh and firm peach, cut into 8 segments and then halved. (1 large Peach, 140g)
1 heaped cup of fresh blackberries (160g)
1 ½ Tablespoon castor sugar


 
For Crumble:
45g cold butter, cubed
½ cup plain flour
3 Tablespoon granulated/castor sugar
A pinch of cinnamon powder

Preparation:


 
1.Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter an an 8 " deep round pan and line it with baking paper.

2.Prepare crumble Topping: In a bowl combine all the ingredients and rub using fingers well to get coarse breadcrumb like mixture. Keep it aside.

3. For the cake: Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. (I used wooden spoon for all mixing).

4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt (Avoid salt if using salted butter); add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix well using a wooden spoon until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 8 inch pan, preferably spring form tin.

5. Top with sliced peaches and blackberries and scatter crumble topping all over.

6. Bake at 180°C for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack and Garnish with fresh blackberries and sliced peaches if desired.

Notes:

If blackberries are unavailable, just use peaches. Add an extra cup chopped of peaches substituting for the blackberries.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Lime Rice (Elumichham Pazham Saadham)



Lime rice is also mostly known as lemon Rice where lemon and Lime is considered or mistaken for other. This is a very popular and flavourful rice preparation of Tamil Nadu, South India. It is tempered with lentils, nuts, chillies, leaves etc, leaving behind all its flavours in the rice. It can be served on its own, or have it with yogurt, pickle and Pappadums. You can also serve with some spicy non-vegetarian curries like Malabar Chicken Curry  , Chicken Fry Masala , Beef Ularthiyathu ,  Mutton Buhari , Mutton Ularthiyathu, and my favorite combination  Chicken Chettinadu .


Lime Rice (Elumichham Pazham Saadham)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

3 cups (600g) Basmati rice (Kolam Rice is used in the traditional preparation.)
Salt as required
Boiling water-
1 ½ tbsp Channa Dal, soaked in hot water for ½ hour *
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 ½ teaspoon ground turmeric **
3 dried red chillies
2 green chillies
2 teaspoon Urad Dal
½ cup broken cashew nuts or peanuts
2 sprigs curry leaves
¼ tsp asafoetida/hing/Kaaram
1/3 cup coconut oil/ghee
2 Tbsp lime juice***


Preparations:

1. Wash rice well. Bring a large pan of water to boil and add required amount of salt. Add rice and cook by keeping the lid open until done. Make sure there is lot of water for teh rice to move around and  take care not to overcook. Drain rice in a large colander.

2. In a large non-stick saucepan (I used the same pan that I used for cooking rice, used it after washing it.) heat oil. Fry broken cashew nuts or peanuts until golden. Take them out using a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Similarly fry the soaked and drained channa dal until golden and keep them long with fried cashews/peanuts.

3. In the same oil, splutter mustard. Add urad dal and fry till golden. Add curry leaves, red chillies and sauté for few seconds.

4. Add turmeric and asafoetida and sauté for 30 seconds on low-medium heat.

5. Add rice, fried nuts and dal and mix well.

6. Add lime juice and mix well. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve hot/ warm with any spicy curry or along with curd and pickle.


Notes:

* Channa dal is normally added without soaking and is hard when fried dry. To avoid the hard bite, it can be soaked for sometime, drained and then pat dried before using.

** You can reduce turmeric to ½ teaspoon or 1 teaspoon to make it less yellowy.

*** Lemon juice can also be added instead of lime. Increase it as per your taste. The amount of lemon juice gives it just a milder lemony taste.

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