Monday, 3 October 2011

200th post; A recipe and a glimpse through Kerala's serene Beauty!

Hi friends,

Hope you all had a great Ramadan, Eid and Onam. After a long gap of more than 2 decades, I was lucky enough to celebrate Eid and spend Holy Ramadan in India with my relatives. This post is going to be my 200th recipe post; a long awaited one, yet had to come late as I was confused on what and how to post and sheer laziness. I always get the so called bloggers block anytime I get a long break or holiday. Posting becomes fewer than before. I have been getting lot of messages and mails asking me to start blogging and to post new recipes. Thanks to all for checking on me and th elovely messages you send me. They mean alot to me. Thanks to all for the continuous support and encouragement. Here, I came back from India with lots of good memories to keep and some pictures and stories to share with you.

It was Monsoon in India then with lots of rain and less heat to bear, nice weather to sit cosy at home with a cup of tea or coffee and a newspaper in hand to watch the downpour.  Probably not a good weather to go on a house boat as the rain and currants can get precarious, but we did that too and that’s what I am going to share with  you today.

We had planned a family trip to Kumarakom and Kochi couple of days after our arrival to Kerala. Even before we could overcome the jetlag and fatigue, we set off to Kumarakom, a popular tourist destination located 16 kms from the city of Kottayam. It is famous for its beautiful backwaters, houseboats, natural beauty, wide variety of flora and fauna and is set in the backdrop of the great Vembanad kaayal /Lake which is the largest lake in Kerala and the longest one in India.  It was a two day tour package which included a day in the  house boat, resort and the third day we spent roaming in the outskirts of Kochi and Alappuzha. Easiest means of transport from Kannur to Kumarakom was by train. It took us 7 hours overnight journey to Kottayam from where we freshened up ourselves in a small hotel and then left for houseboat .

Houseboat was one great experience, a heart throbbing one to cherish and treasure forever. It is unable to convey through words, but the pictures may speak a little if not all. The first day we spent cruising on the houseboat which took us in and around the serene beauty of the famous backwaters, paddy fields, and the mighty Vembanad Lake. Our houseboat was a massive one, with 4 air conditioned bedrooms, each with attached baths, a long walkway, a hall and a kitchen to top it all. It had a deck upstairs with some chairs and settees arranged to breathe in the freshness of nature.  Scrumptious meals were prepared by the crews in the boat for breakfast lunch and dinner. As the boat moved slowly, I went on clicking anything that came my way and fascinated me. The lake, other  houseboats that ornamented the backwater, the moss that were floating in the lake, paddy fields, small boats/thoni, the rain etc.  In between, our boat stopped at a place where there were small shops selling  daily essentials and seafood from where we bought Tender coconuts and huge prawns that was cooked as part of our meal that night.

By evening our house boat was disembarked near a vast paddy field, in the back waters. We spent our evening cracking jokes, watching telly and of course running behind kids. Had a fabulous dinner which included the lobsters that were bought from the shop that afternoon. They were prepared by the crews on board again and the next day we set off to our resort. It was based in Kumarakom and  was overlooking the Vembanad lake, a resort that could make a dream holiday destination. The resort was built in the traditional Kerala fashion and was well equipped with Gym, pool, water sports centre, cycling facilities, sunset cruise, multi cuisine restaurants etc. The resort also had indoor games like chess, table tennis, caroms etc to keep you busy in case the weather goes bad.  After spending some time there we set out to Aleppy on a small boat across the backwaters and Vembanad Lake. The weather then started getting real bad with wind that the boat started wavering much to freak all of us out. We then returned back halfway through without making it to Aleppy. We were told that Aleppy is the prime destination for houseboats with over 800 houseboats where as Kumarakom has only as few as 50 houseboats. It is in Aleppy that the major event Vallam kali (Boat race) takes place. We spent the night playing caroms and table tennis.

On our third day, we roamed in and around the city of Cochin, visited the Marine Drive, Dutch palace and Oberon Mall. But by then I was already down with viral fever and I was just dragging myself along with gang as I dint want to miss anything and to let them have their fun time. Much photoes were not taken on the third day as all what I wanted to was to lie down and have some rest. I really missed taking pictures that day as there were great things that could be shot and I couldnt. But I have already taken more than 800 pictures in two days, so my camera too would have yearned for a break.

IL diplomatico

Okay, For today’s recipe, here is a dessert that I tried a while ago, and have been lying in my drafts for months now. The name of this dessert is a new one and I found it in one of my cake books. The picture always left me drooling and I was just waiting for an occasion to make it.  I think it is basically a chocolate Tiramisu, with a diplomatic name! A pretty straight forward recipe with an awesome result. Actually, the recipe in the book doesnt have eggs added to it and may be even an easier one to make. But sometimes I have the habit of making simple things complicated just like this one. So please bear with me . If anyone wants the egg-free recipe of Diplomatico as in the book, please feel free to ask, I can type it out for you. I havent tried that method though, so cant guarantee the outcome. But it looks reliable.

Il Diplomatico
Serves 10
2 large eggs, separated
200gm dark chocolate – 50% cocoa mass (use 100 g milk chocolate and 100g dark chocolate if you dont like the bitter taste of dark chocolate, but reduce sugar by half).
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)
250g mascarpone cheese
1 cup, 250 ml double cream/whipping cream
8-10 tablespoons Icing sugar or depending on one’s preference
2-3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g saviordi biscuits, around 30 of them. (If you don’t get them, just use regular sponge cakes or Madeira cakes)
Cocoa powder – to garnish
250 mls whipping cream (optional) to garnish.

03/01/2013 : The method of preparation is slightly modified to make it easier.
1. Melt chocolate plus 1 teaspoon coffee powder in a double boiler. Let it cool completely.

2. Mix 1 tablespoon of coffee and 1 tablespoon of caster sugar to boiling water and mix well. Set aside to cool.

3. Add  caster sugar to egg yolks in another heat proof bowl and and beat well using an electric beater for about 5-8 minutes by placing it on a double boiler. Beat until the mixture is pale and slightly warm. Make sure the water beneath the bowl is simmering, and doesnt touch the bowl on top else the yolks will get cooked and scramble. It is not necessary to place on the double boiler, you may beat the yolks and sugar without placing on double boiler too.

3. In a squeaky clean bowl, beat egg whites till it forms soft peaks. Add 4 tablespoon of icing sugar, and beat till stiff.

4. In a large bowl, lightly whip cream to soft peaks. Add vanilla essence, 4-6 tablespoon of icing sugar and beat for few seconds until combined.

5. To this add mascarpone and beat to incorporate.

6. Add melted chocolate and mix well. Add egg yolk mixture and mix well until well incorporated.

7. Mix  1/3 of whipped egg whites to this cream and chocolate mixture to loosen it slightly and then fold rest of the egg whites in.

To assemble:
1. Spray a 1 Kilo loaf tin with non stick spray or just brush it with oil and line it with clingfilm and let them hang them on all sides so that you can pull it out.

2. Dip sponge fingers lightly in the coffee and line the base of the tin.

3. Pour half of chocolate-mascarpone mixture in and level with spatula.

4. Layer another layer of coffee dipped saviordi and pour in rest of the chocolate-mascarpone mixture.

5. Then cover the chocolate-mascarpone mixture with another layer of coffee dipped saviordi.

6. Chill for about 4 hours or overnight to set.

7.  To serve: Invert the loaf pan on to serving plate and slide the loaf pan out.  Take off the cling film and dust generously with cocoa powder or ice completely with whipped cream. Serve thick slices with coffee.

N.B: Please add sugar as per your taste. Mine is usually on the higher side, so I tend to add more sugar. You may add less, if you like your dessert less sweet.
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