Friday, 24 February 2012

Moutabbal/Baba Ghanoush

Muthabbal is one of the favorite Middle Eastern dips that comes along with most Middle Eastern platters. Made with grilled aubergines, these dip has a distiguishing smokey flavour. You can either chargrill it, bake it in oven or even cover in foil and cook it on hob fire. It is also known as baba ghanoush in many part of the Arab world.

Moutabbal/Baba Ghanoush
Serves 8-10

1 kilo Aubergines/Brinjal/egg plant
6 Tbsp Tahini paste
2 Tbsp Lemon/lime juice
3 Tbsp Olive oil plus extra to garnish
170g Yogurt
Salt to taste
Mint leaves and crushed cumin to garnish

1.Preheat the oven to 180⁰C - 200⁰C. Make few shallow slits on the aubergines and place them on an oiled tray. Bake them until the skin is blackened and aubergines are cooked through. You can also grill them by flipping sides when they are done. This would take around 30-45 minutes depending on the size of brinjals.

2. Let it cool down a bit and then hold them under cold running water and peel away the blackened skin or scoop out the flesh using a spoon discarding the charred skin away.

3. Place a sieve on a bowl . Chop the flesh of aubergine and put them into the sieve. Leave it in fridge  overnight. This drains away any bitter juice from the aubergines.

4. Place chopped brinjal, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil in a processer and pulse few times until you get nice thick chunky paste. If you don’t want to puree it, you can finely chop it and  mix it with other ingredients. I like to pulse it along with other ingredients into chunky dip. 
Drizzle with more olive oil while serving and garnish it with some fresh mint leaves and cumin powder.

1.Adding yogurt is optional. It is mainly used to mellow down the bitterness of brinjal. You may add less or more to suit you taste. Also add more lemon juice to suit your taste. Usually plenty of lemon juice is added to the dip. But I like it less tangy.

2. You can easily halve the given amount.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Rosewater Macarons with Cardamom Infused White Chocolate Ganache

In my first macaron post, I did mention macarons are addictive, making them and having them, both alike. And now, I warm myself  from doing anything that says ‘addictive’ because I do get addicted. I was bitten by this contagious mac-bug and since ever since I tried my first set of macarons and saw the successful forming of feet, I was on the roll. Not one, not two, but my oven saw many batches and flavours of successful batches ever since. Whenever I got a chance, I made sure I baked macarons. I made them for my hubby’s colleagues, for my son, for party, for potluck etc. Initial batches dint really impress me; feet was there, tasted good but dint look that appealing as I saw them around the net. So I baked them one after the other getting prettier batches of these morsels. Most of them turned out great with that fine texture and perfect balance of flavours. All the batches had feet (the ruffles at the base of the cookies, which is characteristics of macarons), but the last two batches which were intended to be taken for a birthday party dint turn up great. The top was cracked and not looking good. I was really put off with that. It dint happen to me even in the first batch. It doesn’t mean that I would quit making them, but probably, I would give it a pause for the time being.

I should tell you, after spending lot of time in the kitchen grinding the ingredients, sieving, piping the batter, resting time, lot of mess and vessels to clean up, seeing an unsuccessful can put you at grudge! It did to me. I know where I went wrong. I was overconfident and was a bit careless due to that. Mistake was too silly but non- reversible.. Even though I take the proverb that says failures are stepping stones to success, I should re-think that phrase when it comes to making macaron. I hate macaron failures as the trouble to making them is not less! And failures do happen with them and that too very easily. And of course you learn a new lesson from the mistake, but I still don’t like it when a macaron flops. 

It is Valentine’s day today and I thought of drafting out something that would suit the occasion. I am not the kind of person who would celebrate Valentine's Day with so much excitement and as such, but may bake something just for the heck of it, and just another reason to bake! If anybody is celebrating Valentine’s Day, this is for you!

Here I am sharing with you one of my favourite macaron flavours - Rose water and cardamom. I love the delightful flavour that rosewater imparts in any dish and cardamom is my favourite. The pair makes magical combination of flavours. Not so French flavours for this ever popular French cookie, but macaron takes it well. Recipe is Inspired from Meeta of

Rosewater Macarons with Cardamom Infused White Chocolate Ganache
Makes 15 medium sandwiched cookies

For shells:  

65g Almond (slivers, blanched or powder)
100g Icing sugar
30g caster sugar
52g Egg whites
¼ tsp freshly ground cardamom
¾ tsp rosewater
few drops of red food colour

White chocolate Ganache:

100g white chocolate
100mls double cream
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp rosewater

Preparation (shells):
Note: Please check my first post here for all the tips, links and macaron template. 

1. Place egg whites in a clean bowl. Cover it with a cling cover and poke few holes in the film. Keep it in your kitchen counter for 24-48 hours or in fridge for up to 5 days. This is called ageing of egg-whites. This helps to reduce the moisture content in the egg whites and helps to make firmer shells. Fresh egg whites make fragile cookies which may break off as you try to lift them off the baking paper.

2. Powder almonds and icing sugar in a food processor or a grinder into very flour-like fine powder. Transfer them to a large bowl and sieve 1-2 times to break up the lumps. Discard the large grains of almonds if any. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl and keep aside while you work with meringue.

3. For making meringue, using an electric blender, whisk egg whites in a squeaky clean bowl on high until it starts to form soft peaks. Add in caster sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. It should be like a smooth, glossy shaving cream like form. If adding any colour, add once stiff peaks are formed and then beat again to bring back to peaks. Make sure it is not over beaten and dry, which would result in dry shells. All I do is, I whip the meringue until it reach a stage that when you invert the bowl of whipped meringue, its stays in place without sliding down all the way out. I keep checking in between whipping to see if the meringue is sliding down the bowl and keep on beating it until it stops sliding down.

4. Add meringue to the dry mixture in 2-3 portions and start folding it until everything is just combined and no more of dry mixture could be seen. Use a flexible spatula for this and mix until you get a smooth, shiny batter that ruggedly drips down the spoon once you lift it. DO NOT over mix once you have reached that thick batter stage. For testing, place a teaspoon of batter in a plate and you see it spreading flat, then the batter should be ready. If it has a peak on top, give couple more folds and check again.

5. Line your baking sheet with baking paper or silpat. Fit your piping bag with a round tip nozzle and place it in a tall glass or a jar to ease you while scooping the batter in. Once the batter is all scooped in, twist the ends of piping bag tight to seal the batter in. Pipe out small rounds of about 2 cm diameter on your baking paper leaving about 2 inches in between. The macaron batter will spread and then join hands with the next one if they are piped too close, so make sure leave atleast 2 inches between them. Rap the baking sheet few times on a table to remove any bubbles trapped in the batter. (To help you with the round shape, you can use this template).

6. Let the macarons sit to dry for as long as it forms a thin skin on top or is dry and leaves no indentation once touched or the batter doesn’t stick to hands once touched. It depends from place to place depending on the weather and humidity, it takes upto 3 hours.

7. Preheat the oven to 140 degress Celcius. Bake the macaron for 11-13 minutes. Do not open the oven until they are completely done. Take them out and let them cool down for half an hour or so. Peel them out gently and sort them out with same size shells. Fill them with Ganache and leave it in fridge to mature for a day or two to get maximum flavour out of it. It is very important to mature the cookies as that filling will steep into the shells and the flavours blend well. Unfilled shells can be frozen.

For the filling:
Bring double cream to simmering point in a heavy base pan or in microwave. Once you start seeing small bubbles appearing along the sides, turn the heat off and add chopped chocolates into it. Leave it for couple of minutes, add rose water and cardamom powder and then stir well until combined. Leave aside until it firms enough to pipe. You can also pop it into fridge once warm and then take it out once firm enough to pipe.

And Last, but not least this post also goes to MacAttack challenge 27 at Mactweets Blog.They are celebrating Macaron day on 20th, So Iam marking my presence there.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Saffron and Cardamom infused Almond Milk

The temperature has been hitting minus constantly for the past couple of weeks and  nothing could be better than sipping on something hot to mellow down the bitterness of the icy cold weather. Here is a fantastic recipe of a refreshing drink that has simple, clean flavour with a whiff of Saffron and cardamom.  Saffron adds a royal touch and a warm yellow hue to this drink and cardamom imparts a pleasant warm aroma . Almond milk brings in me fond memories of none other than my mom. She used to prepare this for us when we were little kids. She prepares it slightly differently than my preparation and it was simple, yet delightful. She soaks her almonds, peel them off and then blend them along with sugar and cold milk. As the almonds were blended along with milk, it would still be coarse and grainy which gave me an uncomfortable feeling as the drink passed down the throat. It was still delicious even though the coarse grainy feeling of almonds was not very soothing, at least for me. Later after my wedding she also passed on the almond milk serving tradition to serve her son in law. She doesn’t add saffron and cardamom in her almond drink; neither does she cook the milk. I have read somewhere that cooking the almond milk take away that grainy feeling of ground almonds.

 I was introduced to the saffron flavoured almond milk in one of London’s popular Indian eat outs- The Chennai Dosai, the place where they sold cheap and delicious south Indian meals. Chilled Saffron infused almond milk was the drink that we regularly ordered. So I just recreated that lingering taste at home when I got a craving for it out of nowhere!

Saffron and Cardamom infused Almond Milk
Serves 4

60g ground almonds
2-5 tbsp sugar or to sweeten
¼ - 1/3 cup milk
3 ¾ cups milk (Full fat milk gives that rich creamy taste, but semi skimmed milk works well too)
Good pinch of saffron
2 green cardamoms (optional, omit if youdislike the cardamom flavour)

1.In a grinder, add ground almonds, sugar and ¼ - 1/3 cup of milk to grind the almond to fine paste without any grainy feeling.

2. Heat a saucepan, pour in milk, add in the almond paste, cardamoms and saffron. Stir continuously to break up the almond paste and to prevent the milk from sticking to pan. Once the milk comes to boil, lower the heat, cook for couple of minutes and  turn off the heat.

3. Serve it in individual tall glasses and garnish with few saffron strands and chopped nuts and have it hot. Else once the drink has cooled down, cover it and chill it and serve chilled. It’s delicious either cold or hot.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes

I have been making several types of chocolate cupcakes for a while now and I realise I haven’t even posted one of them. Like brownie, I tend to try lot of chocolate cup cakes so as to satiate our chocolate craving. Cupcakes are small and mighty and I also easily halve the recipe so as to make a small batch. Usually recipe works fine without any major taste difference at all. Each chocolate cup cake I tried was different in texture, taste, depth of chocolate flavour and different method too. This particular cupcake has mild chocolate flavour, was spongy and soft. I dint ice these as it was sweet enough to eat them without icing. Plus whenever I ice my cakes, my sons just licks all the frosting and have few nibbles off the cake. To avoid that I left the cake un-iced and he had them as it is.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Fairy Cakes by Nancy Lambert

Ingredients: (For 6-7 medium cup cakes)
30g dark chocolate
75mls water
1 medium egg (58g)
75g soft brown sugar
45g slightly salted softened butter (Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
65g self raising flour
20g ground almonds
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Ingredients: (For 12-14 cupcakes)

60g dark chocolate
150mls water
2 medium egg (116g)
150g soft brown sugar
90g slightly salted softened butter (Add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter)
125g self raising flour
30g ground almonds
2 tbsp cocoa powder

1.Preheat the oven to 180 º Celcius/gasmark 4/350 º F. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with muffin cases.

2. Place chocolate and water into a small saucepan. Stir over a low heat until chocolate is melted and is smooth. Reserve.

3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon or electric whisk until soft and fluffy.

4. Add eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated.

5. In another bowl, mix flour, cocoa, almond powder and mix well using a whisk or sieve the ingredients once.

6. Into the wet mixture, add the dry mixture, followed by the chocolate mixture and using a wire whisk, mix till smooth.

7. Using a tablespoon transfer equal amounts of batter into the muffin cases, filling 2/3rd of the case. Bake the cupcakes for about 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean without any crumbs sticking to it.
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