Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chocolate Macarons with Mocha Ganache

Hi all,

Happy Halloween! Hope you all had a great time today and had a wonderful Eid last week. Belated Eid wishes to all. I was hoping to post this on the day before Eid, but things did not work the way it was supposed to work. My terrible procrastination is to be blamed for that. 

For the reason, UK being a Christian country, Eid is not widely known and hence no official holidays or celebrations. On the day, the husband was at work and kid was school, and I was at the verge of breaking into tears thinking of celebrating Eid at home all by myself. 

Being brought up in a household with lot of things happening, it is sometimes a bit hard to be all by yourself. Even though, I have got used to the solitary peace by now and enjoy it, I would still want to be around my loved ones during celebratory occasions. Thankfully, the husband came home at noon in time for lunch and we picked up kid early from school; had our usual Eid meal - Mutton Biryani and chicken fry for lunch and it went great. The dessert was something I had been looking forward to making and heard a lot about - the trifle, a very simple and quite a popular dessert and so delicious. I can’t wait to share.

Eid-al-Adha or the Feast of the sacrifice is a major festival celebrated by muslims all over the world. You can read more of it here. It actually comes towads the end of Hajj period. It is usually celebrated annually on the 10th, 11th and 12th of of Dul Hijjah, the last month of Lunar Islamic calendar. Since I grew up in the Middle East, my childhood memories of Eid back in India is negligible. It was always celebrated in Abu Dhabi except for last year where I celebrated Eid in India after a long gap of 22 years. It was a grandeur family event with all our cousins, uncles and aunts meeting up in our ‘tharavadu’ and visiting all relatives.

While I used to be in Abu Dhabi, myself and my sisters sit late at night day before the big day, chitchatting and laughing and applying the henna while my mother preparing the Biryani masala for the next day. We sleep off with the henna in hand, sometimes covering the hand loosely with a plastic bag to collect any dry henna that falls off the hand and to prevent messing up the bed and staining it. The applied henna is constantly wet with lime juice mixed with sugar or black tea to bring out the rich henna colour. It is usually washed off the next day morning leaving behind a deep dark burnt orange henna pattern on hand and the intoxicating aroma of mehendi..

On the big day, we wake up much early, take shower put on the clean, new crisp clothes and go to masjid to perform Eid prayers. After the prayers, Eid greetings are exchanged with warm hug. After getting back home, we straight away indulge in luscious homemade meal, which usually is a mutton biryani, chutney, raita and a chicken fry and alisa. At home, both my sisters don’t eat mutton and fish, so my mom has to make some chicken biryani, just for them or chicken biryani for all of us. In the evening we go out in the beach or town and spend some great time together. It has all changed; changed big time after I came here where there are no official holidays for Eid, the schools are open and no celebrations in the country unless it falls on a week end where the friends make great plans and we get together for Eid.

It’ s Halloween today and we friends (neighbours) planned some games and stuff for kids to enjoy and we all had fantastic time together. I’ve got a bunch of great neighbours who I get along well with and are the sweetest of people I met in a while. It was great to see the kids in Halloween costumes; my son was dressed up as a vampire and I thought he was the cutest vampire ever! After the games and food, we were planning to light up some fireworks and then go trick or treating, but thanks to the horrible British weather, it was too windy and cold and to top it up, it started raining. So, we couldn’t go out or light up the crackers, but kids had great fun.

Anyways, coming to the recipe, chocolate macarons is the one I keep making over and over again as my little one demands it. He absolutely adore chocolate macarons. Chocolate macarons are the only macarons that took me quite a few trials to get right. For many reasons, it went wrong. I never followed a recipe right and I have been too confident that I would never expect it to go wrong. But it did. It failed few attempts yielding macarons with sloppy feet, cracked tops and hollow pockets. Macarons, even the failed ones are good to munch on, and to crush on to ice creams and desserts, so I din’t have to bin them. But the texture of a failed macaron is way different from a successful macaron with beautiful feet. Here is the recipe that gave me beautiful macarons with perfect feet and delicate shells. Double the recipe as needed.

Chocolate macarons with Mocha ganache
Makes 26 small ones

For shells:
20g caster sugar
58g aged egg whites
65g Almond (slivers, blanched or powder)
100g icing sugar
20g cocoa powder

Mocha Ganache:

100g semisweet chocolate
100mls double cream
½ tsp-1 tsp instant coffee

Preparation (shells):

**For an elaborate macaron post with my tips and links to other helpful sources, check out my first macaron post here.

For ageing egg whites: 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 ageing 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.

1. 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.

2.Powder almonds, cocoa powder and icing sugar in a food processor or a grinder into very flour-like fine powder. Sieve the mixture 1-2 times to break up the lumps. Transfer the mixture 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 (preferably metallic bowl as it is difficult to maintain a plastic/glass bowl grease free) 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. Make sure it is not over beaten and dry, which would result in dry shells.

4. Add the dry mixture to meringue 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 slowly, then the batter should be ready. If it has a peak on top, give couple more folds and check again. Keep checking the batter at each stage by placing a spoon of batter in the plate to judge the consistency.

5. Scoop the batter into the bag placed in the tall glass. 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 at least 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, and it may take anywhere between half hour up to 3 hours.

7. Preheat the oven to 150 degree Celsius. 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.

8. Sandwich the shells  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 be absorbed 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 and coffee granules into it. Leave it for couple of minutes and then stir well until combined. Leave aside until it firms enough to pipe.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tadka Dal


Sometimes it is the simplest of recipes that takes time to perfect, to master. For me, it has always been so. Partly, it might  be due to me taking the simple recipes for granted. And partly I may be careless dealing with easy recipes and don’t pay enough attention. Or am I over-confident? I don’t know, but I almost always screw up simple recipes. I handle complicated recipes at ease as I pay too much of attention, care and take good amount of time preparing it. But when it comes to easy recipes I have always been a sucker!! I rush into making it, carelessly throwing in ingredients and then ruining the entire dish or rather unappealing. Dal was a constant victim of such careless preparation. So this time, I planned to do everything slow, taking time and care and adding my love while preparing it. That was it. It was just the way I want.  When you cook something, you have to cook with love for it to be tasty. That is not just saying, that is the truth. One should love what you are cooking, for the outcome to be good.

One of my friends who hail from Pakistan called fouziya prepares very good dal curries. She prepares them at a fast pace, randomly throwing in stuffs, but her recipes always turned out very tasty. She had given me her recipes; I tried them quite a few times long ago but I never got it right. Now that I have been cooking for a while and learned to cook by instincts rather than sticking to a recipe, I should be able to get those recipes right now. I should try them again. 

Dal has always been my easy way out when I am in no mood to cook. It is simple, healthy and requires less effort and time. I prepare them quite often to include great protein in our diet especially when we cut down on our meat intake. This is one of the easiest of dal curries that I prepare for rice and roti. I usually add potatoes, but this time I opted it out as the husband has been repeatedly asking me to prepare dal without potatoes. This is the kind of dal my mother makes. She makes it quite watery for having it with rice, but I like it slightly thicker, so I use more lentils, less water.  This could go even thicker if you reduce the water content. You could also reduce the water and add little coconut milk once the lentils are cooked for a different taste.

I usually slow cook dal over low heat for a good amount of time as pressure cooking gives a different texture to the gravy.  When you pressure cook the lentils, you can see that it gets thicker as it sits. Hence, we would have to loosen the curry later on by adding water which I feel spoils the taste of the curry.  But with lentils being slow cooked in a saucepan retains its texture and flavour throughout and doesn’t set or become thick later on. You also get creamier dal when you slow cook dal and you can control the amount of water that goes it giving it the right consistency. 

Tadka dal is a popular Indian dal curry, which in simple words means tempered dal curry. I guess some call this dal fry as well. Any variety of dal could be used for preparing the curry and then temper it using any blend of spice. I usually prepare it using masoor dal, toor dal and moong dal (Green gram dal). You can also mix 2-3 lentils, but water should be adjusted accordingly. Spices are tempered in ghee or oil to release their flavour and this tempered oil is added to the curry imparting their flavour and aroma to the curry. The spices used differ from place to place and people and accordingly there would be slight variation. Nevertheless, this effortless dish is comforting and is a staple food in India.

This post also goes for the event My legume love affair originally started by Susan of The wellseasoned cook, being hosted by Sra of whenmysoupcamealive.

Tadka Dal
Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

1 cup split red lentils
1 ½ large tomato chopped, 150 g
1 large onion chopped, 200g
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 ½ - 3/12 cups water
1 large potato (optional)
1 teaspoons mild chilli powder or paprika
½ tsp turmeric powder
1-3 green chillies or omit it if you want it very mild
salt – as required
1 tsp oil

To temper (Tadka):
1-2 tbsp coconut oil/vegetable oil or ghee
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 twigs curry leaves
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1-2 broken red chillies

To garnish:
Chopped coriander leaves.

1. Wash lentils in several changes of water and soak for ½ an hour. Drain the water. Wash and cut the potato into 4 or 6 pieces, if using.

2. Place the lentils with all other ingredients except the tadka in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the dal is cooked and the gravy is thick. (First add 2 ½ cup of water and if it goes dry, add little by little to get the thickness of your liking).

3. You can also reduce the water and add coconut milk towards the end of cooking, before the tadka.

4. Once the dal is cooked to your liking, temper/tadka it. I like my dal cooked completely, but holding its shape.

For tadka:
1.In a small frying pan or kadai heat oil/ghee.

2.  Add in mustard seeds and when they splutter add cumin seeds, curry leaves and broken chillies and fry for few seconds until the leaves sizzle. Pour it in to the dal. Stir and keep it covered for few minutes to infuse the flavour.

3. Just before serving garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve it along with rice,roti etc.

1.If you want it mild, reduce green chillies and chilli powder to you taste.

2. You can use any combination of dal or use the same recipe with mung dal.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Banana Smoothie

Are your bananas over ripened? Don’t bin them; smoothie them. They are high in fibre and a great energy booster. So you can whip up a smoothie like this and make an ideal breakfast and it will keep you full till noon. This is probably the simplest of smoothies that I make. I just breakup over ripened bananas into chunks by hand and blitz all other ingredients together.

The peanut butter takes the smoothie to another level. It’s a new flavour, delicious and quite interesting. Flavour of the peanut butter is not prominent as it is, but it marries well with banana bringing out a new flavour. Once made, I felt this smoothie has a cookie dough like taste!

Banana smoothie
Serves 2-3
2 large ripe bananas ~330g
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 ½ cups chilled milk or more if you like it thin
2-3 tbsp honey or sugar to taste
2-3 ice cubes (optional)


1. In a blender, place roughly chopped bananas, peanut butter, ice cubes, chilled milk and sugar/honey and blitz until smooth and creamy.

2. Serve immediately. You may garnish with chopped peanuts and honey.


1. If you want really cold smoothie, peel bananas, chop them into chunks and them place them in freezer until really cold. You can also freeze you over ripened bananas for later use.

2. You can also try omitting the Peanut butter and add 2-3 strawberries for a different taste.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...