Friday, March 30, 2012

Giggling girls and bits of basil

Spoils of war ©Nimpipi

 This is a scene from an impromptu wine evening the four of us had at P Singh Patel's house a couple of weeks ago. There was wine (hic!), there were kebabs (yum!) and in between I'd managed to sneak to the market and buy some cheese and bread. Impromptu or not, there's nothing like a good meal. Why? Because we're worth it.

Hahaha, so cheesy. But the truth is that I'm in a phase in my life where I want to remember everything. I want to be able to cherish friendships, I want to be able to look back and laugh. I want everything to be special. And perfect. I want to make a memory of everything.

Why? Some might ask. Because over the last couple of months, I have this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'm going to miss my life in Delhi. And bad. It's the same feeling I had when I was moving from Chennai, it's the same feeling I had before we sat down our parents to tell them we wanted to get married.

Dealing with that feeling is hard, especially because I have the memory of a goldfish. I blame it on information overload, but the truth is I have a problem - I tend to block things in my life. But this time, I've made it a point to remember.

So, I treat everything like 'my precious' and try not to say no to anything. That's my way of coping with it.

I got to PSingh's place armed with tomatoes and fresh basil. I wanted to make something special and easy and filling  (we were all coming back from work). As I got to the bruschetta, the other two set the table outside and set up the mood - lighting, music and all.

Three kinds of cheese - smoked, stilton and gouda were a part of our company that evening. Grapes, crackers and bruschetta made for the rest. Laid back and relaxed (wine can do that to you) and we talked about many many things. The four of us used to be colleagues till about a year ago, i.e. we worked in the same organisation. Sans one, the three of us have all left to work elsewhere.

But it hasn't changed the way we feel for each other. In fact, I think it's made us treasure each other more. Made us realise that we actually had a brilliant time while we were there. Made us feel that we were going to remember this moment.
 
 Four hours and two bottles of wine later, we called it a night.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------


A giggle of girls ©Nimpipi
I make bruschetta very often. In fact I find it one of the easiest hors d'oeuvres, which doubles up as an excellent side for the main course.

This recipe isn't from one particular source, it's a combination of all things I've read and liked and got this down. This is one of my favourite recipes, which is always always the quickest thing to assemble - I mean by the time the baguette is toasted, I am done with my tomato mix - it's really that quick.

Fresh, easy and light on the tummy it's perfect when I am all alone as well.

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

Ingredients

1 baguette

5 tomatoes diced
1 bunch of basil
2 tablespoons plus 2 tablepoons Olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar (if you don't have it, you can substitute with apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or strawberry vinegar)
Salt
Pepper

1 clove of garlic cut in two horizontally

Method

1. To the chopped tomatoes, add salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tear up a good handful of basil leaves. Mix. Leave aside

2. Cut the baguette in slice diagonally. Brush with olive oil and roast in the oven for a couple of minutes. (If you don't have an oven, you can pan roast the slices - which is what we did here)

3. Take it out and rub the garlic against each piece of toast. Top with the tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Note: You can make the tomato mix either when you need it or a couple of hours ahead. But only top it on the toast when you're ready to serve, otherwise you're gonna get horrid and soggy bruschetta.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blueberry scones and Enid Blyton memories

Total recall ©Nimpipi 

No one ever gave me scones to eat when I was a child. No one even told me how it was supposed to look. No, wait Enid Blyton did. In fact Enid Blyton, made me think of how many things looked - treacle pudding, pop biscuits, jam tarts, plum pie, sausage rolls, potatoes in their jackets, cold chicken, salad, pickles, potted meat, tongue sandwiches with lettuce, cream cheese, and ginger beer. The list was endless.

I think that if I ever, ever do a Masters in English literature, it would be the use of food in Enid Blyton's books. Maybe my fascination of all things English began then.
I've tried hard to locate someone who could get me pop biscuits. I asked my father over and over again where the Magic Faraway Tree was, so that we could go there to bring some back.No luck. Little did I know I'd have to make the things she talked about to be able eat some of them
Scones were always something that popped up in her book and it fascinated me. One passage in particular I remember from a Famous Five book:

"Hot scones,” said George, lifting the lid off a dish. “I never thought I’d like hot scones on a summer’s day, but these look heavenly. Running with butter! Just how I like them!
The four looked at the home-made buns and biscuits and the great fruit cake. They stared at the dishes of home-made jam, and the big plate of ripe plums. Then they looked at Mrs. Philpot, sitting behind a very big teapot, pouring out cups of tea.

Imagine eating scones with butter running with home-made jam. Yum. So fun. I knew I had to made them.

Whenever I make scones now, I always make a few extra so that I can freeze the unbaked ones and pop them when I'm ready to eat. I make them plain, I make them with maple, I make them with berries.

These scones I made for a Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago. For my Blueberry scones, I've used Nigella's Buttermilk Scones recipe but have changed from shortening to butter and put in a bit of salt. The salt is primarily because I don't like my scones without them. They taste somewhat nanga (naked) for me. Eaten warm with a smearing of home-made jam, this is an amazing breakfast, brunch or snack.
Also you can pretend to be very fancy and have a cup of tea with it. And perhaps make mini cucumber sandwiches and pretend you're at hi-tea with the Queen.

Hue of blue ©Nimpipi
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen. Available in India, US and UK

Blueberry scones

 Ingredients
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/3 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup frozen blueberries (for the lack of fresh ones)
1 egg, beaten, for an egg wash (optional)

Special equipment
1 large lipped baking sheet or half sheet pan
1 (2-inch) biscuit cutter, preferably fluted

 Method

1. Preheat the oven to 210 degree C or 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment/butter paper.

2. Put the flour into a bowl with the baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar. Chop the butter and the vegetable shortening into pieces and drop them into the flour. Rub the fats into the flour - or just mix any old how - and then pour in the buttermilk working everything together to form a dough. Add the blueberries now.

3. Lightly flour your work surface. Pat the dough into a round-edged oblong about 1 3/4 inches thick and cut out 2-inch scones with a biscuit cutter. (Mine are never a uniform height, as I only pat the dough into its shape without worrying whether it's irregular or not.)

4. Arrange the scones fairly close together on your lined baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg (to give golden tops) or not as you wish.

5. Bake for 12 minutes, by which time the scones will be dry on the bottom and have a relatively light feel. Remove them to a wire rack to cool, and serve with clotted cream and your favourite jam.

Note: Scones are best on the day they are made but day-old scones can be revived by warming in oven preheated to 300 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes.
Baked scones can be frozen in airtight containers or resealable bags for up to one month. Thaw for 1 hour at room temperature and warm as above. Unbaked scones can be put on parchment-lined trays and frozen until solid. Transfer to resealable bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake direct from frozen, as directed in recipe, but allowing extra 2 to 3 minutes baking time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tried and tested Wednesdays. Baking this time

Two nights ago, my mother and my sister spent the night with me while my husband was away. It was the first time in years, that the three of us were totally alone. No husbands, no grandmother. Just us and the dog.

The conversation of course veneered to the do you remembers. Do you you remember how it was sleeping all alone? Do you remember Mataji (our helper)? Do you remember how Ma used to make us cakes in steel katoris (bowls)?

I couldn't remember this at all, the cakes that is. I remember my mother's cinnamon buns, I remember her brownies, but the katori cakes, no. How strange, perhaps I've just repressed a lot of my childhood.

Then I tried to recall my first ever baking experience. All I got were snatches of memories - baking a horrid lamington loaf at 12, brownies at 13, an awesome club sandwich at 11. Chilli cheese toasts at 10. But nothing about the first thing I've ever baked. Zilch.

Maybe I need to be hypnotised so that I can coax these memories out of the back of my brain. But my point here is, that I had to be fiddling around with the oven for a couple of years, in order to feel confident about using it without supervision.

I do remember owning recipe books. I don't remember their names at all. (Better dig them out). From which I baked quite a bit - Oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate cakes but there were three books that helped me evolve as a baker. The first was the Mennonite cookbook, the second The Weekend Baker and third Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours. This book released in 2006, but I only got hold of it in 2008. So I've spent at least 4 glorious years with it.




In the US, Dorie Greenspan has a cult following. Many food bloggers were a part of her 'Tuesdays with Dorie' event. A beautiful event that people would select one recipe and try it out the following week and post variations of it. For me, however, Dorie Greenspan expanded my horizon. She made me see that you could bake with so many things other than just egg, butter, sugar and flour. For that I am thankful.

She gave out step by step techniques. Excellent pointers and the pictures were drool-worthy. She encouraged you, coaxed you into trying something new and was even a great bedside companion.

I've recommended this books to many friends. This is a great book for both beginners and experts.

The book is sort of a build up - you start with smaller easier things that can be tinkered around with - muffins, biscuits, scones  cookies, and then move on to loaf cakes, baby cakes, non-frosted cakes. There's a whole section on brownies. A dozen recipes that have a several variations to it. Then on pies, on fancy cakes and sauces that require a teeny bit of technique.

That said, I've made at least half  the recipes from this book. I could have made them all, but I have gone back to many of them over and over again. My favourite from this book include the Devil's White Out Cake. Even when I'm not following the recipe to the T, I make just that cake to use when I am making layers cake. It's an excellent chocolate cake that isn't very sweet and holds its shape yet remains moist.

The apple pie from this book is to-die-for. Incredibly flaky and buttery (and fattening and you might die soon type) but one of the best you'd have ever eaten. The pumpkin pie, the lemon cream pie, the choux pastry, the pastry cream. I could go on and on.

What's really awesome is that you will get a product very close to what you see in the pictures. That for me is the true test. I'm not going to lie, this book is a little pricey. But it's worth every single penny. It's the book you want to preserve and keep for your grandchildren, it's the book that will inspire you.

 Baking from my Home to Yours available in India, US and UK

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Midsummer's soup dream




Pot full of winter ©Cookaroo
 My grandfather had five brothers and three sisters. An average-sized family for the good old days. And because he was the eldest, I suppose, he ensured that his children got to spend quality time with all of them.

My father, I suppose, tried hard to do the same with us - me and my sister, that is.(I think he'd had it by the time my brother came along). Despite all the drama, I think he succeeded, pretty well, at that, I believe.

Because we lived with our grandparents in Chennai, his (my grandfather's, that is) siblings would come and spend quite a bit of time with all of us. Between the stories, and the peels of laughter and eccentricities it would be quite an exciting time at home.

The best part though, for me, was watching my grand uncles in the kitchen. Both Ravi Uncle and Jati Uncle were and are quite the chefs. Both have been in the restaurant business, and both make awesome albeit different food. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I was surprised by them in the kitchen per se - my father cooked for us all the time - but it was how agile and nimble-fingered they were, that had me in awe.

They eyeballed everything. Hardly ever kept or even noted the measurements, knew the recipes by heart. And, everything, yup everything they made tasted superb.

My favourite memory is of a summer Jati Uncle spent in Chennai. It was May - the month of mangoes, the month of flies, the month it is so hot, that you want to move to the Himalayas. And in the middle of the day, where it must have been at least 40 degree centigrade, Jati Uncle decided he'd make soup. Potato and leek soup.

He started off mid-morning, and when we ate the soup, it was dinner time and yet fresh off the stove. It had cooked for at least 6 hours. You MUST cook the hell out of it, he said, it's how you get the soup to taste good.

And it was wonderful. Thick, warm and very filling. Quite the perfect winter soup. Except that we were eating it in peak summer in the tropical Chennai climate. That aside, it's taste stayed with me forever.

A couple of months later, when it was slightly cooler, I tried making the soup. It didn't taste quite the same. The flavours were too leeky, the potatoes too grainy. I tried again and again but it never tasted the same.

Years later, when I was staying with Jati Uncle in New York, I asked him what I did wrong. Did you put butter, lots of it, he asked. Did you add as much cream your stomach could handle, he prodded. I had done neither.

And then he made me the soup, and while helping him, this time I watched him cook. The soup tasted exactly how I remembered. And I could see why it was so wonderful - it was pure butter and cream.  Butter, he said, makes everything better.

My soup is not quite like Jati Uncle's, because, as we grow older, we have to eat healthier. I do add butter and do put a bit of cream, but it's the milk that makes it creamier. It doesn't taste quite the same, but it's still a good home-style soup.


Duplicate Zuppa delgiorno ©Cookaroo


Potato and Leek Soup (Not quite Jati Uncle style)
Serves 3 big helpings or 4 sensible one

Ingredients
4 leeks - use only the white tender parts
300 gms potatoes or 4 to 5 medium sized one
1 tablespoon Butter
1 + 1 tsp olive oil
2 cups Vegetable stock / Stock cube+ 2 cup water
1 cup Milk (optional)
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 small celery

Garnish
Cream
Parsley
Croutons and soldiers

Method

1. Chop the tender parts of the leek in circles. Heat a saucepan, add to it the butter and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the leek and let it cook till it's tender and fragrant

2. Peel and dice potatoes, add to the leek. Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the stock / water plus cube. Let the mix simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Once cooked, let it cool.

4. Once cool. Blend the mix and pour back into the saucepan. If you are adding milk, do so now and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper and paprika).

5. Cut onions, celery and carrots into small dices. In a saucepan add olive oil and the three vegetables and saute until done.

6. Add the vegetables to the simmering soup. Ladle into bowls, garnish with cream and parsley and eat up.

Note: I like the feel of vegetable bits in my mouth, omit them or add them








Monday, March 26, 2012

Rainbow cake. And happy birthday PHoonK

A hunka cake ©Cookaroo
Warning: This cake weighs 1,000 kgs. Ok am kidding. Just a humble 5.2 kgs

Last week, I blogged about making my sister two birthday cakes. The first cake was a decoy cake - a triple chocolate cake, the other cake was a mammoth cake - a rainbow cake. Six layers of vanilla cake with a filling of raspberry jam and raspberry mousse topped with Creme Ivoire icing and finally a white chocolate ganache.I am a big fan of Godiva's White chocolate and raspberry ice cream. I decided to replicate the flavours for this cake. Because of the sweetness of the white chocolate the slightly tart flavours of the raspberry was the perfect complement.

I wanted to make this cake for many reasons:
a. It was my little sister's birthday
b. I wanted to
c. I was challenging myself
d. I don't know how long I'm going to be around. (No, by that I don't mean I am going to die, but that I might be moving cities shortly).

The cake took me about two days to make. In the sense, I baked it on Saturday and filled and iced it the next day. And boy, can I please add, that was the most sensible thing I did.

I am not saying this was an easy cake to make. But all I am saying is that it's not that hard. I mean, there were so many blogs I checked out when I was going to attempt this cake which insisted that I used a box mix because "it would save so much time." Really? How hard can it be to make a cake batter? Assembly took about 15 minutes and the batter was ready in another 10, including the colours. So really, don't bother using a boxed mix. I used McCormick's Assorted colours because I don't really like what we get in India. There was no after taste and the cake tasted vanilla-ey.

Batter-ed up ©Cookaroo


The layers baked very quickly, 17 minutes to be precise. so I was actually done with them in under 2 hours. Cooling and storing them was another story. I also made the raspberry mousse the same day.

What took looooong, was filling and frosting it. Because firstly, the cake had to be chilled in between layers and secondly I ran out of frosting mid way. So had to run across to buy more white chocolate. (Note to self: never underestimate a 6-layer cake, it will take you down)

Clingy layers ©Cookaroo


Once I finished frosting/icing it, it took time to smoothen the edges and while it wasn't hard, it just took a lot of time. After smoothening it, I realised it looked super untidy, so I decided to make a ganache and pour over it, just to make it look pretty.

And truly, that did the trick, the cake looked shiny and drip-down edges looked lovely.

When I finished with the cake, I decided to weigh it, the cake weighed in at 5.2 kgs. Never had I made such a mammoth cake. Then I realised the bigger deal. We were going out for dinner. How on earth was I going to transport it?

I decided to put it on my cake stand and thankfully one of my cake domes worked well as a cover. A friend had lent me an ice box, so I bunged the stand into it and carried it everywhere we went.

The cake survived a trip down the stairs, a bumpy half-an-hour car ride, a wait for a table for 20 minutes and three-hours of being stared at hungrily by my sister's friends and fellow diners. Around 10.30 pm, after everyone had eaten and made merry, we decided to cut the cake.

Happy birthday PHoonK ©Cookaroo
The cake made a nice crack as the knife hit the Creme Ivoire and then was plunged into the softeness of the cake. You couldn't cut a small piece, the mammoth cake delivered mammoth slices. And a hit it was!




Cut me a piece too? ©Cookaroo
(I know my pictures are erratic, this is because the restaurant we were at, had extremely low lighting and by then my camera was running out of battery. So please excuse. And also I wanted to show you how it looked.)

I was right, the raspberry ensured that the cake wouldn't get too sweet and the white chocolate was fantastic flavour against it as well as the vanilla. The cake itself was light, moist and mildly crumbly.

I thought we were going to have a lot of leftover. But we didn't. Most of her friends wanted to take a doggy bag home (the restaurant obliged us by giving us takeaway boxes) and I got a large chunk to take back for my husband (who was working that night and couldn't come) and to photograph in the morning. And when I say a large chunk, I meant a super large chunk.

Piece treaty ©Cookaroo

Needless to say, it was gobbled the moment I was done photographing.




Rainbow cake with crème ivoire and raspberry mousse filling

White Velvet Cake. Recipe adapted from Rose Levy Bernabaum’s The Cake Bible. Available in India, US and UK


(I tripled this recipe since I needed 6 layers. Basically I made a 10 egg-white cake. For cake flour, from every cup of normal flour, I removed a tablespoon and added a tablespoon of corn flour.)




Ingredients
 

For the cake
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
Food colourings

For the filling
½ cup plain raspberry jam. Recipe here

Raspberry mousse
200 gms cream cheese
200 double cream
2/3 cup raspberry jam.
½ sugar

For Crème Ivoire Or White chocolate butter cream.
Recipe adapted from Rose Levy Bernabaum’s The Cake Bible
650 gms of white chocolate
¾ scant cup oil

For the White chocolate ganache
175 gms white chocolate chopped
100 ml fresh cream

For the decoration
1 Red ribbon
Three fresh pansies from my garden

Method
For the cake

1. Spray, line with parchment paper, and spray again a 9x2 pan. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk together egg whites, vanilla, and three tablespoons of the milk.

3. In a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed. Add the butter and the remaining milk. Mix til the dry ingredients are moistened, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 90 seconds, scraping down the bowl.

4. Gradually add the eggs on a slightly higher speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula.

5. Separate the batter into six different bowl. Add the colouring according to what you want.

5. Bake til golden brown for 17 minutes, a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean, and the cake springs bake when pressed in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven, remove gently from the pan, and cool completely. Wrap in cling film and set aside for 24 hours. If you're eating the cake plain, it's best eaten the day it's made. Otherwise will stay refrigerated for 4 days.


For the raspberry mousse
1. Soften the leaves of gelatin in water.

2. Soften the cream cheese. Add 2/3 cup  jam to it. Stir well

3. Add the softened gelatin leaves.

4. Whip the cream and add sugar to it.

5. Fold into the jam mix.

6. Let it cool for at least 4 hours or overnight is best


For the crème ivoire
1. Chop the white chocolate. Melt over a double boiler. If using the microwave then do it in 20 second spurts. Stirring each time.

2. Keep your mixer handy. As soon as the chocolate melts. Stir in the oil. Beat on a high speed for 5 minutes till the chocolate and oil mixes well.

3. Let it cool. If while frosting the chocolate mixture cools down and hardens, microwave for a couple of seconds and use again


For the white chocolate ganache
1. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it boils.

2. Add it to the chopped chocolate. Stir till it melts. Use immediately.


Assembling the cake
1. YOU WILL MAKE A MESS. So don’t be afraid.

2. On a cardboard stand, apply a thin layer of mousse. Put on the first layer.

3. On the first layer, put a thick layer of jam followed by the mousse.

4. Repeat for the next two layers

5. Let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour before you proceed. It will get easier to fill now.

6. Jam. Mousse. Layer 4. Repeat for 5 and 6. Put back in the fridge. Rest for at least 1 hour

7. Take a palette knife and start frosting with the crème ivoire. If it cools in the middle and hardens, don’t worry, it’ll be easier to smoothen. This should take you minimum half an hour (I never said it was easy)

8. With your palette knife smoothen out the edges and make it as smooth as possible without disrupting the layers.

9. Pour the ganache from the top. The cake should now look shiny with a ivory finish. Put the flowers on top to set them

10. Let it cool.

11. Finish with a pretty red ribbon.


Note: This cake can be kept at room temperature until it is cut that is 8 hours. The frosting leaves the cake inside moist and there’s a nice crack to it when you cut it. Once cut. Refrigerate covered at the earliest. Eat at the earliest too. Will last for two days post cutting. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Special treatment with a Choco-nana pudding pie

I can haz some pie? © Nimpipi


I’ve been sick. No. Sorry, correction. I am sick. The last three days I’ve been down with a cold, terrible ear ache and fever that comes and goes as it pleases. It’s in the air, newspapers say. It’s in the air, my mother says. Your immunity is shit, my friends say.


Despite all that they say to me, they really are the best. No, really they are. I know they love me. They don’t have to tell me that. I just know they do. And I feel blessed. But I don’t think I tell them how much I love them, enough, or maybe at all?


One friend, SD, takes time out every morning to teach me yoga, raps me on my knuckle when I eat crap. I’ve known her for 14 years now. We went to college together. And over time I’ve seen how beautiful she has grown both inside and out.

My other friend, who I’d see every single day for 4 years because we worked together, is someone I try and see every day even when we’ve been not working together (now for over an year). It’s like my day is incomplete without saying hello to her in person.

My third friend is also my newest friend. I met Amrita, less than six months ago, but the intense experience that we shared, made up for all the lost time. She’s different, you know, from most of the people I know, because well, a. she’s not a journalist and b. she’s a lot more sane. Nonetheless, she does have a streak of madness that makes her fit like a glove into my life.

I’m stopping right here, not because I have no other friends but because as much as I want to make this into an ode to friendship, the reason I’m talking about them is because it’s the three of them who’ve visited me while I’ve been down with the sniffles.

Hand slapper says no © Nimpipi 
One came to fix my blog’s header and spent  “till death do us apart” time with the computer but left at 10 pm after just “having it” and the other came, in the middle of the afternoon armed with this amazing chocolate pudding pie with bananas. Bananas she said, for making it healthier.

So while we let the pie cool (it’s already getting very hot in Delhi) in the freezer, we made small talk and gossiped. When it was time to eat, one took photos and the other looked pleased. My husband, on the other hand, bored with the chattering girls, just wanted to eat.

This pie is really delicious. It’s light and melty and really not that hard to make. In fact, you can even break it into a couple of steps and assemble just before dinner. In the sense make the crust and pudding in the morning and assemble it an hour before you want to eat it.

For variations you can make this without bananas and instead do a caramel layer. Use extra chopped cookies as a layer. Add some mints, chop in some M ‘n’ Ms – the world is your oyster.

Cut? Uncut? Is all mine  ©Nimpipi 

Amrita’s Choco-nana Pudding Pie
Makes a 7 to 8 loose bottom tart tin
Serves 5 or 1 sick person and 1 attendant

Ingredients
For the chocolate crust
15 chocolate biscuits such as Oreo/Dark fantasy cookies
5 Marie biscuits
2 tablespoons melted butter

For the chocolate pudding
75 gms sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (corn flour)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
2 large egg yolks
60 grams dark chocolate chopped
¾ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ tablespoon butter at room temperature

For the layers
2-4 four bananas
150 ml lightly sweetened whipped cream
Cocoa powder for dusting

Method:
For the chocolate crust
1. Crush the chocolate biscuits and Marie biscuits with a rolling pin until nice and crumbly
2. Add melted butter to the chocolate biscuit mix
3. Press into a buttered loose bottom tart tin. Even out with the back of your spoon or hand. Wrap with cling film. Freeze till needed.

For the chocolate pudding
1. In a large heatproof bowl whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Then whisk in ¼ cup of the milk until you have a thick paste.

2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking to blend into the cocoa paste mixture. Set aside.

3. In a saucepan heat remaining milk and cream. Bring this mixture just to a boil and then remove from heat. (The milk will foam up to the top of pan when done, so watch carefully.)

4. Gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth.

5. Transfer the mixture to back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat.

6. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise (about 3 - 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed during cooking.

7. Add the finely chopped chocolate, vanilla extract, and butter, stirring gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth.

8. Let it cool. In case you want to use the pudding immediately, put the pan over ice and water and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until you feel it’s ready to use

To assemble the pie
1. Remove pie crust from the freezer. Chop bananas (as many as you want) in thick circles and spread as first layer
2. Spread a thick layer of chocolate pudding on top of it
3. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream.
4. Dust with cocoa powder.
5. Chill overnight or at least 1 hour before serving

Note: This pudding can be made eggless. Just triple the quantity of the corn starch and omit the egg yolks. Rest of the process remains the same.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My new favourite sandwich (What! Aubergines again?!)


Last week, (or was it two weeks ago?) the three of us went to Cafe Turtle. I've never particularly fond of the place. Yes, they do a decent lemon cake and apple pie but everything is rather soda-ey or eggy. Nonetheless N1 and N2 were already there before I arrived.

N1 had ordered an Italian sandwich, N2, a salad and I ordered a Penne with pesto. When our orders arrived, my pasta looked like it had been watered down and the pesto looked milky and grainy. When I tasted it, it tasted exactly like grass. I mean freshly-cut grass. It felt as if they'd taken a handful of coriander, a cupful of grass and cream and blended it together. I had to send it back

N1's sandwich though was exactly the opposite. I mean, it was delicious. An open sandwich with a slice of roasted aubergine and tomato on a baguette. Well-made and perfectly executed it was truly a treat to eat. When they brought back my pasta 're-done', it still tasted grassy and I ordered for the same sandwich.

Here's the thing, when I eat something new, I always land up dissecting it in my head - the flavours, the texture - and I'm always trying to figure out how to make it even better. I always have aubergine lying around at home and once in 10 days get a large pack of basil leaves. Ratatouille is my comfort food.

Anyhoo, I felt that if I could mix in those flavours (of the Ratatouille, that is) it would be pretty awesome. So a little bit of paprika, a dollop of goat's cheese and some basil leaves just took this sammy to another level. And this exactly what we had for dinner tonight.


Open-faced roasted aubergine sandwich ©Nimpipi 

Open-faced Roasted Aubergine Sandwich with Goat's cheese and Basil

Ingredients 
Serves 2

1 large rouind Aubergine
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Paprika
1 large tomato
30 gms goat's cheese
10 basil leaves
1 loaf of  long bread - baguette or garlic loaf or ciabatta

Method
1. Pre-heat open to 400 degree Centigrade. Cut then aubergine in thick round circles, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Roast for half an hour or until the aubergine soften. Remove let it cool.

2. Cut the bread diagonally and brush with olive oil. Cut the tomatoes in thick slices. Wash and dry the basil leaves.

3. On a slice of bread, arrange a slice of aubergine on top, followed by a slice of tomato. Dollop on some goat's cheese, some basil leaves and sprinkle on some salt. Grill for a couple of minutes until the bottom crispens and drizzle with olive oil.

4. Serve warm with freshly ground pepper.

Note: I've been asked whether this can be made without an oven. Yes, very easily. Roast the aubergine on a flat pan or a tawa till it soften. And for the final grilling, use the flat plan with the flame on low and cover with a lid, to create steam for grilling. Might take a little longer, but will have the same great taste.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kashmir ki kali


When I was 11, during a summer vacation in Chennai, one of my grandmother’s Kashmiri friends came to visit her. She was very very fair, spoke with a strange nasal accent and her surname or last name was Bhat. Not Bhatt with the double T, my grandmother corrected. Not related to Mahesh Bhatt either, she said. She was a Kashmiri Pandit who had moved to Chennai when all the tamasha began in Kashmir.

I had no idea what she was talking about, all that really struck me was that the friend smelt a little different.  A bit pungent and musty, if you may. That, my grandmother told me, was because they ate different from us.  Used a lot of mustard oil in their cooking, ate a lot of meat.

This was a bit strange for me, because I did have a Kashmiri friend from school. But I don’t ever remember eating ‘different’ food in her house. I mean, we ate chicken curry and rice. Lots of vegetables and plenty of greens. But nothing that would make her smell different. (I mean I sat with her on the same bench with her for at least four years, if not more), so unless my olfactory senses were biased because we were friends.

Nonetheless, every time she’d come to, I could smell that ‘smell’. And over time accepted it as a unique part of her visits. I’d totally forgotten about the ‘smell’, until a few years ago, almost soon after I met my husband.

Not that my husband is Kashmiri, (he’s from the south, but that’s for another day) but he knew a lot of Kashmiris because of where he worked. His boss was Kashmiri, and every time we’d drop in for a visit, that ‘smell’ would encompass me.

Yes, it was mustard oil. Yes, it smelt different. But oh-boy, did it taste wonderful! It was in their house that I first ate Gushtaba (giant meat balls made from goat’s meat), first ate Paneer (cottage cheese) in red gravy and first ate steamed haak (Collard Greens).  It was here that I realized Kashmiris ate as much white rice (or more!) than South Indians. We were invited for weddings where we ate meethe chawal (sweet rice), drank copious amounts of Kahwa (Kashmiri green tea made with saffron or cardamom and lots of almonds).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d eaten Kashmiri before. Rogan josh,  yakhni, dum aloo, shorba – pretty much your quintessential Kashmiri khaana that’s available at most restaurants, all very oily, with prominent flavours of  saffron and cardamon but nothing that tasted like this.

These flavours were simple – you’d get a lot of aniseed, yogurt and whole masala in your food. There were no onions, garlics or tomatoes in the recipes. It was just the meat or vegetable that shone through.

So after eating at their house for over a year, I decided it was time to venture into the world of Kashmiri cuisine and while rummaging through a bookshop found this book – Kashmiri Cuisine: Through the ages by Sarla Razdan.  It had just been released and the recipes seemed simple enough, so I decided to pick it up.
I don’t regret picking this book up for one moment. The recipes were simple. And if you followed her time-saving instructions, you could really make a meal in a jiffy. 

 I did just that. I bought ginger powder. Powdered saunf or aniseed and methi (fenugreek) seeds. Made sure that I had enough mustard oil and khada masala (whole masalas such as bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, black cardamom, green cardamom and whole back pepper. Stocked my refrigerator with milk and yogurt (not like I was ever running out of it) and decided to take a crack at the book.

The first time I cooked out of this book, it was just for my husband and me. I made Chaman Kaliya (Paneer/Cottage cheese in yellow gravy) and Haak (Collard Greens) and to my surprise dinner was ready in 20 minutes. And it all tasted excellent. The second time, I decided to make a proper meal out of it. I called five of my friends over and tried a number of recipes.  I made Nadir Monjvor (Lotus stem cutlets) as an appetizer.  For the vegetarian main course I made Dum aluv (Potatoes in a red yogurt gravy), Nadir Yakhni (Lotus stem in Yogurt sauce), Phool rogan josh (Cauliflowers in a thick red gravy) and Chaman Kaliya. For the non-vegetarians there were Gushtaba (meatballs in yogurt sauce) and Kokur Masala (Kashmiri styled fried chicken).

Seemed like a lot of food for seven people no? It wasn’t. In fact in the middle of meal, I even ran out of rice and had to put another batch. Of which, might I add, maybe a few grains were left over. And my guests still had space for dessert and Kahwa.

Post that, I’ve made a number of Kashmiri meals. I’ve tried out nearly every meat, chicken and vegetarian dish in the book. I’ve fed an army of 20, I’ve had quiet 4-people lunches and often if I can get fresh haak, I’ve eaten it for dinner, standing over the kitchen sink alone.

The true test, this book has been through, was when my husband took some of the leftovers to his office and fed his Kashmiri colleagues. They were impressed by the authenticity of the flavours.  The only criticism he got was that there wasn’t enough oil in it. 

I’m going to take that as a compliment though. Because while this book specifies the oil quantities, I’ve made everything with two or maximum three teaspoons of mustard oil. Deep-fried food such as paneer or chicken or potatoes are often pan fried and really, the taste doesn’t change at all. Also when my friend P Diddy, another fellow Kashmiri food lover came over, he said my house smelt Kashmiri. It had that 'smell'. 

Don’t be deterred by the pictures in this book. That is, the food pictures. The other pictures are beautiful. The food pictures could be stylized and shot a lot better. But buy this book for the recipes and introduce yourself to the wonderful world of home-style Kashmiri cooking.

Buy this book in India, US and UK.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In a jam



Raspy raspberry jam ©Cookaroo

I don't often make jam only because I never have a glut of fruits. Most fruits in my house are either eaten, frozen or made into a dessert. Plus, when there are just the two of you, there's only that much fruit you can buy every week.

But jams, no jamming, always reminds me of my grandmother. She would jam anything. One of my first memories of her jams is of a peculiar marmalade, which apart from in my childhood I haven't tasted since. Oranges or was it tangerines or satsuma? Or was it a mix? Nevertheless, I do remember it being a part of the breakfast table throughout my summer vacations.

Last year, when the mango tree in our Chennai house bore, I don't know, 300 mangoes, she went into a rampage. She pickled mangoes, made two different kinds of squash - green and orange - and the ones she didn't giveaway, she chopped and froze for later use.

I missed the pickling/squashing season but when I went back home in June last year, I did get the last of the mango squash. And for her 85th birthday last year, I made her a fresh mango cake - from the frozen fresh mangoes ofcourse. And then I brought back with me 4 bottles of raw mango pickle which had to be distributed to all the relatives in Delhi.

I miss her. I miss home. I didn't make much of the raspberry jam that I am blogging about but I will take her a jarful when I go home in a couple of months. Because, jamming, always, always reminds me of her.

The best thing about raspberry jam is that it can be made free of preservatives and will last for 6 months in the refrigerator. This is because raspberries have a lot of pectin, so you don't need to add any extra pectin or citric acid.  Anyhoo, here goes.



Making a mess with the jam ©Cookaroo

Raspberry Jam
Ingredients200 gms frozen raspberry (If you have access to fresh please, please use. In Delhi this is the best I can do
1 lemon juiced
50-75 gms sugar
5 tablespoons water

Special equipment: a very cold small plate, a steel spoon and a sterlized jam jar

Method
1. In a pan heat raspberry and lemon juice. Stir till the raspberry and lemon become pulpy yet runny. Cool.

2. Pass 3/4 of it through a sieve, so that you can remove most of the seeds. Put it back in the pan.

3. Add sugar and water and let the raspberry lemon mix bubble through.

4. Now, is when the jamming process actually begins and you need to be watchful. So after about five minutes of bubbling through, check the mix by lifting your spatula, if it drips down it has a couple minutes to go. If it stays on the spatula, take the cold plate and drop a bit on to it. Take the spoon and draw a line between the two, if the line stays for a couple of seconds then you're done. If not, let it bubble for a couple more minutes. All in all this process should take you 10 to 12 minutes at the most.

5. Once the jam is ready, let it cool. Ladle in to a sterlized jam jar. Once cool, refrigerate.

Note: To sterlize a jar, wash it well with hot water, and dry. Heat the oven to the highest and put the jar into it for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit till ready to use.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Going...going..gone!

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. She's got another year left before she hits the big three-oh, but I can tell you from experience that 29 is a hard age to be at. Throughout the year, you feel the need to evaluate your life. You feel as if you haven't achieved anything. You look around you and feel like everyone's doing better than you. Taking stock of your life can be quite depressing and that round number 30 seems to make you feel that it's the end of your youth. Throughout the year I woke up in the middle of night, feeling very restless. I'd go through Facebook to see what my classmates were doing and whether anybody but anybody would be envious of my life.
That said, the day after you turn 30, it's almost as if all these feelings vanish. You're not scared anymore. You feel kind of, almost relieved, that it's over and you can actually move on with your life. And since I've lived to tell this tale, I thought I'd make it a tad easier on my sister. I baked her two cakes.
 

The first cake took me two days to put together and I'm going to post about that later. The second cake, which I decided to make yesterday morning (when I realised that the first cake needed a lot more work). This is one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes. It's sans icing, so can be made and eaten within a couple of hours. It takes barely 10 minutes to put together and it's fool-proof.
 

Often, when I have people over for dinner and I'm making three different desserts, this is a fixture. Or if people request for a basic chocolate cake, this is my go-to recipe. I also bake this cake as a give-away. 

But yesterday afternoon, this cake reached a new high. It is now being called the cake-that-can-be-demolished-the-fastest. 

We were meeting my sister and her husband for lunch at this Greek place and since the big cake wasn't ready, she got a this smaller one to cut.

Triple chocolate cake ©Cookaroo
She tried to reach out to it and decided to use one candle, (which she had brought on her own) before the hungry hounds decided to pounce on it. Now you have to understand, all this happened in a matter of minutes, so the pictures are kinda blurry but none-the-less, you'll get the point.
 

Barely had she blown her singular candle, that the hounds - my brother-in-law and my husband decided they wanted to upturn the cake, when all else failed they decided to dig in with a spoon.


Resort to the spoon when all else fails ©Cookaroo
 Mind you, we were five of us. I got a spoonful because I asked for it. My sister got a spoonful because it was her birthday. My mother just wanted a tiny bite. So between the two hounds, it was a race titled: How to finish a half a kilo cake in under 5 minutes.

I can haz a spoonful? ©Cookaroo
Snatches from the conversation: Oooh it tastes like a brownie. Gosh nothing like a plain chocolate cake. You are eating my share. Gimme that.


Scrapping the bottom of the barrel ©Cookaroo

Until there was nothing left. Moral of the story: 'twas a very good cake.
 

Coming back to baking the cake, I normally have  99.9 per cent of the ingredients lying around the house, so I don't fret much while baking it. But in case you don't have things such as sour cream, you can substitute yogurt for it or chocolate chips - just hit a slab of chocolate with your rolling pin or vanilla extract - use a bit of the vanilla pod, it'll all be a piece of cake. And this is a results guaranteed type of cake. :)


Triple Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast: Food that Celebrates Life. Available in India, US and UK

Ingredients
For the cake:

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/3 cups sugar
175 gms  soft butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup chocolate chips or morsels
 
For the syrup:
1 teaspoon cocoa
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Special equipment: Loaf tin lined with greased parchment/ butter paper 

Method

1. Bring everything out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients are at room temperature. Preheat oven to 180 degree centigrade.
2. Put flour, baking soda, cocoa, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and sour cream in a large mixing bowl. Stir then together and pour the boiling water gently and keep mixing.
3. The mixing should take you all of 2 to 4 minutes. Anything more, you will end up with a very dense cake. By then end of 4 minutes, the batter should be smooth and satiny looking.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips. Scrape the batter on to greased tin and bake for 1 hour.
5. When the cake is ¾ cooked, make the syrup. Bring the water, sugar and cocoa to a boil, till it becomes a thick syrup.
6. Once the cake is baked, wait for 5 minutes before, you poke the cake with a toothpick. Poke it a couple of times, this way when you pour the syrup, the cake will absorb it better.
7. Pour the syrup. Let the cake become totally cold before slipping it out of its tin. If you’re in a hurry, put the cake in the freezer for half an hour.
8. Decorate with chocolate splinters if you wish.

Note: I made only half the cake , since that’s about all I needed. It should serve 4-5 people but if you’re hungry and crave a chocolaty-cake, then this is a perfect cake for 1.
Also if your cake splits from the middle, its ok, it's supposed to do that. Nigella says so. And what Nigella says, is Bible. 

Printfriendly