Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wholewheat flatbread with feta, thyme and honey for Daring Bakers


Flatbread. I keep saying the word over and over in my again. Flatbread. What could it possibly mean? How can it be different from a cracker. I google, I wikipedia. I find out that our regular roti is, well, a flatbread. So is the sheermal, so is the naan and the khakra. This information takes me by surprise. 

But I suppose that means finding out that kalonji is nigella seeds/onion seeds or that dhania is cilantro. Lost in translation much? A flatbread is nothing but unleavened bread that can be made from any kind of flour. For example pita is flatbread too - except it uses yeast. As is the bhatoora. 



Strange, the things we learn every day. Strange that how a single thing can translate into so many things. So when February's Daring Baker's opened up, this was something I figured I had to do.

Sarah from All Our Fingers in the Pie was our February 2012 Daring Bakers' host and she challenges us to use our creativity in making our own Crisp Flatbreads and Crackers.  



I love crackers, so how can I up my game? I scroll through the Daring Baker docket and figure I'd like to do something that the Smitten Kitchen suggests. I make it. Except I'm not totally thrilled. No no, I love the flavours but I feel wholewheat might make my heart beat faster instead of all purpose flour. So I decide to substitute. Hey, substitution is king ok? Plus how else do I get to be creative.So I don't photograph and instead wait for inspiration to strike.

I rummage through the fridge. Don't have no fresh herbs, but find a unopened jar of dried thyme. Oh and then some honey I was given as a present. And half a packet of feta. I scratch my chin. I know what to do.



Wholewheat flatbread with feta, thyme and honey
Makes 3 large flatbread
16 cracker-like bits

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
50 grams feta cheese
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried thyme
4 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

For the topping 
Feta cheese
Dried thyme 
Sea Salt
Honey


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 220 degree centigrade. 
2. In a bowl mix together the whole wheat flour, salt, thyme and crumble in the cheese well. 
3. Make a whole in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the olive oil and water and knead for a couple of minutes till the dough loses its stickiness. 
4. Take a teaspoon of olive oil and rub into the dough. Separate into three discs.
5. Take two bits of butter paper and take one of the discs and roll out between the paper, until as thin as you'd like
6. Pop it into the oven for 5 minutes
7. Take it out and put bits of honey and feta on top. And pop it back for another 4 minutes or until the edges are brown.
8. Bring it out, drizzle with honey and sprinkle thyme and sea salt.
9. Eat immediately. YUM!



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mini Baked Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberry Compote




You know how there are days where you want to scream at everyone at sight and basically be a horrible human being. Today is one such day.

I hate it when people mispronounce my name and then expect me to do what they'd like me to. I hate it when people demand that things be done for them, instead of asking if I could accommodate. I hate it when I'm taken from granted.



This day, well, has had all three of that. Plus a headache that just refuses to go. Horrible horrible way to start the week.

My shouting tally so far has been  - 6 people on the land line. 4 people on the mobile. And three people who have overtaken me. That's 13 so far. Quite a lot of energy wasted, you'd say. I have also been simmeringly annoyed with 4 people, so just for today, I'll take that into account as well.

Lately, these bad tempered days have been few and far between especially since work as been so busy. But today, well, today I've just had to go back to my old self.

I ask myself, what might cheer me up. Something to eat? No. How about some shopping? Meh. A Brazillian blow out? Yay! Yes, that's what I need. A good massage, pretty hair and then meeting with a girlfriend should do the trick.

So while I go and pamper myself silly, why don't you read all about these super easy mini cheesecakellets that barely take30 minutes to make and about 5 minutes to assemble?


This is my favourite recipe for a simple lemon cheesecake that makes 16 mini cheesecakes or you can make yourself a big one baking it for 55 to 70 minutes.

I love the lemon flavours in it. But you can replace with orange, coffee, vanilla, chocolate or even ginger. The trick is to know the measurements and not be afraid of the baked cheesecake.  I make these two ways, with sugar or with condensed milk. If you're using sugar remember to up the quantity of cream. Oh and you know the best part? These make for a perfect portion size so you don't mess up a big cheesecake and nor do you over eat.



Baked lemon cheese with strawberry compote

For the base

125 to 200  grams digestive biscuits (depending on the size of the pan)
2 tbsp melted butter

For the cheesecake

250 grams cream cheese (I used Britannia)
250 ml condensed milk
100 ml fresh cream
lemon zest from 2 lemons
juice of 4 lemons
3 eggs separated

For the compote

1 box strawberry
3 tblsp sugar
3 tblsp water
1 tsp lemon juice


Directions

1. For the basë: Crush the digestive biscuits and mix with melted butter. Spoon into a cupcake tray that has been lined. Bake for 5 minutes at 190. Remove
2. For the cheesecake. In a bowl mix together the cream cheese, lemon zest, condensed milk, lemon juice and three yolks. Add cream and combine.
3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg white till you get soft peaks. This is to ensure that your cheesecake is light and has a beautiful creamy body.
4. Fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. DO NOT WHISK. If you whisk you'll get bubbles and a very strange looking cheesecake.
5. Pour the mixture into the individual cups. Bake at 150 degree Centigrade for 30 minutes.
6. For the compote: In a saucepan add the cleaned and hulled strawberries along with sugar and water. Bring it to a rolling boil and let it simmer till the berries are soft. Add the lemon juice.
7. One the cheesecakes are cool, spoon compote over them and let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before eating them.




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Dirty Martini. Speakeasy at Olive Qutub. For the rebels with a cause


I am a rebel. Always have been. I've rebelled against teachers. I've rebelled against boys. I've rebelled against the folks. Infact when I was in class 5 my parents were  told that I had a problem with authority. Fact is, I still do.

I hate being questioned. I live the live and let live policy. And so I am usually the first one to speak up. I am usually the first one to sneak in that bottle of booze. I am usually the first one of break the rules.

Sometimes I am proud of it. Sometimes I am scared. But most times, I do it because I believe in myself.



Having said that I think I would have made a brilliant activist, if I wasn't so lazy (and didn't want to be online or keep cooking). I think I'd have been a perfect fit during the Prohibition period in the 1920s. I can so see myself helping people sneaking into bars, or finding ways to cover my tracks.

I suppose that's why The Dirty Martini feels quite like home to me. What's the Dirty Martini you ask me, it's the new (and maybe the only?) speakeasy-inspired bar in Delhi. Masquerading as a pub at the Olive, this bar has a lot of surprises in store for those who visit.



For example, if you were one the lucky ones, you'd be rushed inside through the kitchen entrance, to make it seem like a secret entrance, or be handed drinks in tea cups or even kullads, just to keep that element of surprise going. And be given chunks of watermelon and orange, only to figure out that they were jello shots (so fun!).



And if you behave yourself and don't be rambunctious like all of us in this picture, you'll get some of that delicious grub that gets passed around - TDM Chicken , Dive bar crostinis. Shrimp jammers, pork belly and truly the most amazing stew ( See Sangeeta's blog for the recipe) served in tea cups that will make you stop in your tracks.


As Churros and chocolate follow, there's only one thing left to say - Thank you Chef Saby for a wonderful experience and coaxing the rebel in me to come out for the night.  And having us noisy of bunch of food bloggers from across Delhi in this fun fun fun bar.




Monday, February 18, 2013

Strawberry Citrus Tart

Photo Courtesy: Cherie Khullar
Every now and then, you come across some young talent that leaves you quite breathless. A passion that blows your mind. A desire to get better each time. And a vision that is beyond their years. You see the photograph above? This is a picture taken by an 11-year-old.

You read that right. An eleven year old. When I first saw Cherie's pix on her father's (who is my friend) FB I was quite fascinated - that was some two years ago. Later, I saw her with her own camera, happily clicking away at a Blogger's Table lunch, and I thought it was the sweetest thing.What I didn't realise was how awesome the photos would turn out.

Photo Courtesy: Cherie Khullar
I think a lot of honing a talent has to do with parenting. The fact that she is treated on par with the rest of us and is allowed to use a camera that needs to be understood is very interesting to see. For example, there was a point while she was taking these pictures, that she showed her father, what she had shot. He told her, no not like this, took the camera from her adjusted the lens, took a photograph, showed it to her, and then she took some more. It was very endearing to watch and it made me feel warm from the inside to watch the father-daughter bonding.

This tart was a part of the picnic lunch, us bloggers good together for at Lodhi Gardens. There was soooo much food, and good food at that, that you could easily pass out. The sun, the talks about food just made for a brilliant day.

Photo Courtesy: Cherie Khullar
This tart is straight out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours and those who know me, know how much I love this book. I am very happy when I'm baking from this book because no matter what I make, it comes out fantastic. The pastry shell is Dorie's Fool proof sweet crust pastry, the creme patisserie is flavoured with citrus and the glaze on the strawberries is Kumquat marmalade which Deeba had generously given me a bottle of.

The lovely about Dorie's creme patisserie is that you can flavour it however you want. With cinnamon, with rum, with vanilla, with chocolate. I've tried nearly all the versions and I have to say they are absolutely silky smooth. You can play with the fruits too - mangoes, chikoos, raspberries, mandarins, blueberries - absolutely anything. And while it takes a little while, don't worry, every single bite is worth it. Do make!

Photo Courtesy: Sid Khullar
Strawberry Citrus Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. Available in IndiaUS and UK

One Sweet Crust Pastry.  Recipe available here
One portion Citrus Creme Patisserie, recipe below
Two boxes of strawberries
2 tablespoon jam

Ingredients for the creme patisserie

Makes about 2 cups
2 cups milk
Zest of 1 large lemon cut into wide strips
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cornflour sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons butter cut into bits 
  1. Bring the milk and lemon zest to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks with the sugar and cornstarch until well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk to temper the yolks so they won’t curdle.
  3. Whisking the entire time, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk.
  4. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (to the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Keep it at a boil. still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Discard the lemon zest.
  7. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  8. Whisk in the butter until the bits are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth.
  9. Scrape the cream into a bowl, and place the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. Stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is completely chilled, about 20 minutes.


Assembly

Once the tart shell has cooled completely, add the cooled creme patisserie on top and then place the washed and hulled berries and glaze with jam. Eat within the day.


Photo Courtesy: Cherie Khullar

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pinterest Picks: Strawberries for February

Every time I pass by a fruit seller, I slow down. I like to check out what his cart is groaning under. I look to see how shiny his apples are, or how many oranges he's stacking. But lately, all I see are strawberries. Which is awesome! Because each year, I wait for the end of the season strawberries to flood the market so that I can buy, hull and store them in the freezer to use through the summer. Sometimes I jam. Other times I make compote to pour over cheesecakes. And sometimes I just make smoothies.

Whatever it is, strawberries are in season finally! So here are some of my favourite and some unusual ideas from Pinterest that I might take a cue from. Oh and also Happy Valentine's Day. Till then follow me on Pinterest will ya?


1. Strawberry Bruschetta





2.  Strawberry Cheese Cake bites




3.  Strawberry Pistachio and White chocolate bark



4. Strawberries and Cream Popcorn



5. Strawberry Pizza



6. Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread



7. Strawberries and Cream Santa



8. Strawberry Shortcake Sushi



9. Strawberry Butter



10. Strawberry Macarons




Friday, February 8, 2013

Carrot Orange Red Lentil Soup




Soup always reminds me of my grandmother. Even in the super hot months in Chennai, at least once a week, there'd be soup made at home. Sometimes she'd throw in whatever vegetables she'd find in the fridge, other times she'd throw in all the water from the boiled chickpeas into it, and there were times she'd just feel her way through the recipe.

I never really enjoyed that. Fortunately burgers or cutlets were almost always a part of the meal, so you'd see me scarfing them down with maybe half a bowl of soup.

Over the years though, I've understood why I didn't like that kind of soup. It wasn't because it was all bad, but because the flavours were just too mixed for me. I don't think I liked the potato creep up in a nice tomato soup or bits of corn and bottle gourd floating in a pumpkin soup. I realise that I like soups to stay true to their original flavours.

This soup, however, I learnt from my friend Amrita, who, incidentally is doing baked goodie baskets for Valentines Day, so if you're in Delhi (or not), hop across to her Facebook page and check that out. This soup was something she was going to make for one of the Masterchef rounds, where we were both together. She didn't have to, but it sounded very nice.



So when I came back from the competition, I decided to try the soup at home. It turned out to be a super simple soup that required very little attention. And can be made three ways - you can either roast and puree the carrot, you can boil the carrots and the lentils together or you can boil and puree the carrot and add lentil and cook it down - any which way, the results are superb.

I do it whatever way is convenient for me. And while you can omit the zest and you use canned juice instead of fresh, just remember that there's nothing quite like fresh ingredients to give it that je ne sais quoi. Either ways, this soup is vibrant, filling and really quite beautiful.



Carrot Orange Red Lentil Soup
Adapted BBC Good Food

Ingredients
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp butter
225g carrots diced
75g red lentils
400 + 200 ml vegetable stock or water                                                                
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cumin powder
300ml orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
2 tbsp low-fat natural yogurt
fresh chopped coriander to garnish
pinch of paprika  
                                

Method

1. Wash and soak the red lentils for 20 minutes.
2. Chop the onions and the garlic. Peel and dice the carrots.
3. In a saucepan, saute the onions and garlic until soft. Add carrots and red lentil to it. Add 400 ml of the water/stock Let it cook until the lentil is soft.
4. Cool for 5 minutes and puree. Add the remaining stock, orange zest, cumin powder and salt and pepper into it.
5. Stir in the orange juice and turn off the gas.
6. To serve. Top with a dollop of yogurt, paprika and coriander

Am sending this Bookmarked Recipes that is hosted by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes





Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mulled Wine Jam




I lurrrve Mulled wine. I love it so much that I make it each year for my Christmas party. I make it in batches of 5 litres and then put it in a large thermos to last it the whole night. I take it to picnics, to people's houses and even chill the leftovers make jelly - something that I look forward to each year.

I don't wait for Christmas to make mulled wine, I just wait till the weather is cool and then I know what I'm going to stack. So what makes my mulled wine so special? I throw in a bit of cointreau to make it more-orangey.



I follow the Jamie Oliver to make the wine - throw in all the spices - Bay leaf, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla bean along with orange peels and lemon peels into a a cup of water and sugar and let it come to a rolling boil. This is so that all the flavours can infuse and you get a lovely warm liquid. Then throw in the wine and only only simmer it. Let it heat through gently. This process will take about 20 minutes so be patient. And then  put in either some brandy or a bit of cointreau - which is really my mantra.

This year too, I made lots of mulled wine - nearly 15 litres worth of it. So when I had a bit of leftover, I wanted to make something special with it. And when I read that a fellow blogger  Apeksha Jain who now has a jamming business called The Gourmet Jar made some Mulled Wine Jam this season, I wanted to try my hand it as well.



I am glad I did. I wish I had made much more, because the mulled wine jam works beautifully as filling for cakes and cupcakes. They work brilliantly in thumbprint cookies and can easily be slathered on toast. I never realised it would be so easy. 

Since I mulled my wine at home, am sharing a standard recipe, with you from here . But trust me before you jam it, drink some. I have used grapes, but feel free to use whatever fruit you have at hand, it'll be brilliant with just about anything 



Mulled Wine Jam

Ingredients
1/2 kg black seedless grapes
1/2 kg sugar
500 ml mulled wine
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves 
One big peel of orange

One sterlised jar

Method

1. Wash and dry the grapes and throw it into a clean pot. Add the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, cloves and orange peel into it
2. Let the mix come to a rolling boil. Simmer and reduce to half. At this stage you have to be careful since the jam will start jamming any minute.
3. Let it cook until you stick a spoon into it and wipe with your fingers, if it's runny let it cook for another 10 minutes. The moment you are able to run your finger through the jam and the groove stays, your jam is ready.
4. Pour into a sterlised jar, and let it cool. Keep refrigerated. 


Pan Asian at WelcomHotel Sheraton. Blogger's Table

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I'm not a big fan of Chinese cuisine. But give me Korean or Vietnamese or Japanese or Thai and I'll love you forever. Strange though right? Considering most people I know lurrrve Chinese food.

So when we were invited to Pan Asian at WelcomHotel Sheraton  I was certain there'd be plenty of Chinese food to last me for the rest of the year. But how wrong I was.

As we waited for everyone to arrive, we were poured lovely glasses of wine to begin our meal. And bowls of soya peanuts (which turned out to be boiled peanuts with soya sauce) and edamame beans were placed in front of us.

Since we had an an activity planned with Chef Nakamura, we were served our platters of sushi almost as soon as everyone was seated -  while Deeba, Sushmita, Aishwarya and I opted to eat the vegetarian maki rolls - and the wasabi that was served with it, went straight to all our noses.

Meanwhile Vineet, Deeba's husband tried teaching us how to use the chopsticks and that's how I tried to eat for the rest of the evening. In fact the wait staff was so polite, they even taught us the cheat sheet to using chopsticks - by wrapping the head of the chopsticks with a piece of paper and then using a rubber band to secure it - so that it's easier to eat with.




Post the sushi, we headed out to the teppan station where Chef Nakamura taught us how to use the grill and we were all given pieces of tofu to use the grill with. The miso tofu steak - which some of us grilled and some well, burnt, were totally melt in the mouth. But having said that, using the teppan really ain't as easy as it looks.




We headed across to the yakitori station where we were told about the nuances of making a yakitori and that its all in the sauce  - teriyaki at that - that makes it so special. We were told that both the teppan and the yakitori were Japanese street food, which made it so much more fun and easy to do.

As we all sat back down on our tables, we were served a miso soup with nori. The soup was lovely mildly flavoured but with strong overtones of sea weed. I think Sangeeta, had a hard time with it. But I thought it was lovely.

Then, my most favourite part of the meal (and now I wish I had eaten more of it) was brought out.  Peking Duck with cucumber, spring onion and chef's special sauce. Oh-my-god! The duck was a-mazing! Crispy and juicy at the same time and the rolled up in that thin pancake with that delicious hoisin sauce, it just made my day.

By now, I think we were stuffed to the gills. Did I say gills? Because I HAVE to tell you what happened next. So the wait staff wheeled in the Crispy Hua or the red snapper and then flambed it. Everybody got an awesome picture of it. But neither Deeba nor I would manage to eat the snapper, since it had given us the eye.

Photos courtesy: Sushmita Sarkar, Sangeeta Khanna, Deeba Rajpal

I really couldn't eat much after that but I have to say that the Kaeng Phak or the Thai Green Curry with vegetables was fabulous. You knew that the green curry paste was fresh and you could taste the lovely mellow coconut milk. That totally rocked my meal.

Our meal ended with Darsaan or crispy honey noodles with a scoop of ice cream but it was the fig and toffee pudding which was the icing on the cake. Light, spongy, moist, warm, treacly, sweet  - I could go on. It was the perfect ending. And it reminded me of this Sticky Date Cake that I had made recently

Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Khanna
I really enjoyed my experience at Pan Asian, so see what the other's have to say as well:

Sushmita @ My Unfinished Life
Sangeeta @ Banaras Ka Khana
Deeba @ Passionate about baking
Parul @ The Shirazine
Mukta @ Bake-a-Mania
Aishwarya @ Aishwarya Eats

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