Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dark Chocolate Brownies with dried cherries and almonds

Each week at the Farmer's Market, I find a treasure trove of ingredients every week. Some weeks it's the most awesome produce that includes the crunchy pok-choy, sweet-smelling basil or even some lemongrass. Otherwise I stock up on things dairy, a fresh cheese dip, quark cheese and lots of paneer.

But there are weeks that what makes me the happiest is the dried fruit. Brilliant persimmon, deep dark almost-black cherries, fragrant walnuts and apricot kernels that just pop in the mouth.

Those are the weeks that I feel like doing something different, something fun. Like taking my oldest possible brownie recipe and making it fun. And what do I get then? A deep dark rich brownie that's really chock-ful of all things awesome. 

This brownie is something like that. Adapted from Cook's Illustrated it's a surefire hit. Oh and can I please tell what makes it so special? It's them cherries. I can't quite explain how excellent the flavour of the deeply moreish goes with dark chocolate. 

Make it, you'll not regret it, I promise.

I made this recipe as a part of Masterchef Mondays for the Home Bakers Guild a couple of weeks ago and since then I've made this three times :)

Dark Chocolate Brownies with dried cherries and almonds
Makes 12 generous brownies


2/3 cup flour
1 tsp corn flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams dark chocolate (atleast 60 percent cocoa) I used 85 % Lindt
100 grams butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup almonds

Method:1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 170 degrees centigrade. Line a square or rectangular baking tray with foil . Butter it generously. 

2. Whisk to combine flours, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tamarind Sorbet. With Jaggery and Cumin

Ok, I agree it really isn't sorbet weather. There's a chill in the air, the wind freezes my nose each time it blows and my feet are so cold by the end of the day that I curse myself for not wearing Uggs. Getting out of the bed is the toughest ever. I'm awake by 8.30 but it takes me an hour to cajole myself to get up and get with it.

No, coffee doesn't help. No Moroccon Mint Tea either. What does help however is the hot water bottle. Warm and covered with a furry lining, it's this thing that's saved the winter for me.

Obviously it's soup kind of weather. Warm rich, thick and comforting. So what's all this about a sorbet? This sorbet, my friend, is everything that a soup is not. Cold, light and plays havoc on your palate, in a good way that is.

Sweet, spicy, tangy and cold, it's a sorbet that's as much a palate cleanser as it is an end-of-a meal dessert. The spicy undertones just gives the tangy tamarind such a kick that each bite takes you by surprise.

What's more is that this sorbet is pretty much made with everything you have in your pantry. And perhaps the easiest thing to have on your repertoire. You just have to make your basic imli ki chutney or tamarind chutney, add plenty of water and then churn it according to the instructions for your ice cream machine.

Oh and I've been nominated by Blog Adda for one of the best food blogs (standing tall with some of my favourite peeps). Don't forget to show me your love by voting for me by clicking here. Yay!

Tamarind Sorbet 
With Jaggery and Cumin
Makes 12 helpings

For the tamarind chutney

250 grams tamarind
3 cups of water
200 grams jaggery
2 tsp roasted cumin, crushed
1 tsp ginger powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder

For the sorbet

2 cups cold water
Ice cream machine


1. Soak the tamarind in water for atleast two hours. Squeeze the mix till you get just the pulp out and then remove the stones. Strain and keep aside.
2. In a non-reactive saucepan add all the jaggery and the tamarind water, set it to cook on low flame till all the jaggery melts.
3. Add all the spice and cook for about 25 minutes. Cool
4. Once the mixture is cool, for every one cup of tamarind chutney and add 2 cups of water.
5. Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturers instruction.
6. Freeze till ready to eat.

Note: Sorbet tastes best within a week of churning it. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pinterest Picks: 10 shades of Hot Chocolate

Last week it went down to minus three degrees in Isloo. I wish I could say brrrr, but my teeth were chattering like mad to even utter a single word. The only thing that fixed my brrrr-ness was a spot of hot chocolate. Made with REAL chocolate and not just cocoa.

I love my hot chocolate with a spot of Cointreau, the husband though prefers his with Nutella. The other day I drank a hot white chocolate drink from Cinnabon and my friend Ammar does a lovely plain version of the drink. Which is when it suddenly crossed my mind that I should really do a pinterest post with all things hot chocolate.

So presenting, my favourite version of this classic winter drink - 10 shades of hot chocolate.

Oh and by the way, I've been shortlisted for a blogger award at Blog Adda. So please vote for me  by clicking on this link and liking or tweeting! Many thanks (Much thanks, wow, doge)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Banana Almond and Dark Chocolate Cake

Living in Pakistan makes you realise two things - Summers mean intense power cuts and Winters mean intense cooking gas issues. In one word - Aaaarrrrrggggghh!

In the summers though, the aga works beautifully, which means there's plenty of baking fun, in the winters however it's depressive for us bakers. Or even those who like to cook. The pressure is so low that what would cook in a matter of minutes takes about 45 minutes to become anything. So in one word - Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!

But now armed with LPG cylinders, we make do with whatever we have. Baking has to be a planned activity, if you're throwing in a cake into the oven, then you have to make sure you're also throwing in other things so that you use the aga to it's optimum. 

This cake was made in a situation like that. Where I was baking potatoes, making some cookies and then decided to throw in a cake to use up the bananas that were ripening in the fruit basket.

I used my favourite banana bread recipe substituting a bit of the flour with almond meal and throwing in plenty of dark chocolate - over 70 per cent - into the mix and making a ganache with the same chocolate.

The end result? A beautifully decadent tea cake that is as fun to make as it is to eat.

Banana Almond Dark Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to be a domestic Goddess 


3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100 grams butter - melted
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (70 per cent is super)
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 170ÂșC and get started on the rest.
  2.  Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, almond meal and salt in a medium-sized bowl and, using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the mashed bananas. 
  4. Then, with your wooden spoon, stir in the almonds, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit. Pour into a prepared tin.
  5. Scrape into the middle of the oven for 1-1¼ hours. When it's ready, an inserted toothpick or fine skewer should come out cleanish. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool, and eat thickly or thinly sliced, as you prefer.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Mutton Istoo. Pakistani Cooking

Starting today, I will be doing a series on Pakistani cooking all through the year. Why? Because living here, I've had a chance to eat some fabulous food in people's houses. I want to be able to recreate and collate all this deliciousness in my kitchen and also be able to share with the others an opportunity to make them in their homes too.
So while I haven't decided whether I'm only going to do one recipe a month or more, I want to be able to make a chronicle of my experience. 

I'm going to start with one of my favorite recipes from this side of the border - the Mutton Istoo. To be fair, one of my favourite versions of this Istoo is from Al-Jawar in Jama Masjid in Delhi. The meat is so succulent and the onions so sweet that it makes for a deadly meal.

The Pakistani version of the Istoo is slightly spicier than the one at Jama Masjid. But it is just as terrific. The mellow flavours of the chilli, the sweetness from the caramelized onions and the brothiness from the yogurt and the meat makes it a treat to eat. The earthiness of the whole spices - cinnamon, bay leaf - makes it smell heavenly as well. Ofcourse, you can cut back the "hotness" by eliminating the red chilli flakes and just sticking to the mellow heat of the dried red chillies. 

What really takes long with this recipe, is the chopping of the onions. Other than that, you nearly throw everything in together and then wait for it to cook on its own. Yes, ofcourse you can use a pressure cooker to cook the meat, but slow-fire cooking just makes it taste so much more flavourful.

This recipe is from a cookbook I found here and subsequently ended up eating at a friend's house. I hastily wrote a lot down the ingredients that she told me and sat on the recipe until I found a similar sounding recipe in the cookbook as well. The end result? Pretty much the same.

Mutton Istoo
Adapted from Taste of Pakistan cookbook


500 grams lamb meat/ goat meat
750 grams red onions sliced
3 tblsps oil
2 tsps ginger garlic paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 stick cinnamon
4 cloves
1 bay leaf
4 whole pepper corns
2 tomatoes chopped
8 whole dried red chillies
100 grams yogurt
2 cups water
Salt to taste
1 tblsp desi ghee/ clarified butter

Fresh coriander to garnish
Fresh juliennes of ginger to garnish


1. In a large pot heat oil and add all the sliced onions to eat. Stir fry until translucent.
2. Add all the meat to it and stir fry on high to brown the meat. 
3. Once the meat has browned add the ginger garlic paste, chilli flakes, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, turmeric powder, pepper corns, tomatoes, dried red chillies, salt and cumin seeds. Stir fry for a few minutes. Reduce the heat and add water.
4. Let this mix simmer for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add all the yogurt and stir fry on high heat so that the meat starts to leave oil.
5. Check for seasoning. Top with the clarified butter and add the coriander and juliennes of ginger. Serve with hot naan/roti/bread.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Happy New Year people!

This is going to be a HUGE year for me. And I'm so looking forward to it. For starters I'm going back home soon (for a bit). Secondly, two of my closest friends are getting married (which is so awesoommmeeee) and thirdly, I'm going to meet everyone in the month am back home. So yay!

I wanted to start the year with a recipe that could evoke some reaction. A bang maybe? I got some pop instead.

Popcorn cookies. Who'd have thunk? Why, Smitten Kitchen only. This recipe caught my attention last year when the book arrived at home. I was a. lazy, b. could never find the popcorn I wanted to use and c. wasn't able to find candidates to try 'em all out.

Yesterday, I figured all three out. I used Orvillebach's butter popcorn for this recipe and had enough people to try this out on.

So what are these cookies like? Buttery for sure, and they taste and smell like a cross between Caramel popcorn and Shewsbury cookies. Have I sold you on them as yet?

No? Ok, I'll go on. These cookies also have different textures to look forward to. Because some of the popcorn is billowy soft and chewy, while some have a lovely crisp edge to them. The butter-brown sugar cookie dough mix balances out a nice caramely flavours that exude from the oven as soon you put them in.

The husband didn't care for these cookies, but I knew my tasters and testers were lying in wait for me. So I filled a cookie tin with warm cookies and plodded on. I met with the peeps, and the entire tin was wiped out within minutes, with many reaching out for seconds.

They were a winner. Like, totally, a winner. They smelt heavenly, had an element of surprise in them and tasted so delicious. Perfect way to usher in the New Year. :)

Buttered Popcorn Cookies

Makes 20 to 24
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Available in India, US and UK

 One large bag of microwavable Popcorn. Butter-flavoured. (Should yield 4 to 4 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1. To make the popcorn: Pop the popcorn according to the instructions at the back. Then transfer to a bowl. Pick out the unpopped kernels. You should have about 4 to 4½ cups of popcorn.
2. To make the dough: Preheat your oven to 180 degree centigrade. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
3. In another bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda together. Stir the combined dry ingredients into the butter sugar mixture.
4. Fold in the cooled popcorn so that it is evenly distributed through the batter, even though it doesn’t seem like it’ll work. It is no big deal if the popcorn breaks up a bit when folding. (I used my hands.)

5. Scoop a large tablespoon-size mound onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches of space between cookies, because they’ll puff up. 
6. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are light brown. Let them sit on the pan for a few minutes to firm up before transferring them to a rack to cool.