Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baking I Flourless Nutella Cake. Just two ingredients




This has to be possibly the ugliest cake I've ever made. But it's also one of the most amazing cakes I've ever made. And the easiest.

You know why? Because Matt Preston is a genius. No, seriously. He is a G.E.N.I.U.S.

Watching Masterchef Australia Season 6 has been a revelation for me. It's been a season of fabulous cooking and even better Masterclasses. And it was in one of these masterclasses that I saw this recipe and was completely enamoured by it.

After a lovely talk with patisserie chef Nitin Upadhyay, I was feeling inspired. Really inspired. And on my way home, I picked up a jar of Nutella.

Two ingredients and such a fab cake. I just had to try it at home. At first I thought I should do a little twist on it, then I realised that there's no point not trying the original before I go the whole hog. I mean just a bunch of eggs and a jar of Nutella, could that really make a whole cake?



Yes, it could. Almost souffle-like, this cake was light with a beautiful chocolate hazelnut flavours coming through brilliantly. It was like eating a chocolate cloud. So delicious. So light. Just note though, this cake needs a hand-mixer, it's nearly impossible beating the eggs by hand.

So without further ado, I present you Matt Preston's two ingredient Chocolate Hazelnut cake:



Flourless Nutella Cake
Serves 6

Ingredients

4 eggs
240 grams of Nutella or any chocolate hazelnut spread
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Method

1. In a large bowl break all four eggs and start whisking them with a hand-mixer. You want the eggs to become completely pale and frothy and quadruple in size which will take about 10 - 15 minutes of constant whisking. You can add the vanilla extract at this point.
2. Meanwhile in a large bowl measure out 240 grams of Nutella and gently microwave it so that it softens.
3. Now add 1/3 of the frothy eggs into the Nutella and stir until completely incorporated.
4. Fold in this mix into the rest of the eggs very carefully so that you don't completely loose out the air.
5. Pour it into a tin that has been lined with butter paper and pop into a oven that's been pre-heated to 200 degree centigrade for about 20 minutes
6. Remove and let it cool completely. If possible let it sit in the refrigerator for at least four hours before serving.


Review I Dessert Bar at The Suryaa. Meeting Patissier Nitin Upadhyay




It's not everyday that you get to meet someone who can hold a conversation with such passion and zeal that it totally floors you. And yet so humble that you cannot believe you're sitting in front of someone so talented.

Patissier Nitin Upadhyay is one such man. A man known for his skills with chocolate and incredible magic he creates out of butter, sugar and flour.

Patissier Nitin Upadhyay with GM of Suryaa Pankaj Mathur

As a visiting chef at The Suryaa, Nitin has been busy creating some exquisite desserts for Delhi-ites that shows off his artistry and creativity. 

Over cups of tea, he described his experiences with dessert, including the fact that he has never ever tasted a creme brulee, because he's afraid it just might be too eggy. And however hard I tried to convince him of the opposite, he still stuck to his gun

At the Suryaa he's curated a whole new dessert menu including financiers, nanaimo bars, whiskey torte and beautiful puddings and pannacottas. He's also introduced a whole range of desserts that are baked straight in the oven including crumbles, tarts and strudels. Plus he's made the display case so pretty that you just can't help stop and gape at the beauties those desserts are. 



Us lucky few got to try a few of his creations, including a beautifully light Tiramisu and a rich chocolate whiskey cake and the Nanaimo bar. And if you'd like to try some too, head over super quickly to Ssence at the Suryaa and devour their dessert menu.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Peach Bellini Sorbet




Clearly I'm not over them peaches. And with the monsoon setting in, they seem to only be getting better. The peaches, that is. So with leftover peaches and left over wine, I just knew I had to do something more  (I told you this was a two-part post)

To be honest, peaches are a pantry staple for me. I have a tin or two lying with me at all times. And a bag full of the frozen stuff in the deep freeze for atleast a few months. That's because I find this fruit to be super easy to work with. You can whip it into a fool, immerse them in a spot of wine, bake them or even grill them.

One of the things I love to do with peaches is make a crisp. Unfortunately, I've never been able to blog the recipe because it is almost always over by the next morning. (I'm going to assume that's a good thing).



This sorbet meanwhile, did managed to get photographed. Which was a good thing, because it was pretty darn good. And so easy.

Of all the cocktails, I've always been very partial the pina colada, daiquiri and the bellini. Two of which can be made with peaches. As much as I love a Melon Bellini, I love the traditional Peach Bellini - peach puree topped with a bit of ice cold sparkling wine, champagne preferably.

So when I set out to make the sorbet, I realised there were two ways to do this - one, puree the ripe peaches with a squeeze of lemon and top it with the wine and then churn it in the ice cream machine. Two was poaching the peaches in wine and see what I could do further.

Method two, was what seemed to have held my interest. I decided to make a poaching liquid with some sugar, sparkling wine and some lemon zest. I left the skin on, on the peaches and infact threw in the stones to to get that nice almondy flavour.



Poaching them this liquid made sure that the flavour of the wine came through. The skin brought a brighter colour out in the sorbet and the flavour really shone through, despite sieving it after I pureed it.

I added the wine at three points - while poaching (most of the alcohol must have evaporated there in any case), then once the poached liquid had been cooled and was ready to puree and lastly just before I threw it into the ice cream maker. This elevated the flavour of the bellini and let it remain super close to the cocktail.

The final flavour was super clean, It was such a superbly smooth sorbet and the peach was really quite awesome. Was a palette cleanser or dessert? Truth was it was a bit of both, but at the end, it was more of a dessert for me.




Peach Bellini Sorbet

Ingredients

3-4 ripe peaches
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups of sparkling wine
Lemon zest
Squeeze of lemon

Method

1. Set a saucepan on the gas and pour 1 cup of wine into it adding off of the sugar and lemon zest
2. Chop the peaches into half, leaving the skin on. Add the peaches pits and all to the wine mix.
3. Let it poach for about 10-15 minutes until the fruit is squishy. Turn off the gas and let the mix cool.
4. Once the mix is cool, fish out the pits and bung the rest into a blender, add the lemon juice. Blitz with 1/2 cup of wine.
5. Sieve the mixture and let it cool completely in the refrigerator until you're ready to churn.
6. When you're ready to make your sorbet add the rest of wine and churn according to the manufacturers instruction.
7. Serve super chilled.




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Peaches in Sparkling Wine




A few years ago, when I was working with a wine magazine, I came across a recipe that's been stuck in my head for years now. Peaches in Prosecco. 

The recipe was simple, chop plenty of peaches, add a handful of raspberries and top the rest chilled prosecco and let the whole thing rest in the refrigerator for at least a few hours. And voila you have a boozy dessert that's perfect for the summer.

What's a Prosecco you might ask me? Prosecco is a sparkling white wine from Italy and it used to be called a poor man's champagne at one time. It's rarely found outside Italy so my dreams of spooning this dessert into my mouth were well, going up in smoke, because finding a bottle of Prosecco outside a restaurant in Delhi is next to impossible.

But when the good people of Jacob's Creek sent me this bottle of their Sparkling Rose last month, the wheels in my head started turning. How different would this be from the Prosecco I asked myself until I opened the bottle up for myself.



While the grapes are a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in this blush wine, it tasted very like the Prosecco. This sparkling wine was a little dry for my liking but it has a lovely lingering berry-like flavour that I loved. 

A non-vintage this wine was lovely to drink on its own but it had to be super chilled. Which is why this is actually a two-part post.

I opened this bottle for myself. Not for my friends. Not for the husband. Not for cooking. It was for me alone. But then I decided not to be a lush and make a little something with it. I kept replaying the Peaches in Prosecco In my head, which meant it was high time.

I had a bunch of cherries lying in the fruit slot of the refrigerator and big fat juicy peaches, perfect for a lift off.

Truth be told, it turned out to be a fabulous dessert. The sparkling wine took on the notes of the peaches so delicately that it was as if you were drinking a bellini and the cherries added a slightly deeper colour to it. The peaches had soaked up a bit of the acidity from the wine which had plumped them up generously and with each bite you felt you were eating wine rather than drinking it.

I loved it so much that I made these babies twice over. Plus they are a great way to use up left over Champagne or Prosecco or Sparkling Wine.






Peaches in Sparkling wine

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

5 Large Peaches
20 cherries unpitted
2 cups of Sparkling wine
1 lemon to decorate

Method

1. Peel the peaches and cut them in halves. Remove the pit and slice into half again.
2. Arrange them in your dessert glass top with cherries
3. Pour as much sparkling wine as it can take and leave undisturbed in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours
4. Serve with a bit of whipped cream and a slice of lemon




Friday, July 18, 2014

Appetizer I Marinated Mushrooms


For a country which is at least 60 per cent vegetarian, I'm surprised at the number of mushroom haters than emerge from amongst them. What is it about the fungi that puts people off I wonder? Is it the squishisness? Is it that very earthy flavour? Or is the distinct fungi smell?

Because I love all these things about the mushroom. I find them supremely versatile, easy to use and quick to make.  I throw them in a number of things - omelets, stir-fries, soups, tarts and even on my morning toast. Ofcourse here I'm talking the humble button mushrooms. For special occasions, I love enoki and shitake mushroom, except they are so expensive here that I have to really think twice before I buy a packet from the supermarket.



I have to say though that the enoki mushroom occupies a special place in my heart. It was this mushroom that truly gave me a sense of umami about eight years ago, when I tried it for the first time as part of a special meal at My Humble House. It changed the way I thought of the fungi and it changed the way I thought of Asian flavours.

That said, it's the button mushroom that is more commonly available and its this variety that is easy to find here. Which is why the marinated mushroom is a great way of consuming these bad boys.

The recipe is simple - you need to balance the flavours - some sour, some salt, some spice, some seasoning and a bit of oil.  Once you can wrap this around your head, marinating mushrooms becomes the easiest thing. The lemon or vinegar along with the salt or soy cures the mushrooms making them perfectly awesome to eat. I know a lot of you might be wondering if its still raw but the truth is they get cured and cooked almost as soon as the lemons or vinegar touches the mushrooms.

Depending on how quickly I want to eat them, I use different cuts. If I have barely a few hours I slice them thinly. Overnight - I chop them in quarters, and if I have atleast 48 hours I prefer to keep them whole.

What do you do with them marinated mushroom you might ask me? Well, I do a lot with them. I serve them as a part of a cold cut platter or a cheese platter, throw them into a salad, top them on a bruschetta or just eat 'em plain. Because, well, there are that good.

Here's my go to recipe of these mushrooms:




Marinated Mushrooms

Ingredients

2 packets of button mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
2 lemons
2 tblsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp parsley
1 thinly sliced onion (optional)
Salt to taste

Method

1. Wash and remove the stalk of the mushroom. Quarter them and keep aside
2. In a bowl zest both the lemons and add their juice.
3. Slice the garlics rather thin and bung them into the same bowl. Add salt, parsley extra virgin olive oil along with the chopped red chilli and onions if you're using them.
4. Mix well with the mushrooms and put into a container and keep it covered for atleast 8 hours if not more. Make sure you refrigerate it.
5. When you're ready to serve, remove the excess marinade and top with a bit of fresh parsley





Monday, July 14, 2014

Peach Ice Cream. Eggless. Just three ingredients




I'm a sucker for ice cream. When I was younger, come summer, my grandmother would load up the freezer with home-made kulfi and ice cube trays filled with different flavours of Rasna that would freeze into gorgeous sweet popsicles.

And after each meal we were allowed one of either. So you could eat a kulfi post lunch and an ice lolly post dinner, or go the other way round. I guess, in its own way it made us rather Pavlovian, because as soon as we'd push those plates away, we'd be ready for our treat from the freezer.


When I finally moved into my own place, my freezer would be filled with ice lollies of different kinds. Something, I suppose, I learnt from my grandma.  Ofcourse, these I'd buy from the ice cream carts, yet it was something that I looked forward to do every summer.



Over the last three years, owning an ice cream machine has really changed the way I think of store bought ice creams. I can make out the difference between all natural ingredients versus those with a bunch of additives.

Home-made ice cream will always be a lot for denser than store bought. Because it will be chockful of good quality ingredients. It will, however, taste just that much more fantastic.

This ice cream is one such fantastic creation. It takes barely three ingredients and as much time to whip together as it takes you to peel and pit the peaches. Ofcourse it needs time to set too, but that comes with the whole ice cream making thing.

What's important to know is that you must must freeze your fruit. Because if you do that, you can make this ice cream without an ice cream maker and that will make life super easy for you. The only difference is that it will be a little bit more crystalised and dense compared to being whipped in the machine, but really that's barely a problem.




Peach Ice Cream

Ingredients

1 kg peaches - peeled, pitted and chopped into large chunks
1 tin/ 400 grams condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract / Peach Schnapps


Method

1. Freeze your pitted and peeled peaches for at least four hours.
2. Into your blender chuck in the peaches and the condensed milk and vanilla extract or schnapps
3. Blitz well. Pour into a container and freeze immedietely.
4. Alternately, Pour into an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer's instruction
5. Eat within a week of making the ice cream




Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer in a plate. Cooking a meal for my friends using Borosil


I walk around the table I've just laid and take a minute to appreciate my handiwork. I've been at it for two whole days, finalising the menu, matching cutlery to the theme of my party and finding the perfect table linen.

Summer's here and and I cannot help but throw a brunch with summery goodies for my friends. Which means plenty of fresh vegetables, light and easy entrees and a couple of breath-taking desserts.

My eyes scan the table. Smack in the middle is a beautiful bunch of gerberas in pink and yellow to offset the white table linen. I've just written the tags for everything I've made, I catch myself checking for spelling errors.

My friends begin to arrive and I offer them a glass of litchi and ginger lemonade that have been topped with a handful of mint and some chia seeds. As beads of condensation trickle down the transparent Vision jug I've just removed, I'm careful to pour out this cloudy drink into a high ball glass. The smell is intoxicating. Fresh green mint rush out to meet the black chia seeds while circles of lemon begin to peek out of the glass. I really want to take a long sip, but instead I be the gracious host and serve it around.

As chatter spreads across the room, my eyes linger on the salad I made sitting pretty in the fluted dish. Beautiful red chunks of watermelon that had been dotted with fresh feta cheese and slices of black olive. A drizzle of olive oil over it as ensured a lovely gleam that's been offset by fresh leaves of mint. It's my summertime favourite - watermelon and feta salad. I love how the sweetness of the watermelon balances out the tanginess of the olives and the feta while the mint just cuts through and adds a certain freshness to it all.

Then there's the cold green bean salad with peanuts on the pizza plate. The crisp beans against the crunchy peanuts in a dressing of coconut and peanut can put the whole table to shame with its flavours. Balanced out beautifully with some crisp onions and garlic, this has to one of the easiest salads in the world.

I've laid out the canapes too. Two kinds of bruschetta - tomato and basil and pesto and mushroom. The garlicky crostini ensures that my canapes stay crisp for atleast a couple of hours, but the heroes are really the toppings. The diced tomatoes are marinated in some tart balsamic vinegar only to be offset by a bit of salt and sugar while the basil just elevates the dish. But it's the aroma from the pesto that drives you to come closer and closer to the table. The basil in here smells almost as if the earth has been perfumed. Balanced out with a bit of garlic and parmesan cheese, it's almost hard to say no to this canape. Wild mushrooms sauteed in a spot of butter top this gorgeous morsel.

I take requests for the main course now - chicken or fish, I ask my friends. The numbers are nearly equal, so I proceed to the kitchen to bring out the meat. I've made the fish in paper bags. They've marinated in a bit os soy, thai bird's eye chilli and some sugar and salt. And just before popping them in the oven, I cut slices of lemon and lemon grass and fresh herbs, so that when the packets open, the aroma from the lemongrass will just envelope the eater.

The chicken is simple. Marinated in some coconut milk and salt and pepper, it's crumb coated in a mixture of bread crumbs and desiccated coconut and then pan fried. It's served with a nice dollop of mango pomegranate salsa. The coconut adds a nuttiness to the chicken which makes it almost morish. But it's the salsa that's really the star. Fresh seasonal mango offset by ruby red pomegranate seeds with a bit of cilantro and green chillis and a squeeze of lime, it's like a party in my mouth.

I gear up for dessert. I've already baked the mini meringues that are just waiting to be topped with from chilled whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The mini lemon tarts are already out,. both of which sit on the variety platter but the piece de resistance, is my mango sorbet that I've handchurned.

The meringues are crisp on the outside and light as air on the inside. The chilled cream cuts through the sweetness of the meringue as do the fresh strawberries. The lemon tarts, a childhood favourite, have enough tang to wake up the neighbourhood while the glass bowls of mango sorbet are licked clean. What's the secret I'm asked, why, lovely luscious mangoes ofcourse I reply!

If there's one thing I love more than cooking, it's feeding people. I love how their eyes light up when I bring out their favourites from the kitchen. I love how they savour that first mouthful and look at me in wonder. And most of all I love that I can give them a piece of me through my cooking.

But to me, that's not enough. Not only does what I cook taste great, I think it has to look great as well.

This blog post is an entry in the Indiblogger My Beautiful Food contest in association with Borosil

Green Bean & Peanut Salad



I've been MIA. I know. But, to be fair, I've got a valid reason for it. Several infact. So let me actually list them out for you.

1. I came back to Delhi in February, only to learn in May that I wasn't going to back to Islamabad.
2. So, basically, since my husband got expelled from Pakistan rather abruptly, it meant we were moving cities again.
3. Which meant we had to repack, relocate and realign. That's something that's taken me a while to figure out.
4. This also meant that we moved to a new place and we had to get the kitchen remodelled. That took forever and it depressed me that I could not cook. But for the last 72 hours I've now got a working kitchen.
5. Also, I never brought my laptop with me, so it was a bit hard to blog from just about anywhere. But it's now unpacked and out.

Yup, that's right. This is the long and short of the last six months of my life. It's been hard, to say the least, but with plenty of support from my friends and family, I've, well, made it so far.

The good news though is that with a fully functional kitchen that's pretty spacious for an apartment, I have to say is giving me great vibes. Which means lots of cooking coming my way. (Yay!)

One of the problems of not having a functional kitchen is that you have to eat three meals a day at a restaurant or order in. And if one thing I've learnt, it's that you cannot, just CANNOT eat pizza all the time. Actually coming to think of it, we only ordered pizza once.




What we did order in a lot from was Speedy Chow. It was fast, effective and really really nice contrary to a few of the reviews on Zomato.

There was one thing that I ordered off the menu atleast 20 times in the last two months - the cold green bean salad in a coconut peanut dressing. I remember ordering it for the first time in May, and it was love at first bite. The just-right crunchy beans in a sweet-tangy-salty dressing with peanuts and crispy onions and garlic just totally hit the spot. I'd order it even if I wasn't hungry and was super happy to eat it the next day, where I thought it tasted even better.

Which is perhaps why, one of the first things I had to try replicate at home was this salad. In my head, it was pretty easy to make. Blanch the beans, make a dressing with peanut butter and coconut milk and toss in some of the condiments.

And I was right! It really was super easy to make. The only catch I realised was that the dressing was more like a marinade and that the salad really needed to sit for a minimum of four hours to soak in all the yummy flavours.

So here goes, the salad that got me through this summer:



Green Bean and Peanut Salad
Serves 3

Ingredients
250 grams green beans
2-3 tblsp creamy peanut butter
2 tblsps warm water
1/4 cup coconut milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic
1/8 tsp chilli flakes
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

Topping:
Roasted and salted Peanuts
Fried onions
Fried garlic

Method

1. Remove the strings from the green beans and cut them into 1 inch pieces.
2. Boil water with salt and blanch the beans for 5-8 minutes. Drain. Wash with cold water.
3. In a separate bowl, add water to the creamy peanut butter and whisk till smooth. Add coconut milk and lemon juice, salt, sugar, chilli flakes and garlic. Whisk till completely emulsified. Taste for the balance and add more salt or sugar or lemon juice as you please.
4. Add the dressing to the beans and refrigerate it immediately.
5. Let it sit in the dressing for atleast four hours or preferably over night.
6. When you're ready to serve top with roasted and salted peanuts, fried onions and fried garlic.


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