Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sondesh

Norom paker Sondesh (Ultra soft sondesh)  








Once you have had your success with Sondesh a delicate sweet from Bengal you realize its one of the easiest desserts to make but all you need is patience, strong hands and a will to knead a good amount.

Before I give the very easy recipe what you need to know is Sondesh can be categorized broadly under 'Norom Pak' the soft melt in the mouth variant which is cooked for a few minutes to make cotton soft sweets and then there is the 'Kora Pak' the hard variant which lasts longer than the Norom Pak but quite honestly isn't of the melt in the mouth texture. Then there is 'Kacha Golla' a softer variant which is not even cooked or hardly cooked to keep it ultra soft.



Now I was born in the city of sweets at least the city of Sondesh, Kolkata , but I am very particular about the kind of sondesh I eat. If its coloured I will give it a skip, if it has too much of fragrance from artifical attar I detest it. I like mine in the purest form with natural falvourings such as rose or saffron or pistachios or almonds.

When it comes to Sondesh I cannot remember my maternal grandmother, 'Dima' who stays in a house which is more ancient than her 92 years. Not that she has ever made sweets but my Dima was always the sweet connoisseur or rather one who staunchly believed when it came to sweets it must be traditional. There is one of the oldest sweet shops in Calcutta located near her home called , 'Bhim Chandra Nag' established somewhere in 1848 and while I was growing up she would ritually send me to get sweets from the sweetshop to feed me a huge number of sweets. Later in my late teen years I would protest saying that it seemed irrational since at times I did not want to eat sweets. Only after I passed out from college and suddenly stepped into adulthood did I realize how much I cherish these silly rituals.



Today when I made these soft sondesh and fed my 92 year old grandmother at first she refused them saying she has lost her taste and doesn't enjoy sweets and then when I informed her that I have made it myself she ate an entire square and said that it was fantastic. I guess that brought me all the joy.



Then there is my Mimi (maternal uncle's wife) who is a true magician in the kitchen when it comes to Bengali dishes and when her approval came for the sweets I knew I have passed in the art of making sweets. Funnily enough I realize it now that I have begun writing that I did not follow anyone's recipe but I will share those very important tips which are essential

What you need for 16 squares of Sondesh

1.5 litre full cream milk
1 tbsp to 2 tbsp non fruit vinegar diluted with 1 tbsp water
6 tbsp castor sugar
50gm finely chopped pistachios which have been blanched from before
2 fat green cardamom
Ghee or clarified butter for greasing

The process is pretty simple. Bring the milk to a roaring boil in a large pan and slowly add the diluted vinegar and keep boiling till the cheese is formed and you see the greenish whey and the floating cheese. Turn off the gas stove and cover with a lid with no holes and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Now gather the cheese in a cheesecloth or muslin cloth and hang it to drain it of whey for 15 minutes.

In the meantime dry roast the cardamom for 2 minutes and take out the seeds and pound them to a fine powder. Blanch the pistachios and finely chop them.

After 15 minutes take the cheese in a large flat bowl. It helps to have a raised fence around the flat plate greased with ghee from before for ease of working with the cheese. Start mashing it using both your hands and then use the heel of your palm to make the smoothest dough ever. Your Sondesh's success depends completely on this process of kneading.

After 5 minutes add the sugar and cardamom powder and knead for 15 minutes. In the end it will be a soft dough. Now take the smallest possible wok in proportion to the amount of cheese dough and place the dough in it and cook this on low heat for just about 2 minutes to 3 minutes.



Let it cool down and knead with some amount of the finely chopped pistachios for 10 minutes and then make 16 balls and shape them in squares on a greased plate. Finish off by sprinkling pistachios on each square.



For making Ultra soft Sondesh these following tips are crucial :-


  1. The milk must absolutely be 100% whole milk. No compromise on fat please 
  2. You must not use lemon to curdle the milk since it leaves a lemony smell which interferes with the flavours you use 
  3. If you want ultra soft melt in the mouth Sondesh you hand the cheese for 15 minutes else you can hang it for 30 minutes 
  4. You cannot compromise on the time for kneading because that dictates how soft your Sondesh will turn out 
  5. When it comes to flavouring know that Sondesh is supposed to be delicate so if you are using rose flavour where you use 1 tbsp rose water per 500ml of milk used for making cheese its best to not use cardamom because then the flavour of cardamom will overpower the flavour of rose. When using saffron no other flavouring is needed. 


Rose flavoured Norom Paker Sondesh



Rendezvous with Chettinad Cuisine at ITC Sonar Bangla

Rendezvous with Chettinad Cuisine



 Tradition is best upheld by those who believe in their own tradition. When ITC Sonar Bangla invited Kolkata Food Bloggers to their on-going event Chettinad Food Festival at Eden Pavillion ,I was thrilled for more than one reason. My first delight stemmed from the fact that I had no idea about this delightful cuisine from down South  and my second delight lay in the fact that the event was being host by ITC whose own kitchen is rooted in tradition.

I was fortunate enough to meet the wonderful Chef Anand. Someone rightfully said, 'he is a magician'.
His dishes are exquisite and he can weave magic with his stories.

For instance I was surprised to know that traditionally women from Chettinad are mostly vegetarians and its only the men who ate non-vegetarian food till sometime ago. The element of influence from different cultures in their cuisine did not surprise me since it is a well known fact that the Southern community had established trade with countries far and away in the South Eastern part of the world. So Chettinad cuisine uses spices which are well known to the rest India and then its distinct flavours comes from the marriage of Indian spices with spices from different South East Asian countries where the people of this community have had great trade links with. Their influence in those countries can also be traced back to the times when trade gave way to these influences.



Chef told us how most of the traditional dishes are still served at weddings which he rightly says is one of the spheres of life where one can dive into a culture's roots and usually for the Chettinad weddings the Chef who prepares the wedding feast always sends a complimentary soup. Chef Anand had prepared Podi sadam - a kind of rasam which is the perfect appetizer with the perfect amount of tangy taste and the texture of a light clear soup.

To be fair it was a scrumptious lunch. While most of the dishes were exquisite here are some which made a mark on my taste buds.

So I definitely suggest that one tries the Sundiah , shredded pieces of lamb cooked in a blend of special spices tied with banana stems and steamed .



There is enough options for Vegetarians as well. Take for instance the Keerai Kadayal - a melt in the mouth spinach dish infused with spices and blend toa  smoothness which is delightful.

The Kola Urundai Kolambu should be a must try for meat lovers. Succulent tender meaty balls cooked in a beautiful white gravy. One cannot miss the Kozhi Uppukari - a dried chicken dish which is fantastic.



From their selectino of desserts the Rosapoo Gulkhand made a special mark on my taste buds. A beautiful bottle gourd halwa it was a delicious ending to a delicious meal. I must share that we were served three desserts and when I started with the Rosapoo Gulkhand Chef told me how there is an order to eating it so one starts with the lightest of the desserts and moves on to the heavy ones. I was glad Chef was there to guide me.



Don't miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in the cuisine from the Southern most tip of our beautiful country, India at The Eden Pavilion ITC Sonar Bangla till the 2nd of August 2014.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lahori Chargha

Lahori Chargha 

Marinate, Steam and Fry 






The best part about being part of social networking Culinary groups is the amazing number of ideas you can get and so when someone posted about Chicken Chargha I immediately knew I must learn more about this interesting delicacy from our beautiful neighboring country.



To be fair there is precious little information on the internet about the dish except for many many recipes and  after browsing through many a recipe I decided on the recipe shared by Faiza from Pakistan Kitchen

To be fair I mostly followed her recipe to the T except for a few change of method of cooking. I left the food colouring since I do not particularly care for food colours and  I marinated it much longer than the recipe stated and I used ghee which I know is an essential part of lahori cuisine.

I particularly liked her idea of using eggs instead of yogurt which gives a better binding. I served the dish with some ghee pilaf since the chicken basically being a fried dry item goes wonderfully well with ghee laden pilaf which gives the moisture in between crispy soft chicken. The beauty of the recipe is that you have to steam and fry the whole chicken without making pieces from it.



So here goes this amazing recipe from the historical city of  Lahore :-

Serves 6 to 7

2 medium sized skinless whole chicken (Each chicken should approximately weight about 800gm to 1 kilogram)
1 heaped tsp cumin powder
1.5 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice
1.5 tbsp chili flakes
1 heaped tsp red hot chili powder
1.5 to 2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala

100gm ghee
2 cups of refined oil

Chaat masala to taste - You need at least half a cup
Lemon to serve
onion rings for serving

Simply mix the eggs, cumin powder, garam masala, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice , salt , chili flakes and chili powder to form a paste. Make slits all over the chicken so that the marinate penetrates it well  . Once the slits are made massage the marinate into the two chicken and leave it to marinate for 3 hours to 4 hours.

Now bring a large bowl of water to a boil and place a flat strainer on top of it and place the chicken on it and cover and steam for 30 minutes to 35 minutes.

Heat the ghee and oil together and fry the chicken for 7 minutes to 10 minutes turning it 4 times. Serve with lots of chaat masala sprinkled on it and lemon juice and some salad if eating it as a snack or you can team it up with some ghee pilaf.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Peachy Cheesecake


Peachy Cheesecake 






There are these times that every passionate person who loves cooking encounters. Its when you have very low expectations  from a particular recipe because you have created it in your mind and have not even checked a recipe and the result is overwhelmingly good.

This time its a cheesecake. normally the most common way to make cheesecake is with cream cheese, it comes out smooth creamy and delicious and my past experience with cheesecake has always been a huge success but both the times I followed Simplyrecipes cheesecake recipe. It was baked and delicious.



On a Sunday evening I was faced with the need for a creamy sweet dish and scourging my refrigerator I realized my only option was something which is toned milk based. I have seen posts on cottage cheese cheesecakes on social networking sites but quite honestly when I searched for ricotta cheesecakes all of the recipes I came across had some amount of cream cheese and so I decided I could either be a coward in the ktichen for fear of failure or I could give my best shot and create something. What was scary is that I would be creating a recipe. perhaps it already exists but when I was preparing it I just used my instinct and even after it baked and was chilled I had my doubts but the next morning made me extremely satisfied. A creamy yummy cheesecake which was appreciated by all.



Here is what you need for 4 to 5 servings :-

1 and 1/4th cup cottage cheese made from 1 litre toned milk
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 peaches out of which 2 are blanched and pureed
1 small pack of digestive biscuits
25gm butter (kept at room temperature)

For the peach syrup for decoration

2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 peach
Few drops of lemon


Make your cottage cheese 1 hour before you start baking by bringing the milk to a boil and adding about 1 tbsp vinegar to it , let the cheese form on low heat and cover and let it be for 5 minutes and then strain and collect your cheese and cool it.

Start by first crushing the biscuits and then mixing them with the butter with your clean hands. Press down the biscuit mixture in a spring-form pan. preheat oven to 160C and place a tray of boiling water below the lower rack and then place the spring-form pan with the biscuit base in the centre of the rack and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile blend the cottage cheese with  half the amount of cream and sugar till it reaches a creamy consistency. Take it in a large bowl and whisk it well till fluffy and add the cream and whisk and finally egg and keep whisking. Now bring a pan of water to boil and then place your peaches in the boiling water and let it cook for 2 minutes. Take them out and hold them under cold running water and then peel the skin and puree 2 of them in the blender. Slowly add the smooth peach puree to the cheesecake mixture. Whisk it and leave it for 5 minutes. You shall come back to see it thickened. Whisk it well and then pour it over the baked biscuit base and bake at 160 C for 1 hour to 1 hour 7 minutes. Let it cool down in the oven itself . After 30 minutes crack open the oven door and cool it for another 1 hour and then take it out and cool it till its completely cold and then chill in the refrigerator for over 12 hours.

To make the peach in syrup gently bring the sugar and water to a boil and add a few drops of lemon and add the sliced peaches which is skinned and then let it cook for 1 minute on low heat and cool it and top the cheesecake with this.



 Enjoy this creamy delight.

Tips


  1. Immersing the peaches in boiling water softens the skin to make peeling easy 
  2. The tray of water which is kept while baking the cheesecake ensures that the cheesecake remains moist and the cracks do not appear. 
  3. Cooling the cheesecake in the oven ensures that the cracks are kept at bay 





Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Perfect Foam Sponge

The Perfect Foam Sponge 


The perfect sponge on the left has risen well and is fluffy
while the one on the right with the same ingredients is dense due to the incorrect technique used


I have always been fascinated by the unexplored and so when I started reading about cakes I was wonder struck. So many of them are out there for us to try and especially with the internet the range is far and wide. So once I started baking foam cakes I decided this was what I would bake when using frosting. The point is my first ever foam cake was a dacquoise a meringue based almond cake and till the day before yesterday I hadn't baked a proper foam sponge cake with all purpose flour. So begun my hunt for a nice recipe. 

I am no expert but to my understanding a foam cake usually has no baking powder and even if sometimes it might have butter I wouldn't bake one with butter. So this cake contains 3 ingredients.

The point is I usually try and understand how a cake works before making it and these days I usually bake two to make sure that if one goofs up I can correct the second. Here is what I learnt from my experience. Its not always about the ingredients but sometimes it is definitely about the technique as well.

I adapted the recipe from 'My Orange Blossom'

So here goes the recipe for the fluffiest sponge foam cake

6 medium to large sized eggs separated
1 and 1/4th cup of all purpose flour (cups hold 250ml liquid)
1 cup icing sugar (cup holds 250ml liquid)
Few drops of lemon juice


Start by lining your cake pan with butter paper. This step is extremely important else it becomes a problem to neatly take out the cake post baking.

Separate the eggs and add the lemon juice (lemon juice prevents the eggs from collapsing once they have been whisked) whisk them to firm peaks. Now whisk the egg yolks with the sugar to make a custard like consistency . Sieve the flour. Preheat oven to 160 C. The next step is extremely important which decides the fluffiness of your cake. Do not whisk in the flour but slowly fold it in with the yolk sugar mixture bit by bit . This folding helps in the cake being rendered fluffy. Once the flour is folded in the egg yolk mixture slowly mix 1/3rd of the egg whites and fold gently but firmly and quickly to loosen it and create a foam like batter and then quickly add the rest of the whisked egg white and with firm but quick movements fold it in with the batter. Pour this in the prepared pans and bake at 160 C for 40 minutes to 50 minutes. Once done insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean you are done




Very very important tip

Once its baked let the cake cool down in the pan for 30 minutes. You must not try and take it out else it will break. After 30 minutes cool it further tills it completely cool. It takes about 1 hour or so and only then proceed to cut it in rings to layer it with frosting.

Here is a sneak peak from the cake I made





Friday, July 25, 2014

Peach Plum Tangy Salad

Peach Plum Tangy Salad 





To be fair there are people who love fruits and then there are people who do not. Well its not that simple, I know people who hate some fruits and love others. Well I fall under the simple category of people who love fruits. I love fruits and I especially like jazzing them up and using a nice fruit salad with some grilled meat.

Now I generally love fruits but there are some fruits which I adore and as it happens India which is so versatile offers such a range of fruits grown in the country itself it amazes me. So you have tropical fruits such as Mangoes, lichies etc then there is the winters when the markets are coloured orange with oranges from the hills but my personal favourite is the season of plums and peaches. It starts somewhere in June and continues to paint the markets peachy and a loving red wine colour till September.

I just love plump juicy peaches and plums and so here is a salad. The dressing is the icicng of the salad

Here is what you need for 1 serving

2 plump juicy peaches
2 to 4 plums depending on the size
1 tbsp finely chopped spring onion the green part

For the dressing

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch of salt

Slice the fruits and chill. Just whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together , add the chopped spring onion and serve with some grilled meat.

Never ever use the dressing and store the salad else it becomes soggy.





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lemon Garlic Chili Grilled Chicken


Lemon Garlic Chili Grilled Chicken 






Truth is I love having grilled chicken. Out of the many reasons the two most important ones are well, the first is obvious I love the taste of grilled chicken but the other one is simple. Grilled chicken means minimum work in the kitchen and it comes especially handy when I am working on a project. So I feel grilled chicken is the freelancers saviour. 



To be fair I knew exactly how I wanted my chicken to taste and threw in the most basic ingredients but boy oh boy was I in for the most delicious surprise ever. As I have already mentioned I love grilled chicken and so I have quite obviously tried numerous marinates and so when this most basic marinate yielded one of the best grilled chicken ever it just made a very ordinary day extraordinarily beautiful.

Here is a simple recipe which serves 2 to 3

400gm to 450gm of chicken with bone (Preferably the thigh and leg , wings with bone)
3 large cloves of garlic or 5 to 6 medium sized ones
1 tbsp chili flakes
Salt as per taste (I required about 1.5 tsp)
2.5 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Simply make a marinate by blending all the mentioned ingredients except the chicken and marinate the washed and dried  pieces of chicken for 2 hours and then grill . I use a convection oven and it took me 15 minutes on one side and about 10 minutes on the other. pair it with a salad of your choice or you may even make a delicious grilled chicken sandwich.



Tips


  1. If you are using small cloves of garlic it is often difficult to peel them quickly. In that case soak them in water for 15 minutes and you shall be able to peel them quickly 
  2. Keep a tray at the bottom of the rack on which you are grilling so that those juices fall on the tray. This way your oven stays clean and you can use a piece of bread to soak up the juice for an amazing treat. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Almond Tomato Pesto

Almond Tomato Pesto 





Well when you restrict your diet sometimes it can be hard especially if you are part of too many food groups on the virtual media. Someone wanted to know about pesto and that led to a serious craving for pasta and I was glad that I hadn't eaten dinner. I decided to read a bit about pesto and ah ha it provided the exact information I needed , while there are the traditional recipes which mostly needs cheese it is also a generic term for anything which is pound or crushed. I knew exactly what to do. So here is a pesto which is bursting with flavours and is healthy as well



Makes 2 servings

5 to 6 medium sized cloves of garlic
4 plump juicy medium sized tomatoes blanched and peeled
30 to 40 almonds blanched
2 to 4 dried red chilies
Salt as per taste
1 tbsp to 2 tbsp  extra virgin olive oil
1/4th cup fresh mint leaves

Simply start by pounding the garlic and then add the mint leaves and almonds and keep pounding till its more or less smooth and add the tomatoes after chopping them and then add salt and finally add the oil bit by bit to create a smooth emulsion. Serve over wholewheat pasta and you have a healthy meal . You can use it as a dip as well.

In case you do not want to go through the whole process of pounding the ingredients just blend away in a mixer grinder.



Malvani Murgh


Malvani Murgh 

Its hot spicy and coco-nutty 





I believe there is nothing better in this world than the exchange of recipes for its not just ingredients and processes sometimes you get your hands on someone's heirloom recipe and I believe a recipe as as much value as any other historical item because it upholds the culture and lives of real people. And once you get a recipe from a faraway land you might just surprise yourself by finding a subtle similarity with something close home.

Take the beautiful Western coast of India. Its green , its where the hills  meet the sea and then there is that lovely Konkani cuisine, well I visited Malvan a tiny place in the southern most tip of Maharashtra, a coastal town with a slow paced life, smiling people, virgin beaches which are cleaner than most commercial beaches in India and thick spicy hot curries with that delightful taste of coconuts.

It is usually the Southern cuisine that we associate coconuts with but you see being born in one of the few states which can boast of a coastline , mountains , mangrove swamps and forests Bengali cuisine has its way of imparting coconuts. We usually use grated coconut in all our special curries but then there is that distinct difference which makes each cuisine unique for though we love adding grated coconut to vegetarian dishes when it comes to non vegetarian dishes other than the 'Chingri macher malai Kari' Lobsters cooked in a gravy of coconut we usually shy away from using coconut in our non vegetarian curries.

Anyway coming back to the delightful Malvani curry thanks to Meena Phatke I have this wonderful Malvani Chicken recipe which is her mother's recipe and with enough freshly grated coconut at home I decided I must 'strike the iron while it is hot'

So here is a recipe for 2 one that is spicy hot and coconutty

300gm chicken with bones
2 tsp smooth ginger garlic paste
Salt as per taste

For the Malvani essence

8 to 10 dried red chilies the hot variant
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 large onion
1.5 cup of grated coconut (cups which hold 200ml liquid)
6 to 7 cloves
20 black peppercorn
Half an inch cinnamon
2 tbsp oil (I used refined oil . You may use coconut oil or peanut oil or even sesame oil)
1.5 cups of water (cup that  holds 200ml of liquid)
Pinch of turmeric

Simply marinate your chicken pieces in the ginger garlic paste with a pinch of salt and let it marinate for 1 hour to 2 hours.

In the meantime slice the onion and fry it in 1 tbsp oil. The trick is to keep the flame to low and cover the wok so that your onion softens and browns and you do not use too much of oil. Once the onion turns mildly pinkish brown let it cool down. Now dry roast the dry spices and once the fried onion has cooled down blend the onion, coconut and dry spices.

Now heat 1 tbsp oil and add the marinated chicken and seal the juices on high flame for 2 minutes and then add the beautiful coconut base that you have created and coat the chicken and add the water and bring to a boil. Add some salt and turmeric and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Serve hot with steaming rice






Sunday, July 13, 2014

Almond Foam Cake

My Perfect Almond Foam Cake 






I started my journey of foam cakes (Cakes where no other fat or very little fat other than eggs is used) and my very first foam cake was a dacquoise which is basically 'a dessert cake made with layers of almond or hazelnut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream) Well I was trying my hands at Opera cake and it being French though I had  jotted down the recipe of an Opera cake from a regular blog I decided to  make the best of Google translator and followed a French blog. The first difference I noticed was that the French blog or rather the 6 blogs I read through had absolutely no all purpose flour involved. I was fascinated with the idea of a cake made with almonds alone and then when I made it I was a convert forever. I mean the Opera was lopsided but caught the fancy of my guests who declared it a raging success. The next time I made a dacquoise my friends said that this was the best frosted cake they have had . Ah well I felt I was floating in the air along with my airy cake. Then there came a time when a particular recipe caught my fancy and I followed it but this time my almond cake was a bit too soggy. To be fair in my previous endeavours I was way too engrossed with the entire assimilation to give extra thought to the base and since the other recipes gave results which were good enough I had never bothered myself with this before and suddenly I felt the need to search for that perfect recipe for almond cake which would be as light as the air fluffier than a souffle and perfect for my taste one which would not only be the perfect base for a gateau but that which would be a perfect light accompaniment with tea or coffee . 



I finally found a recipe which by the looks of it seemed perfect but then most recipes for almond foam cake does use yolks so this is what I did. i divided my batter and one half had yolks and the other didn't. Now you have to please wait for the recipe to know which one was a winner for me



Well so here is a recipe which can serve 4 to 5 because no one can limit themselves to one helping with these darlings
Sporce of recipe Italiandish

What you need :- (all cups used hold 250ml liquid)

1 cup of egg whites beaten to stiff peaks
A few drops of lemon juice
2 cups of almond flour (If you are making it at home like me you would need 200gm almonds)
3/4th  cup of icing sugar
3 tbsp cornflour

Now its very simple if you are making the almond flour simply blanch, dry , toast and grind them on high speed and then mix the cornflour, almond flour and sugar together.

prepare the pan by lining it with butter paper. Preheat oven to 160 C Take the egg whites and add the lemon juice, ( adding lemon juice prevents the egg whites from collapsing once they are whipped to firm peaks)  and well whip them  to firm peaks and gently fold in 3/4th of the whipped egg whites with the dry ingredients and then quickly add the rest of the egg whites and fold it in. You must never try to whisk the whipped egg whites with the dry ingredients else your cake will not rise at all and be a dense mess. Bake at 160 C for 35 minutes to 45 minutes. Once it has been baked let it cool down completely (15 minutes to 20 minutes) before removing it from the pan. If you try to remove it before it has cooled down the cake will break. Now carefully peel off the butter paper sprinkle some icing sugar and enjoy it as it is with a cup of tea.

In case you want a fruity variant how about a peachy glaze



Take two plump peaches

Now bring a bowl of water to boil and drop in the peaches and wait for 2 minutes , take it out wash ti with cold water and peel off the skin, Now make half moon slivers and make a syrup with 4 tbsp sugar and 8 tbsp water, add the peaches and when it bubbles add the juice from 1/4th of a lemon and let it simmer. Once it cools down arrange the peaches on the cake and serve it. The tangy flavour was wonderful.


Egg white only on the left 



Now you must be wondering why I would choose this over the one where nothing else is different except the addition of 3 egg yolks with the dry ingredients before the egg whites are folded in. Well it was light as well and in fact it puffed up even more but the one which had egg whites alone was lighter and that was all that it needed to win.






Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ciabatta

Ciabatta 






There are times in your life when you need courage and well courage is what I needed to switch from dry yeast to fresh yeast. Well this is mostly because storing fresh yeast can be very problematic but the trick is to cut it into small pieces and wrap it in cling film and store it in the freezer. Well anyway I have been wanting to make an antipasti for which you need the delicious Italian bread called 'Ciabatta' which is a kind of Italian cousin of the very famous Baguette.



Well its actually quite easy to make . What you need is just a bit of planning ahead because you need to create the 'poolish' or starter the night before you want to bake the bread and once you bake this amazing crusty bread with a delicious flavour you can create a fantastic sandwich , tasty appetizers or you can simply sip it in olive oil and it tastes superb.



Anyway moving on to the recipe :-

This makes two medium sized ciabattas and one large ciabatta

The source of my recipe are a few Italian blogs thanks to Google translator and BBC Food

Here is what you need for the overnight poolish

250gm all purpose flour
15gm fresh yeast
190ml lukewarm water
Pinch of sugar

For the final dough

250gm all purpose flour
190ml lukewarm water
10gm fresh yeast
12gm salt
Pinch of sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
Milk for brushing
Extra flour for sprinkling

For the overnight poolish

Proof the yeast by dissolving the sugar with 4 tbsp lukewarm water (Remember that yeast beign a living creature can die if the water is too hot. Ideally the water should feel just mildly warm where you can dip your fingers and comfortably keep it dipped) and then adding the crumpled yeast . Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes to 10 minutes. It will form bubbles which is the sign that it will work and you can move ahead . Mix the yeast with the flour and then slowly add the lukewarm water and mix with your clean hands . The dough will be wet and stick and it is supposed to be that way. Keep working with the dough till you see a shine and then cover with a cloth and let it rise for 13 hours to 18 hours.

After 18 hours of rise 


For the final dough

The dough once it has been transferred to an oiled bowl 


Proof the yeast and then add the yeast to the flour and then add the poolish and then slowly add the water and finally the salt and make a dough. It will be sticky and its supposed to be that way. keep kneading till the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and then oil your hands and grease a bowl with olive oil and knead the dough and transfer to oiled bowl and let it rise for another hour and then gently transfer this on to a heavily floured work surface and let it rise for another half an hour and then cut it into three equal pieces and gently stretch with your hands and transfer onto the baking tray lined with parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on it .

Before the loaf goes in the oven 


Let it rise for another half an hour and brush with milk (this helps in browning) and then preheat oven to 240 C and bake for half an hour reducing the temperature to 220 C after 15 minutes of baking. If you have a convection oven bake at 220C for half an hour. Take it out of the oven and then cool on a wire rack. You must let the bread cool completely before you slice it.




Chili Garlic Sesame Dip

Chili Garlic Sesame Dip 




The truth is I love having vegetables. Yes that is right I love my bacon, cake and steamed or raw vegetables. Well sometimes the salt and pepper isn't enough and so you need an extra boost with a dip but most dips are unhealthy and high in calories . Well a few years ago I had suddenly become interested in Middle Eastern cuisine and finding the ease of availability of the ingredients used in many of their dishes I became a fan of both tahini and Toum and that is how I came to make this dip of mine which is heavily borrowed from those two dips. This takes very little time to make and is a wonderful accompaniment to fresh vegetables or crisps or even nachos.

Makes 4 servings

1 head garlic
4 to 5 dried red chilies
1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar (you can use any other vinegar)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt as per taste
1.5 tsp thyme
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Soak the peeled garlic and red chili in the vinegar and oil for 1 hour. This helps reduce the heat of the chili and then just add everything and blend away and you have a healthy dip ready for you. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Low Calorie Mashed aubergine dip

Low Calorie Mashed aubergine dip 




Sometimes you will be amazed by how much similarity we have throughout this wide wide world. Take the case of the simple roasted aubergine. In India there is spicy robust Punjabi 'Baingan Da bharta' then there is a simpler Bengali version where you just add chopped onions, roasted spices, fresh coriander and it has a fresh taste . Much later in life I learnt to make Baba ghanoush and fell in love with this Middle Eastern delight. Then I discovered a light soupy dish made with roast eggplants from the South of India. There is also a version from Eastern Europe.



Anyway other than the culinary connection roast aubergine can be a delightfully healthy dish and the best part is it makes for a super healthy dip. Now with all the World Cup Madness I realized one thing snacking is not an option when the football field is on fire. Well here is a thought ditch the chips, ditch the nachos , well you can always have baked potatoes but then it doesn't have than thin crispy crunch so here is something which is unusual yet makes for a delightfully healthy snack. Mashed aubergine with dry roasted stale chapatis which makes for an addictive snacks and its healthy low on calorie and utterly delicious.

Serves 2

2 medium sized aubergine
3 to 4 stale chapatis
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp  extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
3 large cloves of garlic
Salt as per taste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
Half a large tomato chopped into tiny pieces


Simply roast the eggplants over gas stove and then when cool enough to handle mash with a fork and take off the skin and then blend the garlic, sesame, cumin, 1 tbsp olive oil  and add the mashed aubergine and blend away some more to create a smooth dip. Now take a girdle and heat it and then turn the gas flame to low and cut triangular shaped crisps from stale chapatis and dry roast till crispy. The flame must always be on low else you shall burn them. Once completely crisp drizzle the extra virgin olive oil on the crispy chapati triangles and enjoy with the dip.