Saturday, January 31, 2009

Color me Yellow

How hard can it be to make yellow colored food. All you need to do is add some saffron. Or use a pinch of turmeric the way I do every day for Indian curries. There's also corn and bell peppers and what not. And yet, every time I thought of making something for this month's Food in Color, imagination failed me. So I stopped thinking food and started thinking drinks. I also remembered my long forgotten wish to see what happens if I pop pineapple into the oven with some sugar. All of which becomes Caramalized Pineapple Smoothie.

I buy my pineapple already peeled and cut into slices, so I arranged 3 thick slices on a baking sheet and sprinkled enough sugar to coat the fruit. Heat the oven to 250C and bake the pineapple on top rack until the sugar melts and the slices brown a bit. Let cool, then blend with 1/2 cup chilled pineapple juice and 1/2 tsp lemon juice.

Pour into a glass. Slurp. Get amazed! The caramel and lemon bring out a depth of flavor you wouldn't ever imagine existed in a pineapple. I loved it, and I hope Harini likes it too. It's last minute, as all my FIC entries have been so far, but at least I made it in time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Breakfast with Beans

Now what's special about beans on toast? Nothing much, except for the fact that I despise them. Not the concept per se, but those sweetish beans they sell in a can. What I would rather do is make my own beans. If you remember to soak the beans the night before and drop them in the pressure cooker when you wake up, this breakfast takes under 10 minutes to assemble.

I use black eyed peas (raungi/chawli) instead of Heinz' choice of navy beans. Soak a handful of beans overnight. Cook in a pressure cooker with plenty of water until soft but not mushy (4-5 whistles should do it). Drain. Chop a clove of garlic and a small onion finely. Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan, add garlic and when it starts to brown, the onion. Saute for a minute until the onion starts to brown, then add 2 tbsp tomato puree, a hearty pinch of salt and a tsp of chilli flakes. Add the boiled beans, give it a stir then turn the heat to low and let cook for a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, cut crusts off 2 slices of white bread and toast them. Cut into triangles, then pile the beans on top and add a few mint leaves.

This indulgent breakfast goes over to Srivalli for 7th helping of My Legume Love Affair, an event started by Susan.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It takes two to tango

In this case, it takes paneer and peas to make this amazing-tasting easy-to-cook appetizer. Cut 100 gms paneer into thin squares. Mix 2 tbsp yogurt with a pinch of salt and marinate the paneer in this for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, shell 50 gms peas and place in a small bowl with just enough water to cover them. Cover and microwave for 2 minutes until the peas are soft. Drain and mash roughly with a tsp of chopped coriander, a tsp of chopped mint, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp ajwain (carom seeds) and a pinch of salt. Carefully lift one square of paneer and place on a microwave safe plate. Add half a spoon of peas mixture and top with another slice of paneer. Make similar sandwiches with the rest of paneer slices.

Add a dollop of mustard sauce on top of each sandwich. Mix a tbsp each of tomato ketcup and chilli sauce. Pour this on top of the mustard and microwave for a minute.

This easy-cheesy appetizer goes over to Rak's Kitchen for MEC : Paneer, this month's edition of microwave cooking event started by Srivalli.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A trip to Charlie's Chocolate Factory

This Book Makes Me Cook is reading a chocoholic's dream this month. Our book club's pick was Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - a fantasy story of young Charlie Bucket who wins a trip to Willy Wonka's extraordinary chocolate factory.

Willy Wonka, the factory's owner, is quite a character and equally fabulous is the dream world that he has built. I'm sure Dahl had concealed lots of morals in the book - what with all the other children who accompany Charlie on this trip falling prey to one of their faults and Charlie, the virtuous one, winning the factory as a grand prize. But what always fascinates me is the world Willy Wonka created inside this factory - chocolate rivers, Oompa-Loompas and that most amazing glass elevator that moves all-ways.

I've read this book many times over the years and enjoyed it every time. I've also craved a lot of chocolate during and after reading this book. So for this month's post, I decided to make chocolate truffles.

Start by making a firm ganache. Chop 150 gms semi-sweet chocolate into small bits. Heat 100 ml cream with 1/2 tsp vanilla essence in a small pan until it is simmering. Pour it on the chocolate, wait a minute and then mix to make a smooth paste. Cover the ganache with a plastic wrap and chill for a couple of hours.

Remove from fridge and carve out small bits with a melon baller. Roll between palms to make a round truffle, then roll into cocoa powder. That was half my truffles. For the other half, I rolled the ganache balls into finely ground almonds for that lovely white speckled effect.

Want to know what other members made from the book?
Sweatha did what I did and made truffles too.
Rachel made Chocolate Almond Bars.
Sunshinemom made Puffed Rice Balls

In February, we are reading my all-time favorite author Agatha Christie. Out of her 100-odd novels, we have picked "Adventure of the Christmas Pudding", a Hercule Poirot mystery. If you would like to join us on a trip to Poirot's world, leave a comment here and I will get back with more details.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Special days call for special treats

Today marks the day of my arrival in this world, never mind how many years ago. While most of my celebrating is done outside my home and kitchen, I made this little dessert last night to start my birthday in style.

To make Coffee Panacotta, heat 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan with 1/2 tbsp sugar and a few drops of vanilla essense. Let it come to a simmer, but turn off the heat before it boils over. Find another bowl that would fit over one of your saucepans and put 1/3 tsp gelatine in it. Mix 1/2 tsp instant coffee with 2 tbsp water and pour it on the gelatine. Let it wait 5 minutes. In the meantime, heat some water in the saucepan and turn down the heat so it simmers. Put the bowl with gelatine on simmering water and stir until the gelatine dissolves.

Stir a little bit of cream into the gelatine to mix, then stir in the rest of the cream and mix well. Pour this into 2 shot glasses, let it cool a bit, then put in the fridge to set and chill for an hour or so. Top with a chocolate coated coffee bean.

This one was super easy to make; just perfect for "Recipes for the Rest of us : Desserts" - Ramki's brainchild that's being hosted by Varsha this month.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Egg Sandwich gets Healthy

There is a story behind this sandwich. After being told a few hundred times that they are full and can't give me a reservation, I've given up on trying to eat at Moshe's. Then, last weekend, it was one of those rare occasions when I went downtown. And inside Kala Ghoda's Fab India store, there was Moshe's cafe. It was small and quaint, with Moshe's trademark sandwiches, salads and by now famous blueberry cheesecake. I had a bit of this and that, but there's more. For along the walls of this cafe, there were shelves of breads and dips and what not - everything, they told me, I could take home. So I brought home lavash and bagels and hummus and that's how this sandwich began.

Slice the wholewheat bagel into two, then toast both sides. Spread a thin layer on hummus on both sides. Chop one hard boiled egg white into small pieces and spread on the bagel. Add some chopped cilantro, sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground pepper then top with the other hummus encrusted slice of bagel. Delicious!

And just contrast this with your regular egg sandwich : white bread, mayonnaise (fats), mustard sauce (more fats!). This version has none of this, but has all the goodness of a flavorful sandwich. Try it, I bet you'd become a fan too.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I ain't no gardener but...

I've brought home the first plant of my "grow own herbs" project. No prizes for guessing this one. Holy Basil or Tulsi, grown in almost every Hindu household, was the easiest to find and buy. It's also one herb I'm always borrowing from my neighbour, so this one makes it easier for me to make my basil tea.

Watch out for next one...I'm still debating between a big pot of mint and something a little bit more exotic.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I've found my perfect cookie

It's a bite sized cookie, with flavors of a pie, shape of a croissant and a pretty, pretty name. It's Rugelach. I first heard of this cookie when it became the baking pick for Tuesdays with Dorrie a couple of months back. The looks, the concept - everything was fascinating. And I've dreamed of making this cookie ever since. I ditched hundreds of recipes floating around and went straight to the master. It's Dorie Greenspan's recipe that I used, and ain't I glad I got it so perfect the very first time.

So what's rugelach? It's cream-cheese pastry dough, rolled then cut into wedges, spread with jam and sugar and fillings of choice, rolled into crescents and baked. First the dough. Dorie did it in her processor, but I just went and did it by hand. Put 100 gms cream cheese and 100 gms butter out of the fridge until they were soft but still cold. Added both to a cup of plain flour (I omitted the salt because I use salted butter). Rubbed the flour and butter/cheese until the dough came together. This is not a dough you knead a lot. Dorie now says to chill the dough overnight, but I figured it might get too hard to roll then. So I covered and chilled the dough for half an hour, then divided it into four balls and rolled each one to as perfect a circle as I could. I carefully put these circles between sheets of waxed paper and let them chill overnight.

This morning, I chopped a handful of walnuts and raisins into really small bits. Mixed a tsbp of castor sugar with a hearty pinch of cinammon. Heated 2 tbsp strawberry jam in microwave until it melted. Now bring out your first circle of dough, spread melted jam on it, sprinkle cinammon sugar, walnuts and raisins. Cut the circle into 8 or 16 wedges depending on how large you make it. Now starting from the base of each wedge, roll it so it forms a crescent by the time you reach the tip. Place this on a non-stick baking sheet and roll out the rest similarly.

This was Dorie's way. But was it messy! For the next circle of dough, I did it my way. I first cut the dough into wedges. Then I added the jam and filling separately in the centre of each wedge, leaving out the tip entirely. Made it so much easier to roll. I'd add another helpful hint here - don't take the dough out until the last minute. Specially in Mumbai heat, it will soon get too soft to roll.

Once all your cookies are rolled, heat the oven to 190C. Brush the top of cookies with a little water, then sprinkle some cinammon sugar on each. Bake for 20 minutes, until they turn golden.

That's the basic cookie - sweet but not overly so. It's so flaky you could be eating a very well-made pie.

And can you see possibilities here. Think chocolate sauce and chocolate chips. Plus, the dough doesn't even have any sugar so rugelach's not even got to be sweet. I can already dream of tomato sauce and corn rugelach. Or pesto and goat cheese. Come back here in a few weeks, and you can bet this beauty's going to surface again. Soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What makes my heart sing

If you look for variety in the fruits you eat, you would have seen them all. The all-pervasive, available round the year ones like apples. And the seasonal ones like strawberries and sitaphal that pop in for a few days each year. Then there are some that are neither grown nor exported to India so you don't even expect to ever see blueberries on your store shelves.

And then there is one fruit grown right here but so elusive that buying it every single time feels like an adventure or a stroke of luck. I am talking of mulberries.

In Delhi winter, you sometimes spot an old woman selling mulberries by the roadside. You might even get a choice between the dainty green and the juicy red berries if you are lucky. But nothing of that sort happens in warmer Mumbai. And because they are so delicate and have such a short shelf life, no one thinks of shipping them your way even when they grow as close to the city as Mahabaleshwar.

Then, all of a sudden, I pass by a fruit seller and there sits one finely packed box of mulberries. Just one solitary box, all by itself. I tell the guy to open it, for how do I know what state they are in after the ordeal of traveling from Mahabaleshwar. And there they are, perfect red berries, nested in a bed of mulberry leaves.

My first taste of mulberries this year, and more than enough to make me happy. I know I will go back to that fruit stall every weekend for the next month, but finding them again - that would require a miracle!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Potato Naan

I know what you see up there is a naan. But let's pretend for a moment we are making bread. For I had bookmarked this recipe for potato bread a zillion years ago. And that's what I set to make.

Chopped and boiled 100 gms potatoes until they are soft. Mashed them along with 3/4 cup of water they were boiled in. While the potatoes were boiling, I added a tsp of sugar to 1/4 cup warm water, then sprinkled a tsp of yeast and let it proof for 10 minutes.

To the potato/water mix, I added a cup each of whole wheat flour and plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt as well as the yeast. Once everything was mixed well, I put the dough on a flour-dusted surface and kneaded it for 10 minutes or so. It was a fairly wet dough, but got it to get smooth. Oiled a large bowl and put the dough in it to rise to double it's size.

By the time the first rise ended after an hour or so, I didn't want the bread. I wanted a naan instead. And if someone deserves to throw a tantrum after days of snivelling and snuffling with a cold, it's me. So I pinched a lemon-sized ball of dough, dusted it with flour and rolled it out to a circle thicker than a roti, but thinner than a parantha (work it out yourself now, I really can't think of a better description).

Heated the iron griddle to super hot, then plonked the naan on it. Now, working quickly, you have to brush some water on top of the naan, sprinkle nigella seeds and press with a spatula to make them stick. Once the underside is cooked, lift the naan and invert it directly on the open flame to cook the other side. Wait for a few seconds for this side to brown.

Now bring on your best paneer curry; for this is the most fabulous of naans.

PS: I did make the potato bread too the next morning, but I love the naan more.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Grandma's remedies

I've been down and out last few days battling a rather nasty cold. Now I am usually not the one to reach out for the nearest home remedy when illness strikes, but Seera's my food of choice when a bout of cold hits. My mom claims this is a perfect remedy for cold and this might cure you as well, but I won't count on it. The real reason I clamor for Seera the moment a flu hits is that it's suberbly delicious and ultimate in comfort food.

To make seera, heat a tbsp of ghee (clarified butter) in a pan. Don't skimp now, you are going to need it all. Turn down the heat to its lowest point, add 2 tbsp besan (chickpea flour) and cook, stirring constantly, till it begins to change color. The exact point where besan is cooked is really hard to explain in words - and you would know this if you ever made besan laddoos - but around this time your kitchen will get all fragrant (I obviously missed this part owing to my cold!). Add a tsp of sugar and mix well. Continue stirring till the besan is lightly browned, then add a cup of milk. Be very careful at the point between adding sugar and mixing in milk, for a few seconds extra will burn your flour.

Simmer for 2-3 minutes till you get the consistency of thick cream. Slurp and wish your cold away. Or just make it on a winter night to chase away the blues.

As chicpea flour is the star ingredient in this grandma's remedy, I'm sending seera off to ms for this months JFI:Chickpeas. Bon apetit, and may this find you in the pink of health!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blog Picks : Sushi Bowl

At least a few years before I entered the world of blogging, I hit upon a food blog that awed me. It was my first experience with food bloggers, that community of foodies that zealously cooks, photographs and recounts food experiences. This first blog led to a second one that was even more inspiring. Even after surfing countless blogs, and getting the courage to set up my own, these two blogs remain precious; a source of inspiration. The first was Clotide's Chocolate & Zucchini. The second, 101 cookbooks, Heidi's eclectic collection of vegetarian recipes.

I've read every one of Heidi's recipes, but this is the first time I made something from her blog. Sushi bowl - all flavors of sushi, but no rolling - now how cool is that?

Heidi used brown rice in hers; I used regular sushi rice; and you can use any short grain sticky rice you own or prefer. Cook the rice as the package and common sense dictates, then mix in Heidi's citrus-soy dressing. With orange juice, soy sauce and vinegar, it's a heady mix of flavors.

Top with tofu (cut into matchsticks and browned), toasted and crumbled nori sheets and (per Heidi) avocado. We're having an avocado-less existence here in Mumbai at the moment, so I topped it with cucumber slices, my other favorite sushi filling.

Friday, January 2, 2009

...Ring in the New

Now that we have nursed our collective hangovers and (most likely) broken the resolutions, the new year can start with a bang.

2009 kicks off at Bombay Foodie with the very healthy breakfast of Bircher Muesli. A swiss creation, bircher is a one stop shop with oats, nuts, fruits all rolled into yogurt. Traditionally, uncooked rolled oats get soaked overnight in juice, and are then mixed with nuts and grated apples plus anything else you like but we take a slight departure from convention here.

To make this quick bircher featured above, take a handful of rolled oats and add just enough water to cover them. Microwave for 2 minutes and allow to cool. Fill 1/3rd of a glass or a bowl with yogurt. Add 1/2 tsp honey, the cooked oats and a handful of flaked almonds. Peel and finely chop an apple (actually, there's a catch. If you are making bircher muesli for one, you only need half an apple. And you can't store cut apples since they brown so I ate the other half of mine). Add the chopped apple to the mix and its pretty much ready to eat.

But we wait. For Bombay is full of strawberries right now. And how could I make this first breakfast of the year without a splash of color. So top it with some lovely chopped strawberries, and we are ready to dig in.

Have a fantastic 2009, everyone!