Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old...

What a difference a year makes. As I look back on 2008, there are so many firsts in my life and so many things I am thankful for. But no lists today.

Instead, on last day of this year, here's another first. I finally dared to make an Indian mithai. Yes, me! To ring out the year in style, here comes rasmalai - my last minute entry to Food in Color - White.



Rasmalai has two parts - the chenna balls and the rabdi/milk these balls are soaked in. To make the balls, heat 1/2 litre milk until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add a tsp of lemon juice to the milk and stir until it curdles. Strain to separate the whey. Textbooks say to use a cheesecloth but I've never managed to do it without spilling everything or burning my hand so I just pass it through a large strainer and press down with a plate for the whey to drain away.

When the chenna has cooled a little, put it on a plate and knead for around 10 minutes. By this time, the grains would be gone and you will have a smooth mass. Add 1/2 tsp cornflour and knead some more to give you a smooth mixture. Divide in 6 parts and shape into round balls, then flatten them a bit.

Mix 2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for around 5 minutes until the syrup gets a bit thick, then carefully drop in the chenna balls. Boil for around 10-15 minutes until the balls double in size. Pour half a cup of cold water and boil for another 5 minutes (no idea why - mom told me to do it this way). Remove from fire, and drop the balls into cold water.

In a separate pan, bring 1/2 litre milk to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until the milk reduces to half. Add 2 tbsp malai or cream and 2 tsbp sugar. Continue to simmer the milk for another 10 minutes until it is thick.

Squeeze the water from the chenna balls and arrange them in a bowl. Pour the hot thickened milk on top. Chill for at least a couple of hours. Your new year party's dessert is ready!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Cake for Anne

I am back with this month's edition of "This Book Makes Me Cook". And this month, we are reading the charming "Anne of Green Gables". Anne comes to the green gables house as a scrawny yet lively orphan girl. The brother-sister duo adopting her are at first shocked at getting a girl instead of a boy, but Anne's charm is hard to resist. With her unruly way, Anne commits several blunders but ends up becoming a favorite of whoever she comes in contact with.

The book is chockful of food - teas they give and go to, including the one Anne fatefully makes her friend drunk at; as well as pies being baked and dinners being hosted. One of Anne's most spectatular failures was a layer cake, so I set to make a decandent chocolate layer cake for her.



The recipe for this cake was followed verbatim from Baking Bites, my favorite baking blog so I won't repeat it here. But let me tell you that the cake, with chocolate and coffee to give it a rich feel, and eggless to boot, is one of the best I've ever eaten.

I did consider cutting it into layers and frosting it, but it was already so rich that I thought Anne would be happy with just the cake.

Want to see what other members made for Anne?
Aparna made Baking Powder Biscuits.
Curry Leaf made Chocolate Pudding.
Siri made Oatmeal Cocunut Cookies.
The other members are busy with holidays and guests, but have promised to be back in January.

For 2009 starts with the sweetest of them all. In January, we are reading Roald Dahl's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. If you would like to come join us, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with more details.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let's play chess



You saw them. You heard about them. Now let me tell you how to make chessboard cookies.

Leave 90 gms butter out of the fridge until it comes to room temperature. Beat with 3 tbsp icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add 120 gms (1 cup) flour and mix until the dough comes together. It will still be very crumbly. Divide the dough into 2 parts. To one part, add 1/2 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence. Mix well, then pat into a rectangle 2-3 inches wide.

To the second part, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder dissolved in a tbsp of boiling water. Mix until the dough is a uniform chocolate color, then pat into a rectangle as similar in size to the first one as possible. Chill for half an hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Brush some warm milk on the plain/white dough and put the chocolate dough on top of it. Press lightly to join. Cut the rectangle in the middle lengthwise, then flip one half so that the white dough is on the top. Join the two halves back, and cut into cookies. Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 10-12 minutes. Let harden on the baking tray for a few minutes, then cool on the wire rack.

Simple, isn't it! And yet, they look all complicated and lovely.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Food Bloggers Meet

We talked a lot about food
Some more about the world of blogging
And a little bit about ourselves
We shared success stories and misadventures
We brought each other goodies
We laughed and talked some more over cups of coffee
We met as strangers, we left friends

All in all, a great Saturday afternoon spent with Harini and Alka. I totally loved Alka's Koki that we devoured on the spot. And let me tell you that I've eaten at least a few thousand calories since last evening, gorging myself silly on Harini's brownies & cakes and the box of Nariyal Barfi Alka packed for me.

It was fun, girls! Let's do this again sometime soon. And if you already saw the chessboard cookie pictures over at Harini's and Alka's, let me assure you the recipe's coming soon too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hummus...deconstructed!



Chickpeas
Salted Yogurt
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Garlic infused Olive Oil
Sumac

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If I ever move back to Delhi...

This started out as top 5 must-eats in Delhi. But you can't do a top 5 for the city; it's just impossible to pick that few from the city's gems. Instead, this is a definitive list of foods I miss when I am not in Delhi:

1. Chinese at Bercos. And the best fruit beer ever.

2. Marshmallows at Wengers. Peppermints at Wengers. Puddings (and everything else) at Wengers - they are simply the best bakery in the world.

3. Pyaaz Kachori from Ghantewala at Chandni Chowk.

4. Milk Shakes from Keventor's. Remember those milk bottles before they started putting milk in plastic bags. That's what Keventor's milk shakes come in. And it's just round the corner from Wenger's so you go - Chinese at Bercos, dessert at Wenger's and Butterscotch milkshake at Keventor's. Need a huge apetite for it though.

5. Wimpy's Paneer Burger. Move over McDonalds, for it's such a poor match for burgers and fries from Delhi's very own Wimpy's.

6. Bukhara, the only Indian restaurant to make it to top 100 restaurants in the world. For many years running. ITC's restaurants in Bombay don't even come close.

7. Mexican food at Rodeo.

8. Chaat Buffet in vintage cars at Chor Bizarre.

9. Hot chocolate fudge at Nirula's

And dal makhani, paneer butter masala and naan at just about any corner restaurant. Punjabi By Nature is my favorite, but they are all good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

At home with Shirley Temple

If you are not in India, you have probably never seen a mocktail on a menu. Mixed drinks without any alcohol, mocktails are a must have in a country where so many people stay away from alcohol.

My favorite star of the mocktail world is Shirley Temple. Concocted for the teetotaler Ms. Temple, it really is the simplest of mocktails to make. You essentially mix grenadine with a lime-lemon flavored soda. Ginger ale, Sprite, 7 Up all work well here. The fancier versions “build” the drink, meaning you gradually float grenadine on top of soda so you can see two differently colored layers. Others swear by a shot of orange juice to improve the drink. Try it any way you want; for this post is not about Shirley Temple recipes. It's about grenadine.

I have tried buying Grenadine Syrup, but it was frankly too sweet for my taste. Plus every syrup and mixer you buy comes in those huge bottles that would make a thousand drinks. So what's a soul to do when she wants just ONE Shirley Temple. This soul decided to make her own grenadine syrup.



The ruby red Afghani pomegranates are in season now so that's where I started. Extracted 1/2 cup juice from pomegranate arils (seeds), then added 2 tbsp sugar and heated the juice/sugar in a saucepan until it boiled and then simmered it until it was halved and syrupy.

By the time it cooled, the fresh grenadine had all the goodness of pomegranate flavors and none of the bottled preservative feel. And isn't it the most loveliest of colors!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Baking for a cause

I have been tagged by Sunshinemom and Bharti to bake bread for Breadline Africa, a South Africa based charity organisation that seeks to put a lasting end to poverty in Africa. Their Blogger Bakeoff is an online campaign that challenges bloggers to get involved by baking bread, act by donating to end poverty and then challenge their readers and five other bloggers to do the same.

Their rules for bloggers are outlined below:

1. If you are tagged, copy and paste the rules into your post.
2. Bake bread, do something you wouldn’t normally do, and blog about it. Upload your picture and recipe.
3. Give dough, donate to Breadline Africa and help us end poverty.
4. Tag five bloggers, and ping us so we know you’ve done so.

For this bakeoff, I decided to bake the garlic rolls from Nicole's Thanksgiving menu. Easy to make and delicious, the rolls were a sure winner.



To make garlic rolls, heat 1/2 cup milk until lukewarm and stir in a tsp of sugar. Sprinkle a tsp of yeast and let it ferment for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 95C and turn it off. In a bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil and the yeast mixture. Knead for around 5 mintues until you get a smooth dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and place in the warm over to rise for 30 mintues.

In the meantime, mix a tbsp of olive oil and 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Use some of this oil to grease 6 muffin tins. Roll the dough into small balls and place them in sets of 3 in each muffin tin. Top with the rest of olive oil/garlic mix and bake in a 200C oven for 20-25 minutes.

And now, I'd like to tag Rachel, Siri and Foody Guru for this worthy cause.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flageolet



Isn't this the most poetic of names for this most delicate among beans. Flageolet beans are young kidney beans, dried when they are a very dainty green color. I challenge you to pass by a pack of flageolets without wanting to buy and cook them right away. I know I couldn't; they are so beautiful.

This is a bean I wanted to cook without cluttering it with too many spices. And yet I wanted a proper main dish, not a salad. What I did was adapt my fuss-free rajmah recipe to cook flageolet beans.

Soak 1/2 cup flageolet beans overnight. Next morning, boil beans in salted water until tender. I used a pressure cooker and it took around 7-8 minutes. Chop one large onion into largish pieces and grind to a paste. Also grind 2 tomatoes to a puree separately.

Heat a tbsp of ghee (or olive oil if you like) in a pan. Saute the onion paste on a low heat until it is lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and saute, keeping the heat low, until the onion-tomato paste is well blended and almost dry. Add the boiled beans and 1/2 tsp salt, stir for a minute and then add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans simmer until almost all the water has dried and the onion-tomato masala coats the beans. Add 1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper and serve with roti or plain paranthas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pacman Returns



Did you play pacman when you were in school? I think that was the first game I played on a computer and I was hooked. I haven't played Pacman in at least ten years, but I still think fondly of Mr. Pacman and the monsters.

Which brings us to these pacman crackers that I first saw on Natasha's blog. I know this was four months back, but I've been thinking of pacman crackers ever since. And finally, I got around to making them too.

Just combine 60 gms flour, 30 gms butter, 110 gms shredded cheese (I used Amul, use cheddar if you want a punch), 1/4 tsp pepper and 30 ml water and knead into a dough. Leave in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the dough. then cut a round cracker and make the pacman's mouth by cutting out a slice using the pointed end of your heart shaped cutter (or a star shaped cutter). Make smaller crackers for pacman to bite into and bake everything in a 200C oven for 15 minutes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On a sago trail



I've spent the last hour trying to figure out how sago differs from tapioca. I only know that they are both starches that come from two different plants, but I still don't know whether our sabudana is sago or tapioca pearls. Instead, I am going to tell you my favorite sabudana dishes. The first one's sabudana vadas, the deep fried sago and potato cutlets. But with a few thousand calories each, that's not something I can eat everyday. The other favorite, sabudana khichdi, makes a regular appearance on my breakfast menu.

It's a bit tricky making this one so pay attention now. The previous night, wash 1/2 cup sago/tapioca pearls and soak in just enough water to cover them. Any more, and this will not work. By next morning, the pearls will have soaked up all the water and will now be plump and soft.

Parboil one potato and cut into small pieces. Heat a tbsp of oil in a nonstick pan and add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. When they start to splutter, add the chopped potato and a handful of raw, shelled peanuts. Wait till the potato starts to brown a little, then add the sabudana and 1/2 tsp salt. Lower the heat and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. If it starts to get too starchy, that's your sign to take if off the fire. Top with a tbsp of chopped coriander.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's better than a plate of carbs?

More carbs, naturally! There's something deeply satifying about a piece of bread, or a bowl of rice. Tuscan peasants knew what they were doing when they invented this rustic pasta dish. Traditionally made with pappardelle or tagliatelle alongwith breadcrumbs and walnuts, it's a dish for days when your fridge is empty.

I, of course, substituted macaroni for fresh pasta. And brazil nuts for walnuts. So here comes Macaroni with Crumbs and Brazil Nuts, the best new pasta dish I've tried in a while.



Boil a cup of macaroni (or spaghetti if you want to be more sensible) in plenty of salted water. Tear 2 slices of white sandwich bread in small pieces, place on a tissue paper and microwave for 30 seconds. The pieces will get soft, but will harden as they cool. Grind to crumbs in a food processor.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add breadcrumbs and stir till the crumbs are crisp and golden in color. Remove from pan. Add another tbsp of olive oil to the same pan, add 2 garlic cloves (chopped) and 8-10 chopped brazil nuts. Cook until garlic is lightly browned, then add back the crumbs and turn off the heat.

Add the pasta to the crumbs alongwith a generous pinch of sea salt and a tbsp of chopped parsley. Make sure you drain the pasta thoroughly. If you have any water left, your crumb mixture will not stay crisp when the pasta goes in. Finally, sprinkle some crushed pepper and you are ready to go to Tuscan heaven.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Forbid Me Not



This rice was cultivated exclusively for emperors of China, and the common men were forbidden to eat it. When I read this on the packet of forbidden rice in New York's Whole Foods, it was incentive enough for me to lug it all the way back to India. The other incentive was it's color - black rice, how could I not try it.

Further research told me that while the rice was black raw, it will become a deep purple once cooked. This presented a problem. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to pair with purple rice. Finally, I decided to cook it like a pulao - sauteed some onions, added rice, salt, black pepper and twice the quantity of water then let the rice simmer for 45 minutes or so till it was done.

The flavor was akin to a very fine basmati, but had more bite to it. And I had it with the only white colored pairing I could think of : spiced yogurt.

I know I am a day late, but this rice - from black to purple - makes a perfect entry for Sunshinemom's Food in Color.