Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nanaimo


Have you had a situation where a recipe looked great on paper but was a total disaster when you got around to making it. I have an exact reverse with this year's first daring bakers challenge. Nanaimo bars are a Canadian treat I heard about the first time when Lauren announced the challenge. The overly sweet three-layer bars had everyone in a tizzy but I just couldn't see what the deal was. In fact, I thought they were boring. Until this morning, a day late, I put the final layer together and cut one piece of my round nanaimo pie to dig into. And oh my goodness! they are so so good.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Step one of the challenge was making graham wafers. Lauren would have preferred us to make them gluten free, but she allowed us to use wheat flour if we liked and that's what I did. This was three days back. I made the crackers, I loved them and crushed them into crumbs to make nanaimos. Then, life happened and this morning was the first chance I got to put it all together.

And it wasn't as scary as it sounded. In fact, it wasn't scary at all. You melt some butter, sugar and cocoa. Then, you beat in an egg but Aparna said to use flax seeds instead and it worked like a dream. In this bowl, you mix your graham cracker crumbs, chopped almonds and coconut. This goes into the pie plate (or a square dish if you insist on bars, you boring person!) pressed as a first layer.

As the first layer chills in the fridge, you beat together butter, cream, custard powder and LOTS of sugar for the second layer. Spreading layers isn't one of my skills but with a huge number of spoons, knives and spatulas I managed it somehow. This goes into the fridge to harden.

Then you melt some butter and chocolate and pour over the final layer. In the fridge for half an hour to set. And that's it!

They are overly sweet so don't you dare eat a lot at one time. But keep them in the freezer and they are going to last you through anytime you need a quick sugar and chocolate fix.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Raise a Toast


I get all excited about birthdays, don't you! After all, it marks the end of one great year, start of another amazing one.

I rarely cook on my birthday, but as a special treat today I opened my bottle of cherry liqueur. The same one I'd started in July...the cherries have worked their magic and colored the vodka a deep amber.

Here's a toast to summer, to happiness, to another beautiful year!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Egg.Salad.Sandwich


I first ate egg salad sandwich at an office lunch. And if I've ever fallen in love with something instantly, this is it. I make this little packet of goodness every once in a while. And I thought it's so simple, you should make it too. Like right now!

I used a baguette for this one, but pick two slices of any bread you like. Hard boil an egg, then chop either the whole thing or just the whites into tiny bits. Mix a tbsp of mayonnaise with 1/2 tsp mustard, then add your chopped egg and mix well. Arrange iceberg lettuce on a slice of bread, then spoon your egg mixture and top with the second slice.

Friday, January 15, 2010

No ICC here


Did you come hear after reading about moong dal halwa for this month's Indian Cooking Challenge? After all, we picked my mother's recipe and it's natural for you to wonder how the original tastes like. And I did have every intention of making it, until about three days ago. Then I thought; no matter what I do, it's never gonna taste like what mom makes. So why bother.

Instead, I have a focaccia to share. Many years ago, when I first started baking, focaccia was the first bread I tried. I didn't know then of bad quality yeasts, and varying rising times so what I ended up with was a focaccia brick. This time around, I referred to those fine folks at King Arthur Flour whose recipes have never failed me.

As you can see, I omitted the olive oil on top and the mandatory sprinkle of rosemary to come up with my low fat version. It was delicious nevertheless. Looks like there's nothing you can do to mess up this crunchy yet light bread. Once you're done eating the halwa, try this one out!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shortbread Jammies


I made three batches of shortbread in the run-up to Christmas. Then, I just got bored and saved the dough in the freezer.

Here it's reincarnated for a sudden butter and sugar craving. First I shaped it into rounds, then pressed with my thumb to form a dent I filled with blackcurrant jam straight out of Kissan's new easy squeezy tube.

In the oven at 180C for 30 minutes, and the yummiest cookies in the world!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friends bearing Gifts


This seems to be my lucky week. First, a friend came back from US with my much requested microplanes. Have you heard me say that I can't zest anything! Not any more, for the microplane makes zesting a breeze.

And then, even while I was playing around with my new toys zesting everything in sight, another friend came back from Trivandrum with a bunch of vanilla beans.

Orange zest and vanilla; doesn't this remind you of something. It speaks to me of Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. Now won't that be a perfect thank-you for my friends.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The 5 Rupee Mustard Sauce

I have two objections against store bought mustard sauce. One, I always seem to be buying sauces that come in huge jars that last a lifetime. I mean, who eats that much mustard. And two, have you looked at the prices on those things. A couple of hundred rupees for mustard - you have to be crazy to be paying that money when it takes less than 5 minutes of active effort to get a tangy mustard sauce at home.

To start with, mix 2 tbsp of mustard seeds with 1/2 tsp salt, 3 tbsp of white wine vinegar and enough water to cover the seeds. Let it soak for 2-3 days. You can obviously use cider vinegar; I rarely have that one on hand. And I usually start with 1 1/2 tbsp of yellow mustard seeds and 1/2 tbsp of the brown variety. This time though, I tried it out with all yellow mustard seeds. And this is how they looked after a two day soak.



All that's now left to be done is addition of some more vinegar, maybe another couple of tbsp and grinding it as coarse or fine as you like.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Have A Sweet New Year



I am on vacation in chilly Amritsar. So to bring some warmth, and start the new year on a sweet note, here's the ultimate carrot dessert - my mom's gajar halwa.

Wash, peel and grate one kg. carrots. In a deep, thick-bottomed pan, mix the carrots with 1/2 litre milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the milk has all evaporated leaving you with soft, mushy carrots. This should take around an hour. Add 2 tbsp ghee and stir fry until it is all absorbed. Now add 3 tbsp sugar and stir-fry the carrots for 5-10 minutes. Mix in flaked almonds, raisins and chopped cashewnuts. Indulge.

Have a great 2010, everyone!