Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Banana Chocolate Tarts

These tarts were inspired by a show on Food Safari about Mauritian cuisine. The first time I saw that particular show, the thought of using banana didn't really inspire me. Since bananas are available throughout the year and is so much part of our Lives, the thought of using the same in a dessert certainly did not give me any adrenalin rush. I do make/bake the occasional banana cake/muffin or malpuas. But watching it again after a gap of maybe a year, I thought that I should give it a try. It helped that there were a few things in stock like bananas and even shortcrust pastry.
The recipe has bananas cooked with sugar but I gave it my own twist by adding chocolate. You can find the recipe here. I made six little tarts. These tarts are delicious and adding the chocolate makes them more so.

Ingredients for the tarts:
2 bananas, mashed
100 grams chocolate, grated
A touch of lemon juice
(This filling was enough for 6 small tarts).

Put a pan on the stove and add the mashed bananas.
Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken.
Add the grated chocolate and the lemon juice.
Stir and take it off the heat. The chocolate will melt in no time from the heat of the cooked bananas.
Let the mixture cool down as you prepare the pastry.
Grease the tart tins.
Take the dough and let it come to a stage where you can start rolling.
Skim your work surface with flour.
Roll out the pastry and cut out the circles a little bigger than the size of your tin.
Take one circle and place it on the tin. Press on the sides and prick with a fork.
Repeat with the rest of the dough according to the number of tarts you are making. 
Spoon the prepared filling into each pastry shell.
Roll out another large circle of dough and cut accordingly to make the lattice on the tarts.
Place six strips on each tart, three below and three above (as shown in the picture).
Brush with a beaten egg and bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 15-20 minutes or till they turn golden brown.
These tarts taste best on the day they are made.

I have not included the recipe for the pastry as the link to the original recipe was given. Thank you for stopping by today. Hope you check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomato Soup

I made an easy peasy tomato soup the other day. Tomatoes tend to get used more in sweet and sour chutneys than in soups. And to team it up with, I baked a dozen buns. I'm looking forward to the cooler season when the soil turns drier. Then I can plant at least a dozen tomato plants. With all the rains we have had this year, the soil is still slushy, so planting will have to wait for a little while longer.
Tomato harvests from the past
For the soup I used...
4 firm ripe tomatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A quarter tsp of coarsely ground pepper
A knob of butter
500 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp flour 
Salt to taste
3-4 serrated coriander leaves, chopped fine

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin. Chop them up roughly.
Heat the butter in a pan. Fry the onion and the garlic.
Add the tomatoes and cook till they start to break down.
Blitz in a blender, then strain the mixture so that the seeds can be discarded.
In the same pan, heat the chicken stock and then add the strained tomato mix.
Stir and season with salt and pepper. cook for about 15 minutes.
Mix the flour with a bit of water so that there are no lumps.
Add it to the soup. Adjust the seasoning and take it off the heat.
Serve in bowls with a sprinkling of the chopped herbs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chicken & Potato Pies

Chicken & potato pies
One of the most heart-warming snacks that I'll never tire of are these mini pies. Filled with the goodness of chicken and potatoes, seasoned with touch of salt, pepper and chilli flakes and oh, did I forget the cheese? Made in 9 cm tins they are filling and may leave you craving for a little bit more....I honestly felt that when they came out of the oven all burnished from the egg wash, they were all smiling at me!

The pastry (was made the previous day so it got plenty of time to rest).
450 grams of flour  
200 grams of butter+ extra for greasing the tins
2 eggs+ 2 yolks for the egg wash later
ice-cold water to sprinkle

Break the eggs in a bowl, lightly beat them and keep aside.
Sieve the flour into a large bowl.
Grate the cold butter over the flour and rub till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
(The butter that remains on the grater can be used to grease the pie-tins). 
Add the eggs and lightly knead the dough till it comes together.
You may need to sprinkle a bit of water at this stage.
Shape the dough like a sausage (makes it easier to cut as needed while rolling out the pies), wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes. I usually make mine a day ahead.
(No salt is added to the flour as the butter I use is salted. Although pastry recipes call for unsalted butter, it's hard to come by in our parts. I mention unsalted butter when I actually get to use it).
Just before going into the oven...egg wash done.
To make these pies I needed 1 kg chicken. I cooked the chicken for about 40 minutes with onions, and a bit of ginger, pepper and salt. After it was cooked and had cooled down, I shredded the meat. So the actual quantity leaving aside the bones and other non-pie-filling-friendly bits and pieces came down to less.
Ingredients for the filling:
Shredded chicken
5 potatoes, boiled/peeled and diced
2 onions, chopped fine
Chilli flakes, according to taste
1 tbs black pepper, ground
Salt to taste
The sauce: In order to hold the filling I made a sauce with butter, flour, milk and 5 slices of Amul cheese. 
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add a chunk of butter. 
Fry the onions till the colour changes.
Then add the potatoes, the chilli flakes and the seasoning.
Add the chicken and give the mix a good stir. Check the seasoning.
Add the sauce, stir again then take it off the heat. Let the mixture cool.
The filling was enough for a baker's dozen.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour the work top. Roll out the dough, cut out the circle a little bigger than the tin. Place the circle on the tin and press into the corners. Take a tablespoon (and maybe a little bit more) and place it in the tin. Roll out another circle of dough and cover the filling. Press all across the edge of the pie with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the rest of the dough till the filling is used up.
The prepared pies can rest in the fridge as you keep rolling and filling more pies.
Make a small cut/or create patterns with a fork on the surface of all the pies for the steam to escape.
Brush with egg yolk and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 25-30 minutes or till they are golden brown.
Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you check out my Facebook page as well.:)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Corn (Manglai Maiju) & Chicken Soup

I have a weakness for this delicious multi-coloured corn that grows abundantly in my home district of Dima Hasao. These are available till the end of summer and we love them best either boiled or roasted. Called manglai maiju(manglai/corn, maiju/sticky rice) this variety of corn is fragrant and has the texture of sticky rice.Today I made a simple soup using these corn kernels. The kernels are smaller than regular yellow corn kernels but high on taste and flavour. The smell wafts across the house when manglai maiju is cooked.

Although I have used the description multi-coloured, this particular batch was all purple. But darker varieties look better in dishes whether they are mixed into fried rice, pulao, savoury muffins, or in this case, soup. There is a slight difference in colour between cooked and uncooked varieties as you can see from the photos.

450ml chicken stock
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
A quarter tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 tbs dark soya sauce
A small piece of ginger, crushed
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 chillies, one green and the other red for the garnish

Bring the stock to the boil and add the corn.
Put in the shredded chicken, soya sauce and crushed ginger and simmer for about 12-15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.

Add the beaten egg, give it a gentle stir and remove from the flame.

Remove the chunk of ginger from the soup.

Serve the soup in bowls garnished with fine slices of red and green chillies.
I used chillies that were not all that hot so all the seeds were not discarded. This dish is a great way of using up left-over boiled corn or chicken.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Spiced-up Bread Pudding

If you love a hint of cardamom and saffron in your desserts, you'll love this bread pudding. I usually make the regular bread pudding but the other day I spiced it up. The idea came from watching a new food show on TV (The Incredible Spice Men) where two Indian chefs open up a world of spices. I didn't see the entire show but it was enough to inspire me to make this dish.
  I  reduced one and a half litres of milk and threw in 5 bruised cardamom pods and a few Indian bay leaves for the infusion. Later the milk was strained and made into custard with the addition of 5 whisked eggs and sugar. A few stands of saffron soaked in a bit of warm milk were added to the custard.
 12 slices of bread were buttered on both sides (after removing the crusts) and placed on the baking pan. Then the cooled custard was poured over the slices. With the help of a butter knife I lifted each slice making sure that the liquid went into each layer and space. I washed a handful of raisins and patted them dry with a cloth. These were scattered all over the top and into a few nooks and crannies. Then it rested for two hours to soak in the goodness of eggs and milk and sugar. Then it went in a preheated 180C oven with the top covered with greaseproof paper. I poured some warm water in the oven tray and baked it for about 30 minutes till the top was slightly brown.

The layer looks uneven but it didn't matter. As I cut it after it had cooled a little, the taste was really good with just a subtle hint of spices. It did remind me of having a mithai but the feeling was lighter. My niece said that it was like having a cheesecake.:)
Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you check out my Facebook page too!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sweet Steamed Sticky Rice Parcels

Last year while watching a food show/Lao cuisine on Food Safari, I loved seeing some of the similarities that we had in our cuisine. I promptly made one with bamboo shoots and posted it. Another recipe of sticky rice remained in my mind and I never really got to actually cooking it. And finally I made it today.
There are many varieties of sticky rice available in our region. We Dimasas love to have it as a breakfast dish with naphlam/dried fish chutney and scrambled eggs or with fried fish or meat as accompaniments. Occasionally we also make it into dessert but that isn't often done. With the Lao dish I love the fact it is steamed with the addition of coconut milk, cooked red kidney beans, and a piece of cooked taro or a piece of banana. Since I had most of the ingredients, I gave it a try. The steaming process shown in the collage below is the traditional way we steam sticky rice. The pot at the bottom is usually shaped (almost) like a pitcher. But this one works well too. To prevent the steam from escaping, a strip of wet cloth is wrapped at the point where the colander meets the pan.
Top: the mix and before the wrapping Bottom: Ready for the steamer  & steaming going on

4 cups sticky rice, cooked
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
Sugar to taste
Banana (I used one)
Coconut milk 200ml
Banana leaves, 12 pieces

The recipe starts by soaking the rice overnight. But I used the pressure cooker so that part was omitted. The beans were also soaked overnight and cooked in the morning. Instead of using fresh coconut milk I used the packaged one, Dabur's.

In a large bowl, mix the rice, the beans, sugar and the coconut milk.
Cut the banana leaves into regular sizes.
Hold them over the flame for a minute or so. This will make it easy to fold them.
Cut the banana into diagonal pieces.
Take a banana leaf and place a heaped tablespoonful of the mix.
Place a banana slice on top of the mixture.
Fold the parcel neatly. Repeat till all the mix is used up.
Steam the parcels in a colander for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the colander and transfer on to a serving dish.
Unwrap and enjoy!
The Laotian name for this recipe is Khao tom.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Smoked Chicken & Bamboo Shoot Curry

Smoked chicken & bamboo shoot curry
This curry is made with a twist on the traditional daono hain hon/chicken curry thickened with rice flour. Bamboo shoots are popular with pork and chicken but in this case I decided to use the shoots and thicken the gravy with rice flour. I have a weakness for smoked meat products. Even smoked sausages taste so much better!
As for smoking the chicken, I did it in my backyard yesterday. It took about two and a half  hours but it was worth the effort. The smell of freshly-smoked meat is indeed, heavenly....The fresh bamboo shoots were sliced and soaked overnight. Fermenting the shoots is a popular way of using the shoots but soaking them overnight brings about a slight difference in taste and texture. The shoots were then boiled and drained. It's better if the water is squeezed out as certain varieties tend to be slightly bitter. So, not taking any chances.

800 grams smoked chicken cut into regular pieces
About 400 grams bamboo shoots (see above for details)
3 onions, grated
1 thumb-size ginger, grated
7-8 cloves of garlic, crushed and made into a rough paste
1 tsp coarsely pounded hot chilli powder
8-10 green chillies scored lengthwise, seeds intact
2 tbs coriander powder
1 tbs freshly ground black pepper
A quarter tsp turmeric, (adjustments can be made)
5-6 Indian bay leaves
2 star anise
3 tbs mustard oil
Salt to taste
3 heaped tbs rice flour
Ginger leaves or serrated coriander for the garnish

*Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point add the bay leaves and the star anise.
*Add the green chillies, onions, ginger and garlic. Cook till the colour changes. 
*Now add the chilli powder, turmeric, and coriander powder. Stir.
*Add the chicken pieces as well as the bamboo shoots. Keep stirring in between.
*Season with salt and add the coarsely ground pepper.
*It will take about 25-30 minutes before the mixture comes together.
*Add about three cups of hot water and let it come to the boil. Check the seasoning. It does not matter if at this point it feels a little too spicy/a little too salty. The thickening agent will take care of it.
*Now add the rice flour and give it a good stir ensuring that no lumps remain.
*Take it off the heat and transfer to a serving dish.
*Garnish with the chopped herbs.

No marination for the meat is necessary in the preparation of this dish. The most prominent flavour will come from the smoked ingredient. Even if fewer spices are used in this curry, it will still taste good!