Thursday, May 26, 2016

Black Rice Pudding Tartlets

Black rice pudding tartlets.
The latest book in my cookery book collection is Patisserie Maison by Richard Bertinet. Leafing through the visual treats and the goldmine of information, I stopped at the page where the rice pudding tartlets stared back at me from leaf-shaped moulds. Where do you even get theeeese?
Made with arborio rice and sweet pastry, I immediately thought of my little stock of black rice left in my pantry. I had thought of making risotto ever since I heard that black rice works out well in that dish. But rice pudding in a tart sounded irresistible! Particularly black rice.
Black rice pudding tartlets
Ready for the oven
Earlier we used to get this rice which is rich in antioxidants from the neighbouring state of Manipur but now farmers in Assam are getting into black rice cultivation as there is more profit in growing this crop. You might be interested in checking out this link.
I made the dough for the sweet pastry and as they rested in the fridge, I went ahead with the  rice pudding. So far I have only made Indian style rice pudding that is called kheer. Made with thickened milk, the flavourings are usually saffron or cardamom. But in this case I first cooked 100 grams of rice in a pressure cooker along with the bit of water that was used to soak the rice. Black rice has a nutty texture and the cooking period is a little longer than regular rice.
The other additions to the pudding apart from milk and sugar were: cream, one scraped vanilla bean, zest of one lemon and one crushed cardamom.
The pastry was rolled out and baked blind. After the shells had cooled down, I spread a tablespoon of apricot jam on the base of the shell. Then I filled them up with the pudding and baked them at 180C for about 25 minutes. By that time a crust had formed on top of the tarts and they looked done.
Black rice pudding tartlets

I couldn't resist taking this picture midway through the baking as the pudding bubbled away in the oven.
Black rice pudding tartlets
The crust on top of the filling.
The recipe in the book uses home-made raspberry jam. A teaspoonful of jam is spread on the base of the tarts before the filling goes in. Since the only jam I have now is an apricot jam, I used it.

Black rice pudding tartlets

This dish was a spur of the moment thing. I had seen rice pudding tarts before but had never made any. The leaf-shaped moulds did it and the twist with black rice was worth it. Every bite was delightful with a hint of vanilla, the lemony zing and cardamom and most of all the fragrance of the rice itself.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Green Mango Chutney


This recipe is almost similar to the one in my last post. But when it's the season of green mangoes, one doesn't look for too many options. Chutney or pickle...these are the first things that come to mind.:)
I just got back from a short trip to Haflong. My last visit there about a month ago was  to vote for the MLA (Member of Legislature) elections. My brother-in-law had contested and this time the results were declared. He won by more than 8000 votes. The oath-taking ceremony is tomorrow.
Due to incessant rain the damage to property in our town and in adjoining areas has been immense.  My hometown is on hilly terrain and landslides have been bad this year. We can only hope that the rain stops.
Fallen tree on the roadside, muddy river and more rain-bearing clouds
But otherwise, taking the road to Haflong has always pleasant. The landscape changes drastically once the first rains come. From November to March, much of the landscape is dry but for the rest of the year, the never-ending green is beautiful!

Every house has a mango tree or two. And at my mother's the tree that has borne fruits ever since I was a child is still going strong. My nephew plucked a bunch of mangoes that I brought back with me. Back home it's the garden-of-plenty as there were many other vegetables and leafy greens that went into a fish stew for my first meal at my mother's.

My nephew holds the greens ( from the brassica family) that we had just picked. In the background are areca nut trees. The small bushes on both sides are a variety of edible clerodendrum, the East Indian Glory Bower. And now to the recipe. Like most of my recipes, this one also does not follow exact measurements. I used 4 green mangoes and the other ingredients were added according to that quantity.

Ingredients:
4 green mangoes
2 dried red chillies broken into bits
3 Indian bay leaves/tejpatta, twisted and torn into halves
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Cumin powder
Coriander powder
Ginger powder
Red chilli powder
About 2 cups jaggery, grated
2 tbs mustard oil
3-4 tsp lemon juice
Panch puran also written as panch phoron ( a mix of 5 spices mostly used in our region which includes an equal mix of cumin, mustard, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds).
Cumin and coriander seeds used in this recipe were toasted and ground earlier. 

Method: 
Wash the mangoes and peel them. We use mangoes with seeds that are very tender. Dice the flesh and discard the white seeds.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. As soon as it comes to smoking point, add the panch puran, the bay leaves and the red chillies.
Add the diced mangoes and cook for a couple of minutes.
Now add the rest of the spices and sprinkle a bit of water so that the powdered spices do not burn.
Cook till the mango pieces wilt and turn soft. There is no need to add any water.
Add the grated jaggery. As the jaggery cooks it will look as if there is too much liquid in the dish but it will soon thicken.
When the consistency becomes like a thick sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, give it a good mix and remove from the flame. 
Once the mixture cools down, transfer the chutney to clean jars.
Mangoes on my tree
This chutney need not be refrigerated. It will last for a couple of weeks.
I like it best as an accompaniment to our flatbreads. With pooris, it's simply delicious! 
Fresh ginger can also be used. There was some ginger powder left in my pantry and I finished it off by adding it to this chutney. Adding another acidic element like lemon juice or even amchoor (dried mango powder) adds more zing to the taste. And if you like it sweeter, you can add more jaggery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tomato Chutney With Home-grown Tomatoes


It's mid-May and like every year it's the end of the season for my home-grown tomatoes. And how can I end the season without tomato tok? Tok or ambol is a sweet and sour chutney made of acidic fruits. Mangoes, Indian olives, roselle, jujube berries, elephant apples, jamun, and of course tomatoes are a favourite... depending on the season.
The other evening this was one of the dishes on my table. My mother who is recovering from a cataract operation and my sisters/nieces/nephew came over. I made the usual curries that we are all so fond of but this chutney was special as I used the second last batch from my plants. The last batch will finish in a week's time. We have had copious amounts of rain, wind and some hail. So some of these lovelies look a little scarred.

Ingredients:
15 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled, eyes removed and roughly chopped
2-3 Indian bay leaves/tejpatta
2 dried red chillies, broken into 3-4 bits
1/2 tsp coarsely ground chilli powder (I used bird's eye chillies that I dried at home)
10 dates, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
10-12 cashew nuts broken into uneven bits
1/2 tsp panch puran ( a mix of five spices used in tempering)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 quarter tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste from soaked tamarind
2 tbs mustard oil
 

Method:
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point add the panch puran. As soon as the spices sputter, throw in the chilli bits and the bay leaves.
Add the rest of the spices and immediately sprinkle some water so that the spices do not burn.
Add the tomatoes and cook till the liquid is somewhat reduced.

Add the dates and the cashew nuts. Season the chutney with a touch of salt.
Cook till the chutney is done and add the sugar. I used very little sugar but it was enough as the dates were sweet.
Lastly, add the tamarind paste. Give it a good stir and remove the pan from the flame. The consistency of this chutney is like a thick sauce.
Adding tamarind paste gives the chutney more zing. Sometimes I also use soaked dried roselle to tok.

Along with this chutney, these were the other dishes on my table. My nieces love bread so I baked this simple bread topped with sesame seeds. The rest of us had rice with: fish curry with poppy seed paste, chicken curry with lemon grass and coconut milk, fried pork, arhar dal with chunks of teasel gourd, aloo sabji, and tok. The heliconias/lobster claws are from my garden. The plant was a gift from a friend from Bangalore. Padma Rao blogs at Garden Tropics.

For the bread lovers I also made a bowl of tzatziki. For dessert it was a simple chocolate cake and mango trifle.:)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hyacinth Beans & Pasta Soup

Hyacinth Beans & Pasta Soup

I have been busy spring cleaning. The rain and the wind did not help at all!:( And as I went through my drafts (there are a few of them) I came across this piece written during the height of the hyacinth bean season.
This recipe was inspired by Silvia Colloca's hearty Pasta & Bean Soup. There's an endearing quality about rustic one-pot meals. You do have a variation of the same with a little twist and a little change in the ingredients. So with mature hyacinth bean seeds I decided to create this meal. The only snag was the seeds needed to be skinned. I did it over a couple of days as something or the other was cooking or baking in my kitchen. So the beans were taken care of.
Hyacinth Beans & Pasta Soup

The recipe called for fresh pasta but I used the little stock that I had of store-bought ones. Instead of a chunk of pancetta, I used a chunk of smoked pork and so on. And I didn't really measure everything but went by eye. There are many more herbs added but since I only had coriander (and basil for the garnish) I skipped adding coriander.
Ingredients:
21/2 cups mature hyacinth beans, skinned
Chicken broth
1 cup macaroni, cooked al dente
1/2 cup smoked pork, diced
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed and chopped
1/2 cup freshly-made tomato sauce (I had made some earlier and I had left the tomato into chunky bits)
2 potatoes cut into cubes
2 carrots, diced
Grated pepper
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
A dash of paprika
Grated cheese
Basil for the garnish
Hyacinth Beans & Pasta Soup

Method:
With dried beans, the pre-soaking is necessary. But I used mature beans that were yet to be dried so the soaking was not needed.
Heat water in a large pan and add the beans, potatoes, carrots, smoked pork pieces, one chopped onion and a crushed clove of garlic.
Season with salt and cook till the liquid is reduced by half and the beans are cooked through.
Remove half of the beans to a bowl and mash the bean/potato mixture with the back of a ladle. If you want a finer texture you could use a blender for this. Pour the mashed portion back to the pan.
In another pan, heat some olive oil and fry the onions and garlic.Then add the tomato sauce and the rest of the seasoning. Cook for a few minutes. 
Add the beans and check the seasoning. Make adjustments if that is required.
Add the grated cheese rind and the stock. Simmer on medium flame till it is slightly reduced.
Add the pasta and cook for another 3-4 minutes. 
Before serving, garnish with basil sprigs.
This is a filling soup particularly good during our colder season. That's when hyacinth beans are widely available. 
 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mawa Cake


Mawa cake
Mawa cake
Although I have known about mawa cakes I had never been tempted to make them before. All that changed when I visited Moumita Malla's blog Bongtaste recently. I couldn't wait to get started. Instead of using a muffin mould I used a round tin and I was pretty happy with the way the cake turned out.
Mawa, also known as khoya, is made by boiling milk till it is reduced to 1/4 of its volume. I used nearly 1 litre of full fat milk and kept it on medium flame. It's important to stir the milk constantly so it doesn't stick to the pan. By the time the milk was reduced to the desired quantity it turned into a thick granular paste.
1/2 cup mawa, raisins, cashew nuts and eggs
I made a few tweaks with the measurements resorting to the way I usually bake cakes.:)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup mawa
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted + extra for greasing the cake tin
milk, as needed
1 tsp baking powder
11/2 cups all-purpose flour+ extra for dusting the tin
2 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground (the covering/skin can be kept in your tea container for that hint of cardamom in your cuppa)
1/2 cup raisins, wash and pat dry with a kitchen towel, then chop coarsely
10-15 cashews, split lengthwise
Method: 
Grease the cake tin and dust it with flour. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and set aside.
Blend the mawa, melted butter and eggs till well mixed.
Fold in the flour/baking powder mix. Add some milk, if required, to get the consistency you need.
Add the raisins and mix.
Pour the batter in the prepared tin and give it a little tap on your worktop to remove any air bubbles.
Place the cashews all across the surface and bake for 35-40 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

I have always found cardamom extremely overpowering and I usually reduce the mentioned quantity from recipes. But I do have a plant growing in my garden. The other day I was thrilled to notice these pretty blooms on the plant. The stalk was bent with all the recent rain and wind.

Because one slice is not enough!!
It's cake but it's also like like digging into one of our typically Indian milk-based sweets. I'm glad that my friend Chandana stopped by today and I could pack a few pieces for her children. And tomorrow I'm meeting my sisters...glad I'll be armed with mawa cake!!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Vegetable Fern, Salami & Capsicum Quiche

Vegetable fern, salami & capsicum quiche
Vegetable fern, salami & capsicum quiche
One of the joys of baking is, incorporating local or home-grown produce into my pies and tarts. In most of the quiches that I bake, the greens come from invasive but edible plants from my garden. A bit of goosefoot, some amaranth and even purslane have been incorporated into the filling. And thank goodness for the rains. Despite the wetland feel, these greens sprout in abundance during this season. 
For a while I had been thinking about using vegetable fern in a quiche and making the look a little dramatic than usual.:)

My small bed of capsicums have borne me a harvest to be proud of! They aren't big but fully matured so I picked five today to mix into the filling. They were duly washed, stalks removed, halved, and the innards removed. Then I chopped them into itsy-bitsy pieces.
Vegetable fern, salami & capsicum quiche

Here's a look at all the other ingredients that went into the quiche. I forgot to take a picture of the pastry shell and remembered it only after it was ready to hit the oven!
Ingredients:(for a 7" tart tin)
I had a tart shell ready so that part of the recipe will be left out in this post.
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 capsicums, cleaned and chopped fine (this yielded 1 cup)
1 tsp coarsely grated peppercorns
A quarter tsp chilli flakes, optional
3 eggs, beaten with-----
2/3 cup cream
3 cubes of cheese, grated ( I used Britannia) 
7-8 pieces chicken salami
About 15-18 vegetable fern fronds 
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil 

Method:
Heat a pan and pour the oil in it.
Fry the thawed salami in batches till they turn golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels. Set aside.
In the same oil, add the onions and cook till they turn translucent.
Add the capsicum and the vegetable fern and cook till they soften a bit but they should not turn mushy.
Season with very little salt as the cheese is salty. Add the chilli flakes, if using, and continue to cook till the ferns are half done.
Switch off the gas but do not remove the pan as the residual heat in the pan as well as the stove will cook the mix further. The onions and capsicums do not need much cooking but the fern needs a little more time.
I could have done it separately but since the quantity wasn't much, I added the fronds with the onions and capsicum.
Vegetable fern, salami & capsicum quiche
Before & after shots.:)
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and add the cream. Mix well.
Add the grated pepper and the grated cheese. If you like you could keep some cheese aside for the topping.
Once the mixture cools down a bit, take the prepared quiche shell and start layering.
Tear off the salami into halves and place them on the base. The idea is to get a good piece in every wedge!!
Remove the vegetable ferns and set aside. Add the onion/capsicum mix to the salami.
Place the half-filled quiche on a baking tray. This makes it easier to carry/place it in the oven.
Pour the egg/cream/cheese mix in the shell. Scatter the rest of the grated pepper on top.
Now take the vegetable ferns and place them in a pattern that you like. Scatter the cheese (if you have kept some aside) on top.
Bake in a 180C oven for 25-30 minutes or till the edges are golden brown and the centre is still a little wobbly. It will continue to cook as it cools down. In case the browning happens too soon, place a piece of foil on top midway through the baking process.
Remove and let it cool down. This tastes best when still warm.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Curried Jackfruit Pot Pies

Curried jackfruit pot pie
Curried jackfruit pot pies
This is the season when tender jackfruits are pickled and made into curries. Despite an abundance of the fruit here in our region I haven't really explored enough possibilities with jackfruit. But the idea of using curried chicken or potatoes have always appealed to me. It is like another variation of parathas.:) Just flakier and with more butter. So why not use jackfruit in a filling as well?

The jackfruit I got wasn't as tender as I thought it would be. The seed coating had formed but it was at its tender-most stage. Cutting and cleaning the fruit is messy and it's not an exercise I would like to repeat soon. Because of the latex that oozes out when the fruit is cut one needs well-oiled hands as well as knives! I always line my worktop with a banana leaves. It becomes so much easier to remove the mess at one go...straight into my compost pit.
I used one large fruit but half of it was made into pickle. From the other half that was curried, only about 2 cups were used for the pot pie. The rest will be an accompaniment to our breakfast parathas.

Curried jackfruit pot pie
Curried jackfruit
The curry that I used for the pie filling.
1 medium jackfruit, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (Since only half of the jackfruit was used for this dish, it is the equivalent of using a medium jackfruit)
3 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubed
3 onions, peeled and grated
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and ground
1" piece ginger,  peeled and ground
1 tbs red chilli powder
1 tsp coarsely grated peppercorns
1 tbs coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
4 tbs vegetable oil
3-4 Indian bayleaves
1 star anise
1/2 cup freshly-made tomato sauce
A little sugar for the balance
Garam masala paste made from freshly-ground---
1" cinnamon stick
3 green cardamoms
6 cloves 
Method:
~ Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Mix the jackfruit pieces with salt and turmeric and set aside till the water is ready.
~ Boil the vegetable till tender but not overdone. Drain in a colander.
~ Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the Indian bayleaves and star anise.
~ Fry the grated onions till they turn translucent. Add the ground ginger and garlic and add the rest of the spices.
~ Continue to cook till the colour starts to look good. Then add the boiled jackfruit pieces.
~ Stir well. Season with salt. Cook till the oil separates then add the boiled potatoes. 
~ Add the tomato sauce.
~ Add a little sugar for the balance. Check the seasoning and make adjustments.
~ Pour about a cup of water for the gravy. Let it thicken. The amount of water will depend on how thick you want your gravy to be.
~ Before removing the pan from the stove, add the garam masala and give it a good stir.
~ Before serving, garnish the dish with some chopped herbs. Here I used serrated coriander.
The Indian bay leaves and star anise can be removed once the dish is done.
The cumin and coriander were roasted and ground. I make them in small batches. 
I spent the morning yesterday making fresh tomato sauce with home-grown and store-bought tomatoes. With the rains coming early, most of my plants are dying and I have had to pick tomatoes before their time. It's the recipe for the basic pasta sauce that also go well in curries.
No neat edges...but good enough to be eaten!:)
And now for the pies....
Pastry dough, enough for two pies
1 egg beaten, for the egg-wash
I used shortcrust pastry that I had made earlier for a quiche. It helps to have a remainder in the fridge!:)
~ Fill the pie pans with the curried jackfruit. 
~ Roll out the pastry dough (after it comes to the point where it can be rolled out) a little bigger than the  pan.
~ Wet the edges with water and place it over the pan and press down the edges. Use a fork or a knife to create little holes for the steam to escape.
~ If you like, you can cut out some patterns to decorate the pastry top.
~ Brush with beaten egg and bake in a preheated 180C oven till the pie is golden brown.
~ Serve when it is still warm. This is a meal in itself and very filling!