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!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bejewelled Black Rice Salad

Black rice salad
A salad of black rice, chicken, cucumber & pomegranate
There has been quite a few posts of black rice on my blog and my latest is a salad that I made yesterday. I had been looking at options about using black rice and a friend suggested a salad. And since I was expecting guests yesterday it made sense to create something different.
For rice-eaters like us, recipes that call for rice in other forms rather than the main dish isn't anything to get excited about. Anyway for years that was the case with me. It's only in the last couple of years that I have actually tried steamed cabbage rolls with rice and minced meat filling.:) But black rice is in a class by itself. First of all the colour is stunning, it is rich in antioxidants and it has a nutty texture and is extremely fragrant.
This recipe serves 4-5. Like most of my recipes this one does not call for exact measurements. Feel free to play around with the ingredients as well as the quantity.
Ingredients:
1 cup black rice
2 chicken breasts(pan fried after marinating for 20 minutes in a dash of ginger/garlic pastes and onion juice. A touch of salt, black pepper and olive oil were the rest of the ingredients).
Pomegranate seeds
Cucumber cubes
Mint leaves
For the dressing:
The juice of 1 small lemon (about 2 tsps)
Salt to taste
A dash of honey
1 tsp coarsely grated black pepper
A quarter tsp chilli flakes
Some extra virgin olive oil
Mix the above ingredients in a small jar and give it a good shake. Set aside till ready to drizzle on the salad.
Method: 
Wash and soak the rice for about 30 minutes. 1 cup will need a little less than 11/2 cups water. Any kind of sticky rice needs less water than regular rice. I usually do this by eye and not by using a cup. Cook for 2-3 whistles. Let the steam escape on its own. Then remove the lid and let it cool down.
Pan fry the marinated chicken till golden brown on both sides. I had wanted to grill the chicken but the power decided to go off so I had to reach out for my pan. Set aside on kitchen paper. Cut into strips when cool enough to handle.
Assembling: Take a platter and transfer the cooled rice there. Scatter the cubes of cucumber and the chicken pieces. Add the pomegranate seeds and sprigs/leaves of mint.
Before serving, pour the dressing and give it a gentle toss. Your salad is ready!
The picture above was taken before the dressing was added.
The rest of the menu consisted of nacho chips and hummus as starters. The mains had bread, tzatziki, baked potatoes, pork pieces in a light gravy, and the black rice salad. Dessert? Dark chocolate mousse.:)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Olive & Rosemary Focaccia


One bread I bake often is the focaccia. With endless variations for the toppings, my latest had green olives and rosemary. I tend to go gaga over (herbs like) rosemary since it's not available here. I did sow the seeds once but for some reason the seeds did not germinate. I used to feel the same way about basil but that is doing well here now. So next time I could be using rosemary from my garden.:)
This time I used all-purpose flour. My wheat flour focaccia can be seen here. The mixing is done by hand.

Ingredients:
450 grams all-purpose flour
2 tsp active dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
Some lukewarm water
A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil + some extra for greasing
1/2 tsp salt
15-20 green olives in brine, pitted and sliced
A few sprigs of rosemary, roughly chopped
With some recipes that you make often, you forget to take the measurements of water and oil.:)
I usually heat up some water and use some for the yeast and set the rest aside to use as I knead the dough.
Method:
Put some lukewarm water in a bowl. Add the yeast. Add sugar and give it a gentle mix. Set aside for the yeast to froth up. This will take about 10 minutes. 
Put the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, the oil and the salt.
Start mixing and when the dough comes together, tip the contents to your work surface and knead for about ten minutes.
Grease a clean bowl and transfer the dough there. Cover with clingfilm and keep in a warm place till it doubles in size. This will take about an hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead gently for a few minutes. Since I used two baking pans, I cut the dough in the middle and rolled them into a ball before placing them on greased baking dishes. 
Set them aside for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes the dough will have risen further, dip your finger tips in oil and gently spread the dough across the surface of the baking dish. Create the indentations as you go, the mark that is typical of this bread. Drizzle some more oil and place the olives on the dents. Scatter the sprigs and chopped rosemary on the surface. Sprinkle some salt on the surface. Set aside for another 20 minutes.

Then bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20-25 minutes till the crust is a little brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Fresh out of the oven
When it's out of the oven, drizzle some more oil and have the bread when it is still warm with accompaniments of your choice.

I usually add crushed black pepper but this time I didn't. I also regret not adding chopped rosemary to the dough. But it was good and very soft. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rustom's Parsi Bhonu

Dhansak with goat meat kababs and caramelised rice at Rustom's Parsi Bhonu
I spent a week with my younger son in Delhi and got back yesterday. One of the culinary highlights of this trip was trying out the cuisine at Rustom's Parsi Bhonu in South Delhi. With Parsi cuisine I have only had the occasional home-cooked dhansak and the thought of eating home-style food in a restaurant appealed to me.
Parsi food is more famous for its non-vegetarian dishes but the co-owner of the restaurant Kainaz Contractor has introduced vegetarian dishes from time-tested recipes from her family. One is a cauliflower dish that is cooked with coconut milk. But that evening we didn't try that one out.
Patrani machchi
We started with the Patrani machchi, which was tilapia fish with coriander/mint chutney and steamed in banana leaves. These were little packets from heaven!!
The mains of dhansak with caramelised rice and goat meat kababs along with lentils with some meat pieces was just right. 
A bit of the tasty kachumbar can be seen here
According to Wiki, dhansak is a popular dish among the Parsi Zaraostrian community. It combines elements of Persian and Gujarati cuisine. The dish is made by cooking goat meat with a mixture of lentils and vegetables and a combination of spices known as dhansak masala. This is served with caramelised brown rice which is rice cooked in caramel water to give it a typical taste and colour.
Inside the restaurant
We also ordered plain rice with spicy Parsi fish curry in coconut milk but this was a bit of a disappointment as it wasn't spicy enough for me. But the accompaniments of kachumbar, prawn pickle and raisins and carrot pickle were absolutely delicious! Kachumbar is the term for a simple onion, cucumber and tomato salad mixed with spices. It goes well with any Indian meal. More ingredients can be added in this side dish.
Accompaniments: (r) raisin & carrot pickle (l) prawn/garlic pickle

My son's favourite was the Patrani machchi!
Out of the dessert options I chose laganu custard which translates to 'wedding custard' and is served at weddings. Made with milk, eggs and nuts, it's a perfect ending to a meal.
Laganu custard
After the dinner we chatted with Chef Rahul Dua, the other owner of this restaurant. The food, the ambience and the courteous staff ...all made it worthwhile. The best part was having a meal that one would have in a Parsi home. So delicious that I'd definitely want to be there on my next visit to Delhi.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Starfruit & Saffron Upside-down Cake

Upside-down starfruit/saffron cake with a dollop of yogurt
This cake was made a while ago but I'm posting it now. When my little tree bears these sweet fruits, I love to put them into a cake first. Other recipes can come later but first it's on a sweet note.
I just got back from a short trip to my hometown where I had gone to vote for the MLA elections. My brother-in-law happens to be the BJP candidate for the post. The house was full of people with both party workers and supporters and on some days it was chaotic. Now we'll only have to sit and wait for the results on May 19.
Coming back to my cake, I also used a pinch of saffron in my recipe.
The topping:
I used 4 medium sized ripe starfruits. Remove the hard edges and the ends. Slice up the fruit and discard the seeds. It doesn't matter if a few seeds remain.
Heat 6 tsps sugar in a pan on low heat till it caramelises. Pour the caramel in a baking tin and give the tin a little swirl so that the bottom is covered with caramel.
Layer the prepared fruit pieces making sure there are no gaps.  

For the cake:
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup butter at room temperature
3 eggs
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of saffron
A little milk depending on the consistency of the batter
(I used a 9" tin)

Sieve the flour with the baking powder.
Cream the butter and the sugar using a whisk.
Add the eggs one by one beating them well into the mixture.
Add the vanilla extract and the saffron.
Fold in the flour and transfer the batter to the prepared cake tin.
Give a little tap to remove air bubbles and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or so till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down a bit before you turn it upside down on to a serving dish or plate.

In my earlier days I never came across sweet starfruits. They were always acidic and seemed fit for chutneys and pickles. But with the sweet ones I can also use a slice or two as a topping or a garnish on the whipped cream or a dollop of unsweetened yogurt.
I'm taking a short break from blogging as I'm leaving for Delhi tomorrow to spend a week with my younger son. I'll surely be back with my regular visiting when I return.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Pinca, Croatian Easter Bread

Pinca, Croatian Easter bread
Pinca, Croatian Easter bread
The Google community Foodie's+ challenge for this month was the Croatian Easter bread known as pinca. The bread which is also known as sirnica or pinza is (from Wiki) a traditional Dalmatian, Istrian and Bay of Kotor Easter sweet roll. It is also popular among other parts of Europe such as Slovenia and Italy.
Pinca is eaten to celebrate the end of Lent because it contains many eggs. Along with Easter eggs, pinca has remained the centrepiece of the family breakfast in areas where it is eaten.
I did take part in the challenge on Saturday by baking my first pinca but somehow the texture wasn't right. But the taste was so good that I baked it again yesterday. I wasn't part of Foodies+ community till recently but a message from blog friend, Indrani Sen changed all that. The recipe is by Jasmina Brozović.

Here's the recipe by Jasmina Brozović from the site:
Ingredients
Dough:
750 g all purpose flour
2 sachets (14 g) dry yeast
170 g sugar
pinch of salt
1  sachet vanilla sugar
75 g butter
75 g lard
150 ml warm milk
80 g sour cream
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
40 ml rum
40 g raisins
50 g mixed candied fruit
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon


Egg wash:
1 whisked egg
sugar

Preparation:
1. Soak raisins in rum.
2. Sift flour into a bowl. Add salt, sugar and vanilla sugar.
3. Dissolve yeast in warm milk and add to the flour mixture. Add eggs, yolk, sour cream and citrus zest. Then add candied fruit and raisins together with rum. Knead until soft dough forms. Make sure to knead it for about 10 minutes. Cover with clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
4. Punch the dough and knead it again, adding melted and cooled butter and lard. Cover with clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until again doubled in size.
5. Shape the dough into 5 round loafs and place them onto baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Let them rest for 30 minutes. Using kitchen scissors, cut a cross into the surface of each bun. Brush the surface with whisked egg and let stand for 10 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 180 C.

7. Bake for 30-35 minutes. While still hot, brush again with whisked egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Pinca, Croatian Easter bread
Fresh out of the oven
I did make a few changes. I didn't have lard and sour cream. My attempt at making sour cream did not happen. It remained exactly like cream even after the addition of buttermilk to cream and left to stand overnight at room temperature. So I used yogurt. Since candied fruit isn't easily available here, I made do with raisins (a little more than what the recipe stated) and about a dozen candied cherries. And I added an extra egg and felt good about it.:)
The smells that filled the house was amazing. Last time the cuts on the bread were too deep and this time I was so careful that I ended up cutting not deep enough.:( 
Pinca, Croatian Easter bread

I tasted a piece as soon as the bread had cooled down and I was very happy with it. This is one bread I'll be baking at regular intervals. It's wonderful with tea or coffee and even for breakfast. And sometimes, instead of a gift of a cake (I usually do that) I think it will be a pinca that I'll be carrying with me.