Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sticky Rice Phirni

A dessert that is delicious and easy to make is phirni. It's ground rice flour cooked with milk to which dried fruits are added. Generally the rice that is used for making phirni is basmati rice. I made my variation with fragrant sticky rice. And to stick (no pun intended) with that fragrance I added Indian bay leaves, which came all the way from my mother's garden.No other flavours went into this phirni.

This recipe is for 6-8 servings.
4 tbs rice, soaked in water till soft
1 litre milk
300 grams sweetened condensed milk (I used Amul Mithai Mate)
2 cardamom pods, crushed
A handful of raisins
2 tbs ghee
A handful of cashew nuts
5-6 Indian bay leaves
Rose petals, optional

Grind the rice after soaking for about 30-40 minutes.
Heat the milk on medium heat till it becomes thick and is reduced. Add the crushed cardamoms.
Wash the raisins, pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Heat the ghee in a separate pan and toss in the cashew nuts. Fry till they turn golden brown. Remove and set aside.
In the same pan, add the raisins and turn off  the gas. Raisins burn easily so it's best to turn off the heat. They will puff up and change colour. Add them to the milk along with the bit of ghee left in the pan.
Throw in the bay leaves after bruising them a little.
Stir the milk. Add the ground rice and stir at regular intervals ensuring that it does not catch at the bottom.
Add the condensed milk, stir well. It will soon become thicker. Switch off the gas.
Let the phirni cool down. Chill it for an hour or so. Serve in individual bowls with a scattering of the fried cashew nuts.
Decorate with rose petals.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Starfruit Saffron Upside-down Cake

With another harvest from my starfruit plant, I was wondering about how to use them in my recipes. Cake was certainly not on my mind but after watching Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries, I was inspired to bake this cake. Rachel made one with peaches and saffron and the idea of incorporating saffron in my cake was interesting. The cake on the show used peaches and since these starfruits are the sweetest ones, more like apples, baking with them is a good option. And I was happy that I tried it out because the flavours work wonderfully well together. I won't be surprised if I find myself baking this cake again...
My plant doesn't seem to be doing well at the moment and the size of the fruits have grown smaller. I used five of them for this cake. The hard ridge was removed and the fruits were sliced into even sizes. Some of the seeds remained, I didn't discard all of them.
For the topping:
Heat about 3 tbs butter in a pan. When it melts add about 5 tbs brown sugar.
Let it simmer on a low flame till all the sugar melts.
Pour this into the cake tin.
Add the prepared fruit pieces in a circle making sure that all the spaces are filled up.
For the cake:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs
1& half cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A big 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 cool a bit before you turn it upside down on to a serving dish or plate.
Cut into wedges. Enjoy!

Other starfruit recipes you might like to read:
1.Starfruit Chutney
2.Starfruit Pie

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Braided Poppy Seed Bread & Pumpkin Soup

I have baked poppy seed cakes but not poppy seed bread. So when I saw the recipe in a book titled Baking:100 Everyday Recipes I couldn't wait to get started. I still had a jar of poppy seeds from Kashmir and they had to go into something interesting and delicious. I have added my own twist to the recipe and I have also cut down on the quantity of seeds. The recipe uses much more. The first time I made this, everyone appreciated it and yes, no pictures were taken. But this time a shot graces my post before we break bread...

3 cups whole wheat flour + extra for dusting
Half tsp salt
2 tbs milk powder
2 tbs fine sugar
1 tsp dry yeast (I used Bluebird)
Lukewarm water ( I didn't measure here but it could have been around 200ml)
3 tbs vegetable oil + extra for brushing
3 tbs poppy seeds
1tbs dried basil ( I'm finding ways and means to finish off my stock of dried basil)

For the topping:
1 tbs milk
1tbs poppy seeds

~Add the yeast to the bowl of lukewarm water. Put in the sugar to activate the yeast. Leave aside till it froths up. It will take about 10 minutes.
~Sift the flour and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the milk powder. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and the oil. Mix well.
~Add the poppy seeds and knead till the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl.
~Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about ten minutes.
~Brush a bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Leave to rise for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
~Turn out the dough, knock back, and knead for a few minutes.
~Roll out the dough into a rectangular shape. Cut it into three equal strips and braid.
~Grease a bread tin with oil and place the prepared dough in the tin.
~Cover again with a damp cloth and leave to rise for another thirty minutes.
~Brush the surface of the bread with milk and scatter the poppy seeds all across.
~Bake in a preheated oven at 190 C for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
~Cool on a wire rack.
Produce from the beautiful Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh
Recently my husband was in the Ziro valley to attend a music festival. He got some wonderful local produce and I have been using many of them in my recipes.
For the pumpkin soup:
1 cup roasted and mashed pumpkin
500 ml chicken stock
1 small onion, finely diced
Pinch of salt & a pinch of pepper (the stock was seasoned earlier)
A quarter tsp smoked and pounded chillies
1 tsp vegetable oil
3-4 serrated coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they turn golden brown.
Add the mashed pumpkin, stir and add the stock. Mix again.
Let it cook for a few minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and the chillies.
Add half of the chopped herbs leaving the rest for the garnish.
Cook till the mixture starts to thicken. This will take about 5-6 minutes.
Remove from the stove and let it cool down a bit.
Transfer to serving bowls and add the garnish.

The soup is good for 2-3 servings. The chillies are not the hot variety and it added a little zing and a hint of smokiness in the soup. The pairing with the bread was wonderful!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Savoury Pumpkin & Hung Curd Tarts

Continuing with my pumpkin post this is a tart made of pumpkin and hung curd. I did look around for recipes and finally chose one with butternut squash and ricotta tart and substituted the ingredients with what I had in stock. It isn't exactly like the recipes I checked but I loved trying out this version. It helped that I had some of the roasted pumpkin that I had made before. The curd was hung last night so it was just right to be mixed with the other ingredients and baked.

The pastry:
250 grams all-purpose flour
125 grams butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg+ extra for the egg wash
Iced water to sprinkle on the pastry

Sieve the flour into a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Break the egg into the mixture and bring the dough together.
Sprinkle some iced water as as soon as the dough comes together, flatten it and wrap in clingfilm.
Let it rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.
Grease the loose-bottomed baking tins and take the dough out of the fridge.
Roll the pastry a little larger than the tins. Place the rolled pastry in the tins and run the rolling pin all along the edge to trim off excess pastry. Or you can trim off after blind-baking them.
Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill them up with baking beans.
Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 10 minutes.
Remove the beans and paper, brush with egg and bake for another 5-7 minutes.
Remove and keep aside as you prepare the filling.

The filling:
Half a cup of roasted and mashed pumpkin
200 grams hung curd
3 cubes of Amul cheese cubes, grated
Salt to taste 
A quarter tsp grated black pepper
A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbs olive oil
More coriander leaves for the garnish 

Mix the hung curd and the mashed pumpkin well in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the cheese reserving a bit for the topping.
Add the seasoning, the oil and the herbs. Pour the mix into the pumpkin/curd bowl. Mix well.
Spoon the filling into the pastry cases and sprinkle a bit of the grated cheese on top. (Halfway through the cooking process I decorated the tops with coriander leaves).
Bake in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or till the filling is set.

This was a delightful variation to the usual sweet tarts that I make. If I were to make this again, I'd add more pepper or maybe some chilli flakes for a little heat. When chives are in season, I'd love to add them instead of coriander. You can understand why I'm looking forward to our short cool winters....

Monday, October 13, 2014

Reigning Pumpkins

It's raining pumpkins now. Particularly in the hilly areas of our state. Pumpkins are planted during the summer months and are ready to be harvested by September onwards. Planting seasons vary slightly between hilly and plain areas which is why fresh pumpkins are available throughout the year. 
Pumpkins for sale at the weekly market in Maibang
Recently we had gone on a short trip to my ancestral village where we bought several and also got this humble vegetable as gifts. A wonderful addition to vegetable curry, with meat, and also with pulses and soups, I'm adding them to a whole lot of dishes and there might be quite a few posts with this versatile vegetable.
I first started with our favourite khari and also teamed it up with dried shrimp that we polished off with sticky rice. Later some generous chunks were roasted in the oven and made into a few delights like..... 
...a very creamy pumpkin soup with chicken stock. Toasted and halved pistachios added the final touch to this delicious soup that we had with freshly-baked bread.
Another creamy concoction was this roasted pumpkin raita. Raita is made with yoghurt to which the fruits or vegetables are added. They may be cooked (bottle gourd raita) or raw (as in cucumber raita). The variations are many. Toasted and roughly pounded cumin seeds add a wonderful flavour to this dish. The other ingredients that go in are chopped or ground herbs, chilli powder, sugar and salt. This raita accompanied the chicken biryani I made the other day.
Pumpkin parathas made with whole wheat & amaranth flour
I added some of the mashed roasted pumpkin to the dough and made parathas. We had them with curried French bean seeds. These seeds are usually made into dal throughout the winter months. Another favourite food of our region.

I have not included detailed recipes in this post. I am still experimenting and trying out pairings I hadn't tried before. Watch this space for more!:)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Prune Tart

The last time I made prune tarts, I had written that it would be a joy to bake them again and again during the cooler months. It isn't all that cool as yet but it's October and the thought about how pleasant the weather will soon be made me want to bake prune tarts again. With almond pastry cream. The only difference from my earlier post is that the prunes were not soaked in rum. I think I'll use those in December.:)
Ready for the oven (left), and fresh out of the oven
There is more reason to feel happy about the coming months as our summer floods were horrific this year. For the first time, our ground floor was inundated with water. Although the water didn't remain for long, it did enough damage in its wake.

I am not adding the recipe in this post as the measurements are the same in the link to my earlier post given above. Instead of making 7-8 tarts I made one in a 9" tin. I scattered the prunes and poured the pastry cream and then decorated the top with flaked almonds. My younger son is home now and with his friends dropping by, the joy of cooking/baking has gone up immensely...

Thank you for stopping by today. Do check out my Facebook page as well.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Thukpa/Noodle Soup

There's something comforting about throwing in ingredients into a pot and leaving the mixture to cook in its sweet time. Another such dish is thukpa or noodle soup. Famous as a Tibetan soup, it is also popular in Nepal. In India, it's popular in the eastern states particularly in Sikkim, the hilly areas of West Bengal and in Arunachal Pradesh. Most contain meat and meat stock. I made mine with some chicken stock and some smoked ham thrown in for good measure.There are many variations depending on regions. This is my version.
Ingredients (for two servings)
A few slices of ham, cut into rough pieces
1 onion, diced
2 green chillies, sliced fine
Half an inch of ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
About 2 cabbage leaves, roughly chopped
A handful of tender greens, chopped (I used radish)
A quarter tsp Schezuan pepper, ground
A cup of boiled noodles
Coriander for the garnish
500 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Heat the oil in a pan and lightly fry the ham. Remove and keep aside.
In the same pan fry the onions then add the garlic, chillies and ginger. Stir.
Then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few minutes,
Add about 2 cups of water and the chicken stock.
Add the ham pieces and season with the pepper and salt, if needed.
Remove when all the vegetables are cooked but not overdone.
To serve, divide the boiled noodles in individual bowls and add the soup to each bowl.
Garnish with chopped coriander.