Saturday, November 21, 2015

Apple & Fig Pie With A Crumble Topping

Apple & fig pie with a crumble topping
Apple & fig pie with a crumble topping
Mid-November and the days are turning so pleasant. You don't want to stay indoors. These past two days I have been busy getting several pots ready for the winter flowers like petunias and salvias. The soil in my front-yard is still not fully dry with all the rain and the flooding that we are subjected to during the horrid days of summer. So a lot of planting is done in clay pots.
I'm still using the dried fruits and nuts that came by way of Diwali gifts. Adding figs to what would have been a regular apple pie made a great deal of difference. I also added nutmeg that we had brought from the Andamans. The islands have an abundant produce of cloves and nutmeg. This is a pie that is packed with flavour.
The crust:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
80 grams butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tbs orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
Place the flour in a bowl and add the butter.
Rub the mix until it turns crumbly.
Add the yolk, the orange zest and the juice.
Bring the dough together. form into a ball, flatten it and chill in the fridge by wrapping it in clingfilm.
The filling: 
2 medium apples
10 figs, soaked in warm water for an hour
1/3 cup raisins, soaked till they plump up
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
A dash of cinnamon
A pinch of grated nutmeg
A quarter tsp freshly-grated ginger
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tbs all-purpose flour
6 tbs sugar 
The crumble topping:
1/2 cup flour
50 grams butter, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Take the chilled dough out of the fridge. Lightly grease the loose-bottomed pie tin. Roll out a disc that's a little bigger than the pie tin. 
Place it on the tin and press the base. Trim off the excess dough.
To make a pie decorative I used a leaf-cutter for the border. 
Roll out another disc and cut out the leaves using a cutter.
Place each leaf on the border by brushing it (the side which is to be attached to the edge) with egg yolk.
Repeat till the border is complete.
If you like you could bake a few leaves separately for decorating the topping (as shown in the picture).
Chill the crust as you prepare the filling.
Put the orange juice in a bowl. Add the grated lemon zest.
Peel and core the apples. Dice them and transfer to the bowl with the orange juice. This will prevent the apples from turning brown.
Drain the water from the figs. Tear them apart and add.
Squeeze out the water from the raisins and add them to the filling.
Add the sugar, walnuts, the cinnamon, nutmeg and the ginger.
Add the flour and mix well. 
Take out the crust from the fridge and add the filling. Put it back again to chill as you prepare the crumb for the topping.

Place the butter, flour and sugar in a bowl. Mix with your fingers till the mix turns crumbly.
Take the prepared pie tin from the fridge and spread the crumble topping till the filling is all covered up.
Bake in a preheated 190C oven for 15 minutes then bring the temperature down to 180C and bake for another 20 minutes or so.
Take it out and cool. The pie tastes good on its own but a little vanilla icecream on the side would be even better!
Edited to add:
The figs I used are dried ones.
The recipe calls for a second egg yolk to attach the 'leaves' to the pastry border.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Winged Bean & Carrot Salad

Winged bean & carrot salad
Winged bean & carrot salad
Growing winged beans for the first time, I couldn't wait for my first harvest. And today was the day. There are many blooms on the vine and several tender pods. So I'll be able to use them in various ways. But I started with this simple but tasty salad as I wanted the taste of the beans to be star of the dish.

In April when I had gone to my hometown I brought the seeds. My mother had kept some seeds aside for me. When she went to the shelf to them, they were no longer there. My nephew who also shows a keen interest in gardening said he had already sowed the seeds. He ran down to the garden. It's on a slope and gardening in my parents' house has always been referred to as 'going down'.:) He dug up four seeds that had already germinated. He wrapped each seed  in damp paper and put them in a small plastic bag before handing them over to me. Back home I planted the seeds the next day. Three did not survive but the one that did, is doing well.
Reading up online about these beans I learnt that all parts of the plant are edible. According to Wiki, winged bean is nutrient -rich. The leaves can be eaten like spinach, the flowers can be used in salads, tubers can be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds can be used in similar ways as the soya bean. The winged bean is a tropical legume native to New Guinea but grows in all hot and humid equatorial countries. It is also known as four-angled bean, Goa bean, four-cornered bean, Manila bean and Mauritius bean. In my mother tongue, we call it Shbai-daograng which translates to a bean with the feathers of a bird.

4 tender winged beans
1 medium carrot
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Red chilli flakes
2 tbs sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp honey
2 tbs orange juice
Salt to taste 
Top and tail the beans and cut them into similar sizes.
Put about 2 cups of water in a pan and bring it to a boil. 
Blanch the beans for about 3 minutes.
Remove and plunge them into icy water to retain the colour and to stop the cooking process.
Remove and drain after a few minutes.
Grate the carrot. Roast the garlic over an open flame.
Peel, crush and chop them.
Toast the sesame oil till the nutty smell comes out. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add the honey, orange juice, salt and red chilli flakes.
Mix well.
Transfer the beans to a serving bowl. Add the grated carrots. Toss in the walnuts and the chopped garlic.
Pour the dressing and mix well. 
Drizzle the toasted sesame oil. Add chopped herbs if you like.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nut Tart With Caramel

Nut tart with caramel
With all the nuts that came by way of Diwali gifts, I thought one of the ways of using them up would be in making nut tarts. I had never made them before and my first attempt was a rather gooey and messy affair with a white chocolate topping. But it was delicious and finished in no time at a family lunch. This is my second time and I looked up plenty of sites to make one of the easier versions. The following recipe has been adapted from here.
I already had enough pastry dough from my last baking so I used that. The nuts I used were a mix of cashews, pistachios, almonds and walnuts.

The pastry: 
2 1/2 cups flour, sieved
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 medium eggs
Place the flour in a large bowl.
Add the cubed butter to the flour and rub  with the tips of your fingers till the mixture turns crumbly.
Add the eggs and mix till the dough comes together.
Shape into a ball, flatten it, and chill by wrapping it in clingfilm.
The dough should rest for at least 40 minutes.
Remove from the fridge, roll out and place in a lightly greased tart tin. I used an 8" tin.
Trim the edges by running the rolling pin all along the edge. Or you can fold the dough inwards and fortify the border.
Prick with a fork all across the surface and chill again for about 20 minutes. 
Preheat the oven to 180C. Take out the chilled pastry and bake till it turns golden brown.
Ready to be baked

Remove and let it cool as you prepare the filling
The nuts:
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
Toast the nuts in the oven or in a pan till the nutty smells are released.
Crush or slice them. Some can even remain whole. 
The caramel:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup whipping cream
2 tbs butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Add the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place it on medium heat and stir till the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil till the mixture turns a rich amber colour. This will take about ten minutes. Turn heat back to medium.
Add the cream and stir till the mixture is smooth. Add the honey, butter, and vanilla. Add all the nuts.
Pour this filling into the crust. Bake till the filling bubbles. This may take between 15-20 minutes.
Let it cool before serving the wedges with a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tendli Talasani/A Dish Of Ivy Gourds

Tendli talasani
Tendli talasani
My interest in Konkani food (from the Konkan region in the western coastal belt of Maharashtra, Goa and some northern parts of West Karnataka) developed with the visual feasts that graced the pages of the very popular BBC Good Food/India magazine. Sadly, the magazine closed down but that is another story. Returning from a recent holiday with a stop-over in Kolkata, the only cookery book I bought was one on Konkani cooking by Tara Deshpande Tennebaum titled A Sense Of Spice.
But this recipe has been adapted from my visits to several URLs to delve deeper into the simplicity and deliciousness of the food of this region. Talasani is a style of cooking where spices are kept at a minimum and the vegetables cook in ghee or oil without the addition of water.
Ivy gourds
250 grams ivy gourds
3 tbs ghee
1 heaped tsp red chilli powder
A quarter tsp amchoor/dried mango powder
A dash of turmeric (optional)
Salt to taste
2 dried chillies broken into halves
5-6 garlic cloves with peel on
A quarter tsp cumin seeds

Wash the gourds and cut off the tips. 
Take one gourd and bash it with a pestle.
Repeat with the rest of the gourds. The gourds must remain whole despite the bashing. A few cracks are fine.
Mix the chilli powder, turmeric, amchoor and salt.
Marinate the gourds with this mixture.
Set aside for about 40-45 minutes.
Heat the ghee in a pan. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as they sputter, add the broken dried chillies. Add the marinated gourds and cook on a low flame with the lid on.
Stir in between  and continue to cook till the vegetable is almost done.
Remove the lid and cook on a flame that's been cranked up a little.
Wait for the gourds to turn a little brown before removing the pan from the stove.
Your tendli talasani is ready.
Tendli talasani
Tendli talasani, dal & Indian olive pickle
Lunch today was a simple vegetarian meal with rice, (whole) green moong dal, Indian olive pickle and of course, the star of the menu, tendli talasani. The flavour of the ghee and the garlic was wonderful and the slight tang from the mango powder took these tiny gourds to another level.

An earlier post with ivy gourds is here:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Amra Achar

Amra pickle
The other day I saw a bunch of hog plums or amra in one of the weekly markets here. I immediately picked up a bunch. I have had this in ripe form when they turn yellowish green and sweet and also a little acidic. I had never pickled them before and this was going to be my first time.
This is another fruit that I associate with my childhood particularly during the winter school break. My siblings, cousins and I would be dropped at our grandparents' place in a place called Maibang for a couple of weeks. It was heaven! We would play on the banks of the river that flowed in the backyard and  then head over to the paddy fields. In a little stream we would look for snails and shrimp, lie on bundles of hay and eat the ripest of amra and tamarind (the season of both fruits) under the bluest of skies. That was bliss!
Amra pickle

Known as thashudi in my mother tongue, it is known as amra in Bengali and omora in Assamese. A little help from Wiki here: 
Spondias mombin or Spondias purpurea var. lutea is a tree, a species of the flowering plant Anacardiaceae. It is native to the tropical Americas including the West Indies. The tree has been naturalized in parts of Africa, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. It is rarely cultivated.
The mature fruit has a leathery skin and a thin layer of pulp. The seed has an oil content of 31.5%.
Amra pickle
Amra pickle
There are no exact measurements for this recipe. I made it the way I make Indian olive pickle although most people make it without boiling. This was a recipe I experimented with and it turned out pretty good.
1 bunch amra
Mustard oil
Panch puran
Turmeric powder
Salt to taste (I used rock salt
Hing/asafoetida, a pinch
Tejpatta, a few leaves  
Chilli powder
Ajwain/Carom seeds
The last six spices must be toasted and ground. Coriander and cumin must be in a larger proportion than the rest.
The fibrous seeds of amra
Heat a pan of water, enough to immerse the fruit.
Remove the fruit from the stalks. Wash and drain as the water boils.
Plunge into the boiling water for 4-5 minutes. The skin is tough so you don't need to worry about the fruit being overcooked.
Remove and drain in a colander.
Spread the fruit on a bamboo mat and dry in the sun for the entire day turning them once or twice during the drying period. It's best to do the blanching in the morning so that the fruit gets the sun for several hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the spices. 
Toast the seeds separately until they start to crackle and let out their unique aroma.
I usually use ajwain, fennel and fenugreek in smaller portions as the combination of these spices is more to do with the aroma.
Toast the chilli powder on a low flame.
Repeat the same with the turmeric powder. 
Heat the mustard oil in a pan. When it comes to smoking point, add a pinch of hing and the tejpatta. Add the panch puran. 
Remove the pan from the flame and set aside. Let the oil cool down.
Transfer the fruit to a large bowl. Add the salt and all the spices. Mix with a spatula. Add the cooled oil gradually and mix well so that every fruit is coated with the spices.
Taste the masala and check whether the salt is enough. 
Throw some hing in the flame and turn the pickle jar upside down so that the aroma of the hing is trapped in it. 
Fill up the jar or jars with the pickle. The pickle is almost ready.
Place the jars in the sun for about a week. The curing in the sunlight will soften the fruit and enhance the taste of the pickle.
I did not use any sugar as the fruit is not as acidic as tamarind. 
A few drops of citric acid can also be added to the pickle.
Panch puran is a mix of five spices consisting of equal portions of mustard, fenugreek, cumin, nigella and fennel seeds. This mix is used whole and emits a lovely aroma as soon as they hit the hot oil.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Besan Laddoos

Besan laddoos
Besan laddoos
It's Diwali and it's the time of the year when sweets and nuts seem to be everywhere. These past few days have been most enjoyable. We've been meeting several friends over dinner and with the weather turning cooler more such meetings will follow. I don't make sweets often as there are no takers in my house but because of Diwali I made these besan laddoos and they turned out all right. If any guest turns up I'll have something home-made to serve.
2 cups besan (chick pea flour)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cardamom pods
About 1/2 cup ghee
About a dozen sliced pistachios

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and add to the sugar. Grind till it's fine in texture.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add the besan
Keep stirring till the raw smell goes off. This will take about 15-18 minutes. The flame should be medium or else the flour will burn.
Take it off the heat and let it cool down for a few minutes.
Add the ghee and the sugar/cardamom mix.
Add the sliced pistachios. Mix with a spoon.
As soon as the mixture can be handled, take some and shape it into a walnut-sized ball.
Repeat with the rest till all the mixture is used up.
If you like, scatter more chopped pistachios on top.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Rainy Day Chicken

I was going through my drafts and came across this nearly-forgotten post I had written when I was in Delhi in June this year. Decided to post it anyway. Tomorrow I'm making a day-trip to Shillong to check out the Indigenuous Terra Madre Festival.The description from their website:Terra Madre is an organization that brings together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity.
It will be interesting to be a part of this bio-diversity fair with so many delegates from across  the world showcasing their wares. Can't wait to get there. The drive will take us a little more than three hours. On to my Rainy day Chicken now....

It was partly sunny and partly cloudy this morning here in Delhi but as I set about making this dish, it started to drizzle. How apt I thought. I wasn't planning to call my dish Rainy Day Chicken. After all it's a simple stew but the memories of having this dish always takes me back to my childhood. I grew up in the town of Haflong where during the months of February and March, the weather would turn for the worse with howling winds and pouring rain. The sound of rain was heightened when the rain and hail stones hit our tin roof. Sometimes the ground would have thousands of hailstones. I haven't seen such a sight in a long time.
On such days, my mother would make this stew. Everything would be thrown together into a large pot with either chicken (free range) or pork pieces. At times, smoked pork was also used. Most of the vegetables would be from our large garden. So whereas the vegetables I add are mainly bought, my mother would cook with the freshest vegetables she (and all of us) harvested from the garden. Potatoes, carrots, peas, varieties of leafy greens, squash/chayote would be washed/peeled/cut before heading for the cauldron. Garlic, ginger, a few chillies, onions, (small onions were left whole) salt and pepper were the other ingredients. As for the garnish whatever herbs were in season were used. Even with such few ingredients, this remains one of my favourite stews. I only made a few variations and there's certainly no need for measurements here.

Chicken pieces
Potatoes, washed, peeled and quartered
Beans...string them, remove the two ends and tear off into similar lengths
Carrots, roughly diced
Shelled peas
Tomatoes (optional)
Chopped onion
Crushed garlic
Grated ginger
Coarsely grated pepper
Green chillies (optional)
Salt to taste
Olive oil
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of roasted and ground cumin
Herbs for the garnish

Heat the oil in a pan. Throw in the chopped onions and fry till translucent.
Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic.
Add the potatoes and carrots along with a pinch of turmeric powder.
Season with salt and pepper. Add chopped green chillies, if using.
Add water and keep it covered stirring from time to time.
If you want to add leafy greens, now is the time.
Add the tomatoes and peas. Cook till the vegetables and the chicken are done.
There should be enough gravy for the rice.
Remove from the flame. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with chopped herbs.
You could also use half and half of stock and half of water. But it still tastes good this way.