Saturday, December 24, 2016

Labneh Tart With Matcha Pastry Dough

Labneh tart
Labneh tart with a topping of ground pistachios, plums and pomegranates
Regular visitors to this page know about my weakness for pies and tarts. My latest obsession is to make them with one of my favourite milk products, labneh. The colours on the topping make it look so festive and the fact that this does not need to be baked makes it even better. This one was made with a matcha pastry shell.
Labneh needs to be strained for at least 12 hours before you can use it for filling a tart shell. I used store- bought plain curd. 400 grams of curd stained overnight is reduced to 200 grams. This is just right to fill a small tart shell that serves 3-4 people. Since I don't like having curd that is sweet, I did not mix any sweetening agent into the strained curd. The sweetness comes from the toppings and a drizzle of honey. I think for serving guests, some honey and also fruits used used for the topping could be placed in small bowls.
Although I have read about matcha and tasted it in restaurants, this is the first time I bought a packet. The first thing I did was to use a teaspoon of it in the pastry dough. I loved the colour and the fragrance.
Matcha tart shell

Matcha pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed + extra for greasing the tin(s)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp matcha powder
2 tbs fine sugar
Place the flour in a bowl and add the butter, sugar, and matcha powder.
Rub with the tips of your fingers till the mixture becomes crumbly.
Add the egg and bring the dough together. Do not knead.
Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, and wrap it in clingfilm.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least 40 minutes.
With pastry, if I plan it ahead I usually chill the dough overnight.

Take out the dough from the fridge and let it thaw for a while. Meanwhile grease the tart tin. Then cut out half and roll out a little bigger than your tin. 
Place it on the tin and press all along the bottom. Gently press on the top portion too, all along the edges, before you use the rolling pin to even out the overhanging pastry. The extra bits of pastry can be gathered up, made into a ball and chilled again for later use.
Prick the bottom of the pastry shell so that the dough does not rise up during the baking process.
Chill the prepared shell for 30 minutes or so.
Line the shell with a greased foil (greased side down as this makes it easy to remove the beans). Fill with baking beans and bake in a preheated oven for ten minutes.
Remove foil and beans and bake again for another 10-12 minutes.
Remove and cool as you prepare the filling.

This 8" tin needed 350 grams of labneh. Take the labneh and mix any sweetener you like. Since I didn't want an overly sweet filling, I skipped this part and placed the plain labneh in the tart shell. Smoothen the surface. Layer with your choice of fruits and nuts. I wasn't planning to use plums but I found these that were really sweet. So they were sliced and drizzled with a bit of honey. Lightly toasted and ground pistachios and pomegranate arils were the rest of the embellishments.

The first time I used labneh in a tart was with left-over pastry dough. This was a square 4" tart pan. For the filling I used 200 grams of labneh. Pomegranate arils and toasted/sliced almonds did the rest. A teaspoon of honey was drizzled over the surface.
These tarts will not keep for long as the bottom will get soggy. I was lucky mine finished off fast!
Thank you for stopping by today. Merry Christmas!
 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mini White Chocolate Tarts With Pomegranate



Hello everyone! I'm back after a pretty long gap. Although I have been cooking a lot, posting did not happen often. Year-endings usually tend to be like this. Meeting up with friends and family happens more during this season.
I made these tarts a few days ago. I had some left-over pastry dough and decided to use them up. I had seen pomegranate arils being used on dark chocolate tarts but I had never done so myself. Well, these bejewelled beauties do not disappoint. In fact the addition of pomegranate balances the sweetness of the white chocolate.
Pastry:
11/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chilled butter, cubed + extra for greasing the tins
The juice of 1 small orange, chilled
1 tsp freshly-grated orange zest
1 egg yolk
2 tsp ground sugar
Place the flour in a bowl. Add the butter and rub the mixture with your finger tips till the mixture is crumbly.
Sprinkle the sugar and the orange zest and mix.
Add the yolk and bring the dough together. At this point you'll need to sprinkle the orange juice. I did not use the entire lot.
As soon as the dough comes together, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes.
Grease the tins with butter. Take out the dough, cut out small pieces and roll out a little bigger than the tart tins.
Place it on the tin and press the bottom. Break off the overhanging dough by running the rolling pin around the edges. Repeat till all the tins are done.
This will depend on how many tins you are using. I made 7. Your left-over pastry dough can be used later for some other recipe.
Blind bake the tarts till they turn golden and are cooked through. This will take about 12-15 minutes.


The filling:
100 grams white chocolare, whacked into small pieces
1 tbs butter
About 120 ml thick cream (I didn't measure the exact quantity. I used a little more than half from a 200ml packet of Amul Fresh Cream)
Pomegranate seeds to decorate

Melt the chocolate in a bain marie. As soon as it gets melted, switch off the flame. Add the butter and give it a good mix. Add the cream and do the same.
Let the mixture cool down a bit till it can easily be poured into the tart shells.
Take a shell and pour the filling. Repeat till all the shells are filled.
With the pomegranate arils, you can form any pattern or simply scatter them on top. Chill for an hour or so for the filling to set.

These little bites are a wonderful way of using up left-over pastry dough. Pomegranates and chocolate is a beautiful combination. And that slight hint of orange makes the tarts taste even better! 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cauliflower Baked Upside Down With A Fish Filling

Cauliflower baked upside down
One of my recent posts had a cauliflower that was baked in white sauce. With cauliflowers in season now, they are made so often. One thing about seasonal delights is that you want to make the most of them and team them up with everything possible in recipes. A cauliflower baked whole is a constant feature on my winter table. And when one mentions cauliflower, other winter vegetables that instantly spring to mind are: peas, hyacinth beans, radishes, lai (a variety of brassica) and broccoli. Elders often mention the fact that vegetables bathed in dew taste so much better.
Blanched and ready for the filling
For this recipe, I used a cauliflower that was on the smaller side. It weighed 360 grams. After the stalk and leaves were removed, I washed it and blanched it in a pan of boiling salted water. It remained there for about 5 minutes on one side and for a few more minutes on the other side. A knife inserted in the centre offered some resistance but that was all right as the baking would take  care of that.
Fish with bones and skin discarded
Instead of using just the white sauce, I used two fish fillets. I had some boal fish/helicopter catfish and it's easy to discard the bones from this kind of fish. Then they were lightly mashed. This was from a recipe I had seen in a cookery book years ago. The recipe had minced lamb but I thought fish would be a nice version. As it is, teaming up cauliflower with fish in a curry is a favourite recipe in our region. And using the same combination in a baked recipe should surely taste good!
Upside down and it's easy to fill it up!
The fish fillets were cooked in very little water. Just enough for the skin to come off easily and the bones to be discarded. The weight of the fillets was 160 grams. To this I added a large onion which was peeled, chopped and fried with a touch of salt and pepper. For the sauce, I made it the same way as in my other cauliflower post.
Sauce poured, cheese scattered. Dots of butter and she's ready to go...
Grease the baking pan with butter and pour a ladle-ful of the sauce. Put the blanched cauliflower upside down. Take spoonfuls of the fish/onion mixture in the spaces between the florets. Since the vegetable is upside down, there is more space for any kind of filling to 'cling' to. Gently prise open the space where two florets meet and add the filling. Then pour the sauce on top, add grated cheese and dot the vegetable with butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for about 30 minutes or till the cheese turns golden on top.

This is a lovely side dish that goes so well with either rice or rotis.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Gatte Ki Sabji

Gatte ki sabji
Today's recipe comes from the north western state of Rajasthan, a state known for its history, kings and palaces, and food that is unique to the region. I have visited the state twice and that was years ago. A road trip in 1999 covered 12 major cities and the food was always a pleasure to dig in to. Most parts of the state is arid so Rajasthanis use more pulses and cereals in their diet. This recipe uses Bengal gram flour and gatte means cooked gram flour dumplings.
Every home must have a slight variation in their recipes. I have made this dish several times but this is the first time that I'm blogging about it.

Ingredients:
1 cup besan/Bengal gram flour
A dash of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Ghee
Curd
A large pinch of kasuri methi(dried fenugreek leaves)

Chilli powder
Turmeric powder

For the gravy: 
1 large onion, peeled and grated
A pinch of hing
A quarter tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
A pinch of turmeric powder
Red chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala paste or powder
1/2 cup thick curd, beaten till creamy
1/3 cup tomato puree
A large pinch of kasuri methi
Ghee as needed
 
Gatte ki sabji

First of all make the dough. Place the besan in a bowl. Add the rest of the things mentioned under "Ingredients" and make the dough. I did not write down the measurements for ghee and curd. It could vary between a tablespoon or two for both ingredients. It should be just enough to bind the dough.
Take off equal pieces from the ball and roll them into cylindrical shapes. Heat water in a pan and place the cylinders of dough. Cook till they come to the surface. You can check with a skewer. If it comes out clean, the dough is ready.
Take them out with a slotted spoon and place them on a chopping board.
Slice them into equal pieces.
Heat some ghee in a pan and fry the pieces in batches till slightly golden brown. Continue till all the pieces are fried. This is optional. I did it this time. Usually I cook them straightaway. Now I think I prefer the fried version.:)
In the same pan, throw in the hing and cumin seeds. 
Add the onions and cook till they turn translucent. Add the rest of the spices and cook till it comes together.
Add the tomato puree. Add about half a cup of water and let it come to a boil.
Reduce the flame and and add the beaten curd. The fried gatte can go in now.
Let the sabji simmer on a low flame for about 5 minutes or so.
Add the garam masala and crush the kasuri methi and sprinkle over the dish.
Before serving, garnish with chopped coriander.
This goes best with roti.
Gatte ki sabji

This is a dish that is usually made without onions and garlic. Not that you can tell by looking at this picture. This was a no-onion version where I did not add turmeric either. But it was still good!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Curried Cauliflower Stalks & Leaves

Danthal/Curried cauliflower stalks

With a lot of cauliflower eating sessions, there's plenty of stalks/stems left over. With the tender leaves, I usually add them to most dishes that have cauliflower in them or to curried potatoes. But sometimes I save them to make a dish that includes only the stalks where I also throw in the leaves. This is also a way of treating ourselves to essential fibres.

Ingredients:
300 grams cauliflower stalks and leaves
2 medium onions, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A small piece of ginger, peeled and grated fine
1 tsp coriander powder, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp cumin powder, toasted and ground
1/2 tsp fenugreek powder
A quarter tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
A quarter tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
4 tbs mustard oil
A few coriander leaves/sprigs for the garnish
For the tempering...
Cumin seeds
2-3 dry red chillies
2 Indian bay leaves/tejpatta
Danthal/Curried cauliflower stalks

Method:
Cut the stems into even pieces. Remove the hard and stringy outer cover of the central stalk with a paring knife. Cut into the same size as the stems.
Rinse in several changes of water to get rid of any soil or grit.
Soak the vegetable in warm water as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Drain the stalks in a colander then heat the oil in a kadhai. 
When the mustard oil comes to smoking point, throw in the cumin, red chillies and the tejpatta.
Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry till the mixture turns a little pale in colour.
Add the drained stalk/leaves and cook till they turn softer. Add the rest of the spices except the garam masala. Season with salt.
Add about a little less than half a cup of water and continue to cook till the stalks are done and the water dries up. I like the stalks to have a bit of bite to them.
Add the garam masala, give it a good stir and remove from the fire.
Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with coriander leaves.
This is a lovely side dish that goes well with rice and dal.
 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Baked Cauliflower In White Sauce

Baked cauliflower in white sauce

The end of the year means cauliflower season. Like most vegetables, the first ones usually go into fish curries. Actually most new vegetables (of the season) usually get cooked this way. Later, other recipes follow. Today I made a side dish that we have with either rice or rotis and that's a dish in its simplest form ... baked cauliflower in white sauce.
I usually cook in a jiffy and forgot to take some of the exact measurements but I'm sure all of you reading this usually don't cook with a measuring cup for dishes that has been cooked a zillion times!:) In such cases 'about' becomes a very useful word!

Ingredients:
1 medium cauliflower, stalk and stems removed
Salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
Knobs of butter
4 cubes of Britannia cheese, grated
A dash of red chilli powder
For the sauce:
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
A drizzle of vegetable oil
About 400 ml milk
Baked cauliflower in white sauce

Method:
Wash the cauliflower in running water.
Heat a pan of water, enough for the cauliflower to be submerged in it.
Bring it to the boil, add a teaspoon of salt and the cauliflower.
Let it cook till a knife inserted into it meets no resistance. 
Turn it once during the process. But the cauliflower must not be too soft or mushy.
Remove from the pan and set aside as you prepare the sauce.
Heat a pan and drizzle it with oil. This is simply to prevent the butter from burning.
Add the butter and the flour. Keep stirring till the raw smell goes off.
Pour the milk and keep stirring constantly till the mixture thickens. If it becomes too thick, just add some more milk and stir well.
Remove from the stove and add half of the cheese, pepper and chilli powder. Mix well.
Dunk the cauliflower in this sauce upside down. With a spoon, pour the sauce in the spaces between the florets.
Take a baking dish and grease it with butter. Place the sauce-drenched cauliflower (not upside-down now) on the dish.
Pour the remaining sauce on top of the vegetable. 
Scatter the grated cheese on top and dot the surface with butter.
Bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 25-30 minutes till the vegetable turns golden brown.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Goat Meat Pie With An Olive Oil Pastry Crust

Goat meat pie
Goat meat pie with a cucumber/tomato/ starfruit salad
It's the season of meaty pies!:) Meat tastes so much better when the weather turns kinder and this pie is about celebrating the season! With meat pies I have used mainly chicken and pork and the thought of using goat meat never occurred to me. But the show on Destination Flavour (SBS Food) had a pie that was so beautiful that it has always stayed on my mind. I finally got around to making it yesterday but not in the same kind of mould or crust. I did away with butter and made an olive oil crust for the pie. I have been looking online for crust ideas and finally got one that I thought would work well for me.

The crust:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
A quarter tsp salt
1 tbs freshly grated black pepper
Water as needed (not chilled)
Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the oil and mix till it gets crumbly. Add the water and bring the dough together. Shape it into a ball, flatten it and chill in the fridge after wrapping it in clingfilm.

The filling:
450 grams goat meat (I used the leg portion with bones)
4 carrots
1 head of garlic
1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and crushed
5 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced
2-3 Indian bay leaves
2 sticks of cinnamon
5 dried apricots
1 tsp red chilli powder
A quarter tsp freshly grated black pepper
1 tsp jerk chicken spice
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin powder
1 tsp roasted and ground coriander powder
A pinch of nutmeg (this was grated on top of the pan)
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
About 1 tbs cornflour

Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Fry the meat chunks for 6-7 minutes turning them once or twice. Remove them from the pan and set aside. In the same oil add the onions and cook till they turn a little pale.
Add about a litre of water.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the carrots and the cornflour.
Cook on medium flame for a couple of hours.
About 20 minutes into the process, remove the garlic and squeeze out the pulp into the stew. Discard the peel.
Scrape the skin of the carrots. Add them about 15 minutes before you take the pan off the flame. By this time the meat should be falling off the bone when you check it.
With the help of tongs, remove the chunks of meat.
Place a sieve on a pan and empty the contents into the sieve.
Remove the chunk of ginger and the apricot seeds.
Use the back of a ladle to mash the contents so that the sauce below the colander becomes thicker.
Put the gravy in a pan and cook on a low flame till slightly reduced.
Mix a bit of cold water to the cornflour and add this to the gravy.
Switch off the flame and set aside.
As soon as the meat cools down, start shedding it into pieces. Discard the bones.
Chop the cooked carrot into discs and add them to the thickened gravy.
Add the shredded meat as well and give it a good mix. The filling is now ready.
Take out the chilled pastry dough and roll out. I used 4 ramekins and both the dough and the filling was just enough.
You could grease the ramekins with more oil but I skipped this part. 
Place a circle of dough in a ramekin and press the bottom, both in the middle and the edges. Prick all across with a fork.
Add the filling till the rim of the ramekin. Roll out another circle of dough and cover the filling with it. Before covering it, wet the edges with water.
Press on the edges and use a fork to make a pattern as well as to tighten the seal. Make four small cuts on the surface for steam to escape.
Continue with the other three ramekins. Brush with egg yolk and bake in a preheated 180C oven for about 40-45 minutes. 

Pastry dough made with olive oil turned out to be well-behaved and easy to handle. My only regret is that I should have rolled out the dough a little thinner. But as for the filling, there are no regrets. I kept throwing in a whole lot of ingredients to the pan and the smells that wafted around the house was wonderful. But it worked and if I make goat pie again, I'd love to make it this way. The apricots added a hint of sweetness that tasted so good.
The simple salad of cucumber, tomato and starfruit slices teamed up very well with this pie.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Beetroot Salad With Labneh & Dried Cranberries

Beetroot salad with labneh & dried cranberries
Beetroot salad with labneh & dried cranberries
With all the gorging that happened in the last week of last month, I am including more helpings of salads in my meals. With the micro greens, it's a tussle between the sparrows and I. This year the pecking is frenzied and I wish they hadn't developed a taste for brassica!;)
Whereas the sparrow population in many parts of the world has been greatly reduced, they are doing very well in our area. But I wish they would leave my newly-sprouted plants alone! Coming to the salad, can anything with beets look anything other than gorgeous??
The idea was to use up the beets and a bit of labneh but I remembered the jar of dried cranberries so those got added too. Labneh is something that I make quite often because I like to slather that creaminess on my rotis and parathas.


Here's a collage from my earlier posts. And a link to the recipe http://blendingflavours.blogspot.in/2013/10/labneh.html

Ingredients: 
2 beets, roasted in the oven for about 45 minutes
A mix of greens
8-9 balls of labneh
A handful of dried cranberries
Roasted almonds
Roasted walnuts
For the dressing:
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs honey 
A touch of salt 
Sugar to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil ( I used the oil where the labneh balls were dunked in)

Method:
Peel the beets and slice them into thin roundels. I used a mandolin slicer. 
Arrange them on a platter and pour a bit of the dressing over them. I prefer to do this with beets as it tends to get messy if you mix them with your hands.
Arrange the micro greens on the platter. Do the same with the nuts.
Place the labneh balls all around. Take the dried cranberries and place them on the labneh and scatter the remaining ones on the platter.
Pour the dressing over the salad.
Drizzle with more oil left over in the labneh jar. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Motichoor & Cardamom Mousse


Happy November! Our Diwali concluded with my niece's birthday yesterday. With all the gifts that came by way of sweets, I kept some motichoor laddoos aside for this mousse. I had seen the recipe (in a now defunct BBC Good Food magazine/India) a couple of years ago and didn't quite like the idea of a fusion dessert. But rather than have the laddoo in laddoo form, particularly after all that gorging session, this does make a lovely variation.
For the uninitiated, motichoor is made of fried chickpea batter. The batter is passed through a slotted spoon and is fried in ghee. These little fritters known as 'boondi' are then soaked in sugar syrup and made into balls. That orange hue comes from the addition of orange food colour. Motichoor laddoos are very popular and is a part of all festivities.
Ingredients:
100 grams salted biscuits (I used Monaco)
25 grams butter, cubed
200 ml cream (I used Amul)
2 egg yolks
5 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp gelatin
Cardamom powder made from 2 pods (only the seeds were used)
3 motichoor laddoos
A few toasted and sliced almonds and pistachios
Sabayon made with two yolks
Method:
Crush the biscuits into powder and mix with the butter.
Divide this mixture into 2-3 jars. Press with the back of a spoon and chill in the fridge till set.
Whip the cream till soft peaks form and chill it.
Make the sabayon by whisking the egg yolks and the sugar over a double boiler. Whisk until the yolks are light and foamy.
Soak the powdered gelatin in warm water.
Mix the gelatin liquid to the sabayon and add the cardamom powder to it.
Fold the whipped cream into this mixture.
Pour the mousse over the biscuit base in the refrigerated jars.
Chill for another hour.
Crumble the laddoos and scatter on the surface.
Garnish with the prepared nuts. Serve chilled.

The sweet laddoos combined with the salty biscuits makes an interesting combination. My regular 'guinea pigs' loved this fusion dessert!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Rasmalai


rasmalai, Diwali sweets
It's a traditional Bengali dessert that I made for Diwali. The Festival of Lights would be incomplete without mithai. So rasmalai it is. But with a major cut on the sugar factor.
And I used a short-cut method by using ready-made rasgollas. One of the Diwali hampers that came in included tinned rasgollas (soft and spongy cottage cheese balls in sugar syrup) and those were what I used for this dessert.

Ingredients:
1 litre full fat milk
A pinch of cardamom powder
A pinch of saffron
1 tsp almond paste or flour
Toasted and chopped pistachios for the garnish
Tinned rasgollas (I used 8)

Method:
Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the cardamom powder and stir at intervals.
From the pan, take about 2 teaspoons of warmed milk in a small bowl and soak the saffron in it.
After a few minutes put the saffron/milk mix back in the pan.
Let it remain on simmer for about 45 minutes till the milk is reduced to less than half.
Meanwhile, open the tin and take out the rasgollas. 
Squeeze out the syrup and set aside.
Add a tablespoon of almond paste to thicken the milk. You could use cornflour but since I had a bit of almond paste left over from making almond milk, I used that. 
Stir and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
About 5-6 minutes before you remove the pan from the fire, add the prepared rasgollas. At this point I added two tablespoons of the syrup to the milk. There is no another sweetener added to this dish.
Take the pan off the heat and let it cool. 
Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. Before serving, scatter the pistachios over the rasmalai.
Enjoy!
Unlike regular rasmalai, this one only has a hint of sweetness. You cannot totally cut down on sugar but it can be greatly reduced.
Diwali sweets, rasmalai

Another sweet that I love...gond ke laddoo! These were gifted to us. Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Yardlong Bean Salad

Yardlong bean salad
Diwali is just round the corner but before I write about something sweet, here's a salad made from home-grown beans. These are yardlong beans and available throughout the summer months. Since I don't have much planting space I am growing the vine on the fence. The wire fencing on top of the brick boundary wall is good enough to support the trailing vine. 
Harvesting as of now is done every two to three days and I gather them so that they are around 300 grams and that's enough for a meal for us. Most varieties are long, hence the name. But the one I'm growing is the shorter one. The name in this case, is, misleading.;) But it's only a matter of length. The taste and texture is the same.
yardlong bean salad
A bit of information from Wiki about yardlong beans:
They are a good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorous, potassium, and a good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium and manganese.
These beans are cooked in a variety of ways, usually in curry and bhaji forms. The tender ones taste very good added to noodles and soups also. For this salad the beans had a bite to them and the nuts added the crunch. 

Ingredients: Serves 2
160 grams yardlong beans
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp slivered ginger
A handful of toasted and salted cashewnuts 
Chopped serrated coriander for the garnish 
Yardlong bean salad

For the dressing:
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tbs dark soya sauce
Salt as per taste
1/2 tsp sugar
A quarter tsp freshly grated black pepper

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar, preferably in a small jar.
Add the rest of the ingredients, close the lid and give the jar a vigorous shake. Set aside as you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
Wash, top and tail the beans. Cut them into similar sizes.
Heat about 3 cups of water in a pan and let it come to a boil.
Plunge the beans in the water and blanch for about a couple of minutes.
Remove them and plunge into ice-cold water to retain the colour.
Dark beans look beautiful after an ice bath but as you can see mine's on the lighter side.
Remove and drain in a colander.
Transfer the beans to a serving platter and add the rest of the ingredients except the herbs, and mix well.
Give the jar that holds the dressing another shake and pour the contents on the salad.
Stir with a fork. Scatter the chopped herbs on top. Your salad is ready.
This is lovely as a snack. You can increase/decrease the quantity given for the dressing. It's all to do with individual preferences. 
As for the nuts I used store-bought roasted and salted cashews. From well-wishers some of the Diwali hampers have already started arriving. Signing off with a picture of one that arrived today.:)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mixed Salad With Sponge Gourd Flowers


It was only recently  I learnt that the blooms of the sponge gourd are edible. I do have a fascination for edible blooms but in my part of the world they seem to be available in winter. Like nasturtiums and pansies. I'm growing this gourd now and if I had sowed the seeds earlier I would have been using the flowers from the beginning of summer. But better late than never.
The first batch of gourds I picked from the vine went into a simple fish curry. Since then they are being added to other dishes. The sweetness of vegetables that come from a fresh harvest makes meals so enjoyable. I made a simple salad today but the sunshine yellow blooms made a wonderful difference to that otherwise would have been an ordinary salad.

The sponge gourd has both female and male flowers. Whereas the latter drops off, the female flowers remain attached to the developing fruit. The young leaves and clusters of buds are also edible but I haven't tried them as yet. Let's move on to the salad.
Ingredients:
1 small cucumber
1 medium apple
5 walnuts, lightly toasted
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs pomegranate arils
1 tomato, sliced, seeds discarded
A handful of micro greens (I used a variety of brassica that I am growing)
3-4 sponge gourd flowers
For the dressing:
1/2 tsp ground pepper
2 roasted cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, as per preference
Add all the above the ingredients in a small jar. Cover with a lid and give it a vigorous shake. Set aside till the salad ingredients are ready.

Peel off the skin of the cucumber. Use a peeler and create ribbons from the flesh.  Do that on all sides till you get to the seed area. Leave that portion.
Halve and core the apple. I left one side with the skin on and peeled the other half just because the skin looks good on a salad. Drizzle the lemon juice on the cut apples so that they do not turn brown.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the last two...micro greens and the blossoms. Add the dressing and mix well.
Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with the micro greens and the sponge gourd blooms. 

This was so good that my husband and I snacked on it. The flowers have a slightly peppery taste but they are much milder than nasturtiums. And what that yellow did to the rest of the ingredients was nothing short of amazing. I suppose if you are the colour of sunshine you are meant to spread cheer...:)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cookies


All roads lead to Shillong now for what has been termed the Happiest (?) Music Festival! It's the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. After its spectacular success last year, Shillong is all geared up to host this year's festival too. It's my knee that's keeping me home. The line-up also includes my younger son with his band. He has been performing at this festival in different parts of the country for a few years now. Sadly, he'll get to stay home only for a day but I have already started baking. There's usually a stream of visitors and everybody loves to gorge on home-made stuff. So here's my first load of cookies...
Not the best looking but taste-wise, not bad at all! The recipe has been adapted from an old magazine.

Ingredients: Makes 24 cookies
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
200 grams table margarine (you could use butter)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Method: 
Pour the lemon juice in a pan and bring it to a simmer. Let it reduce a bit.
Add half of the butter to the pan and let it melt. Set aside.
Mix the flour, baking powder and the salt in a bowl. Cream the rest of the butter with the sugar. I used my hand whisk. Mix in the egg and the lemon-butter. Mix till it is pale in colour.
Add the vanilla and the lemon zest. Add the flour mixture and the poppy seeds.
Mix well.
Take out bits of the dough to form walnut-sized balls.
Flatten the balls and place them on a lined baking tray, leaving a bit of space in between.
Flatten the cookie balls with the help of a glass bottom.
Bake in a 170C preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Remove and cool completely before storing
These will last for a week in an airtight container.

You could use more poppy seeds and lemon zest if you want to roll the cookies in before they go into the oven. More zest in them cookies!;)
The slight tang from the lemon and the crunch from the poppy seeds is a very good combination. I am sure they'll disappear very fast indeed.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kala kaddoo/Pumpkin In Burnt Walnut Paste

Kala Kaddoo...image inspired by the one in BBC Good Food magazine
Of late, I have been reading up on Himachali cuisine. Walking around the mall in Shimla back in 2013,  I had bought a book on the same. Called Classic Recipes from Himachal Pradesh and written by Bhawanee Singh, it has many traditional recipes. The state  is known for its natural beauty. 'Hima' means snow in Sanskrit and the state's name translates to 'in the lap of the Himalayas'. The rest of the shopping consisted of excellent local fruit wine of which I liked the pear wine the best. I did make Meetha Bhaat from the book but the other day I was tidying up my study and came across an old magazine which featured cuisine from the Kangra Valley in Himachal. Setting whole walnuts  aflame and grinding them with mustard oil to a paste is unique to this region. And what better dish to try this out than the one featured below....
From the pumpkins pictured above, I chose the palest one. Although the recipe called for the regular reddish one, I used what I had in stock.
The recipe has been adapted from BBC Good Food Magazine/India, December 2013. The recipe is by Divya Sud Qureshi , the author of Flavours of the Kangra Valley.
Ingredients:
1 kg pumpkin
1 bunch spinach  around 150 grams, washed
3/4 cup mustard oil
2 cups curd, beaten
Salt to taste
3/4 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
5 tsp ghee
A small bunch of coriander leaves for the garnish
For the walnut paste:
2 whole walnuts
6 tbsp mustard oil
The rest of the spices:
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of asafoetida

Method:
To make the walnut paste, dry roast the walnuts. Then place them directly on the fire using tongs. When the walnuts are on fire, remove them and place on a metal plate. The shell will disintegrate and the kernels will be a little charred and will have a smoky flavour. When they stop smouldering, lift them and place in a bowl and pour mustard oil over them. The oil will be the lubricant while grinding.
Pound the walnuts using a mortar and pestle till you get a smooth paste.
Cut and peel the pumpkin. Cut into 11/2 inch cubes. Keep aside.
Grind the spinach leaves and strain the juice.
Heat the oil in a kadhai. When it comes to smoking point, take it off the flame and add the cumin seeds and the remaining spices. Put the pan back on the fire and add the pumpkin pieces and the walnut masala. Season with salt. Fry for about 10-12 minutes.
At this point, add the strained spinach juice and cook till it blends well into the dish.
Remove the pan from the flame and add the curd. Put the pan back on high flame and stir the mixture continuously till it comes to a boil. Cover and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Now add the red chilli powder, garam masala and ghee.
Garnish with the chopped coriander leaves.
This goes best with dal and steamed rice.
Lunch...rice, kala kaddoo, arhar dal, banana fritters & cucumber slices
The taste of this dish is unique. The smokiness from the burnt walnut comes through. Paired with the aromatic spices, it is a delicious and fragrant dish. Getting the ingredients ready takes some time but the cooking doesn't take much time.
For grinding the walnuts, I used my trusted grinding stone. It's very handy particularly for smaller quantities of ingredients to be ground and is a feature of most Indian kitchens.
I reduced the quantity of almost all the ingredients as I used a smaller pumpkin. And I used chopped serrated coriander for the garnish. My husband and son are not fond of curries with curd. But as for me there is hardly anything that I do not like.:)
I couldn't find walnuts with shells intact in the markets near our house. My sister who happened to be in Lucknow recently for her daughter's counselling/admission got the best walnuts for me from there. I think a walnut chutney will be next...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Stuffed Chilli Pickle

Pickle of red chillies stuffed with spices
The storm that brewed yesterday in the afternoon had a bark that was worse than its bite! Dark clouds, the roar of  thunder and a strong wind that made me almost run to get the washing inside...and my precious jars of red chilli pickle that were curing in the sun. Well it did rain but only for a short while and our temperature's back to where it was before the dark clouds loomed overhead. Despite complaining about the heat, you certainly don't want the rain. Not when you are pickling.
Apart from the strawberries, my husband had also brought some beautiful ripe red chillies. It's been ages since I had made pickles using such chillies and the weather was just right.
Ingredients:
25 ripe red large chillies
Fenugreek seeds
Mustard seeds
Cumin seeds
Coriander seeds
Fennel seeds
Red chilli powder (optional)
Amchoor powder
Rock salt
Turmeric powder
A pinch of panch phoran (This is a mix of five spices and used in Eastern Indian cooking. The mixture consists of equal parts of fennel, cumin, fenugreek, mustard and nigella seeds).
A pinch of hing/asafoetida
A few tejpatta leaves
1/3 cup of vinegar
Mustard oil
I am not adding the exact amounts of the spices as I simply added what I felt to be right. One must remember that methi must be added in a quantity that is less in proportion to other ingredients.
One was different and I'm drying it for the seeds
To start with, wash the chillies and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Score all the way from the bottom till you get near the stalk. Let the stalks remain.
The chilli should remain intact. Remove the seeds and the white portions.
There aren't many seeds in this type of chilli. Gently shake each one so that all the seeds fall off.
Rub a mix of rock salt and turmeric and place the chillies in the sun. Turn once or twice depending on how long you leave them to bask in the sun. I put them out for almost three hours.
Meanwhile get the masala ready.
Toast the seeds separately and grind them. 
In the same pan, toast the chilli powder, if using. Care must be taken to keep the heat low as spice powders burn easily.
Heat the mustard oil in a kadhai. As soon as it comes to smoking point, add the hing, tejpatta and the panch phoran. Set aside to cool.
Take a plate and add all the powdered spices along with the amchoor and the chilli powder. Add a bit of the cooled oil and the vinegar.
Mix well. Then take one chilli and fill it with this mixture. Repeat till all the chillies and the spices are used up.
Take a clean/sterilised jar and place the stuffed chillies in it.

Pour some of the oil over the chillies. Unlike other pickles, the oil need not cover the chillies. This kind of stuffed chilli pickle does not drip oil.
Place the jars in the sun for about a week.
Because of the intense heat here, my chillies have softened down, the spices have married well and they are being eaten!!
We started the day with roti, curried chickpeas and this pickle. It was a good start, I must say!:)
These chillies only have a bit of heat in them which is why I added some chilli powder to the spice paste. I didn't have to use gloves while handling them. In fact there's a hint of sweetness in these beautiful red chillies. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Strawberry & Mascarpone Tartlets

Strawberry & mascarpone tartlet
Strawberry & mascarpone tartlet
I wasn't planning to post today but when my husband came back from a trip to Shillong he got some local produce. I wasn't expecting these berries. Well, as far as I know October isn't the season for picking strawberries. The dark purple fruits could easily be mistaken for grapes at first glance but there's a seed in the middle, rather like a plum. I immediately thought of the bit of mascarpone cheese left in the fridge. It wasn't enough as I had used most of it for the icing on a lemon cake I had baked for my sister. It was her birthday on 1 October.

I had baked a simple lemon cake and the frosting was made with a mix of mascarpone, whipped cream and icing sugar. The cake had a scattering of candied lemon peel that I had made a few days ago.
The pastry:
50 grams cold butter, cubed+extra to grease the tart tins
1 tbsp icing sugar
135 grams all-purpose flour
Chilled water
(I got 12 tartlets from this quantity of ingredients).
Because it is still so humid in our parts, I chill the flour in the mixing bowl for about an hour.
Add the cubed butter to the flour and mix till the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the chilled water and bring the dough together. Gently shape it into a ball and flatten it. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out little circles to fill the greased mini tart tins. Chill again for another 15-20 minutes. Place buttered foil in each tin (buttered side down as this makes it easy to remove the foil/beans later), fill up with baking beans and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 10 minutes. 
Remove the foil and the beans and bake for another 8-10 minutes.
Let the shells cool down before you add the filling.

Strawberry & mascarpone tartlets
The filling:
For the filling I had to make do with whatever little bit of mascarpone left. I took a bit of condensed milk, added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and the mascarpone and mixed them all up with a fork. Then I filled a few tart shells with this filling, placed some strawberry slices on top and added a few sprigs of mint leaves.
The taste was delicious!! As for the remaining tart 'shells' I'm toying with ideas...