Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Wholewheat Pesto Swirled Braided Bread and My Experience with PostponeBaking

Unlike cakes and muffins where the same result can be achieved by simply following the recipe to the "T", bread baking calls for patience and experience and the same recipe may not yield the same result.
It has been almost 7 months since I first started experimenting with breads and I can proudly say that today I am confident about my breads. While I can vouch for my pizzas which did not take me much time to reach perfection, I have achieved a fair bit of failures with my breads. The texture was where I always fell short of baking that perfect bread. 
From two of my previous bread attempts, I realized milk powder provides a better texture than milk and honey glaze works as a better alternative for sweet breads. Also, egg provides that perfect tenderness in the bread which otherwise may become quite dense. In case of vegetarians, buttermilk is a great substitute. Above all, the most important factor for baking that perfect bread comes from kneading and proofing the dough. 
While your first few attempts with bread dough might deter your spirits as kneading is quite a job and messy too, but if you really want to enjoy the luxury of eating freshly baked bread you have to put in that extra effort. With time, this will become a task which you can accomplish with the back of your hand. Although I had passed the first hurdle of successfully kneading the bread dough and quite nicely too with the perfect rise ( my dough always breaks through the clingwrap!), I was always very time bound. 
Considering the busy lives that we lead and the amount of time that bread baking needs, I always wondered about the results of "Postpone Baking" where you can knead the dough in advance and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to start the process. For today's bread, I kneaded the dough in the morning and let it rise for 2 hours and then refrigerated it until I was ready for the second proofing. The yeast did not show any kind of irregularity and was perfectly normal as with the regular procedure. This gives me a big respite as hereon I will be following this procedure which saves me a lot of time and effort, especially when my little one is back from school and demands all of my time. 
So my only advice to all my baker friends is to keep trying and oneday you will definitely bake that perfect bread. Maybe this is the one! So go ahead and give it a try!

1 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used)
1/3 cup milk powder
1 tsp instant active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp steak seasoning (optional; can use any seasoning like cumin powder, garam masala powder or anything that you like and which will compliment the pesto)
3 tsp olive oil plus little extra while kneading
100 ml warm water
1 egg

For the filling
3-4 tbsp Pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter for brushing the top after baking
Milk for brushing the top

In a bowl, mix warm water and sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes until frothy. 
In another bowl, mix the flours, milk powder, salt, seasoning, and egg. Now slowly pour in the yeast mixture and start kneading the dough, either with the electric mixer with the dough hook or with your hands. Today I started off with the electric mixer till the dough was well combined and then started kneading with hands. Saved me a lot of time and effort. Halfway through the kneading when the dough has come together but very sticky and when you are compelled to add in extra flour, add the oil. That will release the stickiness from your hands as well as the dough and help you to smoothen it out. Continue kneading until the dough is still quite moist but non sticky. Since you are using wholemeal flour, it is really important to have a wet/moist dough. Now grease the bowl as well as the outer side of the dough and cover with a clingwrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size. 
After the first proofing, I punched the dough for 3-4 times and again wrapped it up and kept it in the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours. Once I was ready for the process thereafter, I took it out and let it come to room temperature before continuing with the process. 
If you are following the regular process, after the first proofing punch down the dough and gently roll out the dough into a round/oval shape. I placed a parchment sheet below while rolling which helped to keep the mess away. Rolling it thin is advisable as otherwise you will end up with thick fat slices. 
Now apply the pesto with a butter knife evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle the salt and pepper evenly on top keeping in condideration the salt content in your pesto. Gently start rolling in the dough just like rolling in a carpet. Seal the edges by pressing it down. 

Now cut the dough lengthwise into two. 

Hold one side of the dough and start braiding the strips on top of the other. Don't worry if there is filling all over your hands. Once done, you can just apply it back in the dough from top. 

Bring the edges together to form a ring and keep it aside covered in a warm place for the second rise. If your dough was in the refrigerator, allow it to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled. Without refrigeration this should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
Towards the end of the proofing time, pre heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. Brush the top with milk and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top and the crust is still slightly soft when pressed down but hard to feel and gives a hollow sound when tapped. 
Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Apply butter on top and keep covered wiith a kitchen towel meanwhile. Slice and enjoy warm ovenfresh bread!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Broccoli Pesto

Feeding kids the goodness of green vegetables can be at times quite challenging, especially when they become bored off eating the same stuff the same way everyday. This pesto recipe caters to both kids and adults and can be enjoyed by varying the amount of spicing while tossing the pasta. Packed with the nutrition of beautiful green Broccoli and the medicinal benefits of Basil, this recipe is a must try for your family.

1 medium sized Broccoli cut into florets and washed
15 gms Basil leaves
50 gms flat leaf parsley
A handful of pine nuts (I did not add with any measurement. In the absence of pine nuts, you can use walnuts)
1 tbsp garlic chopped
1 tbsp olive oil plus a little for the top of the bowl after preparation

Boil the broccoli florets in salt water for 4-5 minutes until just tender. Drain and let it cool. You can reserve the liquid for later boiling your pasta. Lightly toast the pine nuts/walnuts and keep aside. In a grinder, make a paste with all the ingredients including the broccoli and the pine nuts and olive oil and make a smooth paste. Transfer to a glass bowl or jar and cover the top with olive oil to keep the pesto fresh. Toss the pesto with your favourite pasta in a little olive oil and a combination of cream and cheese and seasoning for that restaurant quality delicious Italian Pesto Pasta. You can also try this variation of Pesto made with Spinach. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Zucchini and Walnut Cake

I am not very adventurous when it comes to food, except for anything sweet. Having said that, I do try and experiment but only if it appeals to me. Today's recipe is just that. While in India, grocery shopping was never in my to-do list and so I did not have much idea about the varieties available in the market. However, after coming to Singapore, my life took a 360 degree turn and suddenly I was in-charge of every single household duty. So while doing my usual rounds in the supermarket, the Zucchinis lined up there always made me curious about their taste and texture. With all the food groups around, I did have a fair idea,  but it never really inspired me to try it at home. As such I am not a great vegetable lover and so was even more not motivated enough until I saw this wonderful cake recipe posted in one of those food groups. The very next day I got a pack of Zucchinis home and the results are for all to see. I loved this veggie and rest assured there are many more recipes lined up. Till then enjoy this moist and crumbly cake with your favorite cuppa.

1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar (regular white sugar can also be used)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups grated fresh zucchini
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp mixed spice (you can either add the bottled one or prepare a powder of dry roasted, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven at 175 degree celsius.  Butter a large loaf pan and keep it aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Squeeze out the excess water from the Zucchini as much as possible and stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a little at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the spice mix over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes (check for doneness at 35-40 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack to cool thoroughly. Can be stored in airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy either warm or cold with your favorite cup of tea/coffee.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Illish Macher Jhal (Hilsa Fish in Mustard Sauce Gravy)

Hilsa and mustard go hand in hand, especially when it comes to Bengali Cuisine. While the most famous of all is Steamed Hilsa in Mustard Sauce Gravy or simply Bhapa Illish as we Bengalis call it, this recipe is also equally famous and brings out a whole new flavor and taste. For those who like and enjoy the pungency of Mustard, this dish is a treat. So go ahead and enjoy this super easy and super yummy Bengal Special Illish Macher Jhal!

4-5 pieces of Hilsa, washed and cleaned
1 1/2 tbsp mustard seeds, soaked for 1/2 hour
1 small tomato, chopped (optional; I like a bit of tang in my mustard gravy)
1/2 tsp nigella seeds or kalaunji
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp sugar
2-3 green chillies
1 +1 tbsp mustard oil

Make a paste with the soaked and drained mustard seeds, green chillies, and the tomato. If adding tomato, no need to add extra water. Keep aside.
Marinade the fish pieces with little salt and turmeric and keep aside for 10-15 minutes. 
Now heat oil in a pan and fry the fish until slightly golden. Remove from pan and keep it in the dish you are going to serve. The fish will be releasing some of its juices and so this is important for a tastier gravy.
In the same oil, add the kalaunji and add the mustard paste. With a dash of water, rinse the grinder and add it to the pan. Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, sugar, and salt (be careful as you have already added salt to the fish). Stir and let it come to a boil. Add the fish pieces and cover and cook on a low flame until the fish is cooked. Do not overcook else the mustard will turn bitter. Remove from heat, add another tbsp of oil on top (optional) and serve hot with steamed rice.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sweet and Spicy Apple Cranberry Relish

In the kitchen, usually one thing leads to the other. While I was making my bread at home yesterday, I suddenly remembered my three bright shiny apples lying sad in the fridge. With a box of dried cranberries also at hand, I immediately jumped upon the idea of making a yummy relish to go with my beautiful bread. While I did not start making the chutney until I sliced my bread ( I wasn't sure if it would be good to eat), I jumped up with joy as this was the most delicious wholemeal bread I have tasted or had made in recent times. From there, it took me just under 1/2 hour to get the relish ready and what a combination it was! I will be making some pooris as well over the weekend to enjoy this delicious chutney apart from having it with bread.


3 firm apples, either finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup dried cranberries or 1/3 cup raisins
1 medium onion chopped
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
11/2 tsp chilli powder
3-4 tbsp brown sugar ( you may as well try with jaggery or simple white fine sugar)
1/4 cup balsamic or cider vinegar (can add regular vinegar too but lesser in quantity. If using jaggery, no need for vinegar) 
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

In a pan, heat the oil and add the onions. Fry till pink. Now add the apples, cranberries, and all other spices. Mix well. Add the sugar and salt. Mix again. Now, add the vinegar and cover and cook on a medium to low flame for about 15-20 minutes until the fruits are softened and the gravy is getting thickened. Check the seasoning and adjust as per taste. Keep stirring more often now as the liquid is drying up and there are chances of it getting burnt. Remove from heat and store in a glass bowl or container. Remains good for upto 1 week in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long though. Here is how I relished my Relish!


Wholewheat Honey Oats Bread

When it comes to baking, I am always quite pepped up and do not mind taking that extra effort of baking something exotic at home. Today's recipe was a trial run for wholewheat bread (my previous attempts never gave me satisfactory results) ahead of my in-laws arrival next week. It will be quite a hectic schedule for me and so I want to plan my days well in advance. With husband travelling most of the days and no domestic help, I am getting myself prepared for a major social storm. Also, staying away from India and from family and with my husband's frequent tours, I have become quite a loner and so the idea of someone (be it my own family) coming and staying with us is quite intimidating. Nevertheless, I do not have any option and so I should rather make the best of this time by trying new dishes and recipes and experimenting with a few. So be prepared to see a whole lot of interesting recipes, mostly pure vegetarian, and delight yourself and your loved ones by recreating these in your own space.

1 3/4 cup wholemeal flour (you can use regular aata/wholewheat flour)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup quick cooking oats ( I used rolled oats as that is what I had at hand)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter (I used low fat Olive Butter)
1/3 cup milk powder
1/4 cup honey
2 1/4 tsp instant active dry yeast

1 1/3 cup warm water

For brushing
1 1/2 tbsp melted honey
Oats for sprinkling

In a bowl, mix the warm water and honey and dissolve the yeast. Let it stand until frothy for about 10 minutes.

Mix the flours, oats, milk powder, and salt. Now take a big bowl, and pour in the yeast mixture. Add the melted or softened butter and slowly add the flour mix and start kneading until everything is combined. This is the most daunting part as the dough will be too sticky and wet and you will be inclined to add more flour. At this point, I oiled my hands with a little olive oil and continued kneading patiently until the dough was still wet but non sticky and no longer entirely sticking onto the kneading surface or your hands (a bit is okay). Since it is wholemeal flour, it is important that the dough is wet and not dry.
Now lightly oil the dough and also the bowl and keep it covered in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2-2 hours. My dough was almost overflowing out of the bowl in 2 hours. So ensure that your bowl is big enough to allow the space for it to rise. Once the first proofing is done, take the dough out and gently pull the edges sideways and fold back in. Repeat for a few times and then give it your desired shape or put it inside a greased loaf tin for the second proofing, about 1/2-1 hour. Towards the end of the second proofing, pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius. Meanwhile, brush the top of the dough generously with melted honey and sprinkle oats gently pressing into the dough so that it sticks. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until golden on top. You might find the top a bit soft even after 40 minutes and might be inclined to bake it further. I did so and left it for another 10 minutes without checking which is why my crust got a bit burnt towards the edges. The bread is actually done in the first 40 minutes or max 45 minutes and the crust hardens while cooling.
Remove from the loaf pan and let it cool "completely" before slicing. Unlike hot cakes, hot bread is not good to eat! I enjoyed my slice of homemade bread with this yummy Apple and Cranberry Chutney.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Goan Paneer Curry

Everything about Goa is special. The food, the beaches, the people, the drinks, and in fact everything and anything about it. I simply love this place and when we were in India, this used to be one permanent holiday every year. While this place is famous for a number of goodies, when it comes to food nothing can beat the popular Goan Fish Curry. The chicken adaptation is also equally good but today I decided to give a vegetarian twist with this superbly yummy Paneer version. Although it does not have the special fishy flavors, but vegetarians do not prefer it anyway and today's recipe is especially for them to enjoy this much missed Goan Delicacy. Serve it with some steamed rice and enjoy this yummy Goan dish!


300 grams paneer
3 pieces of 1-inch cinnamon
3 pieces of cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
4-5 black peppercorns
1 tsp poppy seeds
10 whole red chillies
1/2 coconut grated 
2 onions, directly roasted on stove top until skin charred
4 big garlic cloves or 5 medium
1 tsp garam masala
6 tbsp tomato puree
3 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
2 tsp + 3 tbsp oil ( I used Olive Oil)

Heat 2 tsp oil and lightly roast the cinnamon, cloves, poppy seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and red chillies. Transfer to a coffee grinder or mixer and let it cool. In the same oil, fry the coconut until the raw smell disappears and slightly browned. Take care not to burn it. Add this to the grinder. Now, remove the charred skin of the stove-top roasted onions and chop. Add this to the grinder too. Lastly, add the garlic cloves and grind everything to a smooth paste using very little water. 
Now, heat another pan and add 2 tbsp oil and lightly fry the paneer pieces and keep aside. In the same oil, add the paste and fry for 3-5 minutes stirring continuously. Now add the puree, garam masala, salt, and sugar and fry till the mixture starts leaving oil from the sides. Add the fried paneer pieces and mix gently taking care not to break the pieces. Now add the cream and stir. Keep it covered for 3-5 minutes on liw flame. Check for seasoning and remove from heat. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Prawns Malai Curry (Malai Chingri)

This Easter Weekend has been the most hectic with dinners organized on all three days. While just one was planned, the rest was completely unplanned and was organized with just a couple of hours prior information. Whatever it was, I thoroughly enjoyed and more so as all the dishes were totally delicious and earned me some of the best accolades ever. What else does a cook/chef long for ? The best of all was this Prawn Curry made with coconut milk. It is a famous Bengal delicacy and is an absolute favorite for every Bengali household and also for those who get the chance to taste it once. Easy to make and with some very simple and easily available ingredients, you cannot go wrong with this recipe. 

500 gms prawn, washed and deveined (use the medium ones with tail intact if at hand. I made with the small ones though)
200 ml coconut milk/cream (if using cream, dillute it with 1/4 cup water)
1 big onion or 2 medium onions chopped
3-4 big garlic cloves or 4-5 small ones
1 inch piece ginger
2-3 green chilles, 1 chopped and rest slit
2 bay leaves
1 inch piece cinnamon
2-3 cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 tbsp ghee
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp mustard oil ( you can replace with regular vegetable oil but this dish tastes best with mustard oil)

Marinade the washed and cleaned prawns in a little salt, turmeric powder and lemon juice and keep aside for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make a fine paste with the onions, ginger, garlic, and 1 chilli. Add a little water if you need to. 
Heat the ghee in a pan and fry the marinated prawns till slightly golden and wilted. Do not overcook or you will end up with rubbery prawns. Remove from the pan and keep it in the dish you are going to serve. In the same pan, now add the mustard oil (add as per your understanding as there will already be ghee left from frying the prawns as well as some of the juices from the prawn) and bring it to smoky hot. Now add the whole spices and let them crackle. Add the onion paste and fry till the raw smell disappears and changes to a slightly golden color. Now, add the dry spices and fry till oil starts separating from the edges. Lower the flame and then slowly add the coconut milk/ cream dilluted with water while stirring continuously. Bring it to a boil and then add the fried prawns. Cover and lower the flame to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes till the gravy thickens a bit. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice and a dollop of ghee. Bliss!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Chicken Yakhni Biryani

This weekend has been the most indulgent one with cooking dishes which require some of the most sinful ingredients in the pantry. We hosted three dinner parties, one planned and the others unplanned. Now while the planned dinner had an elaborate menu, I hardly had any time to plan for the other. So I quickly went through my archives and pulled out this recipe which resulted in the best Biryani I have ever made. I did one twist in the usual procedure by cooking it in the electric cooker for the last step. The rice was perfectly cooked and the biryani was the most amazing one with delicate flavor and awesome taste. This Biryani is a Moradabad Special and is called Yakhni Biryani where Yakhni stands for Broth. It is very mildly spiced and can be enjoyed by kids as well. A must try recipe if you love your Biryani!

For the Yakhni
1 kg chicken washed and cut
4 cups boiling water
1 onion cut into 4
4-5 cloves crushed
1 inch piece ginger crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
12 green cardamoms
12 cloves
2 inch cinnamon
3 bay leaves

For the Biryani
2 1/2 cups Basmati rice, washed and soaked for 1/2 hour
4 tbsp ghee
200 gms yogurt
2 tsp good quality garam masala powder
2 onions, sliced
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 bay leaves
5-6 green chillies slit (use as per taste)
5-6 mint leaves, optional
1/2 tsp orange/yellow food color
A big pinch saffron soaked in 1 tbsp cold milk
1 tbsp kewra water
Salt to taste

Preparing the Yakhni
In a pressure cooker, put all the ingredients listed under Yakhni preparation and pressure cook for3-4 whistles. Keep aside and let the pressure release completely. 
When it cools down, carefully separate the meat from the broth. You might see some spices getting stuck to the meat. You can leave a bit of it or remove it completely. Now strain the broth and reserve the liquid. Throw the spices as their work is done.
Preparing the Biryani
In another pan, heat the ghee and add the bay leaves and fry for 30 secs. Add the sliced onions and fry till golden brown. You can reserve a little of the fried onions for garnishing the biryani later or just let it be. Add ginger garlic paste and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Then add the green chillies and garam masala. Now add the yogurt and stir and simmer for 5 minutes till it changes color and oil starts coming out. Now add the meat pieces and salt and stir and let the meat and masala get cooked together for 5 minutes. Add the soaked and drained Basmati rice and give a gentle mix. Now transfer the entire contents to an electric cooker and add approx 2 1/2 cups of the reserved broth or Yakhni and let the biryani cook till the rice is done. Check once for seasoning before turning on the button for cook. Alternatively, you can do the entire process (starting from the beginning of frying the bay leaves) in a cooker and add the soaked and drained rice and 2 1/2 cups of the yakhni and let it cook for 2 whistles. Again, check the seasoning before putting it to cook. 
Once done, add the remaining ghee, mint leaves and a little garam masala. Finish it off with adding the saffron milk and kewra water. Serve hot garnished with fried onions and raita or green chutney. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Cranberry and Cinnamon Eggless Pancakes

In about a week's time, my in-laws will be here for about 3 weeks. While my Mum-in-law passed away way back in 2000, my Father-in-law will be accompanying my husband's Grand mum on her first International holiday. My FIL is quite a no-fuss person when it comes to food but the same cannot be said about my husband's grand mum. She is a widow and follows a strict no onion, no garlic vegetarian diet which is freaking me out. Although she is quite active and manages her own cooking, but when you have guests at home it does not quite look good to let them do all the cooking. So as a preparation for their arrival, today's recipe is an eggless pancake with dried cranberries and served with honey for breakfast. Easy and quick and good to eat!

Ingredients (Makes 10 Pancakes)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp olive oil (you can replace this with 1 tbsp butter if you want a more buttery flavor)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Fistful of dried cranberries or anything of your choice 
3/4 - 1 cup milk 

In a bowl, mix all the wet ingredients except the milk. Now add the flour, cinnamon powder, and the baking powder and mix. Add milk little at a time to form a smooth cakey batter. It should not be too runny or too thick. Lastly, add the dried cranberries and mix. Cover and keep aside for 5-10 minutes.
Now heat a non-stick girdle and add a bit of oil. Add spoonfuls of the batter on medium heat and cook till golden on one side and little holes appear on the top. Flip and cook on the other side as well. Remove from heat and serve hot with some honey or maple syrup or any syrup of your choice.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Bengal Special Bhapa Doi/Mishti Doi

There is hardly any Bengali who does not like his Mishti Doi. While I am an Assamese by birth, but I love this Bengal Delicacy more than my Bengali husband. Though there is not much of a difference in Bengali and Assamese cuisines, this sweet caramalized Yogurt is a trademark of Bengalis and their feasts cannot be complete without it. When we shifted out of India, this was one of the most missed dishes among others. I never knew making it at home was so easy and simple and required just three basic steps. Mix, Bake, and Chill! Yes, it is that easy and the baking part makes me even more happy. The calories are indeed there but I tried to use everything low fat and so a little less guilt. But when it comes to your favorite food, do those calories really matter? Thanks to Soma Mukherjee's perfect recipe!!

200 ml milk (I used evaporated milk for a more creamier and rich texture)
400 ml (1 can) low fat condensed milk
200 gms thick yogurt whipped
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

Whip the yogurt till smooth. Now mix in the condensed milk and the evaporated milk (or regular milk) and whisk it to a smooth mix. If using brown sugar, simply sprinkle it on top. Now preheat the oven at 125 degree celsius for 5 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes until set. It might take longer for different ovens. Midway through cover the top with an aluminium foil. Keep checking in between and adjusting the temperature. This can also be made in the Microwave on medium High with 10 minute intervals. When done, it will still be a little wobbly in the center just like a cheese cake but steady from the edges. Let it cool in the oven, door closed for about half an hour. Now take it out and let it cool completely. Garnish with chopped pistachios and chill in the refrigerator until served. 

Chicken Rezala- A Bengal Delight

The best time for me to make indulgent dishes is when I am having guests over for dinner or lunch. While on a regular day me and my husband are quite conscious about what we are eating, having guests over calls for a feast and I try and make all that had been on my to-do indulgence list. Today's recipe is one such rich high calorie dish which calls for almost all sinful ingredients in the pantry! Ghee, cashew nuts, cream, oil are all there in this recipe and without any doubt turns this dish into the most delicious of all. So go ahead and prepare this awesome Bengal delight and please don't think about the calories. For once, for the love of food!

For marination 
1.5 kg chicken washed and cut
1 tbsp ginger paste or finely grated
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 big onions, sliced
2-3 green cardamoms, 3-4 cloves, 2" cinnamon, 1 black cardamom, 1-2 mace, 5-6 black peppercorns 
1 cup yogurt 
1/2 tbsp oil

For the gravy
1 medium onion finely sliced
1/2 tbsp poppy seeds or khus khus soaked
1 tbsp broken cashew pieces, soaked
1 tbsp magaj seeds (melon seeds) soaked
1 tsp shahjeera 
2-3 whole kashmiri red chillies 
Few strands of saffron soaked in milk
1 tsp nutmeg powder 
1 tsp white pepper powder
2 tbsp ghee
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp kewra essence
2 tbsp cream
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and add the whole garam masala listed under marination. Let the aroma arise and then add the sliced onions. Fry till translucent and then add the ginger garlic paste. Fry till raw smell disappears. Remove from heat and let it cool. Grind to a paste. It is okay if the whole garam masala does not grind very fine. That only adds to the taste. 
In a bowl, marinate the chicken with the spice paste just prepared, salt and yogurt. Marinate for 3-4 hours. 
In a pan, heat the oil and ghee and add the shahjeera and whole red chillies followed by the sliced onions till golden brown. Shake the chicken off the marinade and add to the pan. Fry to seal the juices that is until the chicken turns white. Now add the rest of the marinade and keep frying on medium high till the excess water evaporates. 
Meanwhile, make a paste with the soaked cashews, poppy seeds and magaj seeds. Add this paste to the chicken and mix. Add 1/2 cup water and cover and cook till chicken is done. Keep stirring in between to avoid sticking at the bottom. 
Once the chicken is done, add the kewra essence and saffron soaked milk and stir. Check for seasoning and add pepper powder. Reduce the gravy a bit if there is still excess water. We do not want a runny curry but a thick one. Lastly add the cream and stir and remove from heat. Serve hot with rice/pulao or naan. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Oats and Poha Uttapam (Oats and Beaten Rice Savory Pancakes)

There is nothing much to write about this recipe except that it was simply yummy and my family, including my baby, happily enjoyed their Uttapams without even realizing that they were eating Oats! A very healthy and nutritious breakfast, I had them for dinner instead as I was in no mood to do any major cooking. I have some guests coming over for dinner tomorrow and it is going to be a cooking marathon for me. The dessert is also setting in the fridge and the main course is going to be quite elaborate too. So settled for a simple dinner yet quite filling and healthy. Now, who says you cannot have breakfast for dinner!

1 cup rolled oats, lightly roasted
1 cup thin beaten rice or Poha
1/4 cup semolina or sooji
200 ml buttermilk (you may use yogurt diluted with water)
1 cup or more water to soak the oats, poha, and sooji
1 medium onion chopped
1 inch piece ginger finely grated
Fresh coriander leaves chopped
1-2 green chillies chopped (optional)
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Salt to taste

Soak the oats, poha, and sooji in a bowl with the buttermilk and a little water so that it just covers the mixture. The total water and buttermilk mixture should not exceed 3 cups, else you might end up with a watery batter. Let it stand for about 10-15 minutes and then with the help of a hand blender, blend it to a smooth paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Heat a non stick girdle and add a little oil. Tilt the girdle so that the oil gets covered on all sides. Now add a little batter and gently tilt the girdle again so that the batter gets spread on its own. Do not make it too thin as it will be difficult to lift later. Cook it on med high heat till golden on one side and then gently flip. There are chances of it getting stuck so be careful while lifting, slowly scraping with a spatula. Serve hot with green chutney and enjoy this delicious and healthy meal.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Buttermilk Wholewheat Herbed Pizza

Some experiments in the kitchen really leave you spellbound. Today's experience with my pizza dough was one such experiment which I am really glad to share. The pizza was superb. Thin crust, soft texture, and the perfect crunch. What else can you ask for? Even my husband, who does not like pizzas at all, served himself 3-4 slices and loved every bite.
My baby, two days back, came back from school and suddenly started ranting about eating a pizza. I don't know where and how she learnt about pizza as neither me nor my husband ever spoke about it. It might be some lesson or video in school which gave her the idea and she totally fell for it. 
Nonetheless, I thought of giving her a taste of it and since she has been having homemade bread for dinner since the past few days, I decided to make some for her. Wholewheat was the obvious option for flour and to make my baking more interesting, I decided to use buttermilk for kneading the dough. I already had gained some confidence while making my Garlic Pinwheels yesterday with buttermilk. However, this time I was working with wholewheat flour, which acts tricky at times. The outcome of the experiment was so exhilarating and the veggie toppings with the tomato coriander base sauce only complemented the taste further and this became the best pizza I have ever had! Try it if you also want to enjoy a bite of this heavenly bliss!


For the dough
1 1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour 
1 tsp instant active dry yeast
120 ml warm buttermilk
1 tsp olive oil for rubbing
50 ml warm water (keep it handy while kneading the dough if it turns a little dry)
1 tbsp steak seasoning (you can use any seasoning of your choice or skip it)
3-4 tbsp freshly chopped dill or any herb of your choice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

For the topping
1/2 cup mixed bell peppers, chopped
1 small onion, diced
3-4 button mushrooms, sliced
Few pieces of feta cheese
Few pieces of olives
2 tbsp any tomato base sauce
2 tbsp green coriander chutney
1 tbsp olive oil mixed with some dried herbs of your choice (I used the olive oil dressing in which the feta cheese and olives came packed in the can)
Cheese to sprinkle on top (optional; I used it only for the part my baby was eating)
Red chilli flakes and oregano while serving

Other Ingredients
1 tbsp or less corn flour for dusting the baking pan

In a bowl, take the bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Now add the olive oil dressing and give a good stir. Cover and marinade for a few hours until used.
In a glass or a bowl, take the warm buttermilk and mix the sugar and yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes or until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, dill, seasoning and pour the yeast mixture little at a time to knead a soft and moist but non sticky dough. If you find the dough too dry, add a little warm water. Remember, wholewheat flour absorbs more water than refined flour and so the dough needs to be a little moist but non sticky. Transfer to a clean and dry surface and knead the dough until it no longer feels sticky. Rub a little oil on your hands and rub it on the dough. Cover with a cling wrap and keep it in a warm place until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
Take the dough out and punch it down for a few times. Cover with the cling wrap and return to the warm place again for the second proofing, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Now take out the dough and place it on a parchment paper. Dust it with some cornflour. Cornflour not only ensures that your pizza will not stick while baking but also imparts a wonderful flavor. With the help of a rolling pin, roll it out from the center towards the sides in a uniform thickness. Brush the top with a little olive oil to avoid getting soggy from the pizza sauce. 
In a bowl, mix the tomato sauce and coriander chutney and spread it out evenly on the rolled out dough. Ensure that the paste is not too heavily spread, else the dough might turn out soggy. Follow it up with some grated cheese. Now sprinkle the oiled veggies including the feta cheese and olives or any other topping that you are using covering all the corners and gaps. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper (optional) and red chilli flakes. Top it with some more grated cheddar cheese (again optional).

Now pre-heat the oven (do this while getting the pizza ready) at 230 degree celsius for 30 minutes. While pre-heating, place an extra piece of parchment/cookie sheet on the baking tray and pre-heat the sheet as well. This will ensure a crunchy crust at the bottom. 
Bake the pizza in the pre-heated oven at 200 degree celsius for 20 minutes until the crust is golden. Keep checking in between however for the veggies. If you feel the veggies might get burnt, adjust the temperature accordingly. Remove from oven and serve hot.


Garlic Pinwheel Rolls with Fresh Herbs

So it has been a bread week at my home this week. Starting with the Savory Bread Muffins and today's Pinwheels and a few more to come in the coming days. I am quite happy actually, if you ask me, making fresh bread at home. Firstly, the aroma of bread baking in the oven is so nice that you just can't get enough of it. Secondly, I had a pack of Bread Flour which I had opened long back but hasn't been put to much use and I fear that the flour might just get wasted. Thirdly and most importantly, I love baking more than cooking (these are two different things, for those who don't know) and given a chance, I would love to be a part of the former. So here is today's baking adventure in the kitchen, Garlic Pinwheels. While I had and know the basic bread recipe, I decided to give a twist to it by making it with buttermilk. The result was a super rich and soft texture from the inside and a lovely crunch from the outside. In fact, I loved the texture so much that from now on I would only be using buttermilk in my bread and with it, I don't even need to add any extra oil or butter. Now, how'z that? 
Note: Please scroll down to the end to see the recipe update.

1 1/2 cups bread flour (you can replace it with all purpose flour and 1 egg)
100 ml plus warm buttermilk (keep some warm buttermilk handy, in case you need to add a bit more. You can also use warm water instead)
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp steak seasoning (you can replace it with any seasoning of your choice)
1 tsp olive oil (use on your hands if required to work through the dough)

For the filling
1 tbsp finely grated garlic mixed with 2 heaped tsp butter (I used low fat olive butter. Margarine or any other low fat bread spread of your choice can also be used)
1 tbsp fresh dill or any other fresh herb of your choice, finely chopped 

Mix the yeast and sugar in warm buttermilk and let it stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. 
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the rest of the ingredients and pour the yeast mixture little at a time to knead a smooth elastic dough. Transfer the dough onto a clean slightly floured surface and continue kneading for 5-10 minutes till you get a smooth yet moist non sticky dough. Lightly oil your hands and rub it on the dough. Cover with a cling wrap and transfer to the bowl and keep in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled. 
Now take the dough out and punch it down a few times. With the help of a rolling pin, now roll out an oval/rectangular disc of uniform thickness. It should not be too thick, else the pinwheels will be too chunky. Now evenly spread out the garlic butter with the help of a bread knife and sprinkle the fresh herbs on top. Now starting from the top, gently roll in the dough just like rolling in a carpet and once done, press the ends with your fingers. 
Now, with the help of a sharp knife, cut out 1 inch thick pieces from the roll and arrange on a baking dish, either lightly greased or lined with parchment paper. Cover and return to the warm place for the second proofing, about 45 minutes. 
When you are near the end time, pre heat the oven at 200 degree celsius for 15 minutes. Bake the pinwheels for 15-20 minutes until golden on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan covered with a kitchen towel before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Recipe Update
Here is an update to this recipe which I tried with Wheatgerm. A very healthy and rich in essential nutrients like dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, folic acid, and Vit E. It also very low in cholesterol and sodium, thus giving a healthy twist to these pinwheels even if you are using plain flour. Here is the update.

New Ingredients
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
50 ml warm water 
1 tbsp milk for milk wash
Rest of the ingredients remain same

The procedure is same as given in the recipe above, with the following changes:
1. Prove the yeast with 50 ml warm water and 1 tsp sugar. Keep the buttermilk at room temperature. 
2. Mix the flour, wheatgerm, and salt and add the frothy yeast and the buttermilk and knead as directed above.
3. When ready to put into the oven, give a milk wash, either with your hands or using a brush. This helps to achieve that beautiful golden color.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

It's a soupy week for us starting with a simple Tomato and Carrot soup yesterday and a little exotic Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup. While the name sounds very exotic, there is actually nothing much to it. All you need is to roast the red peppers on stove top or in the oven, just like you do for brinjal, and then the rest of the procedure is a cake walk. I enjoyed this delicious and mildly spiced bell pepper soup with some herbed garlic pinwheels, freshly baked in the oven. Fresh bread and soup is such a lovely combination, don't you think?

4 stout red bell peppers
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2-3 stems of parsley, chopped
1 russet potato, chopped (you can use regular potato as well)
1 tsp basil and oregano mixed
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp or more of low fat sour cream/regular cream
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil

Wash and clean the bell peppers and roast them on stove top on medium heat until charred from all sides. Remove from heat and keep in a bowl and tightly close the lid. Let it remain for 10 minutes or more (I kept it for more than 2 hours as I was away for some work). Now gently rub off the charred skin cleanly and remove the seeds and stem and chop it into small chunks.
In a deep bottomed vessel, heat the oil and add the garlic and onions and fry till translucent. Now add the parsley, potatoes, chopped bell peppers, and the herbed spices. Stir for a while and then add the chicken stock. Bring it to a boil and cover and cook on a medium flame till potatoes are tender. Now remove from heat and let it cool. You can either use a hand blender or a mixie and blend the soup for a few pulses. Now put it back on the pan and season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and stir. Remove from heat and serve hot.


Savory Bread Muffins

This week my husband suggested having only soup for dinner and some bread to go with it. The thought of baking fresh bread at home gave me quite a kick and I started planning and searching for good recipes online and from my archives. I wanted a one meal bread with no left overs and this recipe was exactly that. Although I halved the recipe and changed a few ingredients, the technique was what excited me and I was just too happy to see the results. Super soft from inside and crusty on the outside, these bread muffins became the perfect companion for my piping hot tomato carrot soup. The best part of baking these bread muffins was that my 2 year old loved them and kept asking for more. A happy baker and a happy mother!

1 1/2 cups bread flour ( you can replace it with all purpose flour and include 1 egg)
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp steak seasoning (you can replace it with any seasoning of your choice)
1 tbsp olive oil
100-150 ml warm milk 

For the filling
2 tbsp finely grated garlic
1 tbsp mixed herbs
Butter to roll

Mix the yeast and sugar in warm milk and let it stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. 
In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the rest of the ingredients and pour the yeast mixture little at a time to knead a smooth elastic dough. Transfer the dough onto a clean slightly floured surface and continue kneading for 5-10 minutes till you get a smooth yet moist non sticky dough. Lightly oil your hands and rub it on the dough. Cover with a cling wrap and transfer to the bowl and keep in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled. 
Now, take the dough and punch it down 2-3 times to bring it to its original size. Make equal sized balls out of the dough, about 4-5, and make further 4-5 balls out of each individual ball. Take a non stick muffin pan (you may grease it lightly as well) and take a small ball, made from the first ball, and gently roll on the butter, then on the herbs and lastly on the garlic. Repeat till you are done with the 4-5 balls made from a single ball. Make sure not to overdo with the herbs and garlic, else you might get overpowered by the flavor. You may roll the mini dough balls alternatively on the garlic and the herbs to get a more balanced flavor. Gently press these mini dough balls into a single muffin hole and then continue the process with the rest of the mini balls. 
Cover the muffin pan and return to the warm place for another 45 minutes for the second rise. When you are near the end time, pre heat the oven at 200 degree celsius for 15 minutes. Bake the muffins for 15-20 minutes until golden on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Almond Pistachio Choco Chip Brownies--Kid's Special

My baby is now close to 2.5 years old and as she is growing up, feeding her the right nutrients is becoming a bigger challenge. There was a time when she would eat whatever food and vegetables I would give her without any fuss and today is a time when even her favorite food keeps changing every week! These growing years are the most important for any child and forms the foundation for a healthy being later in life. As such, I do not mind doing a bit of brainstorming and tweaking a few recipes and making the best use of my baking skills. Almonds and pistachios are known for their fibre and vitamin content and are considered healthier nuts with lesser calories. While calories would be the last thing on my mind while feeding my baby, I know I would be sneaking in a few bites while feeding her and so that applies to me. So here is a simple brownie recipe made with Almond and Pistachio meal and to make it a little more tasty for those puddly hands, I added a few choco chips as well. The result was superbly moist and soft brownies which were happily gobbled up by my baby with both hands. An effort well paid off!

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup almond pistachio meal (soak the almonds in warm water for half an hour and then remove the skin. Dab the almonds on kitchen towel to remove excess water or sun dry them for 10-15 minutes. The quantity of almonds and pistachios depends on your liking. I took 50-50 proportion. Grind the dried almonds and pistachios to a fine paste/powder and store in air tight container in the refrigerator)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup fine sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Choco chips as per your liking

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder and keep aside. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy . Add the eggs and vanilla essence and beat further. Now fold in the flour mixture little at a time until smooth. Next goes the Almond Pistachio meal and mix well. This might form small lumps. Take care to form a smooth batter. Lastly, tip in the choco chips and give a gentle mix. 
Pre-heat the oven/microwave at 175 degree celsius/high for 10 minutes (5 minutes for microwave convection) and grease and flour a square cake tin. Pour the brownie batter (which is a little thicker than the usual cake batter) into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly with the help of a spatula and tapping the sides and bottom. Now bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the sides start coming off the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Store in airtight containers and serve warm.

Lobongo Lotika--Kheer Stuffed Mini Samosas

First of all, a very Happy Bihu and Shubho Naba Borsho to all my friends and readers from East and North East India. It is a major festival in this part of India and is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. This Spring Festival marks the beginning of a New Year as per Hindu customs and hence is celebrated in some name or the other throughout the country. With globalization however, this festival is now not just restricted to the respective states of India, but has travelled across the boundaries and is celebrated among small Indian regional associations in the form of enthusiastic family get togethers. In Singapore we have, in fact, two Assam Associations and a couple of Bengali Associations as well which celebrate this Spring Festival amidst their group of members. 
When you are staying outside the country, becoming a member of such groups becomes a little imperative in order to keep yourself connected to your roots. The Assam Association that me and my husband are a part of, however, are arranging for a Bohagi Bidai (bidding Adieu to the first month of the year) as they are bringing in a popular Assamese singer to entertain the guests and his dates are unavailable during the actual festival. Now, being away from my native place and hearing all the stories about the hustle and bustle happening in my state right now, I could not keep myself away from celebrating Bihu in whatever small way I can. So I got together with a few of my Assamese and Bengali family friends over here in Singapore and planned a mini Bihu/Poila Boishakh meet. 
While everyone brought in some delicacies for the dinner, I decided to try my hands on some traditional Bengali Sweets. It turned out that this particular sweet is the ultimate favorite of not just my Mom but her entire clan, including my cousins from the Maternal side. Now, it became more imperative for me to nail these as a gift for my Mom on this New Year. The procedure is simple, though a bit lengthy, and all you need to nail this sweet is some practice with kneading the dough. I hope you try this delicious Indian sweet and usher in this New Year with lot of sweetness and happiness to last you through the year.

For the filling
1 litre full cream milk
1/2 cup khoya/mawa
Sugar as per taste (I added about 2 tbsp low fat condensed milk and about 2 tbsp sugar)
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom powder

For the dough
1 cup all purpose flour/maida
2 tbsp ghee
A pinch of baking powder
A pinch of salt
12-14 long-stemmed cloves

For the sugar syrup
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp kewra/rose essence
3-4 cardamoms
Few strands of saffron

In a deep bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil and put in the khoya. Stir till the khoya dissolves completely and no lumps remain. Now add the sugar or condensed milk and continue stirring on a low flame until the mixture thickens and forms a lumpy thick rabadi/kheer like consistency as shown in the picture below. Remove from heat and keep it aside covered until further use.

Now, time to prepare the dough. Take the flour and mix all the ingredients and knead a smooth soft dough. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Now make 12-14 equal sized balls out of the dough and roll out each into a thin disc. Put 1 heaped tsp in the center of the disc and fold in the sides as shown in the picture below. Take a clove and seal the dough parcel with a clove in the middle.
Now time to prepare the syrup. Boil the sugar and the water along with the other ingredients. You need the syrup to be thicker than a gulab jamun syrup. Once the syrup starts boiling at the surface and looks sticky, take this test. Take a shallow bowl of water. With a spoon take a drop of the syrup and drop it in the water. If the syrup dissolves, it is too thin for this sweet. If you see the syrup forming a thread like structure on the water surface, you know your syrup is ready.
Now the final step. Heat oil in a pan and to test if the oil is hot enough, chuck in a small piece of dough in the oil. If it rises up with bubbles, oil is ready. If it sinks, it needs to heat up some more. If it burns, switch off the heat. Now, fry the dough parcels one or two at a time giving each enough space to get cooked through on beautifully golden fried on both sides. Keep adjusting the heat to avoid burning or over browning. Drain the excess oil on kitchen towel and immediately dip them into the prepared sugar syrup. Keep it immersed for 5-7 minutes and then take it out on a serving dish. Repeat for the rest of the parcels and serve hot. This tastes best when served hot from the syrup. You can store them in air tight containers in the refrigerator and slightly warm up before serving. Enjoy!