Sunday, 29 June 2014

Kashundi Paneer (Cottage Cheese in English Mustard Gravy)

Last weekend was fun. Fun because we were mostly eating out and shopping. At the end of it, by Sunday evening we wanted to eat something simple and homemade. However, these days while cooking, I have to take note of what my baby is in mood for. She said paneer and so paneer it was. I had set out to cook the simple Bengali style Paneer in onion tomato gravy. But the unfinished bottle of Kashundi or English Mustard Paste, as more popularly known abroad, caught my fancy and I decided to create something interesting with it. I had about 3-4 tbsp of the paste and it was sufficient enough for the flavor. In case you do not have Kashundi available, you can also substitute it with fresh mustard paste. However, I would recommend using kashundi as it has a beautiful tangy zesty flavor which perfectly balances the zing of the mustard. The gravy was a perfect balance of tanginess, spiciness, and the subtle zing of the mustard paste. Try this recipe for a refreshing change with your regular paneer curry.

300 gms paneer, cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (optional; Bengalis like potatoes in their curries)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato puree (use 1 tbsp puree if using fresh mustard paste with tomato)
3-4 tbsp kashundi (or 2 tbsp mustard seeds soaked and made into a paste with 1 large tomato)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 whole red chillies
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp good quality garam masala (optional)
Salt as per taste
Oil as required

Heat oil in a pan and fry the paneer cubes till slightly golden. Remove from heat and soak in warm water till further use. In the same oil, fry the potato cubes and fry till golden. Keep aside.
Add a little more oil if required and splutter the cumin seeds, dry chillies, and mustard seeds. Add the sliced onions and fry till translucent. Now add the ginger and fry for a couple of minutes till browned. Add the puree, chilli powder, and turmeric powder and fry till oil starts coming out from the sides. Now add the mustard paste or kashundi and mix everything well. Frying the paste for too long at this point may turn it bitter. Now add the fried potatoes and coat them well. Now with the help of a spoon, add 3-4 tbsp warm water from the vessel where the paneer is soaked. Stir and bring to a boil. Now add the paneer into the gravy and the soaked warm water as per your requirement for gravy. Add salt as per taste and bring it to a boil. Now cover and simmer the flame and cook till the gravy thickens to desired consistency and potatoes are cooked through. Check the seasoning and if desired, add a wee bit of garam masala to enhance the taste. Remove from heat and serve hot with steamed rice or pulao. Mustard tastes best with rice and hence roti or paratha might not be a good serving suggestion.

While choosing the english mustard sauce in place of Kashundi, make sure you pick the one which is more coarse in texture. The fine paste may not give the best results.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Super Easy and Quick Blueberry Sauce

Cooking cannot get easier than this! Just two ingredients and you have a chemical free, preservative free, fresh fruit sauce ready for your anytime use, not to mention the super economical factor. I prepare s fresh fruit sauce every week for my husband 's everyday Granola Parfait breakfast which he loves. Last week it was Raspberry and this, blueberry. Both the recipes are shared below. In fact, you can use this recipe for any berry or a combination of berries!

1 cup blueberries/ raspberries/or any other berry
2-3 tbsp sugar depending on your taste and tartness of the berries
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (if you intend to store it for a longer duration)

Take a non stick pan and put the blueberries and sugar and start stirring on a medium flame. If using raspberries or strawberries or similar, pulse a few times in the blender before adding to the pan for ease of cooking. Cover and cook the sauce on slow flame till the berries are softened and the sauce is bubbling and has got a shining glaze. Keep scraping the sides intermittently. That's where the sugar gets stuck. Now add the lemon juice and check the seasoning. The lemon juice will prevent the sugar from crystallizing and also impart a wonderful flavor. Lastly, add the vinegar and let the syrup reduce to desired thickness. Do not use artificial white vinegar as it will ruin the taste. In case you do not have balsamic or any other sweet vinegar, you can skip it. Store in a clean glass jar with air tight lid in the refrigerator and use a clean spoon every time you serve it.


Simple Tomato Basil Pizza/Pasta Sauce

When you have nothing much to do in the house apart from listening to nursery rhymes morning, day, and night, you need to keep thinking of ideas to keep your brain and mind working. My husband is again out of Singapore (I know, nothing new about it) and as such there is not much cooking to do. So I have started experimenting with a few recipes I have always wanted to try. On one side, I am crazily getting my pickles ready (chilli, mango, and sweet mango) and on the other preparing and stocking some sauces for future use. This tomato basil sauce is the simplest to start with and is a wonderful spread for your pizza base or as a pasta sauce. It is mildly flavored and you can adjust as per your liking. I have made this as a very small batch. You can increase the quantities as per your requirement.

 3 medium tomatoes chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic chopped
Fistful of basil leaves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly crushed pepper to taste

In a pan, heat the oil and add the chopped garlic. Fry till fragrant and add the tomatoes and basil and mix. Cover and cook on a medium flame till mushy and completely softened. Keep stirring in between. Remove from heat and let it cool. Now take a big bowl and put a sieve on top. Pour the tomato mixture through the sieve and start pressing with the back of a spoon till only the tomato skins remain. Scrap the bottom of the seive from the outer side and discard the flesh.

Put the sieved tomato puree back to the pan and start stirring on a medium flame. Add salt and pepper and continue stirring till the sauce thickens a bit. Remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl/jar. Let it cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Dahi Kabab

Some dishes are meant to be delayed until the perfect time and today was one such day. I had this lingering thought of preparing dahi kababs some day but somehow I never happened to look up its recipe or really took interest in making them. All I knew was that they are made of hung curd with a few other ingredients, besan being one of it. I am not a big fan of besan and so the recipe never got onto my priority list, though I did think of making it sometime in the future. After my last weekend's party, I had about half a bowl of yogurt dip lying in the fridge and I just knew I had to make them. I quickly looked up some recipes, mostly with besan, until I found this recipe by Tarla Dalal where she used Paneer. I was super pleased and immediately jumped onto the wagon. The kababs were the most amazing melt-in-the-mouth types bursting with flavors. You have to try it to believe that an ingredient as simple as the yogurt can give you such illustrious result.
1 1/2 cup paneer grated
1/2 cup hung curd (in my case, I used the yogurt dip made with hung curd)
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp coriander leaves chopped
1 tbsp bread crumbs for binding
1/3 cup fried onions (preferably crispy fried)
1-2 chillies chopped (optional)
Salt as per taste
2 tbsp chopped cashews
2 tbsp raisins
Bread crumbs for rolling the kababs
Oil for shallow frying

In a bowl, take the grated paneer, hung curd, spices, nuts, 1 tbsp bread crumbs, and salt and mix well. If you feel the mixture is not binding well, add some more bread crumbs just enough to bind it all together. Adding a lot of bread crumbs will make it taste like more of bread pakora. Add the fried onions and mix well. Check for seasoning. Now take small ball sized portions from the mixture and gently press between your palms to give the shape of a kabab. Roll the kababs on a plate of bread crumbs and arrange on a plate. Repeat for the rest of the mixture. Now keep the plate of the ready to fry kababs in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or until ready to fry. 
Heat a little oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the kababs till golden on both sides. Remove from heat and serve hot with coriander chutney. You can keep these kababs ready in the fridge for frying just before serving. Ensure that you keep them covered when keeping for longer duration.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Rustic Wholewheat Hummus Bread

Leftovers are never a pleasant sight for any homemaker. Especially, if the leftovers are from a party, it becomes even more imperative to use it up in some way as you know the amount of effort that has gone into its making to be served before your guests. I had some of my husband's colleagues (of different nationalities) come over for dinner last weekrnd and while Indian was in the main course, as requested by them, I had served some Middle Eastern delights for starters. A friend had brought in some Hummus to put off some cooking load from mine. Some of it was left over and was stocked in the fridge but I wasn't sad at all as I already had something planned for it. A Hummus bread. It was delicious, full of flavors, and healthy too. What better way to use up that bowl!

1 1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (can be replaced with bread flour or if available use 1/2 tbsp vital wheat gluten or bread improver)
1 egg
3/4 cup hummus (either store bought or homemade; recipe coming up soon)
1/4 cup white sesame seeds roasted
1 tbsp garlic oil (mix garlic powder in olive oil)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (optional)
120 ml warm milk
1 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
Olive oil for greasing

In a bowl, take the warm milk and add sugar. Mix. Dissolve the yeast completely and let it stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
Now, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and start pouring in the yeast liquid. Mix well either with a spatula or your hands. Next add the beaten egg and the hummus and start kneading the dough. Halfway through when you feel the dough getting dry, add the garlic oil and continue kneading till a soft, smooth, and elastic dough is formed. Lightly oil the outer side of the dough, cover with a cling wrap, and keep in a warm place like the microwave or oven for 1-2 hours or until doubled.
Take the dough out and punch a few times to release the trapped air. Now take a greased loaf tin of medium size and lightly grease it. Shape the dough like a loaf and place it in the greased tin. Cover and keep aside in the warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. 
Towards the end of the second proof, pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. Remember to keep a tray of warm water inside the oven at this time while pre heating. Now take the loaf tin out. It should have risen beautifully now and if using the perfect sized loaf tin, it will also start coming off the rim taking the shape of a beautiful loaf. My tin was a little bigger and so could not witness that sight. Lightly grease the top with a little olive oil for a crunchy crust and bake in the pre heated oven with the tray of warm water still inside at 180 degree celsius for 30 minutes or until the top is slightly golden (not browned) and sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove from the tin and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Sunk Fruit Sponge Cake

I know the name sounds a bit wierd but that's how it is. In baking you skip a single step, however unimportant it may seem like, and you can see the difference that step brings to the dish. After my cooking extravaganza on Saturday, I was idling on the couch when suddenly I had some craving for a fruit cake. Too tired as I was, my craving also seemed to be simple enough to be dealt with. I quickly got the ingredients together, whipped, and baked all within 1 hour from start to finish. Everything was done in a jiffy and I was quite happy with my "little effort, great results" simple sponge cake until I turned it over on the cooling rack. Darn! I did not flour the fruit pieces before adding to the batter! As a result, I had a beautiful soft and moist sponge cake sitting on a bed of cherries and raisins. On second thoughts, I did not mind it actually as it is easier to feed this cake to my baby who otherwise does not like tid- bits in her cake. So it's a fruit cake for me and a plain cake for her! Do give this simple cake a shot, with or without flouring the fruit pieces, and enjoy a soft and moist spongy bliss with your cuppa.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 scant cup oil
4 eggs
2 tsp vanila essence
1 tsp lemon zest
1 scant cup sugar (I used half brown, half white)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp custard powder
1/3 cup dried fruit bits (add more or less as per your liking)
A pinch of salt

In a bowl, take the eggs and with an electric beater whip till smooth and creamy. Add the oil and beat further. Add vanila and sugar and beat till fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and custard powder. Add this mixture little at a time to the egg mixture and beat. Reserve little flour and mix the fruit pieces in that (this is the step I skipped). Fold this fruit flour mixture to the batter and mix with a spatula. 
Pre-heat the oven at 180 degree celsius. Grease a medium sized or 2 small sized  loaf tins and pour the batter into it. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire racks completely before storing in air tight containers.


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fish Biryani

Biryani in itself is a scrumptious and feasty meal, considering the  amount of effort and spices that go into its making. Serve it with some freshly whipped raita and you have some happy faces around, be it family or friends. While the most popular among biryanis are the chicken, mutton, and vegetable variants, there are some lesser known siblings such as this Fish Biryani. Some people find the smell and taste of fish a little offensive and owing to that this form of biryani hasn't got its due. However, for fish lovers this is an ultimate change from those regular curries and grills. The spicing is moderate and the procedure simple, which makes this dish even more amazing. The best part of this dish is that it gives you the liberty to cook it with any kind of fish that you have and still taste equally awesome. Deboning the fish is preferable so as to enjoy an uninterupted meal but that is left totally upon your preferance. I made this dish for a guest who does not eat chicken and I am glad that he doesn't as otherwise I would not have been able to experiment and share the results with you all. Lastly, I would like to thank Fauzia of Fauzia's Kitchen for this amazing recipe. 

3 cups long grain fragrant basmati rice (good fragrance will balance the smell of sea fish, if using, which some people find offensive)
Whole spices for using during the initial cooking of the rice (you can use whatever spices you have at hand like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace, etc.)
About 5 cups of warm water for cooking the rice 
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 tbsp cold milk
Finely chopped coriander and mint leaves
Deep fried onions (about 2 small onions crispy fried)
1-2 tbsp ghee as per preference (optional but recommended)
For the fish masala
600 gms boneless fish cut into 2 inch cubes (boneless is preferred though not mandatory; you can use any fish as said earlier; I used a beautiful white snapper fillet)
3 medium onions thinly sliced
2 tomatoes finely chopped
3-4 tbsp tomato puree (I prefer store bought which lends a better color)
1 big tbsp ginger garlic paste
2-3 tbsp coriander finely chopped
1/2 cup yogurt whipped
1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2-3 green chillies chopped
1 tsp red chilli powder, non spicy
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
Oil as needed
1 tsp red chilli powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cloves garlic minced

In a bowl, mix all ingredients listed under marination and add the fish cubes. Coat the fish evenly with the marinade. Cover and keep aside for a minimum of 1-2 hours and upto overnight.
Meanwhile, wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes. Then bring the water to a boil and add the soaked and drained rice, whole spices, and a bit of salt (I skipped) and cook till the rice is just 3/4th done. I cooked the rice in my electric cooker. 
Now heat oil in a pan and fry the fish cubes little at a time just until slightly golden on high flame. They need not be properly cooked at this point but just firm enough to hold their shape in the biryani. Discard the marinade. Keep the fried fish cubes aside until further use.
In the same pan, add some more oil if required and heat. Now add the sliced onions and fry till golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft and mushy. You can cover and cook to expedite the process. Now add the puree and the spices and fry till oil starts appearing on the sides. Add the nicely whipped yogurt and continue frying till the water is absorbed and a thick gravy with oil coming out from the sides is formed. Now add the fried fish cubes and gently stir taking care not to break the fish. Check for seasoning and adjust. Add the coriander leaves and mix. Remove from heat.
Time for the final step. There are two ways of doing it. You can either do it on stove top or in the oven.
For stove top, take a deep bottomed non stick vessel (preferably) and apply a generous amount of oil or ghee at the bottom. One step further, you can also line the bottom with a layer of sliced potatoes. Now arrange one layer of the rice evenly followed by the fish masala reserving just about 4-5 tbsps for the top. Now sprinkle the finely chopped mint and coriander and some fried onions. Drizzle a little ghee. Top it up with the leftover rice and followed up with the left over fish masala in the center. If any rice is still left you can sprinkle on top of the fish masala. Garnish it some more fried onions, the soaked saffron, and mint and coriander and another tbsp of ghee. Cover the lid tightly and place the vessel on a tawa or griddle and cook on slow flame for 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can arrange the layers as mentioned above in a oven proof dish and cook covered with aluminium foil at 180 degree celsius for 10-15 minutes. Make sure your oven is pre heated. You can also get the layers arranged and keep it ready and cook the final stage just 30-45 minutes prior to serving to enjoy steaming hot biryani. Serve it with some cucumber raita and enjoy!



Homemade Roomali Roti

Roomali Rotis always remind me of that guy standing in one corner of the open kitchen in Indian weddings and quietly swirling paper thin rotis in the air for the entire evening. Looking at him it seemed so effortless and like he has been doing since ages. It was one of my favorites in all the weddings and is even today. Staying out of India, its availability in the Indian restaurants almost became null until I came across this post by my fellow blogger and good friend Priyanka Sushant Varma (yeah, we share the same name and passion) where she shows an easy fool proof method of making the softest Roomali Rotis ever! I did two variations of the recipe on two different days, once with 100% plain flour and once with 50-50 plain flour and wholewheat. Both the versions were delicious. The 100% plain flour remained soft even the next day and was more appreciated. You can try both variations and see for yourself which one you like best!

1/2 cup wholewheat flour (for the variation, use plain flour instead of wholewheat)
1/2 cup plain flour 
1 tbsp ghee/oil (I used for guests, you can skip on regular days)
Warm water for kneading a soft dough (for variation use warm milk; I also tried using whey water instead of water; whey water is the left over water after churning paneer at home)
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp rice flour
Ghee/oil to be used while rolling

Take all the dry ingredients in a bowl and start kneading a soft dough using water or milk. The dough should be softer than a chapati dough but non sticky and smooth. Cover and keep aside for 20 minutes. 
Heat the griddle/tawa and pull out two plum sized balls. Start rolling the two side by side. Once it reaches the size of a chapati, lightly grease one rolled out chapati and sprinkle a little rice flour. Now place the other rolled out chapati and start rolling together as thin as possible. Now put it on the hot tawa and as soon as bubbles appear on one side, quickly flip and toast on the other side. It takes just a few seconds to make this. Overcooking may result in hard and dry chapati. Remove it from the flame and quickly separate both the rotis, fold and keep wrapped in a kitchen paper towel. Repeat for the rest of the dough and keep wrapped in paper towels in casseroles until serving time. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Middle Eastern Lemon Yogurt Grilled Chicken

Sometimes it is best to go by the recipes which have given you satisfactory results in the past rather than venturing out to try new recipes for the same. The same happened with me last evening when I set out to try a new recipe for Pita Bread instead of following my own which I had done in the past with quite satisfactory results. Neither of my Pita puffed up this time and was quite a disappointment. I would not say that the recipe was wrong since the same one was tried by my friend with wonderful results. May be it was just not my day. The bread was yummy and soft, nevertheless, but minus the pockets. To go with it, I had marinated some chicken in Middle Eastern Style and the way it turned out once grilled totally compensated for all the Pita disappointment. Juicy, flavorsome, soft, and succulent, this grilled chicken was one of the yummiest grilled chicken I have had in recent times!

500 gms chicken boneless breast (I used with bones)
3 tbsp thick yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil to grease the baking dish

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the marinade and add the chicken, washed and cut. Coat the chicken properly and prick with a fork all over. Marinate for a minimum of 2 hours and upto overnight. 
Pre-heat the oven at 220 degree celsius. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and grease it with oil. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer and discard the marinade. Grill in the pre heated oven for 15 minutes while flipping once in 10 minutes. You can also pan sear the chicken in a shallow frying pan.

Baked Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Dip

Cooking for family and for special invitees is never the same. While for the former you can always experiment and afford to go wrong, the same cannot be said for the latter and especially when they are your husband's foreign colleagues. This Saturday I have a mammoth task of hosting some multi-national guests ranging from Australians, Deutche, Chinese, and some Indians too. While initially the plan was to avoid any Indian food considering the low tolerance to Indian spices of my guests, but on special request the menu has been altered to accomodate the same. Cooking for 10 people with no help is completely out of my range. So I decided to keep some heavy starters/appetisers for the guests to have with drinks and by the time dinner is served, they will be already half full, saving me the effort of cooking in huge quantity! 
I wanted to do a trial run before the actual dinner and rectify any mistake or improvements that I may need. So here is the first recipe for the starters that I intend to serve, Baked Falafels with Tahini Yogurt Dip. It is a popular Middle Eastern dish served with Pita bread, Grilled Meat, and Salads. Hummus is also one of the popular condiments but I have kept it for some other day. The falafels are traditionally deep fried but I decided to go a little off beat and baked them which not only is good for health but also saves you from the effort of standing and frying all the balls. The baked falafels were however equally crunchy and beautifully browned like their fried counterparts and were quite soft and juicy from the inside too. So no compromise with taste while still high on health.

For the Falafel
1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight and half a day and changing the water once in a while
1 stalk of spring onions, white included
4 fat cloves of garlic
2-3 stalks of coriander leaves
Half a fistful of mint leaves
2-3 stalks of parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Juice of half a big lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Tahini Yogurt Dip
1/2 cup thick hung curd ( I used greek yogurt)
1 tbsp sesame seeds lightly toasted
1 tsp minced mint leaves
1 tsp minced parsley
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
1 tsp black pepper powder
Juice of half a big lemon
Salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Making the Dip
In a coffee grinder, grind the toasted sesame seeds to a fine powder till oil separates and then add the olive oil to make a smooth paste. The consistency should be thick but pouring. 
In a bowl, beat the hung curd/greek yogurt till smooth and add all the ingredients. Add 1 tsp of the tahini (Sesame paste) while reserving the rest in a airtight bowl in the refrigerator and use within a week. Mix everything well and keep in the refrigerator until used.
Making the Falafels
Wash and drain the soaked chickpeas. In a mixie or food processor, grind the chickpeas till smooth without adding any water. Now add the parsley and mint and pulse till blended. Next add the coriander and spring onions and pulse till well blended again. Add the garlic, spices, salt, and olive oil and continue blending till light and fluffy. Pulsing the ingredients one at a time is the key to a fine lump free paste. 
Now generously grease a mini muffin tray with olive oil while pre-heating the oven at 200 degree celsius. Take plum sized balls from the mixture and gently give it the shape of a ball and place it in the greased mini muffin holes. Continue with the rest of the mixture. You may need to make it in two batches as I had a 12 hole muffin pan and this mixture yields about 22-23 balls. The rest of the mixture you can shape it into balls and arrange on a plate and refrigerate till half hour before baking time. 

Bake in the pre heated oven for 15 minutes on one side and then flipping the sides and bake for another 10 minutes on the other side. Be careful not to over brown the falafels which will result in a dry inside. Monitor the temperature as well as the time as per your oven conditions.
Serve the falafel with the yogurt dip and enjoy Middle Eastern Cuisine from the comforts of your home!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sweet and Spicy Iranian Carrot Pickle

I saw this recipe almost 3 months back and ever since, it was on my mind. In fact, I had bought my first pack of dried apricots just for this recipe and while I still kept fiddling with the thought of making it, the apricots managed to score highest on my favorite dry fruit list and now a regular in my pantry. Some more months would have still passed by before I could make this pickle when finally yesterday I did some jar shopping and I knew now is the time. Not that the recipe is difficult to make, in fact it is one of the simplest ones to make. I was just occupied with a few more important things and today when I finally made it, I realize what I had been missing all this while. The recipe was shared by a very talented fellow food blogger Amrita Gill which was passed on to her by her Iranian friend in her college days. A must try recipe, especially if you love your pickles and chutneys!
2 cups carrot grated
1 1/2 cups fine grain sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (can be replaced with sugarcane vinegar or apple cider vinegar or any sweet vinegar)
1/3 cup dried apricots sliced
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dates (I did not add as I do not like)
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/4 tsp garam masala powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp heaped red chilli powder
Salt to taste

Soak the apricots and raisins in the vinegar overnight in the refrigerator, preferably in a glass bowl. 
Heat a pan and add the carrots followed by the sugar. Strain the soaked apricots and raisins and add the soaked vinegar from the bowl. Let the mixture come to a boil while stirring continuously on a medium flame. Now add the chopped garlic, soaked and strained fruits followed by the spices. Mix everything well and let the mixture reduce while stirring in between. When all the liquid evaporates, remove from heat and transfer to glass jar or bowl and keep the lid open.  Refrigerate once completely cool. Enjoy with a wide range of Indian breads, fritters, samosas, or anything that you fancy!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

No Knead Cranberry Cream Bread Muffins

It has been some time since I baked a proper flour bread. Blame it on my recent holiday or the bout of ill health right after that, I was just not intrigued enough to do something as tedious as kneading a bread dough. Somewhere down there in my sub-conscious mind, however, the baker in me was itching to bake something new and interesting, but the regular focaccias and loaves. I searched a lot on the Internet for exciting bread recipes/ideas but none really appealed to me. 
I had almost given up on the thought when suddenly I decided to get a little adventurous and without any second thoughts, jumped onto the idea. I was feeling lethargic to knead on a hot summer day and so thought of giving a shot to a 100% new experiment in the kitchen with ingredients rarely used in bread baking.
I had read about No Knead bakes but never got to try it and what better time than now. The ingredient that I am introducing to Bread Baking today is something which we have used quite often in cakes and curries but never in breads (not that I know), whipping cream. The texture and the taste of the bread is to eat it to believe it! What a wonder I baked at such an impromptu thought! As they say, the best words are spoken when spoken from the heart and this bread elegance is straight from the heart!
2 cups bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used, you can additionally use 1 egg for a softer texture or skip it)
100 ml warm water
1 tsp instant active yeast
100 ml whipping cream (regular cream can be used as well; if using egg, reduce quantity by 50 ml)
3 tbsp brown sugar, divided (can be substituted with regular sugar, quantity depends on your taste preferance)
3/4 - 1 cup dried cranberries (quantity depends on your preference)
1 egg for the egg wash mixed with 1 tsp water
Butter for brushing after bake

In a bowl, take the warm water and add 1 tbsp sugar and dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for 10 minutes until frothy.
In another bowl, take the flour and add the remaining sugar. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Using a spatula, start putting the dough together untill all liquid is absorbed. There will still be dry dough in the bowl. Now add the cream (no need to whip it first) and the beaten egg, if using. Continue stirring with the spatula, scraping the sides. At this point, you can either use a stand mixer with the dough hook or simply use your hands to bring the dough together. You need not knead a smooth dough, just a moist elastic dough. It should however not be sticking entirely on your hands. Transfer the dough to a clingwrap and wrap it nicely. Place the dough in an oiled bowl in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

Once prooved, prepare a muffin tray with paper liners. Punch down the dough gently to release the air and pinch out small plum sized balls. Add some cranberries to the ball and fold it in. Place it in the lined paper cup. Alternatively, you can add the cranberries directly to the risen dough and then pinch out plum sized balls. Once the entire dough is used up, cover with a cling wrap and let it rise again in a warm place for another hour until doubled.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 220 degree celsius. Take the muffin tray out and brush the top with the egg water mixture. Bake in the pre-heated oven at. 200 degree celsius for 20 minutes until the top is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and brush the top with little butter. Let it cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then serve. This bread is best had when hot from the oven. For subsequent servings, re-heat in the oven for 5 minutes for best results. Regular Microwave is also an option.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Healthy Refreshing Breakfast - Chilled Granola Parfait

On my recent trip to Hong Kong, the one thing that I regularly had was Granola Parfait for Breakfast. The hotel that we stayed had a complimentary breakfast, as in most hotels these days, and among other things the Granola Parfait was the one which scored the highest marks. Hubby passed a gentle remark that he wished he could eat this regularly at home for breakfast while I pretended not to hear a word! 
Coming back, this was on my top priority list but got a little delayed due to my ill health. While the granola at the hotel was a rather simple one with not much nuts and fruits, this homemade version is packed with the goodness of almonds, pistachios, apricots, and raisins. 
Parfait is typically a French dessert for layers of ice cream, fresh preserves, fresh fruits, nuts, chocolate, and usually topped with a huge dollop of whipping cream. This granola parfait however is ideal to be had for breakfast, mid mornings, after gym, or during afternoon/evening hunger pangs. All you need to do is prepare the layers separately and keep it handy and just assemble and eat! You can also keep your glass assembled in the fridge and let it chill till serving time. Have a happy and healthy weekend!

For the granola
1 1/4 cup baby rolled oats (any variety is okay)
1/3 cup regular cornflakes, crushed coarsely
Handful of almonds chopped (quantity depends on you)
Handful of pistachios chopped (again depending on your discretion)
Handful of raisins chopped
Handful of dried apricots chopped
1/2 cup honey
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter

For the sauce
1 pack packed raspberries (can be substituted with any berry and quantity depends on your discretion)
Sugar as per taste
1-2 tsp water

Other ingredients
2-3 tbsp whipped yogurt
Fresh/frozen strawberries or whatever available

Dry roast the oats, cornflakes, and all the chopped nuts till oats is slightly browned, nuts crunchy and fragrant. Remove from heat and let it cool.
In the same pan, melt the butter and add honey, water, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the roasted oats mixture and stir till well coated. Continue stirring on medium flame till the excess liquid dries up. Transfer to a parchment paper and spread it out with the help of a spatula. Let it cool completely and then transfer to air tight container and can either be kept at room temperature or in the refrigerator. This granola might not be too hard and crunchy, depending on the quality of your honey. However, it is perfect for the parfait.
Now moving onto the sauce, blend the raspberries coarsely in the blender. Transfer to a wide pan and add sugar according to taste and a dash of water. Put it on a medium flame and stir continuously till a shiny glazed liquid with medium thickness is formed. Remove from heat and transfer to a glass jar and let it cool completely before refrigerating it. 

The assembly
Take your parfait glass or your serving dish. Add 2 heaped tbsp of the sauce followed by the whipped yogurt. Sprinkle the granola on top taking care not to dunk it in the yogurt. Lastly, top it with some fresh/frozen strawberries or any other fresh fruit. Serve chilled!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Stuffed Veggie Flax Foccacia

Some experiments in the kitchen leave you astounded and some disappointed. My day at the kitchen today was rather very interesting and the results definitely left me astounded. I had bought a pack of organic Flax seeds for a bread and the opened pack was lying since then. I knew I had to use it up soon as it did not come very cheap and so started looking for options to use it up. All recipes either used it as a egg substitute or simply as a topping for breads and muffins. I wanted to do something different which is when I came across this simple Flax bread recipe. It seemed quite bland and distasteful at the look of it and so I decided to give it a makeover. Voila! What it looked initially and what it turned out to be. I made it as a small batch and really regret as there is hardly any left for my dinner. The best part is you can have as many as you want and not worry about those carbs and feel light and energetic even after gobbling up a good 4-5 wedges. Play with the stuffing and recreate it with anything of your choice and you and your family can happily stay and eat healthy!

1 cup golden flaxseeds (you can use any variety)
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup water
Scant 1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp stevia or regular sugar
Salt to taste
For the stuffing
1/2 cup diced assorted veggies (carrots, bell peppers, peas, corn)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tsp garlic salt (you can use crushed garlic and salt separately)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp parsley
Few pieces of Feta cheese
Handful of sliced olives
1 tsp olive oil

In a pan, dry roast the flaxseeds and grind to a fine powder. Keep aside.
Now, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan and fry the onion till translucent. Add the assorted veggies and fry till just cooked. Add the seasonings and remove from heat. Let it cool.
In a bowl, beat the eggs lightly and keep aside. Mix the flaxmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar in another bowl. Add the beaten eggs, oil, and water and mix well. Now add the sautéed veggies and the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 
Take a ceramic or glass flat dish and lightly grease it. Spread the batter on to the prepared dish evenly with a spatula. Arrange a few olive slices on the top and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, start pre heating the oven at 200 degree celsius even before you transfer the batter to the baking dish. Bake in the pre heated oven for 20 minutes till the top is slightly golden and feels firm. Serve hot with a condiment of your choice or simple sour cream.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wholewheat Cake Rusk

Just back from a wonderful holiday in Hong Kong and immediately after that fell terribly sick. All the recharging and rejuvinating done during the holidays went in waste. Nevertheless, the tummy continues to feel hungry and even more when I haven't had something comforting in the past few days. So I went through the pinned recipes in my diary and found this nostalgic cake rusk recipe which refreshed my childhood memories of one of the oldest bakery in my town then, Osman Bakery. As a child, I used to hate that glass of milk which is customary for every kid to drink. These rusks, which my Dad used to bring ovenfresh from the bakery while on his way back home, were a savior then. Even today, when I want to eat something nice and feel good but without any energy for anything elaborate, these crunchy crumbly rusks are a savior and are a wonderful mate for my cup of honey lemon tea in the evening or anytime of the day. They are just the way I used to have as a kid from the bakery and I am really glad I could recreate the same taste and crunch. The best thing is they are made with wholewheat although ideally it should have been all purpose flour. Frankly though, there is no difference in taste and I had completely forgotten about the wholewheat quotient until I sat down to write the ingredients!

1 cup wholewheat flour (ideally, all purpose flour though no difference in taste)
3 eggs
100 gms butter (approx 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar, fine grain or powdered (white sugar is used ideally; I wanted to make it as healthy as possible)
1 tsp vanila essence
2-3 drops yellow food color
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup tutti fruity (optional)

Melt the butter in the microwave for 10-20 seconds until just softened. Now mix the sugar and whip till creamy and fluffy. Now add the eggs and beat further. Add the vanila essence and food color and mix. Now sift the flour and baking soda together and fold in to the egg mixture little at a time. Lastly, fold in the fruit bits and mix. Pour into a greased or lined medium square baking tin and spread out the batter, which won't be too runny. Smoothen the top and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree celsius for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The original recipe called for 50 minutes but mine was done in 20 minutes flat. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Now, place the cooled cake on a plate and cut into squares or any desired shape. Place the cut squares on a baking tray (need not be greased or lined) and bake at 150 degree celsius for 20 minutes. The baking time here depends on how you like your rusks, hard or softly crunchy. In any case, the rusks while in the oven will still be little soft and will get crunchy only once cooled. So choose your baking time accordingly. I baked them for 25 minutes while turning the sides once in between for uniform browning on both the edges. Once cooled, store in airtight containers.