Monday, 11 July 2016

Chocolate and Almond Torte

A big hello to all my dear readers and a big apology for being out of touch for so long. My weekend Culinary School Baking courses have been really keeping me busy and the baking practice thereafter which leaves me with no time and energy for blogging. To top it all, the blogger app on my phone mysteriously disappeared and I could not find it again on the Apple Store again. Finally, I got my husband to buy a iPhone to laptop connector so that I can access my phone pictures and start blogging again. With this small glitch taken care of, I hope to get back to active blogging now and beginning it with a Superhit Dessert recipe which has got me rave reviews every time I have made it. A simple recipe that it is, the only hard part is baking the meringue and while I am still struggling to bake a clean base meringue, the final dessert does not actually change whether or not you have a perfectly baked meringue.
So go ahead and make this dessert and enjoy the superb compliments that come your way!
Recipe Source: From one of my sessions at the ICCS cook off
6 egg whites
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
250 gms fine sugar (can bring it down to 200 gms if you like less sweet)
90 gms ground almonds (almond meal, almond flour)

For the filling and topping
300 ml whipping cream
100 gms dark chocolate, melted

Pre-heat the oven at 140 degree celcius and keep two oven safe 7" baking plates (I used oven safe ceramic dinner side plates for baking) ready. The plates do not need to be greased or lined. The size is actually not so important. The meringue discs just need to be baked big enough to fit into your final serving dish.
Take the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer or hand mixer and add the sugar. Beat the whites to stiff peaks such that when you hold the whisk up the peak should hold its shape and the bowl inverted upside down doesn't drip down. Now fold in the sifted cocoa powder and the ground almonds and take care not to over mix. A few specks of unmixed cocoa powder here and there is fine. You must take care not to deflate the meringue.
Scoop out equal portions of the meringue into the plates and bake at 140 degree Celsius for 40-50 minutes until the top is dry to touch. Now slightly open the oven door and let the meringue discs cool inside the oven until completely cooled.
While the meringue cools in the oven, prepare the cream. Whisk the cream to soft peaks using your hand mixer or stand mixer. Now slowly pour in the chocolate and whip to stiff peaks. Keep aside in the fridge covered until ready to use.
Now, take your preferred serving dish (preferably of the same size as the meringue discs) and place one of the discs carefully on it. It is possible that the discs may break as you try to lift it or it may just stick at the bottom. That is completely fine. The shape of the meringue does not really alter the dish as it will be covered in cream. Scoop out the meringue keeping most of the crunchy part equally spread across the dish. Top it with a generous amount of cream and spread it out evenly. Layer it with the other layer of meringue disc following the same procedure as the previous one. Top it with the remaining cream and smooth out the top. Cover the dish with clingwrap and let it set in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Garnish with fresh Strawberries or chocolate shards and serve chilled!!

Monday, 16 May 2016

Fudgy Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake in any form and any recipe is always a delight for kids and adults alike. This is again a recipe I learnt at the cooking group I have joined recently and I am happy to say that it is delightfully easy. You can use this recipe to make a chocolate tart, as a base for fruit truffle, or to make an ice cream cake. Make it once and you will know how to use this recipe further. Enjoy!!
100 g salted butter
250 gms brown sugar (I used roughly 200 gms as I like it less sweet)
2 eggs
150 gms plain flour
45 gms cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract 

30 ml of strong coffee (optional but recommended)

Frozen Raspberries/Strawberries (fresh can be used as well)

1-2 tbsp almond meal/semolina/desiccated coconut/plain flour for greasing(whatever is available but one of the first two options are recommended)


Grease and flour a 6" pan (I used almond meal). Pre heat the oven at 175 degree celcius. 

Melt butter in a bowl in the microwave and let it cool slightly. Add the eggs and beat. Now add sugar and mix well. Add the coffee if using.

Add rest of the ingredients and mix well making sure there are no lumps.

Pour some batter in the prepared pan and in an artistic way push raspberries into the batter.  

Pour the rest of the batter on top. Put in the middle of the oven at 175 degree celcius for about 15-20 mins. Use a toothpick to check if it is done. Batter should not get stuck on the toothpick. It should be just cooked otherwise the cake will be too dry (I went wrong here and overbaked it by about 3-4 minutes). 

Note that there’s no baking powder so cake will not rise. It should be quite flat and compact.

Serve warm with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream. The cake is well suited for freezing. Do try and experiment different recipes and tarts that you can use this recipe for. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Vietnamese Fresh Rice Spring Rolls

These rolls are as fresh as fresh can be. Prepared in a jiffy and so refreshing to eat, these rolls are a perfect starter on a hot summer day. I have recently joined a cooking group which meets fortnightly and consists of members from across the globe. There are over 300 members from across 73 countries divided into 26-27 groups of 10-12 members each. The members of each group meet fortnightly or weekly or monthly and one of them hosts the session each time with a cooking demo and followed by a lunch thereafter. Not only do you get to learn and taste different cuisines free of cost, you also meet wonderful people from across the globe and get to know different cultures and eating habits. Isn't that a wonderful group to be in? I am completely loving being a part of it and this recipe is just the beginning of many such sessions (read recipes) that I shall be attending (tasting and trying) in the future. So stay tightly tuned!! 
Fot the rolls
Rice paper sheets preferably 8" (else it gets too small and fat to roll)
1/2 cup Rice flour vermicelli 
Few leaves of lettuce and cilantro 
Few slices of mango cut lengthwise 
Few slices of baby cucumber cut lengthwise 
Handful of shrimps 
1/4 cup boiled and shredded chicken 
Few pieces of an omelette cut lengthwise (optional, I skipped)

For the sauce 
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped 
1" piece of ginger finely chopped 
2 tsp brown sugar
5 tsp sesame oil
5 tsp extra virgin olive oil 
6 tsp light soya sauce 
2 tsp lime juice (or 3/4 tsp vinegar)
2 extra hot chillies chopped 

Prepare the sauce first. One thing to note about this sauce is that it can and is better prepared little ahead so that the flavors are well blended and infused for maximum taste. The left over sauce can be enjoyed with boiled noodles (or the vermicelli if left over) or even with steamed rice. It is simply delicious! Just mix all ingredients under sauce and keep it aside until used. If storing for the next day, keep it in the refrigerator. The vinegar/lemon juice helps keep it fresh for longer. 
Next get the vermicelli ready. Soak the rice vermicelli in tap water for 10-15 minutes till slightly soft. Now take a bowl of boiling water (off the stove) and dip the soaked and drained vermicelli in the hot water and keep it soaked for a maximum of 10 minutes or until just soft. Take care as too much soaking in the hot water will make them soggy. This is how they should look. 

Now time to prepare the rolls. Take a huge bowl of room temperature drinking water and set your station with the filling well arranged in one plate and the dry sheets and the bowl of water on one side. 
Dip a rice sheet in the big bowl of water and quickly take it out and place it in your kitchen counter or plate. Fill it up with all the ingredients starting with the lettuce, cilantro, mango, cucumber, shrimps, chicken, omelette strips, and the vermicelli. Now roll it up carefully from one end and tucking the filling in as you proceed. When you reach the end, just fold in the two edges from both ends. They will stick to the surface. Place the roll on a plate and proceed to make the next one. It is possible that the sheets tear in the process of rolling. That is when you soak them too long or the sheets are not too fresh. Don't worry, just procced and a few torn edges do not really matter. 
Serve with the sauce and enjoy this popular Vietnamese delicacy!! 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Strawberry Crumble

With loads of strawberries packed in the freezer and not really keen to indulge in high calorie desserts, this extremely easy Strawberry Crumble recipe was such a delight. The best part about this recipe is its low calorie count and equally delicious output. I adapted the recipe from Nigella Lawson's website with very minimal changes in the sugar content. Prepare this dessert just ahead of your guests and be ready to enjoy the compliments. 
500 gms strawberries quartered (I used frozen and a little less than 500 gms)
50 gms fine sugar (my strawberries were already quite sweet when bought and so I added around 30 gms or 2 tbsp)
3 tbsp ground almonds
5 ml vanila extract
110 gms plain flour
1 tsp bsking powder
60 gms chilled butter (original recipe called for 75 gms)
50 gms brown sugar
60-70 gms finely chopped almonds (increase or decrease or skip as per choice)
Whipped cream for topping (optional)

Pre-heat the oven at 200 degree celcius. Place the strawberries, sugar, ground almonds and vanilla in a medium baking dish and mix well to coat. Make sure the baking dish is deep enough not to let the strawberry juices to seep off the edges. 
In a separate bowl, rub the flour, sifted with baking powder, with the chilled butter till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. To this add the sugar, chopped almonds and mix well. Gently place the flour mixture on top of the strawberries in the baking pan and cover all edges and spread well to cover evenly. 
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until the strawberry juices start seeping up from the edges reaching on to the top of the crumble and the top is golden and crunchy to touch. 
Remove from oven and serve warm with a dollop of ice cream, whipped cream or just like that! 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Kesar Mango Kulfi

Summers are here and so is the craving for ice creams. Sadly, my daughter has a sensitive throat and tends to go down with a cough or cold whenever she eats one and so we need to avoid eating it as well. However, you cannot do much when you crave for something so dearly and so this weekend I decided to prepare a small batch of kulfis for my guests for dinner. It was a big hit and everyone including my little one enjoyed it and kept asking for more. It takes a little time to prepare this as I did not add any thickening ingredient to the milk and kept reducing it on a low flame till it reached desired consistency. Result was a delicious and rich milky goodness and flavored with my favourite fruit. Only thing that I will do differently next time is use fresh mango pulp instead of canned! Pure deliciousness!!
1 litre full cream milk (if in India, do not separate the cream/malai once boiled)
1/2-3/4 can condensed milk (I used low fat and little less as my mango pulp was sweetened already)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder 
Few strands of saffron/kesar
1/2-3/4 cup mango pulp (depending on how strong flavor you want)
Chopped pistachios/dry fruits for garnishing (optional)

Take the milk in a heavy bottomed pan and bring it to a boil. Now mix the condensed milk and cardamom powder and saffron and stir well. Keep the flame on medium low and let it simmer while stirring in between. You can do this along with other cooking that you may have  so that the job doesn't feel too tiring. You will be amazed to see how easy it is when you finish cooking and reducing the milk at the same time. Keep mixing in the layer of cream that forms on the top into the milk each time you stir. 
Once the milk is reduced to almost one-third the volume, remove it from heat and let it cool. Keep stirring again in between so that the layer of cream is constantly mixed into the milk. Once cooled completely, mix in the mango pulp. Add the pulp little at a time and stop when you are satisfied with the flavor. Pour the mixture into kulfi/popsicle moulds and freeze covered until set. 
To de mould, hold the kulfi moulds in running water for a few seconds and then release using the stick. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Seyal Paneer

Once during one of my conversations with a lady in my condominium, she mentioned how much she relished the "Seyal Paneer" she had ordered at a local Indian restaurant over the weekend. I wasn't even sure I heard the name right and on my next trip to that restaurant (intentional) I made sure the dish was ordered. It indeed was very delicious but a little too spicy for my palate. I came back home and tried to search for the recipe and interestingly, there were no recipes at all. All I could find out was that it was a Sindhi dish. Thankfully, I have a few Sindhi friends from Facebook and they helped me out with their mother's recipes and with a little tweaking from my end, the "Seyal Paneer" was finally prepared. I am still not sure if that's the actual name of this dish or just a name given by the restaurant. Whatever it may be, I can assure you that this is the easiest paneer you would ever make and one of the most delicious too. I put everything in a pan, lowered the flame to minimum, covered it, and went for my shower. When I came back after 20 minutes, my masala was ready (without any stirring) and the paneer cubes were ready to go in and ready to eat in 5 minutes!! It is this unbelievably easy. Now go make it!
300 gms paneer cubes
3 big onions finely chopped 
2 tbsp chopped garlic (green garlic is used traditionally, use it if you can find it)
1 medium tomato 
2 tbsp tomato puree (or 1/2 medium tomato)
1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli powder 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
1/2 tsp garam masala powder 
2 tsp coriander powder 
1 tsp cumin powder 
1 tsp cumin seeds 
3 tbsp Fresh coriander leaves chopped 
1-2 green chillies (optional)
1-2 tbsp ghee 
Take a pan and heat the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let them crackle. Now lower the flame and add the finely chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes, puree (if using), dry spices, coriander, green chillies and salt. Mix them all together. There is no need to make anything soft or fried. Just mix and cover and leave it on the lowest flame for 15-20 minutes. This is how the masala gets it's taste and flavor through undisturbed slow cooking. When you see the oil droplets appear on top and along the sides, give a stir and add the paneer cubes. You can add 1/4-1/2 cup water at this point if you find the masala too dry or you intend to eat it with rice. Once the paneer is added, give a stir, and then cover again and leave again for 5-7 minutes till the paneer is well soaked and the gravy looks good to serve immediately. Serve hot with rice or roti/naan/paratha. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Veg Korma

Everyday, I am pressed with this responsibility to prepare a vegetarian dish for my husband to take to office for his shared lunch. Although I am pleased with the thought that he will be eating healthy this way, the stress of cooking something new (at least 2-3 times a week) is hard to handle. So yesterday as I was discussing the food ideas with him, he suggested making Veg Korma and since I never tried it before, I liked the idea. I served some of it to my daughter as well and she loved it too. Hope his office colleagues love the taste as much as I do. 
For the spice paste
1 tsp poppy seeds
6-7 whole cashews
1 tsp fennel seeds
3/4 tbsp coriander seeds
3-4 whole Kashmiri red chilli
1 tbsp roasted chana daal
3 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger
1" piece cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 cardamom 
Water to grind
Other ingredients 
1 large onion chopped 
1 large tomato chopped 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
1/2 cup coconut milk (you can adjust as per your taste)
Salt to taste
10-12 curry leaves
3-4 cups mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, beans, cauliflower, button mushrooms, potatoes) chopped into equal pieces
Water as required 
Start with the spice paste. First grind the poppy seeds to a fine powder followed by the cashews and then the rest of the ingredients one by one to achieve a smooth paste. Keep aside. 
Now, heat oil in a pan and add the curry leaves. Now add the onions and fry till translucent. Next add the turmeric powder and tomatoes and fry till soft. 
Tip in the spice paste and fry till oil leaves the side of the pan. Now add the salt and veggies and fry till they are well coated with the masalas. Add the coconut milk mixed with 1/4-1/2 cup water depending on how much gravy you want. Simmer and cook covered till the vegetables are tender. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with either roti (less gravy) or rice (more gravy). 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Brownie Cheesecake Tarts

January was one busy month. Holiday blues, a series of flu attacks, guests, and then daughter's birthday. The month seemed too short to fit in all the work. Now that it is over I almost feel jobless!! Nevertheless, the cooking classes are starting this week and I am looking forward to a new series even more successful than the previous one. Coming back to daughter's birthday, I decided this time to do the food myself and among other things, this cheesecake tart was the star of the entire spread and turned out awesomely delicious. If you want to step out of the regular cheesecake fad, then this is a must!
For the tarts
300 gms plain flour
150 gms cold butter, cut into cubes
Pinch of salt
1 egg (optional)
2-3 tbsp ice cold water for kneading (reduce quantity if using egg)
For the brownie
140 gms dark chocolate 
1/4 cup butter softened 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup plain flour 
2-3 tbsp milk 
For the cheesecake 
250 gms (1 package) Creamcheese at room temperature 
2 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup strawberry compote or sauce 

Step 1: Making the tarts
Measure out the flour and butter and add the salt. Now keep the bowl in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to chill. Once done, take the bowl out and using your fingers or the dough hook of your stand mixer, start breaking the butter cubes with the flour till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 
Now add the egg and mix. If not using egg, add the ice cold water 1 tbsp at a time till the dough just comes together. Do not make it wet. The dough should just hold together. If using egg, reduce the quantity of water to just about as much required to hold the dough together. 
Now you can divide the dough equally into as many portions you require and tightly cling wrap it and freeze it if not using in the next couple of days or put in the refrigerator to chill until the next step. You can skip the dividing part and freeze/chill the dough as such tightly wrapped in cling wrap. Remember to slightly bring it to room temperature (not completely soft) whenever you are ready to use them. 
Once the dough is chilled at least for 30 minutes, prepare your tart cases and start rolling the dough placed between two sheets of cling wrap. Carefully place the rolled out dough on the prepared tart cases and continue for the rest of the dough. If making a single tart, simply place the rolled out dough on the tart pan and ensure that the dough reaches until the edge of the tart case. Prick the base and sides with a fork and place a parchment paper filled with pie weights or raw beans. 
Preheat the oven at 170 degree celcius and bake the tarts for 12-15 minutes until the sides are golden. Now quickly remove the weights along with the paper. You may at this point choose to brush the base with an egg so as to avoid a soggy base later. You can skip the egg wash though if you are a vegetarian. Now put back the tarts in the oven and bake for another 5-7 minutes until the base is golden. Remove from oven and let them cool. 
Step 2: Preparing the brownies 
In a bowl melt the chocolate and the butter either in the microwave or on a double boiler. Stir in between to avoid the chocolate getting burnt. Now to this add the sugar and the egg and whisk until smooth. Next add the flour and mix. The mixture will be quite thick at this point. Add 2-3 tbsp milk at room temperature depending on how fudgy or cakey you like your brownies. 
Spread out the brownie batter on the single baked tart case or spoon out 1 tbsp of the batter onto the baked individual tarts and even out the top. The brownies will rise while baking. So it is important that you do not fill too much else there will be no space left for the cheesecake topping. 
Bake in the preheated oven at 175 degree celcius until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
Remove from oven and let cool until the next step. 
Step 3: Preparing the cheesecake topping 
In a bowl, take the cream cheese and beat till smooth. Now add the whipping cream and beat till smooth and incorporated. You do not need to beat them to soft peaks but well beaten and smooth. Now add powdered sugar as per taste and whip further. Keep aside and prepare for assembling. 
Step 4: Assembly 
Spoon out the cheesecake topping equally among all the brownie tarts or the single brownie tart and even out the top. Now with a spoon, scoop a small portion of strawberry (or any topping of your choice) compote or sauce on top of each tart and with a toothpick make swirls on top. Chill the tarts until served and enjoy!! 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Shakshouka--An Irresistible Arabic Breakfast

Shakshouka! The dish is as simple to make as complicated as it sounds. I have been hearing and seeing this dish popping up on my FB timeline almost every weekend and while the dish didn't entice me first as I don't quite enjoy poached eggs, the curiosity around this dish kept on increasing with every passing post. Recently, a very dear friend and his wife came to visit us. Serving breakfast is a bit challenging for me and that was when Shakshouka came to my rescue. It is the same Bread and Eggs breakfast but with a delicious makeover. You must try this for your next weekend breakfast and let me know how addictive it is!!
3-4 eggs as per your requirement 
2 large tomatoes chopped 
1 medium onion chopped 
3-4 fat cloves of garlic finely chopped 
1/2 red bell pepper cut into strips
1-2 chillies chopped (optional)
2 tsp fresh parsley chopped 
2 tsp lebanese 7 spices (you can substitute this with 1 tsp freshly ground cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder (you can skip this if using lebanese 7 spices)
1 tsp cayenne pepper 
Salt and pepper to taste 
2 tsp oil

Heat oil in a frying pan and add the onions. Fry till soft and then add the chopped garlic. Keep stirring until the raw smell disappears. Now add the bell pepper and fry just until little soft. Next add the tomatoes and the spices and keep stirring till the tomatoes are mushy and soft and start leaving their juices. Check for seasoning as you won't be able to stir once you add the eggs. Now gently break the eggs on top of the tomato base and reduce the flame to minimum. Let the eggs cook till no clear liquid remains. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top with a dash of freshly ground pepper.   Enjoy with your favourite bread. Goes especially well with challah bread. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Shortbread Chocolate Chip Cookies

First of all, a very happy new year to all my readers. I know I am quite late in wishing but due to health reasons I was quite tied up in the first week of the month. Nevertheless, I couldn't stay away too long from blogging and cooking and so with a very dear friend visiting us this week, I thought it was the perfect time to get back to routine and bake some yummy cookies for them to enjoy with their tea and coffee. These cookies are amazingly easy and eggless too!! You must try these if you have been looking for a quick way to heaven!! 

1 cup butter, just soft enough to beat but not melted
1/2 cup sugar 
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp lemon extract (you can use Vanila, orange, or any flavor of your choice)
Chocolate chips for the toppings 

Best the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Now add the extract and beat for a second. Lastly add the flour little at a time and beat until incorporated. You may use your hands at this time instead of the beater. 
Pre heat the oven at 175 degree celcius and line a baking tray with parchment paper. With the help of an ice cream scoop, scoop out small portions of the dough and drop on the prepared baking sheet. Once you have spaced all the cookies 1" apart, using your hands, smooth the cookie drops to an even top and sprinkle some chocolate chips on top. Bake in the pre heated oven for 12-15 minutes till the bottom is slightly golden and the tops spring back lightly when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in air tight containers.