Monday, June 28, 2010

Palak Paneer

This month Sara is hosting Think Spice - Think Garam Masala an event started by Sunita and the participants have to prepare any vegetarian dish using Garam Masala. This event was just in time for me to use the lovely jar of homemade Garam Masala I got from P. She is one of those super women I know  (not that I know many ), who produce amazing food in the kitchen but still manage to work all day, pick/drop kids at station, finish day-to-day shopping and still look lovely with no signs of fatigue every-time I meet her. I suppose its the "power yoga" she practices. Back to the topic - she gave me this jar and said " Do you know we managed to break our dining table trying to grind this?". I couldn't stop smiling. Apparently P and her kids were all enthusiastic about this fancy grinder they found to grind the spices that had to be fixed to a base like a table and rotated with (some muscle power) to get a fine powder, and in the process managed to break the table :-).
Garam Masala just literally means hot spice mix is widely used in Indian cooking, similar to the curry powder. I make my blend  and have given the recipe below.
Palak Paneer (spinach and Indian cheese Paneer in a gravy) is a staple side dish served at most restaurants in India alongside Indian breads like naan or roti. I like this simple recipe which is just blanched spinach ground to a smooth paste and slightly fried Paneer is added to the spinach gravy. Some do use tomatoes to cut the taste of spinach but I like it just like that or maybe with some cream for special occasions.
Spinach 2 bunches 
Onion 1
Ginger 1 inch piece
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Garam masala - 1tsp
Paneer 200 grams cubed
Cumin seeds 1tsp
Green chillies - 2-4 depending on taste
Clove 1
Salt to taste
Blanch spinach for 2-3 minutes and puree it in a processor with onion, ginger, garlic, chillies until smooth. Put the paneer in hot water for a minute to soften it and drain. (Shop bought Paneer seems to be a bit hard and this is necessary). In a frying pan, heat some oil and splutter the cumin seeds. Now fry the paneer cubes until golden on both sides. Add the spinach puree, salt, garam masala to this and let it simmer for 10-15 min. You could add some water if its too thick. Serve with some naan or flat bread.
For Garam Masala
Cumin seeds 2-3 tbsp
Coriander 2-3 tbsp
Black Pepper 1 tbsp
Star Anise 2
Nutmeg 1/2 tsp
Clove 4-5
Cinnamon 1 large stick
Black and Green Cardamom 2 & 7
Bay leaf 1
Slightly roast all the ingredients in a pan, cool it and powder it in a processor until fine and store it in a air-tight jar. Just make sure you do not break a table in doing so ;-).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Double Layered Pistachio and Chocolate-Hazelnut Burfi with milled flaxseed, cocoa and berries

Last week I received a big packet of Linwoods Milled Flaxseed, Cocoa & Berries for the Linwoods Cocoa Delights Recipe Development Competition. (Can't tell you how excited I was to use it all). Linwoods has been in business for over 30 years and manufacture a range of Premium Bakery, Fresh Dairy and Healthy Super Food products that are available  across Ireland, UK, Spain and Holland. Linwoods website is definitely worth a click (and yes for internet junkies like me you could buy the product online). Back to the product - A daily 30g serving of this milled flaxseed, cocoa and berries is high in Flavanols which are highly effective antioxidants. A source of Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Selenium & Omega 3. Linwoods  cocoa is specially processed to provide a high level of Flavanols & 75% reduced fat as compared to the Cocoa in dark chocolate products. I have used their milled organic flaxseed (that I buy from holland and barrett), in smoothies and bread recipes.
A big Thanks to Linwoods and Beth for this. Hopefully I will experiment more with it soon J
 Having seen gorgeous Deeba's  recipe I wanted to try out something different. As soon as they arrived I wanted to make MAC's. After tweeting hysterically with MACQueen Jamie and lovely Anh about using aged whites, egg whites powder, the flavor combos, I tried them and my MAC's got feet ( & I used the milled powder along with some ground pistachios using Bea's recipe as a guide. I did think about making cakes with them, but then came up with the idea of making  Barfi. Barfi is a traditional Indian fudge like sweet made with reduced milk cooked with sugar and a lot of combinations like pistachios,cashews, almonds,coconut or gram flour. Some recipes also use khoya which is similar in texture to ricotta and is made with reducing milk to one-fifth volume. Barfis are mostly made out of Ghee/clarified butter (recipe follows). I have used condensed milk instead of khoya and have also hazelnut for the first time in making Barfi. 
To make some Ghee simmer unsalted butter along with a clove and a cardamom until all water has boiled off and the milk solids, have settled to the bottom. Strain the clarified butter into a clean jar to avoid disturbing the milk solids settled on the bottom of the pan.
For the Pistachio Barfi
1 can Condensed milk (400ml)
200 gms Pistachio powdered
1/2 tsp of Cardamom powder
1/4 cup of Ghee/Clarified butter (might need more if not using a non-stick pan)
Line a square baking pan with parchment with a little overhang for easy removal of the fudges. Combine the condensed milk, powdered pistachio, ghee in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick pan), cooking (at 80C) and stirring all the time for about 10 to 15 minutes. It is difficult to predict the exact time as mine was ready in about 12 min. The mixture should leave the sides of the pan and resemble a stiff bread dough. Scoop out the mixture to the baking pan and smooth the top with the spatula smeared with some ghee (about ½" high). Allow to cool and set it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Cut the burfis into squares or diamonds with a sharp knife dipped in hot water to achieve neat edges and store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For the Chocolate-Hazelnut Barfi
1 can Condensed milk (400ml)
100 gms Cocoa Powder
75 gms Hazelnut Powdered
25 gms Linwoods Milled Flaxseed, Cocoa & Berries
1/4 cup Ghee clarified butter (might need more if not usinga  non-stick pan)
Line a square baking pan with parchment with a little overhang for easy removal of the fudges. Combine the condensed milk, cocoa, hazelnut powder, milled powder, ghee in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick pan), cooking (at 80C) and stirring all the time for about 10 to 15 minutes. One of those things you do not want to do while answering phone or watching TV. It is difficult to predict the exact time as mine was ready in about 12 min. The mixture should leave the sides of the pan and resemble a stiff bread dough. Scoop out the mixture to the same baking pan on top of the pistachio barfi and smooth the top with the spatula smeared with some ghee (about ½" high). Allow to cool completely and set it in the refrigerator for a few hours. I have used silver leaf for decoration. You could use chopped pistachios or hazelnuts for decoration. Once set cut the barfis  into squares or diamonds with a sharp knife dipped in hot water to achieve neat edges and store them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
Verdict: "S" started wondering why I ever stopped making Barfi's at home (he only gets to enjoy them when I am back from a holiday)..My dear friend B's kids loved it. I loved the way he grabbed the phone from his mum and said "Loved your Burfis aunty...make some more while you come home"..not bad for kids who never eat Indian sweets!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vanilla Sponge with Chocolate Fudge and raspberries Icing

"Whats the occasion "? S asked as he walked in early to watch the England-Slovenia match. Honestly, I just felt like baking a simple sponge that I had, at a friends place a while ago with some warm custard on top. I asked her for the recipe and she gladly gave it to me. "It's 100,100,100 each of butter, S.F flour, sugar and 2 eggs". "That's it? I remember asking her thinking how can a cake so delicious be this simple. I just fell in love with simplicity of this recipe. I could never give out a cake recipe by heart just like that. 
After I baked the cakes I just wanted to make some plain custard, then I changed my mind and thought of making a chocolate custard and finally ended up using some leftover (Nigella's) chocolate fudge icing (Typical Gemini you see....).I used some fresh, crushed raspberries in the first layer and used the remaining to decorate the top, dusted with some cocoa and finished it with some edible glitter.
For the sponge
100gms Self-Raising Flour
100gms Butter
100gms Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
Preheat oven to 170C.
Beat the butter sugar till light and fluffy, gradually add the eggs and beat well. Sift the flour into this and lightly fold in until everything is well incorporated. Pour into greased and lined sandwich tins. Bake for about 20 min or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to coll on wire rack and peel off the paper.
For Icing
Half recipe of Nigella's chocolate Fudge Icing
Some Raspberries to decorate.
Cocoa for dusting
Place one layer on a cake stand or plate and spread the fudge icing. Crush some raspberries with a fork and spread it on top of the fudge icing. Place the second layer and gently press the cake. Spread some fudge icing on top liberally and decorate with raspberries. Dust with some cocoa if desired.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Super Summer Lollies

Summer is here finally and nothing can beat the heat than a really nice chilled smoothie or these fancy lollies that you could whip up in minutes. Give it a try with other fruits although I love the Mango and strawberry versions. Mascarpone gives the lollies a smooth & and creamy  ice-cream like texture.
Ingredients (Yields 6 lollies and a glass of smoothie)
Handful of fresh strawberries or 1 Fresh Mango or 1/2 a can Mango Puree
Mascarpone 4-5 tbsp 
Milk 250ml
Vanilla Extract 1tsp
Sugar as per taste
Blend everything together in a blender and pour into lolly molds and freeze for 4-5 hrs or just chill this and drink it as a yummy smoothie.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Black Forest Cake

Amidst all the craze and hurry to get everything done before I leave for Food Blogger Connect 2010 , I managed to make this gorgeously moist cake for my dear friend Neelu's birthday. When I return I will share the recipe!
As promised here is the recipe for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Black Forest Cake. I have made this twice already. It is simply that good. After hunting for a perfect chocolate sponge to make this cake, I liked the recipe uses oil instead of butter and makes a very moist cake that is perfect for black forest. Do brush the cakes liberally with kirsch. I   got the idea of chocolate trees & leaves from a TV show where the guy also made some chocolate mushrooms & roses...I could just about manage to make trees & leaves.
For the cake (recipe adapted from Annie Bell)
Makes 2 8inch sandwich cakes (I used 11/2 of the cake recipe to make 3 even sandwich layers)
38g Cocoa
less than 1/2 tsp Baking soda
2 Large Eggs
185g Light Muscovado Sugar
90ml Oil
100g Self-Raising Flour
100ml freshly brewed Coffee or Hot Water
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 8inch sandwich tins with parchment paper. Whisk the cocoa with 100ml coffee or boiling water, whisk in the soda and leave to cool. Whisk together the eggs and sugar till light and fluffy and blend in the oil. Sift the flour into this and then the cocoa solution. Gently fold to incorporate everything. Pour into prepared tins and bake for 20-25 min or until skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool and turn into a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
For the Cherry filling:
1 cup cherries in Kirsch chopped
1 cup chilled heavy Cream
1 tbsp Kirsch+ extra to drizzle on cake (You could use the cherry syrup if you want to skip alcohol)
2 tbsp Icing sugar
Whip the heavy cream along with icing sugar till peaks form and blend in the chopped cherries and kirsch. Keep this chilled until ready to use.
For the Icing
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1 cup grated chocolate or chocolate flakes
1/4 cup Icing sugar (or more if you like it sweet)
Whip the heavy cream along with sugar until stiff peaks form taking care not to overdo it (you will end up with lumpy butter).
Assembly of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Black Forest Cake
Place the cooled cake on a cake stand or board & place small strips of parchment paper all over the sides. Brush the top with a little kirsch or cherry syrup. Spread the cherry icing on top and place the 2nd cake. Brush the top with a little kirsch or cherry syrup.(I used 11/2 of the cake recipe to make 3 even sandwich layers).Top the 2nd layer with some cherry icing and place the 3rd cake on top. Brush the top with a little kirsch or cherry syrup and press the layers down gently. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the white cream icing evenly. Put some dark chocolate pieces in a food processor and pulse until you get shavings small enough to cover the cake. I tried dusting the cake with the shavings using my hand but it all got messy as the chocolate melted. So instead I used the spatula to pick up the chocolate shavings and pressed it slightly on the icing taking care not to mess the icing. Since the icing was at room temperature this was easy to do and the shavings stuck to the icing. Pour some white icing into a pastry bag and pipe the icing on top of the cake and decorate with some cherries. Gently pull out the parchment paper and you will have a neat cake every time.

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