Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cardamom-Vanilla-Rum&Raisin Kheer

It has been raining so much here the past week that the only thing I can imagine looking out of the window, watching the rain for a while is 'comfort food'. Nothing more comforting than a bowl of piping hot soup but not today, today I was craving for something more than a bowl of soup. Something really sweet, smooth, creamy and totally fabulous. Hmmm Kheer was the answer to my craving.
Kheer or Payasam dates back to thousands of years and till date most of the old temples still follow the 2000+ year’s old recipe. Here’s a nice read about the oldest recipe  
Back home, Kheer is a sweet dish made for every festival and the combinations are well, endless. Kheer is traditionally made boiling rice, or vermicelli with milk and sweetened with sugar, jaggery or condensed milk , flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, pistachios, almonds and cashew and it can be served hot or cold. My mum used to always make it with vermicelli and condensed milk while my MIL makes it with rice boiled with milk. I wanted to tweak the traditional recipe a bit and was thinking of the possible combinations.
Last weekend we had been to Windermere and we were walking towards the lake and stopped at an ice-cream shop. While I set my heart on a double scoop of hazelnut-chocolate ice-cream my husband ordered Rum & Raisin. I wondered Rum & Raisin of all flavors? I mean I like Rum & Raisin in chocolates but never would try the flavor with ice-cream. For me ice-cream can be only in one flavor… chocolate. Obviously the first thought that came to mind was chocolate Kheer but somehow chucked the idea not wanting to tweak a traditional recipe so much and then thought of Rum & Raisin. And voila, this gorgeous Cardamom-Vanilla-Rum & Raisin Kheer came to life.
Instead of adding the plain raisins into the Kheer I tossed them with a tablespoon or two (can’t remember now) of dark rum. Result: All the same goodness of Kheer, creamy slightly scented with saffron, vanilla and  cardamom with a kick of Rum & Raisin. Now I don’t think I can make Kheer any other way.
1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
1-2 tablespoons dark rum
½ cup basmati rice
Pinch saffron
4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
½ tsp Vanilla extract
Pinch saffron soaked in 1/8 cup warm milk
1-2 cardamom crushed
Wash rice and boil it till ¾ done with 1 cup water and then add 2 cups milk and continue to cook it on slow flame stirring all the while. You need completely mushy rice here. Meanwhile mix the rum with the raisins and microwave for a few seconds and let it sit until the Kheer is ready.
Add rest of the milk reserving just 1 cup for later and once the rice is completely cooked add the sugar, cardamom, remaining milk and saffron and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Turn of the heat and add the rum & raisins and vanilla. Refrigerate for a few hours if you like it cold.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Roasted Vegetables Soup

1 Carrot diced
1 med Potato diced
1 yellow Onion diced
2 cloves Garlic with peel
1 red bell Pepper diced
1 litre stock
1 sprig Thyme
2tbsp Olive oil
Sour cream or Fresh cream for serving
Toss all the diced vegetables with olive oil and seasoning in a roasting tin and roast in a pre-heated oven (200c) for 1 hour. Transfer to a big pot and add the stock and check for seasoning. Puree the soup with a hand blender and serve hot with sour cream or fresh cream.

Potato-Leek-Artichoke Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 Leek both white & green parts washed and chopped
1 clove Garlic chopped
3 small Potatoes, peeled and chopped
4-5 frozen (thawed) Artichokes I used grilled ones
1 litre veg stock
Black pepper
Sour Cream or fresh cream for garnish
Heat olive oil in a pot and add the leeks and the garlic and stir. Now add the potatoes, stock, salt, and pepper cook cook until the vegetables are tender and then add the artichokes and cook for another 5 min.
Using a handheld blender puree the soup and serve hot with toasted rustic bread.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let's make curry!

Ghee (entirely of saturated fat) or Indian clarified butter is very popular in India and is used largely in cooking sweets and other delicacies. To make your own pot of ghee simmer some solids on the bottom of the pan. This can be stored in an airtight container and doesn’t need refrigeration. Basmati rice grown widely in India is known for its characteristic fragrance, taste and quality. The grains of this rice are longer than the others and the cooked rice are nice and fluffy rather than sticky. The best way to cook it is to bring a large pot of water to boil and adding a little salt and then add the washed rice and cook till 90% done and drain.
Ghee Rice (Rice with clarified butter and spices)
1 cup Basmati rice 
2-3 Green cardamom

1 stick Cinnamon
1 Bay leaf
1 Star anise
3tbsp Ghee
1 clove Garlic grated
1 tbsp Cumin seeds
1 or 2 Dry Red chillies
Cook the washed basmati rice in a big pot of boiling water with salt, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise until 90% done and drain. Heat ghee in a pan and add the cumin and chillies. Now add the drained rice to the pan and stir to coat all the rice with ghee (keep fluffing the rice with a fork).Serve hot with a curry of your choice.
Dal Fry (Lentils in a gravy)
1cup Split-Pigeon Peas or Toor Dal
1 yellow Onion finely chopped
1 Vine Tomato chopped
1 tbsp Tomato paste
1 glove Garlic grated
1 small piece Ginger grated
2-3 green chillies (depending on how spicy you want your lentils)
Salt to taste
1 tsp Turmeric powder
½ tsp Curry powder or Garam masala
Cilantro for garmish
1tsp Cumin seeds for seasoning
1-2 tbsp Ghee
Cook the lentils until completely done (I like to cook this in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water). Heat ghee in a pan and add the cumin seeds and let it splutter. Now sauté the onions for a few min and add the grated ginger and garlic followed by tomato and tomato paste. Sauté for a few minutes and add turmeric powder, curry powder, salt and what you will have is a nice paste. Now add the cooked and mashed lentils (add a little water if you feel it is thick). Let it simmer for 5-8 min. Add some chopped cilantro for garnish and serve hot with rice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate treat for a weekend trip

Need I say more...Its chocolate all the way! 
Recipe for Energy bars (adapted from Giada)
Oil for greasing
1  large egg
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
21/4 cups oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chocolate chips
¼ cup Cranberries and currants
2 tbsp sweetened desiccated coconut
Preheat the oven to 180c.Grease a square nonstick baking pan and lay a piece of greaseproof paper in the pan with an overhang (on the sides for easy removal later) and grease the paper as well.Slightly beat the eggs and stir in the peanut butter, melted butter, oats, currants, cranberries, coconut, chocolate chips and almonds. Tip mixture into the baking pan, smoothening with a spatula to form an even layer. Bake for about 15-18 minutes. Let the mixture cool a bit (I left it for a good 2 hours) and then cut into bars or squares.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Valentine's Day Lemon Yogurt cupcakes with Blueberry Sauce

I made these for breakfast in heart shaped silicone moulds I got from M&S (Yes I know it’s a little too sweet treat for breakfast but common its Valentine's Day...if this doesn't melt your sweetheart I don't know what will?). Recipe adapted from Ina's Lemon Yogurt Cake. 

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt                                                                                                          
1 cup Greek style yogurt

1 cup sugar (I used Vanilla sugar)

3 large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk the yogurt, sugar, the eggs, zest, oil and vanilla in a bowl. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until it's all incorporated. Scoop the batter into waiting muffin tins lined with paper cups (I skipped this as I used silicone moulds).

Allow to cool a bit before serving with any sauce of your choice. I like mine with blueberry  or raspberry sauce.

Sweet Little Hearts

Most of my friends think I am crazy when I tell them I spent my afternoon quietly baking a batch of muffins or cookies or making a nice loaf of bread. It’s just so therapeutic to create something so beautiful and also be able to relish it. Nothing more inviting than the smell of baked goodies wafting through the apartment. I also get to share the joy with my friends and neighbors, although most of them think I am a fanatic who gives away cookies and cakes every other day.
Last week I was watching an episode of Masterchef and one of the contestants made these gorgeous looking treats that I know as Britannia Little Hearts. They were introduced in India by Britannia (at least that’s what I know) and we used stack our store cupboard with these tasty nibbles. Later when I did a bit of research I found out that they are called Palmiers (elephant ears) and it’s a French pastry. So I tried my hand at making these beauties but got a little worried when my last batch sort of set my oven on a smokey-caramely scare. When you make these make sure you have your windows open and exhaust way up (you don’t want the fire department showing up for baking cookies).
I used Vanilla sugar that I make by throwing in a couple of slit vanilla pods into a jar of sugar and keep replacing the sugar but you could use regular sugar. Also remember that you’d be left with a lot of leftover sugar, so be ready for another baking project. I made blueberry muffins the next day as Mothers Day giveaway for my momma friends.
Puff Pastry rolls as needed (I used 2 and got about 30 hearts)
Vanilla Sugar 1 cup
Pinch salt
Cinnamon Powder 1 tbsp
Preheat oven to 220C.
Dust the work surface with some sugar about ¼ cup and place a sheet of puff pastry and add another ¼ cup sugar, salt and cinnamon powder on top. Roll out the pastry to a slightly thinner sheet. Roll both the ends of the square until they meet in between and then fold one half over the other half. Slice the dough and place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Bake them for 8 min on one side and then turn them and bake them for 4-5 min until golden. Remove them from the sheet and cool on a cooling rack. They taste great with a cup of coffee.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My very first post:Tiramisu

This is such an important moment...the first blog post I’ve ever written. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and here after thinking and talking about it for over 2 years now finally  I am writing my post. So for my first post I thought I will have to write about something sweet which has 3 of my favorites. It’s Italian (if you have read about me you already know about my love for everything Italian), it has coffee and it has chocolate (gratedusted doesn’t matter here).
I had Tiramisu the first time in a restaurant in India (Little Italy) and madly fell in love with it and have since then tried to get the classic recipe but I guess there isn't a classic recipe for tiramisu as such. There are so many versions but finally I think I have found the one for my taste. The real test was when I made it for my Italian friend and he absolutely loved it. I also learnt that Mascarpone is not pronounced Maascarpon but Maskarpone. Hope you all enjoy this as much as I do and I would love to hear from you through comments or mails.
1/2 cup Sugar                                                                           
4 large Egg Yolks
11/2-2 cups Freshly Brewed Espresso
250g Mascarpone
1 cup chilled Whipped cream (whipped with 2 tbsp icing sugar)
5--100ml Disaronno Amaretto
Italian Ladyfingers as need
Grated chocolate or cocoa for decoration
In a double boiler set over simmering water, mix the yolks, sugar and most of the Amaretto liquor until pale and light and blend this with the softened mascarpone and 1/4 cup of coffee. Set aside. Whisk the cream to soft peaks and fold the mascarpone into this.
Dip the ladyfingers in coffee (mixed with Amaretto) and line the base of a dish.  Pour ½ the mascarpone-coffee mix on top of this. Make a second layer of the fingers dipped in coffee and pour the remaining mascarpone-coffee mix. Smooth the top and cover with cling film and leave to set in the fridge overnight or at least 4-5 hours. Grate chocolate or dust liberally with cocoa on top. If you have one of those fancy “Tiramisu” stencil now is the time to use it!

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