Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Creamy cauliflower soup – DHSPC #5

When I think of Cauliflower, I can hear in my head my mum saying “Oh no..no English vegetable today”. I don’t know what to call us but I guess orthodox vegetarian seems just right,( but then again here, in UK I am not considered a vegetarian as I eat milk products). Makes me think should I call us convenient vegetarians??Anyways, back home, vegetables like carrot, cabbage, cauliflower etc were called “English vegetables” probably because they are grown in hilly areas where English settlers lived in pre-Independent India. Apart from egg free, meet free diet English vegetables was a part of indulgent meals only allowed on certain days. I never got to know why but I was happy at least they were allowed.My granny never ever used any of these. She didn’t even use onions or garlic. I guess since my parents were raised in post-independent India, they ate these special vegetables but only on occasions. The not-so-humbl- cauliflower & dishes like cauliflower curry/bhaji, cauliflower paruppusili, cauliflower manchurian ..hold a very special place in my heart. So when the spud guy calls it a drab- white- cruciform vegetable, as I order my spud with cauli & cheese, I wonder how much, where we are raised makes a difference on what we eat!!
I wanted to join the Donna Hay Styling and Photography Challenge for a while now and the minute I saw the soup I knew I had to make it. My suggestion is make a double batch to keep you warm through the bone chilling nights. 
The original photo is by  Ben Dearnley and styling is done by Justine Poole. The recipe comes from DHM #51. I too struggled in finding the right balance of light as there was too much light on the day I shot this. In the original the light is from the right,  while I had diifculty in creating a dark atmosphere on bright sunny day. I tried covering the window and used dark absorbers. Moreover I had no props in blue so had to improvise with the black ones I had. I couldn't fold the black material to form crease as it was bulky. I crumbled some parmesan to replicate the marks in the original. I am glad at least I tried :-). Thanks simone for finding such challenging images and simple recipes for the DH challenge. It keeps me going.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
From Donna Hay Magazine
§ 25g butter
§ 1 brown onion (chopped)
§ 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
§ 1 bay leaf
§ 1,5 head cauliflower (or 1,5 kg, chopped)
§ 500g potatoes (starchy potatoes, peeled and chopped)
§ 750ml veg stock
§ 500ml milk
§ 125 ml single cream
§ sea salt
§ cracked white pepper
§ 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme 
Parmesan cauliflower crumbs 
§ 100g cauliflower (chopped)
§ 2 tablespoons olive oil
§ 20g parmesan (finely grated)
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and cook for 5-8 minutes or until onion has softened. Add the cauliflower, potato, stock and milk, increase heat to medium and cook for 25-30 minutes or until cauliflower and potato is tender. Remove from the heat and, using a hand-held blender, blend until smooth. Stir through the cream, salt and pepper.
While the soup is cooking, make the parmesan cauliflower crumbs. Place the cauliflower, oil and parmesan in a bowl and toss to combine. Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook the cauliflower, oil and parmesan in a bowl and toss to combine. Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook the cauliflower, stirring for 2 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Top soup with cauliflower crumbs to serve.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's BACK TO BASICS: SCONES with Daring Bakers

Cream Tea, a quintessential English tradition, is incomplete without freshly baked scones slathered with lashings of clotted cream and jam. In North American, scones are mostly triangular, have a slightly crisp crust usually covered in sugar, a soft interior crumb and sometimes laced with dried fruit. In Australia and England, these baked goods  are called “rock cakes” (since they are usually made to look like “rocky” cakes) and Scones respectively, eaten with butter and jam, with cups of tea or coffee. 
Scones are a type of quick bread made with white flour dough, raised using chemical agents, usually baking powder and/or baking soda. Basic Scones contains flour, raising agent(s), butter (or shortening or lard), salt, and milk (or buttermilk or soured milk or cream). Most recipes just instruct to “rub the fat into the flour” then combine the dry and wet ingredients until “gathered together” and then “lightly knead” the gathered mixture until a soft dough forms. Then “roll or pat” out this dough, “cut” out rounds and bake them in a hot oven. 
Audax Artifex was our host for  Daring Bakers’ January 2012. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (aka biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our kitchen!
I have followed the basic recipe but used Wholemeal, buttermilk and freeze dried raspberries powder in one and Wholemeal-Ricotta-Orange(zest)-Pumpkin seeds-fresh raspberries for the other. Savory ones with mature cheddar and dill made up the third.
 Buttermilk-Raspberry Scones & Ricotta-Orange-Raspberry Scones with pumpkin seeds
 Buttermilk-Raspberry Scones & Ricotta-Orange-Raspberry Scones with pumpkin seeds
(The challenge Scones recipe has been specially formulated by Audax Artifex after a large amount of research).
Basic Scones
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
 approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones 
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead 
 the dough very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until it forms a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) Scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two Scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching each other on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your Scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the Scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The Scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
Variations on the Basic recipe
Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3 aim of pea-sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 fold and turn the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with buttermilk.
Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with cream.
Cheese and Chive /herbs– follow the Basic recipe above but add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add ½ teaspoon sifted mustard powder, ¼ teaspoon sifted cayenne pepper (optional), ½ cup (60 gm/2 oz) grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or herbs into the sifted ingredients, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are widely spaced in the baking dish, sprinkle the rounds with cracked pepper.
Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc).
Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.
Wholemeal – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour.
Cornish Clotted Cream

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Green Tea for detox & a plan

I am sure like me,  many of you are struggling with post holiday season dieting. I think every now and then, our body needs some sort of a cleansing plan and most of the diets do recommend to go off coffee. For a true-blue-coffee-snob that I am,  its almost close to impossible, but I still try. So here's my plan:
I start of my day with warm glass of water with a squeeze of honey and lime, then a cup of green tea followed by a banana and some fruits with yogurt. I tend to munch on some raw carrots or make a fresh salad for lunch, try to eat some spinach everyday and a light supper. For those in-between times I have green tea with a couple of raw cashews or almonds. I did post some recipes here  & here using Matcha, which is a fine ground, powdered, high quality green tea

So what is green tea ? Green tea and black tea come from the same plant, but green tea is less processed so more of the original plant substances, such as polyphenols, survive in this herb. Green tea is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels and has high levels of anti-oxidents. Studies show that it helps in weight loss. Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee and hence makes it perfect for detox theraphy. You could buy them at the twinings tea shop and know more about benefits of drinking green tea. You can get two free samples from the Twinings website if you've never tried it before or if you just fancy trying something new:http://twinings.co.uk/discover-our-range#free-samples

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Starting 2012 with sweet treats:Banana-Apple-Loaf & Salted Caramel Sauce

Imperfections….Everyone and everything have them. I am not big on New Year resolutions. It’s just not meant for me…But somehow since the New Year, I have a new perception to imperfections. Like these early harvest apples with specks like freckles on skin or the reduced price tulips I bought yesterday from the market. Suddenly I seem to notice the beauty beyond imperfections. I guess its natural to have such moments. I do have my moments of gloominess with winter’s grey, wet & dreadfully dark days, but moaning aside I do love the comfort season. I love chilly early mornings of silvery and misty skies with a piping mug of boozy coffee, ovaltine or hot chocolate. I love the duvet nights with earthy comfort foods like soup or Mac&Cheese. I seem to find inspiration everywhere, I find them in trees bending to the will of the wind, by the auburn and copper-tinged leaves that fall from the trees & cover the damp ground; despite the never-ending bleak dark days. Even moods are like seasons. There are times of cheeriness like summer, when everything is colorful and then there are dreary times like winter when all you want to do is potter around the house, doing absolutely nothing. I am thankful that I have people around me who love me despite all this. I am thankful that S loves me even on those non-showered-no-makeup-lying-on-the-bed days as much as the cheerful-well-groomed days. So I decided to give these over-ripened bananas & freckled apples a face-lift of vanilla, lemon zest and love and baked a Banana-Apple Cake. Its one of those things you can walk-straight-from-work-and-bake-in-your-boots.
*Having said that I just noticed some imperfect lines around my eyes & invested ££ in a jar of eye-cream. Gowd! how we hate imperfections on skin :-). 
 Loaf 1
 Loaf 2

This loaf is very hearty, and very forgiving. I’ve made quite a few variations myself. The first loaf has banana & apple with cake flour, almond meal, ricotta and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. The second loaf has banana just 2 instead of 3, 2 sliced apples, 1 grated carrot, wholemeal instead of flour & almond meal with 3 tbsp of yoghurt. If you prefer plain banana loaf just omit the apples & carrot and add a handful of walnuts or hazelnuts. The cake tastes best still warm with lashings of salted caramel butter. Its great with cup of coffee for breakfast as well. Loaf 2 tends to be slightly denser as it has wholemeal flour.
125g unsalted butter
100g darkbrown sugar
100g caster sugar
2 med eggs
3 ripe bananas
50g ricotta
140g cake flour
30g ground almond
Zest of 1 lemon
1tsp vanilla
1 large or 2 med apple, sliced thinly
1tbsp vanilla sugar
Hanful of pumpkin seeds/flaked almonds
Preheat oven to 180C and line a 9×5-inch loaf pan with greaseproof paper. In a processor, beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the eggs and whizz briefly. Add the banana, zest, vanilla extract, ricotta and whizz again. Sift all the dry ingredients in a bowl and slowly fold into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the lined loaf tin, arrange the apple slices on top and evenly sprinkle a layer of vanilla sugar and pumpkin seeds over the top of the loaf. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.
Serve with salted caramel sauce while still warm.
Salted Caramel Sauce
30g unsalted butter
50g sugar
125ml heavy cream
1tsp sea salt (I used maldon)
On a med heat melt sugar until it reaches a dark amber and slowly whisk in the cream. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Now off heat add the salt and butter. This is great poured over toasts, ice-creams, cakes. Reduce the amount of salt to 1/2 tsp if you want a milder salted caramel.

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