Monday, 13 August 2018

Lagan nu Custard Tarts


Another dawn, another day, another way to start afresh, another prospect to live it up and another chance to refill your cup.

Its Parsi New Year in a few days folks, so its time to reflect on the year gone by, to forgive those who have erred and give second chances too. Its time to polish off the dirt of yesterday and sparkle away. A whole new year brings in fresh new opportunities to try what you put off last time, to give it all you got and to push the envelope to the edge. Its time to be nicer than you were yesterday, kinder than you have ever been and stronger for those who need you to be their strength.

Its time to try what you've been putting off and see how happy it makes you feel, its time to grow and be reborn, for what are we here for, on this plane if we don't learn something new everyday?. Follow your heart and trust that instinct, be creative and cook up a storm.

I sure did!, this recipe has been swimming in my head for the whole of the last year now, so I finally did it, I made Lagan nu Castard Tarts, I'm content now and look forward to my neurons sending me even more delicious ideas in the coming New Year.

For the uninitiated, Lagan nu Custard is a bhujelu (baked) custard that is served at a Parsi lagan (wedding) or for that matter any auspicious ceremony. Rich, decadent, indulgent and delicious this simple dessert combines all Parsi loves - eggs, cardamom, nutmeg, dry fruits and rosewater.

Now if you've been reading this space for sometime you know that I love giving my own twists to Parsi food, where else would you find Aebleskiver Bhakhra's, Dar ni Pori Puffs, Mini Eeda Chutney na Patice or Baked Khajur ni Ghari's?, so following tradition I present to you a bite sized Lagan nu Custard in Oat and Museli Tart shells!, read on for the recipe.

Makes: 8 -10 tartlets

You will need:

For the Lagan nu Custard filling
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons regular sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 tablespoon chopped nuts (eg. almonds, pistachios, raisins and charoti)
Salt, a pinch

For the Tart shells
1/2 cup instant oats
1/2 cup museli
1 tablespoon sugar or jaggery
2 tablespoons honey OR molasses OR agave nectar
Salt, a pinch
Milk - if required.

Method:

 In a bowl crack in the egg and to it add the sugar and salt, whisk well to combine, now start to add in the milk in a thin steady trickle whisking all the while.


Once well combined add in the nuts along with the cardamom and nutmeg powders and rosewater.

Set aside.


Now for the tart shells, pulse together the sugar, oats and museli in a grinder or food processor to form a crumb like texture.


Remove into a bowl and add in melted butter and honey. Mix well to combine.


The mixture should resemble wet sand and must hold shape when pressed. In case the mix doesn't come together add in some milk a teaspoon at a time.


Grease 8 - 10 small tart moulds well with some butter.


Fill in the greased moulds with the oat and muesli mixture, work up to the sides of the mould and press down with the help of another mould to form a cavity.


Fill in the cavities with the prepared custard liquid and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius (350 F) for 25 to 30 minutes.


Enjoy!


Sunday, 29 July 2018

Homemade No Knead Crusty Whole Wheat Bread


Who doesn't love warm, crusty homemade bread? This No-Knead Crusty Bread is my absolute favorite, and this riff substitutes whole wheat flour for all-purpose to create a loaf that's crusty, delicious — and extra-nutritious!

The one thing I hear from most people who have never made bread before is that it’s not worth the effort.

Let me ask ya something. Have you ever experienced a bite of fresh homemade bread? Have you ever experienced the wonderful scent that comes from deep within the kitchen while the bread is baking?

No? Well, my friends, if you’ve never made bread at home before, you don’t know what you’re missing out on and when the effort is hardly anything, I’d say the worth of making bread at home far surpasses the effort when it comes right down to it.

Now…about this bread. It’s got a chewy, crusty exterior, bready interior and it’s highly addictive. Consider yourself warned.

This, no oil whole wheat brown bread requires only about 5 minutes active prep work time and the rest is waiting on the dough and bake time.

You will need:

Whole wheat flour - 3 1/4 cups
Water - 1+1/2 cups lukewarm water
Honey - 1 teaspoon
Instant OR Active dry yeast: 3/4 tablespoons
Salt- 1/2 teaspoon
Black and white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
Milk - 2 teaspoons
Extra wheat flour as needed

Method:

Combine the whole wheat flour and salt in a large bowl and combine with a whisk.


In a cup, mix the yeast into lukewarm water and 1 teaspoon honey and stir once.


Once the yeast starts to froth its ready to use, this will take about 20 - 30 seconds.


Add the yeast water into the flour and combine with the help of a rubber spatula.


Mix it well so that the dough forms into a rough ball.


Cover this ball with a damp kitchen towel or some cling film and allow to prove for atleast 3 hours. (Refer, A few tips on baking crusty bread) in a warm dark place (I switch on the microwave for 3 minutes, then switch it off and keep the dough in the microwave to rise (it must be switched OFF when the dough is kept in).


At the end of three hours the dough will be double in size, at this point punch off the air and lightly toss with added dry flour to give it a desired shape.



Shape the ball of dough into whatever you like—a round loaf or boule as they say in French, baguette, you name it! Let the bread dough rest for 15 minutes.

Score (Scoring is slashing the dough with a blade or a sharp knife to allow it to expand during baking. The purpose is primarily to control the direction in which the bread will expand during “oven spring.” ) the bread with a sharp knife.

Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle sesame or any other seeds of choice on top.


Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C (450 degrees F).

Place a flat bowl on the bottom rack of the oven.

Pour one cup of hot water into the flat bowl and shut the oven quickly.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is well browned. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy!



What’s your favorite crusty bread? And do you have any tips for attaining the ultimate crust? Please share your thoughts in comments, below.

A few tips on baking crusty bread:

1. Shape the dough with more rather than less surface area.
A big, fat, round or oval loaf – a boule – doesn’t have as much opportunity to shine in the crisp crust department as does a thin baguette, or individual rolls. While you can certainly make a big loaf with crisp crust, the ratio of crunchy to tender will be much smaller.

So if you’re a real fan of crust (as opposed to soft interior), opt for smaller, skinnier, or flatter loaves or rolls.

2. To make crusty bread, create steam in the oven.
Some bakers like to place a sturdy pan (cast iron preferred) on the bottom shelf of the oven as it preheats, then pour 1/2 cup or so hot water into the pan as they’re loading the loaves. The result? Billows of steam trapped in the oven.

Another, easier way to re-create steam’s work is to simply spray or brush risen loaves with warm water before placing them into the hot oven.

So how, exactly, does steam create a crisp crust? Simply put, it has to do with the starch in flour. As bread bakes, its outer layer (crust) eventually reaches 180°F. At that point, the starches on the surface burst, become gel-like, and then harden in the oven’s heat to a crackly consistency. Steam hitting the bread’s surface facilitates this process.

3. Bake on a pizza stone or steel.
Many bakers find they can create a decent crisp top crust, but struggle to make their bread’s bottom crusty, as well.

The best way to brown and crisp your bread’s bottom crust – as well as enhance its rise – is to bake it on a preheated pizza stone or baking steel. The stone or steel, super-hot from your oven’s heat, delivers a jolt of that heat to the loaf, causing it to rise quickly. At the same time, the bread’s bottom, without the shield of a metal pan – which takes awhile to absorb and then transmit heat – bakes super-quickly, becoming brown and crisp.

4.To keep bread crusty, cool baked loaves in the oven.
This may sound like an oxymoron – cool bread in the oven? – but it works. Once the bread is baked, turn off the oven. Transfer the bread from pan (or stone) to a middle oven rack. Crack the oven door open a couple of inches (a folded potholder works well here), and let it cool right in the cooling oven.

How does this help keep bread crusty? As bread cools, any leftover moisture in its interior migrates to the surface. If that moisture reaches the surface and hits cool air – e.g., typical room temperature – it condenses on the loaf’s surface, making it soggy. If it hits warm air (your still-warm oven), it evaporates – leaving the crust crisp.



Friday, 20 July 2018

Kumas (A Parsi Tea Time Cake)

Kumas - Parsi Cake

Cakes hold a very special place in my heart and in my kitchen, like most young Parsi girls who start off their tryst with the culinary world by baking a cake, I was no different, however as time passed, this teenage fascination only grew, experimenting with flavours, textures, flours and cleaner ingredients makes me immensely satisfied and when asked why I don't laze around on the weekends, I ask back, Why should I when there is a whole pot of undiscovered delights, swimming around in my brain.

Today's recipe is not mine, just my version of a recipe long forgotten and erased from Parsi memory with the winds of time.


Kumas, a tea time cake once fondly devoured by community folks, now draws looks of wonder, if mentioned to the present crop. A sublime amalgamation of Indian (coastal) and Persian influences, this dense cake was made with a combination of semolina and whole wheat flours, with a good slug of fermented toddy (you can read about it in this post), delicately flavoured with Persian favourites like rose water, saffron and cardamom and nutmeg powders and topped with a generous helping of almonds and pistachio nuts.

Toddy however is difficult to source these days as a majority of the Parsi folk don't live in the coastal villages of Gujarat any longer (where toddy palm trees are found in abundance).

Sour yogurt is used as a substitute as it lends the perfect amount of tang, that one would expect out of a traditionally made Kumas.

Intrigued?, then check out the recipe below.



You will need:

1/2 cup semolina (rava, suji, farina)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1/4 cup jaggery powder OR regular sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk
125 grams (1/2) cup ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup (250 grams) plain yogurt OR dahi
1/2 teaspoon cardamon powder (elaichi)
Saffron (kesar) strands, a pinch
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pistachios and almonds, to garnish
Salt, a pinch

Method:


In a bowl whisk together the yogurt along with some crushed saffron strands. Leave this yogurt out on the kitchen counter overnight. (this will help in making it go sour)


The next morning, take a bowl and whisk together the semolina and whole wheat flours along with cardamom powder and salt.


In another bowl whisk the clarified butter, jaggery or sugar and eggs.


Now combine the all the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients to form a homogeneous cake batter.

Pour into a prelined and greased cake tin, top with roughly chopped nuts and bake in a preheated oven at 180° Celcius for 25 to 30 minutes or till a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Enjoy with afternoon tea!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf

Vegan + Glutenfree Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf
 Semolina/ rava/ farina/ suji cakes have been around since quite sometime now and their uniqueness lies in their easy in making along with a distinct texture that no other type of flour can provide.

Semolina is widely used across the Indian Subcontinent as well as Middle Eastern countries mostly to prepare puddings and fudges or to coat something before it hits the fryer.

Oddly enough though the west has always used refined flour in cake making, the East has in its own humble, rustic homely way to make cakes with this beautiful ingredient.

From the Middle Eastern Basbousa, to our Parsi Kumas, both cakes, both superior in taste and texture ,use semolina as their core ingredient.

Now most semolina cakes are made sans any eggs and with fresh yogurt instead, but on a trip to our weekly farmers market, I found the most cheery hued, fresh red pumpkin that I'd ever laid eyes on and when a fresh ingredient calls my name, I cannot resist purchasing it. So I brought it home and thought of making a pumpkin cake with it. However the caveat along with not using any refined flour was to eliminate refined sugar and also experiment with a new type of flour, something other than the usual whole wheat or millet flours (both of which I baked umpteen times with). So a flash of a thought took me back to these traditional rava/ suji cakes that our fore mothers have been baking since ages and I instantly decided to make a semolina cake with pumpkin.

Interestingly the end result was firstly moist, delicious and also vegan, which means its great if someones lactose intolerant too.

Read on to know how to make this Loaf Cake and also the Notes for some tips and tricks.

To make a pound 

You will need:

Red Pumpkin - 185 grams (1 cup)
Semolina/ Rava/ Suji - 200 grams (1 cup)
Jaggery powder - 75 grams (5 tablespoons)
Cocoa powder - 1 tablespoon
Oil (flavourless) - 4 tablespoons
Salt - a pinch
Baking powder -1/2 teaspoon
Baking soda - 1/2 teaspoon
Vinegar (either white/ malt or ACV) - 1+1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml)
Almonds or walnuts or pumpkin seeds or chocolate chips - 25 grams, to garnish

Method:
Clean, peel and cube the pumpkin, then pressure cook in just enough water to about cover the top of the cubes.

Allow to cook for 3 whistles and switch off the flame.

Allow the cooker to cool down, then remove the boiled pumpkin and discard the water.




Blitz the pumpkin along with the jaggery powder in a blender to get a smooth puree.


In another bowl mix together the semolina with cocoa powder along with a pinch of salt.


To this dry mix, add in the prepared pumpkin and jaggery puree.


Now add in the oil and mix well.

Allow this batter to stand for at least 30 to 40 minutes, so that the semolina can absorb the liquids and puff up well. (This is compulsory, else you will end up with a dry cake).


After the semolina is nicely bloomed, add in the vinegar along with the baking powder and baking soda and mix well to incorporate evenly throughput the batter.

Pour into a lined and greased baking pan and bake in a preheated oven at 180° Celcius for 25 - 30 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.


Notes:

- Even though I've used a lot of pumpkin puree in this recipe, the cocoa completely masks its flavour.

- If you would like a pronounced pumpkin flavour, omit the cocoa powder and make plain pumpkin loaf instead, add in 1/4 teaspoons each of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a tiny pinch of clove powders. They will help in bringing out the true pumpkin flavour.

- This loaf isn't too sweet, but just right in my opinion, this is because inspite of keeping the amount of jaggery low, the pumpkin I used itself was so fresh that it had its own sweet flavour and aroma.

- Feel free to top the cake with any nuts, seeds or other garnishes of choice.

- If you are okay with dairy products, you can substitute plain yogurt for pumpkin puree and ghee (clarified)  or melted butter for oil in equal quantities.

- Cold pressed coconut oil can be used in place of vegetable oil as it doesn't have a strong odor or flavour.





Thursday, 28 June 2018

Millet and Wholewheat Orange Juice Cake

Millet and Wholewheat Orange Juice Cake
Ayurveda, the ancient food wisdom of India extensively talks about eating food according to season. Since its the monsoon season, I'll talk a little of what I've learnt from my brief knowledge on Ayurveda.

Varshu Rutu or the monsoon season starts from mid June and extends to mid September, during this season it is a good idea to temper your foods with sweet, sour and salty spices to help pacify the excess vata dosha (Vata governs all movement in the mind and body. It controls blood flow, elimination of wastes, breathing and the movement of thoughts across the mind.) in the environment.

Eating smaller portions and lighter meals is advised during this time of the year and fruits, nuts and foods with a little honey make good snack options.

Keeping these parameters in mind, I tweaked my original orange juice cake recipe according to the principles of Ayurveda to create this wholesome and filling Millet and Wholewheat Orange Juice Cake.

Read on for the recipe.


To serve 6,

You will need:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ragi (finger millet) OR jowar (sorghum) OR bajra (pearl millet) flour
3/4 cup powdered jaggery (muscovado sugar)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 + 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice with pulp
1/3 cup ghee (clarified butter) OR any flavourless oil of choice
2 tablespoons orange zest, grated
A pinch of salt

Method:
Grease and line a cake tin.

Preheat the oven to 180° Celcius.

In a large bowl mix the wheat flour, millet flour, jaggery, baking soda and baking powders with a dry whisk and keep aside.

To the dry ingredients add ghee (clarified butter), orange zest and a pinch of salt, along 1 cup orange juice.

Stir just enough to combine all the ingredients well. Do not overmix.


Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs.


While still warm drizzle the top of the cake with the remaining (1/2 cup) orange juice.

Enjoy on a rainy afternoon with a hot cup of tea or coffee!

Orange Juice Cake

Orange Cake

Friday, 22 June 2018

No Cream Celery Soup


This no cream celery soup is way better than its creamier (read hip widening) cousin and we don't need such deterants in our lives now do we. Hence I bring to you a scrumptious, soulful and soothing alternative perfect if you are watching your weight, or even if you are craving an edible equivalent of a warm blanket on a rainy day (God knows I do!) minus the four ladles of oil required to make a naughty waist expander a.k.a deep fried snack.

So, to cut calories, I’ve found a way to make beautiful creamy soups that don’t have a bit of cream.  The trick – adding a small sized potato which adds to bulk as well giving the soup a creamy constancy.

This one is my go-to recipes when I’m craving soup I love how quick it comes together.  The only tedious part is chopping up the celery, garlic, onions and peeling one potato.

It really is simple to make.

For serving two

You will need:

1/2 cup celery stalks
1 onion, medium sized
1 potato, small sized
5-6 garlic cloves
1 bullion cube (taste maker either vegetable or chicken)
Salt - a tiny pinch
Black pepper, crushed - as per requirement

Here’s how to make it:

Start with cutting the celery into roughly the same-sized pieces, about an inch – 1.5 inches, don’t worry about precision as the soup is going to be puréed anyway.  You just want it to cook evenly.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion and cook until soft and then add the garlic and cook another minute.

Next add in the celery and potato.



Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.

Cover and lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the celery and potatoes are soft enough that they can easily pureed (But don’t let them get mushy).

Remove the soup from heat and remove enough stock so that the celery just covered by the remaining stock. Set the reserved stock aside.

Purée the soup with a stick (hand)blender in the pot adding the reserved stock little by little until the soup reaches the desired consistency.

If you don’t have a stick blender a food processor or blender would work too.

Sprinkle with crushed black pepper and serve hot

Enjoy!







Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tea Smoked Chicken

Tea smoked chicken
Summers are here and its time to bring out the grill, but if you don't have one fret no more as smoking any meat in the confines of your own kitchen is as easy as 1-2-3.

Tea leaves give off an aromatic smoke when burned. If trapped inside a cooking vessel, this smoke can flavor foods like fish, chicken, and duck with delicate, tea-like flavors. That's the idea behind tea-smoking, and as far as we understand it, it's not so much a cooking technique as it is a flavoring technique.

If you've only smoked food outside with wood chips, you'll be pleased with the efficacy of smoking indoors. The principle of smoldering something fragrant over very low heat is the same; indoors, it's easier to monitor and adjust the heat. While you can certainly smoke indoors with a handful of wood chips, you can also add more delicate items to use as your smoking agent, such as tea, rice, sugar, and even peppercorns. (And, if you have an exhaust fan over your stove, the smell of the smoke will be minimal.)


Tea-smoked chicken, sounds complicated but couldn't be more simple. All you need is a wok!

It’s a play off the traditional Chinese Tea Smoked duck, but lighter and less time consuming. Delicately  flavored, the whisper of smoke from tea leaves, rather than wood, infuses the chicken with a subtle hint of earthiness. And using a wok and tea leaves, it’s surprisingly fast, easy and quite manageable indoors and you have a very healthy, protein dense dinner in no time. Once the meat has marinated the whole recipe can be completed in 20 minutes flat.

Lets see how to make Tea Smoked Chicken,

Preparation Time: 2 hr | Cooking Time: 30 mins  | Total Time: 2hr 30 mins

No. of Servings: 3-4

You will need:

• 8 chicken drumsticks
• Chopped green onions, for garnish

[A] Chicken marinade
• 2 tablespoons balsamic or malt vinegar
• ¼ cup grape juice (I used store bought)
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped OR 1 teaspoon garlic paste
• 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

[B] Smoking Mix
• ½ cup white rice
• ⅓ cup brown or muscovado sugar (jaggery)
• ⅓ cup black tea
• 6 cloves, whole
• 3 star anise pods

1 tablespoon oil - for grilling the chicken

Method:

Step 1: Marinate the chicken

• In a bowl, mix chicken with marinade.




Cover with cling wrap and allow it to marinate for at least 2 hrs in the chiller.


Step 2: Prepare the wok to smoke the wings

• Remove the drumsticks from marinade and pat dry.

• Line the wok with a heavy-duty aluminium foil. Add in [B], stir to combine.


• Place a steaming rack or metal trivet on it. Cover with lid and switch on the fire to medium-high.






• 5 mins later, the mixture will emit smoke. Lay the chicken on the trivet or steaming rack. Do not stack the chicken.

• Let it cook for 5 mins. Switch off the fire and smoke it for another 10 mins.


Step 3: Grill the chicken in a pan and ready to serve

• Slightly warm some oil in a pan.


• Sear the drumsticks on both sides, till golden brown.


• Add in the remaining marinade and reduce a little to form a thick sauce.

• Garnish with your choice of herbs or chopped green onions and serve it immediately.


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Lagan nu Custard Tarts

Another dawn, another day, another way to start afresh, another prospect to live it up and another chance to refill your cup. Its Pars...