Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dulce de Leche : 4 Tried and Tested Ways

I remember as a kid when my mom would buy condensed milk, my sis and I would sneak into the kitchen and eat it by the spoonful. It seemed, at that time, that nothing could be better than sweetened condensed milk.

Of course, I had yet to discover dulce de leche. (pronounced dulchay the laychay)

When I first discovered dulce de leche, I was no longer a child and yet, its rich caramel - toffee taste transformed me into one. I found myself heading to the kitchen over and over again to eat it by the spoonful!

So what is dulce de leche? Nothing but sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked till it thickens and gets a deep caramel colour. But that doesn't still describe the phenomenon that is dulce de leche. If you ask me, it is decadence in a tin. You can't just stop at a spoonful!

You can use it to make ice creams; I've made kulfi using dulce de leche (replaced pista with almonds), I've also made a flan (recipe coming soon) and it is excellent as a topping on ice creams, cakes and fried bananas.









Over the last 4 years, I have made dulce de leche several times in different ways. I have described them in the order of my least favourite to most favourite way of making it.

All you need to make it is a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I have made it with both full fat and low fat condensed milk; there is just a marginal difference in the two, so go ahead use the low fat version.

1. In the tin:


Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in a pot. Pour water till the tin is completely immersed in the water - the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Place the pot on the stove on medium high heat, when the water starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 3 hours.


Caution: Add hot water if the water level starts to fall, never let the water drop below the tin - this is very very important, so again, NEVER let the water level fall below the tin or you risk the tin bursting.


Then drain the water and let the tin cool completely before opening it. I let my can cool down for at least 4-6 hours before opening it.


Pros: Since the dulce de leche is made in the closed tin, you can make it ahead of time and use whenever needed.

Cons: Simmer for 3 hours. Carbon footprint, anyone? Also, you cannot use it right away as you have to let the tin cool before opening it.


2. In the oven:

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C.
Pour a tin of condensed milk into a shallow baking dish (preferably use a glass dish so that you can check the progress of the dulce de leche). Cover with aluminium foil. Set this baking dish into a larger baking dish or roasting pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan till it reaches halfway up the baking dish containing the condensed milk.

Bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hour*. Keep checking the water level at 20 minute intervals and top up the water as and how required.

Cool in the oven with the oven door ajar for about an hour.


*oven temperatures vary, mine got done in an hour.


Pros: A comparitively quicker way of making the dulce de leche.

Cons: If you don't have a glass dish, it means in order to check if the dulce de leche is done, you have to remove both pans from the oven to check it and run the risk of the hot water spilling out.
(been there, done that!)



3. In the microwave:


Pour the contents of a condensed milk can into a deep microwave proof bowl. Microwave on medium power for 2 minutes. Stir.


Continue to microwave and stir till the condensed milk becomes thick and caramel coloured.


Pros: This is the quickest way of making dulce de leche; it took me all of 16 mins to make the dulce de leche in my microwave. Also, it allows you better control over how thick and caramel coloured you want your dulce de leche to be.

Cons: The constant attention required. You have to maintain a near constant vigil next to the microwave.


4. In the pressure cooker


Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in the pressure cooker. Cover completely with water; again the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Close the pressure cooker (remember, DONT use the weight).

Once it begins to steam, drop the heat to medium - slow and let it steam away for another 60 minutes.

(I let mine steam for about 45 minutes, but I would have liked a more deeper colour - the picture above is of the one I made in the pressure cooker - and a more caramelised taste and hence, the next time, I plan to steam it for an hour).


Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool before you open the lid. Then drain away the water and let the tin cool completely for about 4-6 hours before you open it.


Pros: This is my favourite method of making dulce de leche. It is quick and "hands-free". Also, if you have a large pressure cooker, you can make several tins in one go and store them for future use. I made 2 tins and stored them in the fridge for over 3 months.

Cons: The time taken to cool the tin before you can open and use it.

So, tell me, how do you make your dulce de leche?

(I have referred here for the different ways of making dulce de leche; however, I do not recollect th website I referred to for the first method listed above).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beetroot Salad

Say beetroot and the first reaction of most people is likely be "oh oh" or "ugh". At least, I used to get completely put off by its deep crimson colour.

Of course, it is good for you - which is my mum would regularly force it down out throats in various soups. The moment I stepped out of the house, I turned my back firmly on beetroot.

Until few years ago that is. My cook made this salad insisting it was the best salad I could've ever had. Very grudgingly, I had to admit that it was nice. Better than nice, infact. So nice, that there are days when I actually crave this salad. Yes, notwithstanding the colour, I actually enjoy beetroot (salad).


All you need to do is this:

Boil a beet till it is cooked but still firm. After it cools, peel and grate it.
Toss the grated beet with about 2 tbsps of coarse (roasted) peanut powder, juice of a lime, 3 finely chopped green chillies, 2 tbsps of chopped coriander leaves, salt and a tsp of sugar.
The salad has to be spicy, sweet and tangy all at the same time so adjust seasonings according to your taste.
Sending this to Lisa's No Croutons Required; the theme this month is soups and salads containing root vegetables.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spicy Prawn Curry

I am one who is likes to experiment with different cuisines.
psst...Except when it comes to fish. I am very very biased where fish is concerned. I love to have my fish cooked only in the desi (Indian) style, the spicier, the better.

I also don't like monotony in food and therefore, I tend to experiment with different recipes very often.
psst...However, when it comes to prawns, there are absolutely no experiments. I tend to alternate between two recipes. This spicy prawn curry is my favourite; I've been having it for as long as I can remember and needless to say, it is the one I make most often.




Ingredients:

Prawns - 500 gms, peeled and de-veined ( I leave the tail on as it makes for a nicer presentation)

Shallots - 3/4 cup, sliced (if you don't have shallots, use normal onions by all means)
Tomatoes - 2 large
Garlic - 1 tbsp, finely minced
Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
Green chillies - 3, finely chopped
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp, lightly roast these and pound to a powder
Curry leaves - 10 - 12
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Coconut milk - 100 ml
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt
Oil - 1 tbsp + 1.5 tbsp

Method:

Marinate the prawns in a little turmeric powder and juice of half a lemon for about 30 mins.

Heat about a tbsp of oil, add the half the curry leaves followed by the prawns. Fry for about 2 mins or till the prawns turn white in colour. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the balance curry leaves and the garlic. Fry for a minute and then add the onions, ginger and the green chillies, stirring constantly till the onions turn pink.

Now, toss in the tomatoes and fry till they become soft and mushy. Stir in the remaining turmeric, coriander seed powder, red chilli powder and salt and then tip in the prawns. Increase the heat to high and keep stirring constantly and briskly till the prawns are firm but cooked.
(don't over cook the prawns, that will just kill the taste and the texture!)

Add the coconut milk, once it starts to simmer, take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped coriander leaves. Cover and let it rest for about an hour before serving so as to allow all the flavours to mingle together.

Served with piping hot rice, this is the closest you can get to culinary heaven!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Egg Burji

A lot of my memories are associated with food. Of course, I am not the only one - for all of us, the smell, taste and sight of some foods often triggers memories .

Often, it is only a recollection - on the lines of "remember that time when we ate ....", or "every summer, the smell of mangoes would permeate through the house...", or "I remember eating it when we were on a vacation to...", or "remember the chaat wallah.."

But every once in a while, food stirs memories that warm the cockles of ones heart. And so, sometimes, it is not the food per se, but the memories it triggers in us that makes it so special.

Egg burji (spiced scrambled eggs) - or anda burji, as it is popularly called, is the one food that is special to me - not because it is so easy and convenient to make. It is special because of the time it makes me recall.

Terradaze and I were about to be married and were house-hunting in full earnest. After a back-breaking search, we finally found a house that was within our budget and in the area we wanted; more importantly, it was a house that we wanted to call home.

We'll sign the lease documents today and then go and celebrate at a good restaurant, we decided.

H.O.W.E.V.E.R, as they say, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip - at the last minute, the house slipped out of our hands.

Stunned, we made our way back to our hostels. An hour in the train , spent in absolute stony silence. There was precious little to be said anyway - the wedding was less than two weeks away, and we had no other apartments short-listed. Without it being said , we knew that staying in our hostels after getting married was a distinct possibility! By the time the train pulled into Churchgate station, it was past midnight. We were tired and frustrated, not to mention very very hungry.

As we were walking out of the station, we heard the hiss of a gas stove and a the clanging of a spoon on a wok. Something smelt delicious. A street cart selling burji - pav (bread).

Perhaps, it was because we were feeling so miserable. Perhaps it was because we weren't expecting to get any hot food being sold at that hour. But the sight of that street cart filled us with great joy. And at that moment, the hopelessness we felt, lifted. Just a minor hiccup, we told each other. We would find a way out, we said.

To this day, whenever I make anda burji, I can recall the minutest details of that night - the ebony coloured man cranking up the flame, throwing in the ingredients one after the other, stirring them quickly and vigorously, tiny beads of sweat on his fore-head, his banian that once must've been white, now faded and stained with splotches of turmeric here and there. The two of us, wolfing down the burji pav, filled with renewed hope.



Egg burji is one very easy thing to make. There are no fixed measures here, so my quantities keep changing; use the following just as a guideline, but this is one recipe where you can do as you please!

Ingredients:

Onions - 1 large, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2 medium, chopped
Green bell pepper - 1/2, chopped (optional)
Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
Green chillies - 2, chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, chopped
Salt
Oil
Eggs - 4, lightly beaten
(vegetarians can substitute eggs with crumbed paneer, vegans can use soy granules)

Method:

Heat oil and saute the onions till pink. Add in the ginger and the bell pepper, if using. Stir till the bell pepper softens, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric and salt and stir till the tomatoes become soft and mushy, then toss in the coriander leaves.

Add the eggs in and mix till the eggs are set.

I serve my burji with these butter rolls ; it is as delicious with rotis.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Aloo Gobi

So, the husband comes home the other day and asks to see the pictures.
What pictures, I ask him.
The ones you clicked of the aloo gobi, he responds.


(As you can seee, he has become very conditioned to this cooking-clicking-reviewing the pictures-then finally eating routine).

But I didn't click any, I tell him
Oh, aren't you going to blog about it, he queries.

Blog? About aloo gobi? No, not really, I tell him.
For one, it is the most basic of veggies. Everyone knows how to make this.

Ahem, he smiles. Everyone knows how to make it, he repeats.

For, a long time ago, aloo gobi was my nemesis. I'd never get it right - either the potatoes would be burnt or the gobi (cauliflower) would be mushy and over-cooked. But then, one learns!

So well, yes, I know that aloo gobi is one of the easiest of all veggies that one can make. That almost everyone has their own perfect way of making it. Here's mine.




Ingredients:


Cauliflower, broken into florets - 1 1/2 cup
Potato - 1 large, peeled and cut into cubes
Ginger - 1 tbsp, grated
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Dry masalas: cumin powder - 1 tsp, coriander powder - 1.5 tsp, turmeric - 1/2 tsp,
aamchur - 1/4 tsp, red chilli powder - to your taste

Oil - 1.5 tbsp
Salt

Chopped coriander

Method:

Par-boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt and turmeric. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil and fry the cumin seeds until they begin to splutter. Add the cauliflower florets and the ginger and stir on high heat for about 5 minutes.

Add in the par-boiled potatoes, all the dry spices and salt and stir till all the vegetables are evenly coated by the spices. Cover and cook on a low flame for a further 10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked, stirring frequently.

Garnish with coriander and serve hot with rotis.

Notes:

As far as possible, avoid adding any water when making aloo gobhi, else the cauliflowers will look quite wilted. If the veggies start sticking to the bottom of the pan, just sprinkle a few drops of water.

You could also add some green peas or carrots to make a more colourful dish.

I sometimes substitute the cumin SEEDS with kalonji or panch phoran to change the taste a bit.

The stalks and leaves of the cauliflower are edible and nutritious. If you have the time, combine these with some mushrooms, tomatoes, salt, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves to make vegetable stock. Freeze the stock in ice trays and use it to flavour your soups or to cook pasta.

It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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