Tuesday, March 30, 2010
But wait, there is a good reason for it - you see, I've never been able to click any pictures for this cake. No one has the patience for pictures to be clicked. The moment the frosting is on the cake, it has to be cut and eaten.
Even this time, I had just 3 'neat' slices to click pictures of. And just take a look at what my daughter resorted to while I tried to set the plates for the pictures:
Does this give you an idea of how good this cake is?! Yes, this cake is really that good. Even if I have to say it myself. So good that even you would want to lick your fingers and the plate long after the last crumb is devoured. Very very chocolately, soft and moist....what more could you possibly want from a chocolate cake?
Perfect entry, I think, for the 'Best Chocolate Cake' event hosted by Divya!
Edited to add...My apologies to all who land on this page and don't find a recipe. Please email me for the recipe.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
However, this chikoo and date frozen yogurt is something I eat without counting any calories. For one, it uses low fat yogurt, but more importantly, since chikoos and the dates are naturally very sweet, this frozen yogurt doesn't need ANY refined sugar.
So, if you, like me, need to have something sweet after dinner, this frozen yogurt is something you must try - good to taste and nothing on the waist!
Chikoos: 3-4 nos
Dates: 20- 25 nos
Yogurt: 500 ml
Low Fat sour cream: 1/4 cup
Honey: 3 tbps, optional
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp
Salt: a pinch
Soak the dates in water for about 4-5 hrs. Once soft, drain the water, remove the seeds and the flaky outer skin as well. Grind to a smooth pulp, using a little milk, if needed. You need about 1/2 a cup of the date puree.
Peel the chikoos, discard the seeds and grind to a smooth pulp. You need 3/4 cup of the chikoo puree.
Hang the yogurt in a clean muslin cloth for about 4-5 hrs, so that the water (whey) drains off. Transfer it to a bowl, add the sour cream and using a hand blender/wooden spoon, beat till smooth and fluffy.
Add the date and the chikoo puree, honey, lemon juice and essence and beat a couple of minutes more. Chill the mixture for a couple of hours and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, then there is some work involved: freeze the mixture in a closed box and every time it starts to set along the edges, blend it in the mixie - do this at least 3 times.
This frozen yogurt is high in the total fruit pulp content and is low fat and therefore is best eaten as soon as it sets. Else, let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes before scooping it out.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
My fascination with sweet potatoes started a couple of years ago when I had them at a barbeque. Just a blob of butter, a dash of pepper and a sprinkle of salt on the perfectly roasted tuber. It was deliciously sweet and had that 'melt in the mouth' texture and between a few mouthfuls, I was hooked to the sweet potato.
Soon, as if to make up for all the years I scorned them, I was using sweet potatoes wherever I could. Combining them with potatoes. OR replacing potatoes with sweet potatoes.
Aloo chaat is something I make very often. It serves as the perfect snack in the evenings, especially on week ends when we like to nibble on something that is not too high in calories but is very satiating.
Replacing sweet potatoes in the chaat works perfectly: their naturally sweet taste is in fact nicely balanced with the tanginess of the chaat ; adding in chickpeas gives an added protein boost.
Sweet potatoes: 2
Chickpeas: 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves: 2 tbsps
Chopped green chillies
Onion: 1, cut into cubes
Dry spice powders: Chaat masala: 3.5 tsps, Roasted cumin seed powder: 1.5 tsps
Black salt: to taste
Sugar: 1 tsp
Juice of half a lemon
Oil: 1 tsp
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Soak the chickpeas in water for 6-8 hrs. Then, cook them till they are soft and cooked; about 3 whistles in the pressure cooker should be enough to cook them. Once cooked, drain the water and let them cool.
Cut the sweet potato into cubes and steam them till cooked but still firm.
In a bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, the chick peas and the onion, sprinkle the dry spice powders, salt and sugar and toss well so that the spice powders coat the sweet potato cubes and the chickpeas. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the chopped green chillies and the coriander leaves and mix again.
Heat the oil , add the cumin seeds and when the splutter, pour over the chaat.
Serve topped with a dollop of sweetened yogurt.
Sending this to Lisa's No Croutons Required and MLLA - 21 hosted this time at Mirch Masala, event started by Susan.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Take a look....
When her unwell daughter needs something delicious and healthy to get back on her feet quick, she knows exactly what to make.
Tell me honestly, don't you feel like grabbing her bowl and slurping away...er...noisily?
For over 3 years now, she's been organising this great party every Friday night in the blogosphere, the one we all know as Presto Pasta Nights. She has something week, here's what she has for us this week.
When it looks as good as this, like her, you would help yourself to some, irrespective of what time of the day it is!
She takes inspiration from the land of the rising sun and revives some leftovers.
She doesn't like them coming in a jar, but does make an exception sometimes!
She wields a magic wand that makes her food....well....multi-task.
She stirs up a quick meal and regales you with a walk down memory lane.
She manages to take a picture before everyone descended on it and licked the plate clean!
Psst...this is her family's favourite.
Oh, you'll break into a sweat, not while making it, but when eating it! But you will derive pleasure from your pain, she assures us.
When she yearns for some comfy food, nothing can come in the way!
A classic that never fails to satisfy. And she takes the taste up a few notches with her own spin on it.
She is enticing you with more than just this plate of goodness!
This is her take on instant noodles, made the healthy way.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The very essence of instant noodles is the flavouring. That small sachet, the contents of which when poured into water, morphs into a delicious broth. However, if you look at the ingredients that make up the flavouring, you'd be right in thinking that you should take the sachet straight to a chemistry lab than into your kitchen.
And while having instant noodles is completely ok occasionally, falling back on them regularly? Umm, not quite. Well, at least that is my humble opinion. But this is EXACTLY what I was guilty of, especially in the last quarter of 2009. Being pressed for time, I'd resort very often to instant noodles for the husband's breakfast and my own lunch.
But everytime I'd reach out for a packet of noodles, I'd feel I felt terrible about making them so often and I started to wonder if there was some way of making my own flavouring.
A few disastrous experiments with mixing different spices in varying proportions followed. Till I hit upon a rather simple solution: make the broth in bulk, freeze it in small packets and use when required.
What follows is not a recipe per se; if the idea appeals to you, just play around with different veggies and spices to suit your own taste.
This is what I do:
In a large vessel, add about 12 mushrooms (I use shitake mushrooms) and 2 tomatoes.
This is an excellent way of using up the stalks of certain veggies; I add cauliflower, brocolli and spinach stalks to mine, whenever I have them on hand. Else, add whatever veggies you have. This time, I also had some chicken bones and I used them as well.
Add about 2.5 litres of water and bring to a boil and then continue to simmer for about 15 mins.
Then, add in the spices and seasonings. I used curry powder, dried minced onions, paprika, stir fry seasoning (containing dried garlic, ginger and red pepper), salt, pepper and a dash of sugar. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
Strain the stock and let it cool completely.
Once the broth is completely cooled, transfer to re-sealable bags; I pour about 300 ml in each bag and freeze them.
So, how do you use the broth to make noodles?
You will need about 100 gms of dried noodles - rice noodles, soba noodles, egg noodles - just take your pick.
That is it....healthy instant noodles in just 10 minutes!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Bow-tie is my favourite thing
Rigatoni is quite round
How does penne pasta sound?
The sauce on top is often red
You can try some cheese instead
Garlic butter tastes quite nice
And then there’s always salsa spice
Macaroni and alphabet soup
Fit into a spoon’s small scoop
Other noodles must be twirled
By people all around the world
On forks, chopsticks and fingers, too
(Unless you cut them up in two)
All sorts of pasta shapes are fun
Try them all until you are done
(courtesy my daughter, who got this rhyme in school!)
Yes, you got it! I am this week's host for Presto Pasta Nights - 155.
All you have to do - just bring them out - pastas or noodles and dress them up any way you want to: soups, starters, main course or even dessert! Go classic Italian or draw inspiration from any other cuisine. Need more details? Just hop here .
Then, post your creation in your blog (your post must include the link to the Presto Pasta Nights website and to the PNN #155 announcement - that would be this post) and mail it to me at: aquadaze(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
Do mark a copy to Ruth at: ruth(AT)4everykitchen(DOT)com
Include the following details in your e-mail:
Your blog name and URL
Name of your submission and URL of your post
Don't have a blog, but have a super recipe that you want to share? Just mail me the recipe and the picture!
PPN #155 runs between March 12th - March 18th. Check back on the 19th for the round-up.
Looking forward to your delicious entries!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
"Food smells good. So what's for dinner?"
"Rogan Josh", I say, with just that touch of airiness.
For unlike things like mutton kadhai, rogan josh has that very nice sound to it. Just say it 'Rogan Josh’. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
"Hmmm, it tastes very delicious", he says. "Hate to burst your bubble though, but this is not authentic rogan josh."
I stare at him, murder in my eyes.
"Rogan Josh", he continues, "does not have any onion or garlic or tomatoes, for that matter."
"Really? I can pull out the recipe and prove that this is rogan josh", I claim. "And how", I continue, with a touch of scorn, "Can you be so sure of what rogan josh contains?"
"Because a good friend in college was a Kashmiri Pandit. I have eaten at his place a dozen times. I do know what I am talking about, Kashmiri Pandits don't eat onions or garlic."
I was then convinced that he had a point. And that set me off on a quest for the recipe of the 'authentic' rogan josh. (Of course, my friend was of no help in sourcing the recipe from his friend's mom. He had lost touch with him years ago).
Thank God, they invented google! With help from here and here, this is my version of rogan josh.
And while I am not laying claim to any authenticity, all I can say is when that same friend came over again, he thought that (finally) I had got it right!
Rogan josh has a very flavourful gravy with a very subtle taste from the use of various dry spices. If you are a vegetarian, use baby eggplants in place of the meat; the cooking time for the eggplant will be considerably less.
Goat meat/Lamb: 750 gms
Asafoetida: 1.5 tsps
Dry spice powders - Dried ginger powder, fennel seed powder, coriander seed powder: 1 tbsp each
Kashmiri red chilli powder: 2 tsps
Grated ginger: 1 tsp
Whole garam masala:
Cinnamon: a 2" piece
Cloves: 8 nos
Black cardamom: 4 nos
Green cardamom: 3 nos
Black peppercorns: 6
Yogurt: 3/4 cup (the yogurt has to be at room temperature)
Ghee: 4 tbsps
Salt: to taste
Saffron: 1 pinch, soaked in a tbsp of rosewater
Heat ghee and add the whole garam masala, saute for 30 seconds. Add 3/4 tsp of asafoetida and saute another 30 seconds.
Add 1 tsp of red chilli powder and immediately add the meat, stirring till the pieces are evenly browned on all sides. The meat will leave water, keep stirring till all the water has dried up. This will take about 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk all the dry spice powders into the yogurt and add this to the lamb after the water has dried up. Stir till the yogurt has dried up and the masala coats the meat.
Add 2 cups of warm water, the grated ginger, the remaining asafoetida and the salt. Cover and cook on a very low flame till the meat is tender.
Remember we used only half the red chilli powder? Once the meat is cooked, add in the remaining red chilli powder, increase the heat and bring to a rapid boil. Your gravy will now look a fiery red with a thin film of oil on top.
Stir in the saffron soaked rosewater, cover and let the curry rest for a couple of hours so that all the flavours get infused into the meat.
Resist all temptation to cook it in a pressure cook. The flavours come out best when the meat is cooked over low heat. In fact, I transfer mine to a slow cooker when I add the water and cook it for about 5 hrs. Seriously, I do.
Rogan josh has a deep red colour that it gets from the use of ratanjot, a herb grown in Kashmir. If you manage to get some, add a tsp after the meat has cooked along with the remaining chilli powder.
I normally leave the cooked meat overnight in the fridge, I think it tastes better the next day. It also helps in another way - in the fridge, the ghee solidifies. Scoop that out with a spoon before heating.
Forget the rotis and the parathas, rogan josh is best had with plain white rice.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
But when you buy a huge villa which happens to be in a foreign country whose language you are not fluent at and moreover, when the said villa is dilapidated and has been abandoned for a long time and you set about remodelling and restoring it, the labour and the love (and the money) it demands from you multiplies many times over.
Under The Tuscan Sun, the book club's choice this month, chronicles the author Frances Mayes' first four years in Italy. At its heart is the villa Bramasole that she and her partner, Ed purchase. Though it is completely run down from years of neglect, they dream of turning it into their home. With both of them working full-time in San Francisco, the going is very tough. Amid trips back and forth every summer and winter, they have to wade their way through a labyrinth of work: from negotiations with contractors, liaising with the workers through faxes and telephones to finally rolling up their sleeves to get the work done in time to host a friend's wedding, as a reader, you really do feel very impressed at their effort and commitment in restoring Bramasole's splendour.
However, after a point, reading about the work in progress (or the lack of progress) does get tedious. Fortunately, her memoirs do go beyond the villa renovation - as she travels into the area around Cortona, she paints a very beautiful and vivid picture of the region and delves into the history and culture of Tuscany. Sadly, her impressions of Italians and their life cling to the oft repeated cliches and while it is very interesting to read about the Etruscan civilisation, a different and scarcely known aspect of Italian history, after a point in time, the repeated references to the Etruscans made it seem like she was plain obsessed with them.
I started reading the book with a lot of enthusiasm because going to Tuscany has been on my wish list for long. However, towards the last third of the book, I found it quite laborious to plod through the pages. And had it not been a book club read, I am certain I would have stopped reading it!
Her prose is beautiful, lyrical almost and her philosophical introspections are definitely thought provoking. My favourite parts of the book were where she takes the reader through the markets in Cortona, lined with freshly picked fruit and vegetables and when she dips bread into a bowl olive oil extracted from olive plucked out of their land. The bounty of the land and the sheer labour it takes to put something on the table really shine through in these parts of the book.
Which brings me to the food: plenty and more of it, till you would almost get indigestion and heartburn just from reading! The recipes, earthy and simple to make, are divided into summer and winter in keeping with the seasonality of ingredients.
Poaching pears in red wine is something I have been wanting to do for a long time. I didn't use the recipe in the book as I didn't quite fancy the idea of using currants with the pears. Instead I picked up a few ideas from a couple of websites to come up with this method.
The red wine poached pears look stunning and are ridiculously easy to make. Make these a day or two ahead of time, so that the pears can absorb all the flavours from the spices; also the colour intensifies with time.
Red wine*: 400 ml (I used merlot, but having made these, I would highly recommend a marsala)
Sugar: 1/2 cup
Cinnamon: a 2" piece
Ginger: 1" piece, julienned
Star anise: 1
Crushed peppercorn: 1/2 tsp
Vanilla pod: 1, split lengthwise
Lemon zest: 1 tsp
(*for those who don't use alcohol, substitute the wine with grape juice and cranberry juice in the ratio of 2:1 and add a couple of tbsps of balsamic vinegar when making the syrup).
Put the red wine, sugar and all the spices into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer till the sugar dissolves.
Meanwhile, peel the pears, cut off a small disc from the bottom so that the pears can stand upright. Do leave the stalks on.
Place the pears upright into the wine; they should be completely submerged into the wine. Simmer for a further 20-30 minutes or until they are cooked through, such that a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the pear goes through easily.
Let the pears cool and then refrigerate them. Just before serving, remove the pears from the liquid, then reduce the liquid till it reaches a syrupy consistency.
Slice the pears, drizzle the syrup over them and serve with some vanilla ice cream.
Here's what the other book clubbers made:
Sweatha made Basil Mint Sorbet, Ann made a pizza with onion confit, grilled sausage and peppers and Simran made Caponata.
Next month, we are reading a chic-lit, Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella. Drop a line to Simran - bombayfoodie(at)gmail(dot)com if you'd like to join us.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Ah...you are curious. Why, you wonder?
Because of the comments they receive, you guess. Because of the followers they have, you are sure.
Then, WHY? The question resounds loudly.
If you have been blog hopping, you would have noticed how some of the bloggers are going on and on about spring. That spring is at their doorstep, that they can just feel it in the air.
And here in Singapore, the weather is oppressively HOT! On a good day, the temperature is 31 deg C. Most of the other days, we are roasting under a balmy 34 deg C!
So tell me, can you fault me for feeling envious of all those bloggers talking about the onset of spring, my favourite season?
Yes, being a equatorial country, Singapore does not have any seasons. It is hot and humid all year round. That said, this last fortnight has been particularly hot and dry. Some evenings, dark clouds gather and obscure the sun, and we think, at last, there'll be some rain today, some respite from the unending heat. I stretch my hand out of the window and strain my ears to hear the sound of thunder - but, nothing! The sun is back in its full glory and I am left wiping the small droplets of sweat from my face!
With the humidity and heat the way it is, sipping water frequently is essential. But then, there are times when I need something more than just water to beat the heat. Sometimes, it is a glass of juice, other times, this dried roselle iced tea, sometimes, nothing but a tall glass of strawberry shake will do.
My favourite, however, is this lemongrass iced tea. These days, I brew some tea early in the morning and keeping sipping it through the day.
Not much of a recipe, but here's what I do.
Take 2 stalks of lemongrass for one glass of tea. Cut off an inch from the root and peel off the fibrous outer layers to reveal the pinkish-white inner stalk. Run a rolling pin over the length of the stalk to release the flavours and then chop it up into 1" long pieces.
Add these to water and bring it to a boil, simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the gas, drop in a tea bag, cover and let it steep for 2-3 mins, after which discard only the tea bag. Cut a kaffir lime leaf into thin strips and add these to the tea, cover and allow to steep till it reaches room temperature. Strain and pour over plenty of ice cubes.
(Lemongrass has a very delicate flavour, so do use a very light tea or else the flavour of the tea will overpower that of the lemongrass).
Squeeze in few drops of lime juice and sweeten with some sugar syrup or honey. I prefer to use honey. Garnish with some juliennes of kaffir lime leaves and a slice of lime.
Before you rush to sip it, inhale the aroma - lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and tea leaves - the aroma is itself is refreshing! A great way to beat that heat!!
This delightfully refreshing and aromatic lemongrass iced tea with is on its way to The Well Seasoned Cook, Susan, the host this week for WHB - 223, event started by Kalyn and currently run by Haalo.
Also sending this to Madhuri who is hosting Serve Me Some: Juices, Shakes and Smoothies
Monday, March 1, 2010
And yes, I do like my carrots made this way.
Or when added to certain other veggies like cauliflower or cabbage or peas.
Looks like I do like carrots! However, unlike rabbits, I like my carrots cooked. Which apparently is a good thing. For, I found out just a few weeks back that it is better to cook carrots than to eat them raw!
Here's another way I love to have carrots:
Carrots - 4 medium sized
Yogurt: 3/4 cup
Sugar: 1 tsp
grind the following to a smooth paste, adding a little water, if needed:
Grated coconut: 3 tbsps
curry leaves: 8-10 nos
coriander leaves: 3-4 stalks
green chillies: 2 nos
mustard seeds: 1.5 tsp
for the tempering:
oil: 1 tbsp
mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
dried red chillies: 2 nos
curry leaves: 5-6
peppercorn: 6 nos
Peel the carrots and boil them until soft and cooked. I normally pressure cook the carrots - 2 whistles are enough to cook them.
When cool, cut them into a few pieces and grind to get a smooth puree. Use a little water if necessary.
Mix together the pureed carrots, the coconut - mustard paste and the yogurt. Season with salt and sugar.
Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds to the hot oil. When they crackle, add the red chillies, curry leaves and the peppercorn; let these sizzle in the oil for half a minute and then pour over the carrot-yoghurt mix. Stir and chill for half an hour before serving.
I normally make this raita as an accompaniment to parathas or with any dry stir fried veggie like aloo gobhi or jeera aloo.
So, what is it called?
I call it "carrot raita with yogurt". It is a Tamil preparation that my MIL makes very often; somehow, I don't know what it is called! What I do know is that the sweetness of the carrots, paired with the tanginess of yogurt and the piquancy of the mustard seeds give this raita a lovely and almost indescribable medley of flavours. Hope you like it too!
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!