Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Happy Holi - A recipe for Thandai Posset


Holi hai - 'Its Holi' runs the refrain this time of year when merriment and revelry break loose with he advent of spring. when travel brochures describe it as a 'riot of color' you could take it literally. THe festival is riotous, the normal 'distance' between the genders is blurred, sometimes for the worse. There was a rather powerful tweet out there yesterday suggesting that Holi would be a perfect occasion to teach kids accept 'NO' for an answer, something the average male Indian population seems all to often to require a refresher in.
From the mythological point of view, Holi celebrates the rather fiery end of a demoness called Holika. Holika was the sister of the asura Hiranyakashipu, whose son was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakaship hated Vishnu with such a passion that he later found refuge at the feet of the Lord, simply because of his perverted reverse obsession. Similar to what the Abrahamic texts sometimes indicate about Lucifer, the fallen angel. Well, Hiranyakashipu knew very well that Holika was immune to fire and so asked her to incinerate Prahlad to get rid of the Vishnu obsession. To cut a long story short, Holika reduces to ashes, the kid lives.

Where there is revelry, invariably there is food, and Holi is no exception. Probably the only celelbration when pot brownies would be offered as prasad before being consumed with devotion. Other dishes associated with Holi inclide 'Poli' - In Maharashtra, its a griddled flatbread stuffed with a sweet dal filling. (I have a Panfusine version, but its currently still in my head), Bhang, an intoxicating desi 'eggnog style' drink laced with Pot, and its virgin counterpart Thandai, both of which claim their origins to  the ancient city of Benares.

I have already posted a recipe for  Posset a couple of years ago, and here's the recipe if you're looking for it. What is Posset? Its basically cream seasoned with spices and curdled to set like a custard. Setting agents of yore included ale, but this version I have in the recipe section is completely non-alcoholic. Heck, I'm hoping that the kids will help me polish of this batch of decadent rich dessert.



Thandai Posset (serves 4)


You need:
1 cup heavy cream (not whipping cream)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup pistachio
1/4 cup cashewnuts
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 Meyer lemon (~ 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon spice blend**

**Spice blend
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds,
3-4 cardamom pods powdered
1/4 teaspoon mix of nutmeg and mace powdered together


Combine the nuts together in a  bowl and pour 2 cups of boiling water over. Allow to cool and then peel the brown skins over the almonds and the covering over the pistachios. Drain and combine with the cup of 2% milk, the spice blend and the sugar and blend to a smooth paste. Strain the paste to remove any gritty bits of nutmeat.




Whisk in the nutmeat paste with the heavy cream and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.




Whisk in the lemon juice (seeds strained out of course) and pour the mixture into 4 small cups. Allow to set and chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Garnish with microplaned bits of pistachio and saffron strands and serve chilled.





Happy Holi & Bon Appetit!



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dessert Bowls with OXO - Chia and Forbidden Rice Pudding with grilled fruits.



When it comes to new kitchen gadgets, I make no bones of it, I have a weakness. I love them, some fall by the wayside ass I fall out, and with some, its an enduring relationship as I depend upon them for my daily cooking. I's not often that I get to extol about kitchen gadgets used in daily cooking, because this blog is not about what I cook daily for my family (although my Instagram feed does take care of that).
Oxo's latest product campaign just upped the ante in the utility category and I ended up using the products on a regular basis before the recipe actually became a reality.
The package arrived with a colander bowl, a hand held mandoline and a grape/tomato cutter.


Since rice is a daily staple, I put the rice & grain  colander to full use from day one. the perforations on the gadgets are small enough to hold in the tiniest of seeds such as quinoa and the wining feature is the perforations added on the pouring spout that drains of residual water with an extra bit of efficiency. I wish I had a good enough shot of the chia seeds that I rinsed for the recipe. but, moist chia seeds are not really photogenic.



The Mandolin is a must have implement. A gadget designed for home cooks that matches up to professional mandolins.



It comes with seven settings from slices thick enough for making gratins to almost translucent paper thin . Any thinner setting and I'd probably be ordering a  micrometer gauge to measure my slices of beets & turnips. Even fussy, non conventional fruits like pineapples were no match for the slicing abilities of this gadget. In addition to a safety guard, this mandoline has a locking safety feature that ensures that the blade isn't exposed for any potential mishap while stored away.




Last but not the least, the grape and tomato cutter, a tool for small fruits and vegetables such as pitted olives, grapes and tomatoes. this spring loaded cutter neatly quarters into small wedges. It's perfect for salads.



The contours are designed to curve around your fingers and its a breeze to clean, The added bonus - my kids were arguing about who gets to dice the grapes for the final recipe. Its quite kid friendly with proper supervision.



You can take these words to the bank that I will be using these tools regularly for future blog posts.

It was a toss up between a savory breakfast or a dessert, since the theme had to be a dish presented in a bowl. Even though I had used these tools for other breakfast dishes like steel cut oats upma Oats Upma, It wasn't as photogenic in terms of the color. A beautiful contrast of a light lavender from the purple forbidden rice and sunshine yellow from the mango puree that the chia seeds are hydrated with.
And so the final recipe that showcases these amazing kitchen gadgets is a rather hearty, yet elegant dessert. The tough purple forbidden rice is packed with healthy flavanoids and Chia is, of course a super food, packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants and fiber.



Chia and Forbidden Rice Pudding with grilled fruits

You need:

1/2 cup forbidden rice
2 cups water
1 can condensed milk
2 cups low fat milk
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder

1/4 cup Chia seeds
2 cups (16 fl. oz) mango puree

Pineapple slices as needed
Purple seedless grapes.

Rinse and drain the forbidden rice well and soak with plenty of water to completely submerge the grain. Leave to hydrate overnight. The next day, add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook until the grains get easily squished when pressed between the thumb and finger. Purple rice has a thick outer covering that that takes its time to soften, so be prepared for about 30 - 45 minutes of cooking. Mash the grains roughly with the back of a spoon. 
Whisk together the condensed milk and the low fat milk and heat in a heavy bottom saucepan. add the mashed rice and simmer on a medium heat. Using an Immersion blender, blend the rice until the entire mixture turns into a light purple color. Add the cardamom powder and allow to simmer for an extra 10 minutes. Transfer to a container, cover and allow to chill. the mixture will thicken significantly and the cardamom infuses into the entire bowl of pudding.


Rinse the chia seeds and transfer immediately into a large glass container. Pour the mango pulp over the seeds and stir with a spoon so that the seeds do not form lumps. Allow to hydrate overnight in the fridge.

The next day, prep the pineapple by removing the hard peel and coring out the 'eyes'. Cut into 4 wedges and remove the central core. Set the mandolin at the '4' setting (the thickest) and slice. Wash & cut the grapes.

Heat a cast iron pan and  place the pineapple slices on the pan, allow to caramelize on one side for about 2-3 minutes before turning over and grilling the other.



To Assemble :
Spoon the chilled rice pudding into  glass bowls  and smooth over the surface. Gently spoon the mango and chia seeds mixture over the purple rice pudding. If you prefer, add some extra mango puree over the chia. Top up with the diced grapes and finish with bits of the grilled pineapple. Serve chilled.

A big thank you to OXO and Ms. Veronica Chan for the opportunity to test and showcase these fantastic gadgets.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Luck be a 'Laadi' tonight- Artisanal Laadi Pav.



Anyone from Mumbai (the city formerly known as Bombay), with a passion for its incomparable street food will relate to the following scenario. Standing in front of a vendors cart waiting for a fresh batch of Batata vadas (garlicky potatoes enrobed in a spiced chickpea flour batter) to be fished out of a huge wok of hot oil, there is an aroma that quietly stamps itself into your memory. Rustic, yeasty and downright comforting. The stacks of  country rolls piled up 2 feet high, in the corner. These are the native 'Ladi Pav', a Portuguese contribution to this vibrant culinary scenario.

The Pav is everything that the snooty slice of white bread is not -  tough, chewy, with a tang that is halfway to sourdough. Its usually partially sliced,  soaked in melted butter when served up with Pav bhaji or Usal. Alternatively, dusted liberally with garlic chutney with a golden orb of batata vada stuffed in between.



Lets not beat around the bush, the Pav has always been looked down upon as a 'country' cousin compared to the sliced loaves. For one, it never comes packaged. instead its delivered by teenagers on bicycles. bulk packaged directly in large plastic/ canvass duffel bags Although I have no way of verifying this, Pav is probably part of a small scale 'cottage' industry, unregulated by food authorities.
There is no clear way cut way of finding out what strain of wheat the flour comes from or what leavening yeast is added or  the status of the bakery it's made in.



As much as we love our streetside Khau galli vada pav & pav bhaji, how many have ever ever viewed the pav as an artisanal bread? I'm betting the term never crossed your minds and I don't blame you, Same here. We never seem to overtly pay attention and appreciate the very nuances that that make the pav  such a favorite comfort food, Its a nameless creation from anonymous corners of the city that we would rather not know about or find out.

Last Sunday was the Superbowl and due to a mix up about what my 10 year old wanted for the big day, I ended up with a bowl of no knead  Pizza dough (Jim Lahey's recipe from the New York Times) that somehow escaped its original purpose. So there I was, faced with a request for making Pav bhaji and absolutely no rolls of bread.


Version 1.0

The day old dough did not command my full attention at all, more of a hack job, I divided it into  8 rolls and threw them into a  9 x13 baking pan and let them proof a second time. They proofed all right more like a large cookie / whoopie pie shape. disheartened I set the oven to 350 and baked until the top turned golden. The resulting rolls were rather hard, but the resultant crumb was a revelation. I seemed to have nailed the tangy unique flavor of the pav and even some of the stretchy chewy texture.
Drawback: the amount of salt specified by Mark Bittman in the recipe was too little.


Version 2.0

Lesson learned from the earlier session - Use a smaller baking tray.
Mistakes made: I divided the dough into 16 rolls, and worse, I ended up disturbing the dough by trying to further divide it 5 minutes after it went into the oven. I also set the temperature to 400 F.
Net result: the crumb was chewy all right but unevenly baked, lumpy in places where I had cut through with a dough scraper And yes,  One tablespoon salt was too much.

Version 3.0: Third time's a charm!


Artisanal Ladi Pav


You need:


  •  3 cups Bread Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Artisan Bread flour.)
  • 1 5/8 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon yeast,
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon Vital Gluten* (ONLY if using all purpose flour)
  • 2-3 tablespoons buttermilk, whisked yogurt or kefir for brushing.

 Bread flour tends to be higher in gluten compared to All purpose flour, and I believe that plays a major role in the resulting texture. If you don't have access to bread flour, then add gluten to all purpose flour and sift well to combine.


Add the salt, whisk to disperse and then add in the yeast.


Pour the water in the middle of the flour, fold in using  a silicone spatula until all the water is absorbed and there is no residual patches of flour at the bottom of the bowl.



Now place the bowl in a corner of the counter at room temperature and leave it undisturbed overnight (~ 18 hours)


This is what the dough will look like the next morning. Punch down the dough (it will resemble putty, slightly sticky but rather malleable).
Grease the bottom of a 9x9 inch square baking tray and dust with flour or . As I learned from Version 1.0, the size of the pan is crucial when it comes to shaping the rolls.
Oil your palms generously and divide up the dough into 9 equal portions . Use the weighing scale for accuracy. Roll the balls of dough to a 'somewhat' smooth consistency and place them seam side down, on the baking pan.

Allow the dough to proof in a warm place (I use my oven's proof setting for the purpose) for about an hour. In the meantime preheat the oven to 450 F.


The rolls should look similar to this when they're ready to be baked. However tempting it may be , do not, I repeat DO NOT try to score the lines between the balls of dough. In bread terms, that would be like slashing a major artery in a living animal. The bread will deflate to its death,
Brush the surface with the whisked yogurt / kefir.



Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the baking. The surface should be a golden brown and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped lightly.



Place the pan on a wire rack and let the bread cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then, tip the bread over from the pan and cool completely before even thinking about trying to sneak a roll.
ANd when you finally get to tear into the roll, the aroma that hits your nose will make you want to turn around and search for a vada pav cart that perhaps may be hiding in plain sight.

video


Cut along the side (like a burger roll) slather with the best butter you have and press down the roll on a hot griddle. This melts the butter into the nooks of the crumb. Serve up with Potato Vadas or Pav Bhaji (yes, I shudder at my own suggestion of using store bought saloio rolls) .



I opted to pair this with another classic lentil curry from Maharashtra,  Usal.





Bon Appetit!







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