Friday, December 24, 2010

Toasted coconut & Sesame Shortbread

Christmas for me in terms of memories were localized to Nairobi, Kenya, where I spent a chunk of of my growing up years. Our neighbors were Goan & I can still mentally taste the Christmas platter of home made goodies that used to be sent up the week of the 25th. Cheese straws, fruitcake, Karanji's filled with coconut & sesame..these were the first things that came to mind & acting on my thoughts i decided to whip up a batch of shortbread cookies with the aim of incorporating the flavors of karanjis which are deep fried traditional festive desserts made with coconut, common to western India ( in addition, shortbread , is possibly one of the few cookie recipes that do not compulsorily call for eggs which I try to work around due to my inherent lethargy!)
Shortbread is a cookie made primarily from flour, butter & sugar. Its  a classic Scottish dessert &  due to the expensive ingredients that went into it, it was reserved for special occasions such as Christmas, New year & weddings. For more history on shortbread..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shortbread (wikipedia, what else!!)

For the shortbread, you need
1 cup all purpose flour (plus some extra for rolling the dough)
1/2 cup sugar (more if you prefer a sweeter taste)
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground cardamom,
1/3rd cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds.

Preheat oven to 350 C.
Toast the shredded coconut till its golden & emits a nutty aroma.


Set aside to cool (I used the fresh coconut since it has an extra dose of moisture that works well in the recipe)
Cream sugar & butter till light & fluffy.

prior to creaming. couldn't risk greasing the camera!!

Add the flour, toasted sesame seeds, cardamom & coconut to the creamed butter & work into a ball, do not over knead as this can make the dough tough.
 Flatten into a disk, wrap with wax paper & refrigerate for ~ 1 hr.
 Remove from the fridge onto a clean floured surface & roll into a 1/4 inch thick sheet. Cut into shapes & place onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.
Bake for ~ 10-12 minutes or until the cookie begins to appear brown at the edges.
 Remove from the oven. let the cookies cool completely  on a rack before storing in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Restaurant review: Alice's Tea cup, New York City

 Even as I type this note, a part of my brain wonders what I'm doing trying to write a restaurant review... So, rather than treat this with such an objective eye, Let me just rephrase this as a blog entry on an almost perfect brunch session with a friend, on a cold rainy December Morning.
 Coming to think of it, sampling one entry on a menu does not even remotely qualify as a review, but Kudos to Jyoti Ananth, for her awesome selection of venue & menu..
 Alice's Tea Cup has 3 locations in NYC, & we picked the one on E 64th St or Chapter 2 as they refer to it on the website.  There was a wait of about 30 minutes ( a sure fire way of determining the popularity of the restaurant) & they were prompt in calling us on our phone to let us know that our table was ready.
The restaurant itself is housed in one of those cute quaint brownstones so characteristic of NYC. The furniture so adorable in their cobbled English country cottage style. The adjacent table was  constructed out of the wrought iron frame of an antique sewing machine, while ours was a display case with Alice in Wonderland knick knacks.
While the Menu is pretty extensive, we settled on the Mad Hatter, a generous lunch offering that was served with our choice of tea, scones, sandwiches, Cake & cookies (or should I call them Biscuits?)


Our Picks:
 Scones: Pumpkin, Black berry coconut & blueberry chocolate chip:
  The Pumpkin scone was a trifle 'doughey' but its hard picking a favorite from the other two although, the coconut blackberry did have an edge purely on the novelty factor.. It isn't everyday that you see coconut incorporated in scones, but the pleasant berry flavor & the crunch of the coconut definitely makes it a must try!

Sandwiches:
We picked the classic English Cucumber sandwich with watercress, slathered well with a lemon chive butter on whole wheat bread. as perfect as a sandwich could get.. or so we thought until the other sandwich was sampled...
 I could go on raving about this one, but let me restrict myself to an objective description.
The filling was roasted carrots flavored with cumin. The bread itself is worth a mention, It was a semolina bread embedded with a generous amount of black sesame seeds (which had a lovely toasted flavor) that complemented the cumin fabulously. A whiff of an Indian influence without the ubiquitious 'curry' flavor butting in & taking over. The carrots were roasted to an optimal soft yet crunchy texture. Something I haven't come across previously in a sandwich, but then I really have never tried slapping carrots between 2 slices of bread either!. The Olive Tapenade & goat cheese  complemented the sweetness of the carrots.

The teas: We selected an Apricot Brandy tea & an seasonal Christmas tea. Both herbal teas that did not require milk or cream.

The desserts:


  Sorry... We were so stuffed by this time that we packed up the cookies & cake to take home to our kids...

Very reasonably priced.  Lunch for 2 for under 40$ makes for a great deal!
I'd definitely return here with my husbands & kids in tow!


 you can check out this restaurant online @ http://alicesteacup.com/ (the one being referred to here is Chapter 2)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A New York State of Mind....


With the Advent of the holidays, a must see seasonal attraction of New York City's infinitely fascinating facets sets up tent in Union Square & Columbus circle. The last time I had roamed this awesome bazaar was a decade ago in the waning days of  grad school. When the opportunity to do this again arose, boy! did I grab the opportunity. This time I had a mission, the food stalls! (not that the others were of no use, boy the kinds of knick knacks from all over the world on sale there, you have to see this to believe it!).
 For those of you who are wondering what the %^&^% I'm jabbering about, let me back track. The Union square Farmers Market is a part & parcel of life in New York city.. Remember the scene in 'You've got mail' where Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan grab a bag of Pretzels & fresh flowers & sit down wondering how they keep accidentally bumping into each other? That's the spot! (http://www.grownyc.org/unionsquaregreenmarket)
  The Holiday market is a seasonal event, with stalls set up between Thanksgiving & Christmas, a fabulous place to buy your gifts, & nosh on all the lil stuff that New York is famous for. There is NO way one can really indulge in everything thats out there, but here's a list...

1. Sigmunds Pretzel Shop (http://www.sigmundnyc.com/)


For those of you who think that pretzels are those dry chewy things hanging from vendors carts, Think again!
These look more like a bagel sized bialy, the only giveaway being the pretzel like texture peeping out from the generous fillings within.. My favorite, the goat cheese & olive


& this one is still waiting to be shared with my other half!
PS: Shared, Polished off & boy was it GOOD!!

2. Nibmor chocolates.  (http://www.nibmor.com/index.php)

 These guys had a stall with a crowd around it. SO obviously there was something good to be had there. Wended my way thru & figured out they had the right answer to a chilly day. Hot Chocolate. 2 flavors, original & 6 spice, which I was told had cayenne, cinnamon,  & well... they had me at cayenne. The drink was perfectly sweetened, rich with a creamy mouth feel,  with the flavor of the cocoa complemented by the spices without overpowering the chocolate, & the Cayenne released a perfect heat at the back of the throat that made this the perfect pick-me-up to sip while wandering around.

The Sample of the 6 spice that bowled me over!

In fact it was so good that the first thing I did when my friend joined me was to drag her here to try it.. It was then I was told that there wasn't any milk or cream in the hot chocolate, It was completely vegan & was made with almond milk!! So All you vegans out there, this one is a MUST HAVE!

Another indulgence I got to sample were the truffles from 'NO CHEWING ALLOWED',  (http://www.nochewingallowed.com/ ) at first the brand name sounded like a joke, but its worth obeying this command. the melting sensation of the truffles in your mouth is unparalleled & its not worth letting this decadent dessert melt away on the enamel of your teeth unless, by some mutation, you have sensory nerve endings on them!
Sorry no pics, would have been well worth it though!

 One of the things I really wanted to find out more about in New York City was the pink Himalayan Salt that seems to be in the news in the World of 'Haute Cuisine' these days. & yes there was a stall selling these as well! the website for this stall is http://www.candleladysusans-himalayanrocksalt.com/.

Although I did not buy any salt (they ran out of the size I wanted.) I did get a chance to taste it, & its so unlike the varieties of Salt at your local supermarket. Its the color of rose quartz (& looks a lot like it too), with a clean mild taste (in contrast to table salt that can feel grating on the sides of your tongue. I hope to get some in the near future to incorporate into my recipes.


 Other names of repute represented in the markets include David Chang's Momofuku bakery selling their signature cookies. Nope,  didnt get a chance to taste these, but they sure looked delicious!


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