Sunday, July 24, 2011

One ingredient, a plethora of possibilities!



Ever heard of this joke?
Wife: I bought a spoon today & they gave me a 4 place dinner set for free!!
Husband: Really?? that's great.. & how much did the spoon cost?
Wife: $ 249.99...

Lets face it, all of us have sneaky stories like these that we will never share, (or .. we may brag about it on FB assuming that the ones closest to us will not notice). Well on a foodie note, yesterdays healthy light salad lunch was kind of built up on those lines.

I remember an episode of last seasons 'The next food network star' which catapulted Aarti Sequeira to Food network stardom and brought in a much needed Indian influence to the channel, one of the episodes featured a dish which called for pomegranate molasses. Now Indian cuisine puts the hallowed pomegranate to full use in the form of anardaana,  the dried version, and its powdered form, but one seldom sees it being used as a thick syrup in Indian cuisine.
OK.. the word molasses conjures up the image of something produced only on an industrial scale, of course it is a byproduct of sugar refining and how often do we refine sugar cane juice at home??,
 As one moves westward away from the Indian subcontinent, this delicious syrup establishes itself as a staple in Persian cooking. Turns out pomegranate molasses is not really a molasses at all, rather simply pomegranate juice boiled down to a concentrate. It perfectly fits the definition of sweet n' sour to a T and best of all, its a cinch to make! (albeit a tad messy!)

To make Pomegranate molasses, you need:
1 L all natural pomegranate juice.

(thats it!)


Pour the pomegrante juice into a wide skillet (I used an enamel coated one)


Boil down  till thick enough a wooden spoon drawn through the bottom will leave the bottom of the pan exposed for a couple of seconds before the molasses covers it up.

what you'll be left with is this lovely burgundy syrup that seems to be tailor made for many Indian dishes!1 L of juice yields about 1/2 a cup of molasses. (it also varies depending upon how thick you want it to be)


The first thought that came to mind when I first licked off the spoon was that a dash of salt & chilli powder & it would make a fabulous substitute for tamarind date chutney, and this eventually led me to making a lovely dressing for a summer grilled salad. Here's the recipe!


Citrus & pomegranate molasses dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon fresh orange zest
Chaat masala to taste


Combine the molasses, fresh orange juice, the olive oil, orange zest & chaat masala & whisk together till blended well. Taste and adjust for the chaat masala. set aside in refrigerator till required.



For the Salad you need: 


2 1/4 inch slices fresh pineapple
2 medium red potatoes diced
2 medium peruvian purple potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cob fresh corn
1 persian cucumber, diced OR 1/2 english hothouse cucumber (diced)
arils from 1/2 a fresh pomegranate
3 mini bell peppers finely diced (1 each of yellow, red & orange)
1 sprig mint (leaves only)
3-4 iceberg lettuce leaves

Peel & dice the potatoes. into 1/2 inch cubes. drizzle olive oil & add the sea salt & black pepper. Marinade for ~ 15 minutes. Roast till golden brown in a 400 F oven (~ 1/2 hr) or in a grill basket over a grill.
In a grill pan over high heat, grill the pineapple slices till the char marks are well defined (~ 2 minutes on each side). remove, cut each slice into 8 wedges & set aside to cool
remove the husks from the corn & grill over the stove top till the surface just begins to char. Using a kitchen knife, shave the kernels from the cob and add to a large bowl.
Stack the mint leaves over each other and finely shred into a chiffonade.
Add the cucumbers, peppers and the pomegranate arils to the corn & toss to combine. Add the pineapple & the potatoes to the mix. Drizzle with the dressing as per taste & Garnish with the fresh mint leaves. Serve on the lettuce leaves.


Bon appetit!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good ol' strawberry jam.




Sometimes, all you seek is good ol' vanilla ice cream... or strawberry jam over toast.

My other half is convinced that I'm on the path to make my five year old into a chef... he already is a foodie with a sharp sense of taste and aroma. Last friday, he was a very happy boy when I made him this fabulous Feta, pine nut & mint pesto  by coffeefoodwritergirl that was posted on Food52. with a little necessary tweaking , (the Pine nuts that I got were labeled 'chilgoza' from the Indian store, were probably harvested last century, they tasted quite old!, so)  necessity being the mother of invention, and my teensy greed for a spectacularly green pesto, I made do with some handy pistachio.


& yes, my pepper grinder was nowhere to be seen either (I suspect, it will surface under the entertainment cabinet tomorrow, courtesy my 2 year old, who seems to be on a mission to transfer the entire contents of my kitchen to the 'green pillow' room (a.k.a the family room), So.. in went a half a spike of pickled green peppercorns fresh out of brine... (more of the color to satisfy my greed for green)

Less than the length of a Beyonce song later, I had this wonderful condiment:


"It really IS  Pesto" ...came the delighted squeal that only five year olds can get away with, & he promptly proceeded to polish it off for supper with french bread.




...it has been awarded the 'can we have this pesto for ever & ever status'. which means, I'm going to have to regularly stock feta @ home and make it on demand, But seriously folks, this is one of those dishes you absolutely HAVE to try out. You won't regret it!

Back to the jam before I forget,

I've always been a bit weary of making jam, maybe a fear of burning it  up or getting spatter burns in the process.  I've always assumed that it HAD to be made in huge batches in a BIG pot..and basically spend half a day sterilizing dozens of glass jars, & .. you get the picture... WRONG: its as easy to make in a small batch..My techniques may not conform to the standards of purists, but it worked well enough.




For the Strawberry jam you need:

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (chopped into pieces)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 packet liquid pectin
2 cups sugar
4 8oz wide mouth canning jars (available in your local grocery stores at this time of year)

In a large wide saucepan, bring a lot of water to a rolling boil, drop the jars and the canning lids and sterilize for about 5 minuted. Carefully remove, wipe dry & set aside on clean kitchen towels. 

Place a small clean stainless steel plate in the freezer to chill. (you'll see why)

Combine the strawberries and the lemon and cook down till the fruit is completely cooked and is ready to fall apart. Measure the amount of cooked pulp, it should be about 2 cups. The proportions are basically equal amounts of sugar & pulp.

Add the liquid pectin and stir well (Using a wooden spoon,  no metal spoons as far as possible) to combine. with the heat set on high bring to a rolling boil  for about 5-10 min.  Add the sugar & stir well to dissolve. continue boiling on high for about 2 minutes. To check if the jam is ready to gel,drop some of the hot fruit onto the chilled plate & check if it remains gelled instead of dripping. At the same time, you will notice that the fruit starts dripping in sheets from the wooden spoon). 


Skim the foam from the top, remove from fire and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Stir well and ladle into the sterilized jars. cover with the lid & close tightly. This can be kept in the refrigerator for upto a month. If planning to store for a long time at room temperature, you will need to can the jars.


The precursor to the strawberry jam was 2 bottles of jam made with greengage plums that I found at my local Farmers market. Yummy as they were fresh they make for an AWESOME jam. Being high in Pectin, no extra pectin required.



The process is the same... boil the plums with the juice of 1 lemon,

....well, here's the link to the recipe that I shared on Food52


The Plum pairs well with the ginger & clove making for a more adult friendly jam..

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A handful of Mothers love. (maa ladoo)

(Linking this post to the Dec 10th 2011 Terra Madre event hosted by Pritya Books)


Memories of my mother making this exquisite snack abound. She'd whip it up as a treat hoping to surprise me after I woke up from my afternoon nap as a child, but somehow the hum from the coffee grinder always ensured that I'd be up & awake to watch her making it., she'd freshly powder the special garbanzo flour, followed by the sugar & cardamom, melt the ghee & simultaneously toast a generous handful of broken cashews as it melted. She would then combine the sugar, flour, cashews and the hot ghee, and immediately scoop up a fistful of the scalding hot mixture to shape into a ball, There would be a momentary wince of pain flashing across her eyes as she laid down this glorious cream colored ping pong ball of pure love on a plate. When I asked her why she had to go through the pain of making it, her answer would always be, "it transfers my love onto the ladoo, and I know you've received it when I see you enjoy these.. Now wait for them to cool before you pick one". 

The flour in this dish is made from roasted chickpeas. I'm not sure about the process that converts the chickpea into this powdery state, I know for a fact that it is NOT the chickpea flour sold as 'Besan'. The Roasted split garbanzo is available in Indian grocery stores and is referred to as 'Dalia Dal' (in Hindi) or 'pottu kadalai' (in Tamil). Its firm to touch but will crumble into a cornflour-like soft powder when pressed between the fingers. 


Taste the whole pea before you powder it to use in the recipe, since they tend to get rancid pretty quickly. You need to have fresh tasting starting material here!

One of the strongest warnings from Amma when making this recipe was, 'NO skimping on the amount of ghee', The ghee is what binds the ingredients together and reducing the amount is a sure fire way of getting a substandard confection that crumbles to the touch.

I opted to use confectioners sugar instead of powdering sugar for this recipe mainly because I'm chronically lazy & cleaning my spice grinder to powder some sugar seemed like too much work, and also because I had a lot of confectioners sugar sitting in my pantry & no cakes to frost! 

Reason for pulling out the silicone muffin/cupcake molds: as with the icing sugar, no cakes to bake & I had to do something with them beside simply steam idlies right?


Turned out these were a set of choices that perfectly complemented each other. The Icing sugar tends to melt under the heat of the melted ghee turning the entire mix into a thick cake batter consistency (after adding less than a third of the amount of ghee called for in the classic traditional recipe). Instead of trying to roll it into key lime sized balls, all I had to do was spoon the mixture into the silicone cups, & chill it to set! I opted to use pistachios for their bright green color (& also because the cashews had decided to disappear into the far recess of my pantry, where I kind of fear to tread unless absolutely necessary!)



For those of you interested in the  recipe for the classic version, I'll refer you to Edible Garden, a gorgeous blog specializing in recipes from God's own country, Kerala.







For the maladoo you need:

1 cup roasted split garbanzo beans (dalia dal)
1 cup, minus 1 tablespoon Icing/confectioners sugar
2/3 cup hot  melted ghee (You may not need it all)
10-12 cardamom pods, seeds powdered (about 1 tsp)
1/4 cup broken pieces of pistachio (optional)
3-4 Pistachios run through a microplane
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron

  • Using a coffee grinder, powder the dalia dal to obtain a soft fine flour. Sieve to remove bigger gritty pieces. Add these crumbs back to the coffee grinder. Repeat process to obtain one cup of the flour.
  • Add the flour & confectioners sugar together in a large mixing bowl along with the Cardamom powder and crushed saffron.


  • Sift well with a whisk to ensure that the ingredients mix completely.

  • Fry the  broken pistachios in 2 tablespoons of ghee till crisp & just turning color. Add to the sugar & flour mix. Stir to evenly disperse the pieces.
  • Heat the ghee till completely melted & hot but NOT scorching. (the microwave & a pyrex measuring cup work best!)
  • Make a depression in the centre of the flour & sugar mixture and pour in the hot ghee , add just enough to coat the dry mixture & bring it together. Using a fork or silicone spatula, quickly fold in the dry mixture into the ghee and combine. 

  • The mix will have the consistency of cookie batter (the icing sugar melts in the heat of the ghee). Using a teaspoon, transfer the mix into the wells of the silicon mini muffin cups. Press the mix firmly into the cups with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
  • Allow to set by chilling the muffin cups in the refrigerator.. (~ 1/2hour)
  • Peel off the silicone cups and place each piece into small paper cups. Sprinkle with the microplaned pistachio, prior to serving. Store in the refrigerator to ensure a yielding 'bite'. (applies only to summery warm weather).

 The love gets automatically transmitted via blue-tooth! Bon appetit!


An earlier version where I tried to mold them in a muffin tin.

Monday, July 4, 2011

As American as Apple pie!.. Happy 4th of July!

I had made this pie last year during thanksgiving, but it never saw the light of day on this blog, Well, what better time than the 4th of July!
 Thanks Ria Mary Matthew & Shauna Ahern for this fabulous opportunity to be a part of the 'Pie Party' event.








The term apple pie tends to elicit memories of the Cooks Source plagiarism brouhaha from last year & not very positive ones at that. The take home message of that incident is that, irrespective of the simplicity of any recipe that may be posted on the blogosphere & elsewhere, it seems just the right thing & way more simpler to give credit where due.
This is my very first foray into baking from scratch, I've tried making pies with puff pastry & graham cracker crusts, but one really does not get complete satisfaction knowing that there was a component in your dish that you've no clue about. & at the end of the day, while I made up a batch of pie dough I had to scrap the idea of complete first principles due to the fact that ... I do not own a pie tin (the situation has since been rectified!).

So I had to fall upon my back up a frozen pie crust that I picked up from the local supermarket, (one that specifically did not include lard as an ingredient), but to do justice to my initial plan, I did create the top crust from my home made dough & it passed the test. The recipe for the crust is from a book by Carole Walter, 'Great Pies & Tarts',   a text book like encyclopedia of everything you need to know about baking perfect pies & tarts, both sweet & savory. I did take the liberty of substituting ghee for vegetable shortening (which I have a restraining order against!!).

For the crust you need:



2 1/2 cups All purpose flour
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder


8 tbsp partially frozen unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp partially frozen ghee
6-8 tbsp Ice water

Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl & transfer to a food processor. Add 1/2 the ghee & butter & toss to coat with the flour. Transfer to a food processor & pulse 4-5 times & then process for 5 seconds. The mixture starts resembling fine bread crumbs. Add the rest of the butter & shortening, & pulse again 5 times & repeat processing for 5 seconds. The mix now resembles coarse bread crumbs with some large pieces of fat.


Transfer this crumb mixture onto a large bowl. Adding the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time,  to the sides of the bowl  keep moving the flour to the center of the bowl using a fork or a small spatula. as you keep adding the water now teaspoon at a time, the mix gradually forms a ball of dough. Using floured hands divide the dough into two & press each ball into a flat disk. Cover with plastic wrap & let it rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Or 1 ready made 8 inch frozen Pie shell

For the Apple filling, you need: (modified from the recipe on the pie crust)

4  apples, cored, quartered & sliced thin (I used one each of the following: Granny smith, Golden delicious, Fuji & Macintosh)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar,
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
1/2 tsp of powdered cinnamon
1/2 tbsp powdered ginger
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Combine the sliced apples, Lime juice, sugar & the spices & let the fruit mixture rest for about 1 hr.


Remove the apples from the liquid, & transfer the liquid to a saucepan. On medium heat, evaporate the liquid till it forms a thick syrup. In the mean time, add the cornflour to the apple slices &  coat evenly. Transfer the apple slices into the frozen pie shell. (or you can roll out the pie dough & line a pie tin with it)

To the syrup thickening on the stove, add the 2 tbsp of butter & stir till the butter completely melts. Pour the syrup over the apple filling. Cut out shapes with the remaining pie dough & arrange over the apples as shown, or alternatively cut thin strips & weave it over the pie filling in the classic lattice style.


Place the pie onto a baking tray & place into the oven for about 45 min or until the edges are golden & the filling is bubbling.



Cool, cut into wedges & serve with Whipped cream or Vanilla Ice cream.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

ShareThis