Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On a high with my 200th post - celebrating with the humble 'Matka' Kulfi ice cream!


My blog really taught me the meaning of 'time flies when you're having fun'. It seems like such a short while ago that I started the blog and would go through long hours hitting my head against a proverbial wall trying to think of what I should post for recipes. It took for ever to even come up with just five ideas, leave alone the methods that I had to come up with to create a unique dish that I could refer to as my signature style. Almost 4 years and 190+ recipes later, I still wake up with the excitement of what can I create today? and that dear readers and fellow bloggers, is an incredible feeling that each and everyone of you infuse me with. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

So I decided to go low tech to celebrate this milestone, No high faluting tweaks to conventional homely favorites. This weeks recipe is a quick shortcut to making some delicious traditional Indian ice cream - Saffron & almond Kulfi ice cream. Traditional kulfi is made with milk that has been evaporated and condensed (this process can take a couple of hours of constantly stirring the milk) into a thick mass before being set to freeze.the resultant product is a dense frozen treat that in fact may not melt as fast as the conventional ice creams.

As much as the kids love the conventional Ice cream, my husband & I prefer a lighter gelato like texture in our frozen treats. I deliberately opted to use more milk  in the kulfi. The ice cream maker takes care of the smooth texture despite the higher water content.

Kulfi portions are often served in little disposable earthen pots. The porous pottery absorbs some of the water in the kulfi mixture thus making it more dense. It still amazes me as to where I found these authentic little matka pots - Nordstrom's  at Short Hills Mall of all places.


Before these are used to pour to kulfi in for freezing, They have to be scrubbed with running water and a brush to get rid of any mud & debris. The pots are then immersed in clean water for a couple of hours to ensure that the the pores are flushed out of the air bubbles. They're then left to air dry overnight.



Kulfi Ice cream with Saffron & Almonds (Makes 6 servings)

You need:
1 cup  heavy whipping cream
3/4 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons extra
1/2 - 2/3 cups sugar (adjust as per taste)
15-20 threads saffron
3 cardamom pods, just the seeds crushed(adjust as per taste)
2 tablespoons corn flour
1/2  cup of crushed sliced almonds
Pieces of Pistachio & extra strands of saffron for garnish

Heat the 3/4 cup of  milk along with the sugar, cardamom and the saffron Once the sugar dissolves, add the cream and bring the mixture to a gentle bubbling simmer. At this point taste the mixture and adjust for sweetness.


Whisk the cornflour into the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk and add it to the mixture along with the crushed almonds. Allow the mixture to thicken in consistency (~ 5 minutes),similar to that of a custard. Transfer to a bowl, cover (Covering the bowl prevents a skin from forming) and allow to cool completely for a couple of hours or preferably chill overnight in a refrigerator.

 Once the mixture is completely cooled / chilled, add the mixture to your ice cream maker and run it according to the manufacturers instruction. I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker which comes with freezer bowls that have to be chilled beforehand. I just poured the mixture in and let it run for 20 minutes. to yield a soft serve consistency.


Spoon out the kulfi into the matka pots, cover with a piece of aluminum foil, and place into a freezer for the kulfi to harden to an ice cream texture (~ 3-4  hours). Garnish with the pistachios & saffron and serve chilled.


Bon appetit!

Monday, February 24, 2014

The 'We knead to bake' project 2014 - Breton Butter Cake


Its the 24th of the month again, which means that its time for the 'We knead to bake' post. Aparna had given the group the choice to bake whatever we chose to and I turned to Food52 for inspiration. Zeroed in on a Hazelnut and cherry bread and ordered a banetton and some other things I'd been saving up for, from their Provisions store. (I love their curated set of products. Its like all the goodies you want in one spot without having to sift through hundreds of other similar products.).


Provisions adds these gorgeous stamped postcards for sending to friends. the only problem is that
they're so gorgeous, that I tend to collect & HOARD them!

I can't tell you how much I've learned from Food52. Recipes are just one part of it. The amount of information and details about various cuisines, techniques & ingredients, its a gold mine. Getting back to the topic on hand, the copy of Amanda Hesser's book 'Cooking for Mr. Latte' that I ordered came with this photocopied sheet of paper attached (with a new & improved version of a recipe in the book). And on the other side of the sheet of paper.. there it was, The perfect recipe for what I had been seeking all along - a recipe for Breton Butter cake. (& yes, there were bells chiming & little cherubs sprinkling rose petals and all that,  in my head).


Breton Butter cake, also known as Kouign - Amann, (the name is derived from the Breton words for cake (Kouign) & butter (amann)) is a flaky, crusty puff pastry like dessert. A specialty from the Brittany region in Western France, Its simple and elegant and  requires no dressing up whatsoever, just a hot cup of coffee. Dessert is just a suggestion here. It makes for a fabulous decadent breakfast with your first cup of coffee in the morning as well. Take my word for it, I've been doing that for the past couple of days!

I made 3 of these over the past week, and they're all gone. I goofed up TWICE,  got so engrossed in rolling out the buttered dough that I realized that I completely forgot to add the sugar between the layers. Rolling out a couple more layers to incorporate the sugar resulted in the layers (esp. in the center of the cake) not puffing up well. I finally got it right the third time. The cakes still retain that rich yeasty flavor, so none of them went waste.

This recipe is by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton and is published in  The Essential New York times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser.



Breton Butter Cake (From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, Page 777)

You need:

1 1/8 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon orange flower water, more for sprinkling
1 1/3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (~ 185 gms.)
2 tablespoons cake flour
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, preferably French, more for buttering bowl (I used the regular organic variety)
3/4 cup sugar, more for plate and top of cake
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter.

Add the yeast to  2/3 cup of water and a pinch of sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom and bubble up.
Combine the flours, salt and the yeast mixture in a large bowl. Stir to combine and knead into a smooth ball. Transfer on to a bowl coated well with butter, Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rise to double the initial volume (~ 40 min - 1 hour). Place the dough in the refrigerator to firm up.

Cut up and pound the chilled butter into a 5 inch square. You can either do this on a lightly floured surface or simply place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Allow the sheet of butter to come up to almost room temperature (it should have the consistency of icing)

 Remove the dough from the fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll it out into a 10 inch disk. Place the slab of butter in the center of the dough and fold over the edges to cover the butter like an envelope.


Quickly roll out the dough into a 24 inch by 12 inch sheet.  brush off any excess flour and sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar over the dough and fold the dough into thirds (as if folding a business letter)

I had an enthusiastic volunteer to help me sprinkle the sugar - my 4 yr. old!

Turn around 90 degrees, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of sugar and roll out the rectangle into a 24 x 12 sheet again. Fold into thirds and repeat the process twice more. If the dough sticks to the surface, scrape it off and continue. You do not want to add any more flour.

 Cut out a parchment paper to fit around a 9 inch pie tin. Lightly grease the pie tin so that the parchment paper sticks to the bottom. Butter the parchment paper evenly on the bottom and the sides of the pan. Sprinkle sugar to evenly coat over the butter. (The original recipe calls for a glass pie pan in which case the parchment paper is not required, just the butter & sugar). Place the dough in the pie plate tucking in the corners underneath. Allow to rise until puffy (~ 60 - 90 minutes).


Preheat the oven to 425 F. Combine the melted butter with about a teaspoon of the orange blossom water. Brush evenly over the risen dough. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the top turns a golden brown. Remove from the oven,  allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with a cup of coffee. (~8 servings)



Bon Appetit!
This post is being Yeast spotted.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Feed a Child, Nourish a mind.. For the Children of South Africa.



February 9 1994:

There are a limited number of day's in ones life that will never ever fade away from memory. They are etched, nay seared into your neurons, and nothing short of a catastrophic even will ever delete or write over those bits of information. No, I'm not including birthdays, anniversaries and other special social events in this. These are special bits of time unique to each individual, and the significance of these days are unique to each person who cherishes them.

February 9, 1994 was mine. It was the day I landed at Jan Smuts International Airport (as it was known then) , Johannesburg. A new country of which I knew nothing , other than the negative political reputation that was flashed across the media. Trepidation mixed with wonder and the deep internal  intuition that there was a life altering phase ahead of me. Its just that on that day, I had no idea HOW much South Africa would reward me and demarcate the next 3 years as the happiest & successful period of my life.

My stay in South Africa was not supposed to be more than a couple of months, but fate had other plans. An acceptance letter to the Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Cape Town, a peer reviewed Master's Thesis revolving around the subject of children afflicted with spastic cerebral palsy before jetting off to NYU based on the merits of my academic stint in Cape Town.

Even today, when I need to cheer myself up from the repetitive chores of everyday life, all I have to do is to go back Twenty years into the past. Nothing I do will ever completely  repay the debt of gratitude I owe to that beautiful land. The least I can is to offer up a healthy meal ( even if its virtual & in silico) to the children of South Africa. I'm honored & privileged to be part of the drive to raise funds for the Children of South Africa thats being organized by the Giving Table.

Its heartbreaking to read the statistics about the poverty afflicting the Children in South Africa (65% live under the line). 20 % of the children are orphaned due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that have robbed them of parents. 
As concerned citizens, we do not have to take it upon ourselves to uplift the worlds in one shot, just need to help out one or two kids, spread the word and believe me, the trickle has the potential to turn into a flood. The folks at the lunch box fund, hope to raise $5000,  a very reasonable sum, towards helping to identify schools in South Africa and help them in ensuring that the students receive adequate nutrition in order for them to progress with their education.

This recipe for potato is one among the many many variants I make for my son for his school Lunch. In addition to nutrition, As much as retaining a culinary cultural identity is vital, children feel a need to believe that the lunches they consume among friends is 'cool' and not some uncommon 'fiddle faddle'. My kid likes these because they look like the chicken nuggets served up at the school cafeteria.


Potato Flaxseed nuggets: (makes 16 pieces)


You need:

2 Idaho/baking potatoes, boiled and crumbled
2 tablespoons flax seed meal/flour
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs plus 1 extra cup for coating
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon Dried mango powder OR juice of 1/2 a lime
pinch of cayenne pepper powder or paprika
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Oil for frying

Combine all the ingredients (except the oil of course, and the cup of panko) in a mixing bowl and knead lightly into a loose ball. Divide into 16 portions and flatten each sphere lightly (you can shape it into oval nuggets if desired). Coat the pieces in the panko bread crumbs, lightly pressing the coating to stick to the surface.

Heat the oil in a skillet and fry each of the pieces 2 at a time until they turn golden brown. Drain onto paper towels to absorb any extra oil. Alternatively, pan fry the pieces in a non stick pan, drizzling oil as per your level of preference.

Serve with a generous portion of tomato ketchup.


You can also stuff these little nuggets into mini Pita bread rounds for a delightful variation.

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