Friday, November 23, 2012

Plantain muffins

Foodies love fresh food. Seasonal. Local. So do the older generation. My father still goes to the local bazar to see what has come up on a daily basis. I on the other hand, shop for a week in advance and then try to stash everything into my inadequate refrigerator.Sometimes the more hardy ones don't even get house space in the fridge. Which brings me to ask, how many of us are actually cooking with vegetables which are "just ready"? Just the other day I chucked out a cob of corn. The kernels themselves looked appeallingly yellow, but there were fungal streaks on the husks which made me think of ergot and ensuing convulsions and hallucination. The plantains used in the following Plantain muffin recipe were hardly fresh. They were bought with the intention of using unripe, but ultimately they started taking on a yellow hue. That's when I decided to make them into muffins. The recipe was created in a slapdash manner. Nothing was actually measured, so what I am writing down now is really an approximate value.
The muffins themselves all that could be wished for; fragrant, moist and dare I say, even healthy.

2 ripe plantains, mashed
8 Tablespoon grated coconut
4 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom, ground
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup groundnut oil

Preheat oven to 180 degree centigrade. Oil a muffin tin. This mixture makes 8 muffins. Mash the plantain. Add the coconut, sugar, cardamom, flour, baking powder and mix them well. With a mixer, beat the egg and then mix the oil until frothy. Tip the egg mixture into the dry mixture and fold in to just wet all the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into the moulds and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Piedmontese pepper

Food crosses boundaries. Take the instance of chillies all over the world. Neither of the main items in this dish are remotely Italian, yet they have appropriated it very successfully! The dish is simplicity itself and hardly deserves a recipe. Its two colour tone also appealed to me. I saw it in The Good Cook and made some changes and now the Piedmontese Pepper has an Indian version! I used green pepper rather than red ones, normal tomatoes instead of cherry ones and anchovy paste in place of the  fish itself as shown in the programme.

Bell pepper, green - 2, halved and cleaned
Tomatoes - 4, quartered
Garlic clove- 4, peeled and sliced
Anchovy paste - 1 teaspoon
Basil leaves - 6, some shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 180 centigrade. Halve and clean the bell pepper. Coat them with the anchovy paste. Put a few slices of garlic. Roll the tomatoes in salt and sugar once cut. Fill in with the quartered tomatoes. Add the rest of the garlic in between the tomatoes. Add  shredded basil. Bake for 10 minutes. Take out and decorate with the rest of the basil leaves.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A take on Pomme Voison

I am still surprised when I realise that the only way I would eat potatoes would  be in the form of mutton curry when I was younger (which translates to before I went to hostel and had to start consuming whatever the mess dished out) ! I have diverged considerably since then, and certain potato dishes are de rigueur at any gathering I hold. Part of the reason is no doubt necessity, the other reason for conversion was Anne Nichols' book "Potatoes: from gnocchi to mash". The pomme voison featured is a take on the recipe in that book. I have made some changes which may not be considered strictly traditional.

Ingredients for four
1 kg large potatoes
25 gm melted butter
50 gm grated cheese, I used Tilsiter
Grated fresh breadcrumbs; white portion only of 2-3 bread slices 
1 cup chopped spring onion greens
2 and half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup water

Parboil potatoes in their skin with salted water, about 3 minutes in the pressure cooker. While this is being done, grate the cheese. Other cheeses can be used; Parmesan had been suggested in Nichols' recipe. Chop the spring onions. Make the fresh bread crumbs. Mix the cheese, spring onions, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bread crumbs. Butter a cake mould. Peel and slice the potatoes. I coat the potatoes with half a teaspoon of salt at this stage. Arrange the potatoes in a layer. Sprinkle the cheese spring onion mix and add little bit of the butter. Continue layering the potatoes in a similar manner until used up. Keep some of the breadcrumb mix to to top the potatoes. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes. Serve warm with freshly ground pepper.   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Of cakes and biriyanis

I haven't put up a post for a long time, so, I thought to start with two together. The cake was inspired by a pound cake recipe for pistachios that I came upon on Orangette. I only replaced the pistachios with pecan, and worked with one less egg.
The Other image is of a spread that my mother cooked up to honour son-in-laws; called Jamai Shasthi. The biriyani was my handiwork. a Hyderabadi biriyani styled thingy. Not the katcha version since everything had been pre-cooked. What is lacked in depth of character was made up for how quickly it could be put together. An excellent party dish. 

There are numerous recipes up on the web. The marination and making sure that the emat remains somewhat undercooked is the key elements. The couple of points I always include in my Hyderabadi biriyani I ahve listed below.

1. Lots of crispy fried onions. Slow caramelising onions requires pateince but quite worth the effort since it adds an extra dimension. So make sure you make the effort. Once drained they can be stored, so you can make a big batch and store it in the refrigerator.

500 gm sliced onions
200 ml groundnut/sunflower oil
2 pinch of salt

2. A couple of layers of mandolin sliced potato not only adds a delicious layer of crisp potatoes at the very bottom of biriyani pan, but prevents the meat in the lowest layer from overcooking. I routinely put ghee and then put them in overlapping layers. The first layer of meat goes on this, followed by the half cooked rice.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Greek festive cake

While growing up, Christmas was the most muted of festivals. I remember it as the time when we got this sudden windfall of a week's holiday in winter before the grind for the final school exams began. We put it to good use. A Lego manger or a building with a spire denoting a church was set-up, paper wings were stuck on the Lego women (and men) and we ostentatiously helped with the cake. Even 25 years back, the cake had been institutionalised as the sign of Christmas. Local shops had a dozen plastic wrapped "plum" cakes set out and those of us who had bake-savvy Mothers, had one baked at home. We had the enviable job of chopping the dry fruits. More of the fruits went into our mouths than into the cake, but it was a very fruity version nonetheless. My mother used to bake hers in a pressure cooker. A triumph of her skills, which I have never been able to replicate without her supervision. This year, my husband (clever man!) made a trip to Berlin during Advent. The German Christmas markets being in full swing, he obliged me by getting a real Dresdner Stollen. A kilo of it. I am so thrilled. Christmas fell on a Sunday this year. And with a 6 day working week for me, it passed me by very silently. Making a cake though still remained as the most celebratory moment of Christmas. I baked a Choreki, the Greek festive sweet bread made as a braid. The recipe was from the estimable New Complete Book of Breads, with a surfeit of dried fruits thrown in. When it comes out of the oven, the smell of fennel seeds declare all the good things Christmas is expected to bring. It is glossy brown, when it comes out of the oven.

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon roasted, ground fennel
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 Tablespoons each chopped almonds and white sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon raisins
White icing sugar to sprinkle
Oil fo greasing

Soak the raisins in water. In one-forth cup of milk, mix the salt and teaspoon of sugar. Add the yeast and let it rise in a covered place. Beat the 2 eggs in another bowl. Heat the rest of the milk, the sugar, butter and add the fennel. Heat for a few minutes and set aside to cool. Mix all the mix ingredients together, except for half of the beaten eggs. Add this to the flour, and start kneading. It will take about 10 minutes. Add a sprinkle of flour only if it remains sticky after thorough kneading. Cover and let it rise for an hour.
Add the raisins into the dough and knead. Divide the dough into three balls and roll it into ropes. Make a braid out of the three ropes and drop it into a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for another hour or until doubled. After this, brush the top with the rest of the egg and sprinkle the nuts and seeds on it. Bake for 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180 Celsius. Check for done-ness. Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
For a cake it fails the requisite sweetness that my husband insists on :). So for those with a sweet tooth, add another 1/2 cup sugar.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Plantain yoghurt dessert

On our trip to Kerala a few years back, we had ripe plantains in desserts, practically everyday. Plantains in their ripe form can be served very simply with just a drizzle of palm or date syrup. I wanted to make a frozen dessert with ripe plantain and came up with this. Yoghurt gives it substance. Cardamom gives it allure. The ghee adds an element of richness.

2 ripe plantains
300 gms rich yoghurt, strained
1/3 teaspoon cardamom, ground
2 Tablespoon ghee
3 Tablespoon molasses

Strain the curd to remove as much possible. Chop the plantain. Heat the ghee in a pan. Add the plantain and molasses and cook it for 3 minutes, so as to soften the plantain and mix the molasses. Add the cardamom and mix it in again. With a blender puree the plantain and yoghurt. Pour into shot glasses and freeze. Slip the frozen cones out by dipping the glasses in hot water.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

With white wine roux

Though the white roux is the basis of many French dishes, I have avoided making it at home, because it reminds me of so many bad "Continental" fare smothered in white sauce, served here in India. Recently however I have revisited the many versions of white roux based sauces after reading Elizabeth David's "French Country Cooking. It had been on my cookery book list for a very long time. While most dishes in the book expect one to have bacon around, the Fish section is full of great ideas that can be incorporated on produce here. We had been provided by beautifully cut bhetki fillet by my parents. Normally, I use them to make the Fish Fry so beloved of Bengalee celebrations. I have been using them however this to try out a few ideas from the book because so many of the recipes ask for white fish fillet.

6 pieces bhetki fillets
1/3 cup white wine (I used Madera)
1/2 cup double cream
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoon butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Lay the fillets in a flat shallow dish greased with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Salt them. Sprinkle half teaspoon of tarragon. Pour 3/4 cup white wine and put into the oven. Bake over just about 10 minutes. Keep it in the oven. While the fish is being cooked, add 1 teaspoon of butter to another pan. Melt it and add the flour and mix it thoroughly in. Continue to stir and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the wine from the fish. Arrange the fillet on a plate and keep warm. Add the strained wine little by little and mix it into the butter-flour roux at very low heat. It must be without lumps. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and stir it in. A smooth sauce should be the result. Switch off the stove. Pour the sauce over the fish fillet.

The book has also inspired Sitabhra who actually fished that book out of a pile of discounted ones to new heights :). Below is another Elizabeth David inspired recipe of beef in brown sauce made by him, again using white roux !

250 gms beef, cubed
2 small onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bayleaf
3 teaspoon salt
5-8 fresh basil leaf, torn
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon flour
3 Tablespoon butter
1-2 teaspoon honey

Bring the wine, bayleaf, pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 onion to a boil. Let it cool down completely. Add the beef cubes to the marinade and let sit at room temperature for an hour or in the refrigerator overnight. Fry in a teaspoon of butter the onions until they start browning, about 4 minutes. Drain the beef cubes and strain the liquid into a cup. Add the beef cubes and brown them in the butter. This should be done at meadium heat to seal the meat but not burn the onions. Add half of the drained marinade and top it with another 1/2 cup water. Add a teaspoon of salt and pressure cook for 15 minutes. Cool pressure cooker. Once the beef is cooked retrieve it and set aside. In another pan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the wine marinade slowly while stirring continuously. Add the gravy from the cooked meat. Add the honey and mix it in. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the sauce thickens. and becomes glossy. Pour sauce over beef cubes. We had it with potato mash flecked with scallions. It should go well with rice or bread too.