50th post and Arabic open-faced pies

So with this post, I have two awesome news to share.

Firstly, I got accepted in Le Cordon Bleu! Yeah baby, I am going to be trained at the premier patisserie institute at the culinary capital of the world. A month-long course in Paris. Yep, it’s happening. The land of boulangeries , fromageries  and patisseries. One and a half month to go. Wohoo!

Secondly, this is my 50th post. When I wrote the first post in February, I had just a vague idea of where I would like it to be six months later. I had no clue it would develop into this insanely interesting thing, that 90% of my brain space would be occupied by recipes and things to cook and write about. And I love it. I have also started harboring dreams of selling home-made goodies under my brand-name. Still thinking of a name, so a long way to go in that area, but who knows! It might be next year or a year after that. But soon. 🙂

For this 50th post, I had big plans of making a beautiful large ruffled chocolate cake. For some reason (may be excitement?) I forgot to layer my baking pan with parchment paper and the cake refused to come out in one piece. It was soft and deliciously rich, but came out in two parts. Never mind, lesson learnt : Always prepare your tray with a drizzle of oil and then layer it with parchment paper, before baking the cake.

For lunch we made these crisp open-faced pies with arabic dressing of red sumac. The traditional version is to top it with chickpeas, but since Akshay is an ardent meat lover, I made four toppings : Masala Chickpeas, Cajun Spiced Chicken, Zatar Mushrooms, and Oregano tomatoes.

Savory pies are a traditional recipe of Syrian Christians and called Ajeenat al-Fatayar, while the chickpea open faced pies are called Safeehat Hummus. These are specially served in the seven week long feast of Lent, right before Easter. The recipe is adapted from Habeeb Salloum’s book. I got it from the booksellers in Fort area of Mumbai, 300 authentic recipes with stories, at less than Rs. 250! It’s a keeper.

I baked them on the topmost rack in the oven to get crisp-on-the-edge and soft-in-the-center pies. You can also lightly top it with shredded cheese before baking.

open faced pies

Basic Dough for Savory pies recipe:

Makes about 18 pies

What you will need :

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 package / 7 gms dry yeast
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

How to make :

  1. Dissolve sugar in water and then sprinkle in yeast and stir. Allow it to sit in a warm place until yeast begins to foam.
  2. Meanwhile, combine flour, butter, salt and ginger in a large mixing bowl. Make well in flour and add the milk and yeast mixture.
  3. Mix well, adding more warm milk or water as necessary. Do not allow the dough to become sticky.
  4. Shape into a ball. Brush the ball with some olive oil and place in a floured pan.
  5. Cover with a damp cloth and keep it in a warm place to rise till double in bulk.
  6. Cut it into 18 pieces and flatten each one into 4-5 inch disks. Keep the rest covered.
  7. After brushing with the spice mixture and adding the desired toppings (listed below), bake them at 200°C for about 7-8 minutes, till they get brown and crisp on the edges, but still soft in the centre.

Arabic Spice mixture:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

To make :

  1. Combine all the ingredients and let it rest for 5 minutes before using.
  2. Spread the dough rounds on a greased baking tray and brush the tops with this spice mixture.

For the Toppings :

Make these toppings and spread on the round disks of pie-dough after rubbing the spice mixture.

  1. Soak chickpeas overnight in water and baking soda. Drain. Cook them well in a pressure cooker, and rub with some salt and chilli powder.
  2. Wash and slice mushrooms, then cook in an open pan. Once the water from the mushrooms evaporates, season with salt and zatar powder.
  3. Shred chicken into 1 inch pieces and marinate with cajun spice, salt and chilli flakes. Then cook on a medium flame till 90%  done. (They will continue cooking once spread on the pies, so do not overcook).
  4. Combine chopped ripe tomatoes with oregano and salt and drain the water. Tomatoes are quite tender, and need not be cooked before spreading on the pie dough.

Garnish the pies with chopped basil leaves before serving. Enjoy your Syrian feast.

P.S : Looking forward to many posts and lovely adventures along the way. Cheers!

P.P.S : Also quite nervous about staying for a whole month away from home with a very rigorous class schedule.

Green Tomato Jam

With my fingers crossed, I hereby say that I have applied for the Le Cordon Bleu France for the French Patisserie course. Yes. Waiting with bated breath.

The first time I was in Paris was on my honeymoon, two years back. The Eiffel tower, the museums and art galleries excited me as much as the croissants, baguettes and the jams and preserves from the French farmers market. Or maybe the latter was more exciting, when I look at it now. I would constantly think of replicating it back home, where they are not so popular or accessible as yet. But did not have foolproof recipes or mastery of techniques to do them. I attended some workshops on cake making and bread making, but they felt somewhat inadequate. And then, through some fellow bloggers, I came across this French Patisserie course from Le Cordon Bleu and I knew in my heart that I wanted to do it.

For a few months I contemplated about it in my mind, then endlessly discussed with Akshay and then with my in-laws and parents. Taking the leap for a month-long course far away from home, was a bit scary. But now here we are, and I have applied to Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. It’s the beginning of a hopeful realisation of a long-cherished dream.

Needless to say, I have been *busy* browsing the internet, to actually cook anything for the last few days. But here’s a quick update of the Green Tomato jam I made last Sunday. It’s a savory, sweet, spicy jam of luscious green tomatoes. Once cooked, it takes on a beautiful chocolate color, but in essence it does come from the firm green tomatoes.

Green tomato jam

Green Tomato  Jam Recipe

What you need :

  • 1/2 kg green tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

What to do :

  1. Puree the jalapeno, mint leaves, garlic and ginger in a mixer or food processor.
  2. Add vinegar and soy sauce and pulse for 30 seconds. (Careful, liquid might spurt)
  3. Place this mixture into a saucepan and add the tomatoes and sugar.
  4. Bring to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat. Simmer for 40-45 minutes till the mixture thickens.
  5. Add the chilli flakes and stir well.
  6. Remove from heat and let it cool before putting it in pretty bottle.

This savory jam stays well for 3 months in the fridge and up to a fortnight at room temperature.

Enjoy it with toasted bread or even with wheat chapatis. If you like is spicier, add another half a teaspoon of chilli flakes. You will fall in love with the tangy-ish jam, I sure did.

p.s : By the time I post next,  I would have heard from Le Cordon Bleu.

Chocolate Sprinkles Cookies

My life took a couple of U-turns last week. Some good and some not so good. I will post about it a couple of months later, its sensitive right now. If you know what I mean.

There have been some unrelated awesome things happening too. For instance :

1. I started learning French from Rosetta Stone video-audio tutorials. The course is beautifully designed. It shows us pictures and simultaneously the words associated with those pictures. Just like when we were kids and learning our primary language.

Look at the picture of an apple and say A-P-P-L-E. That was English.

Now look at the picture of an apple and say P-O-M-M-E. That is French. Simple.

I love this integrated approach. Especially when it asks me to say things, and approves with a green blinking button. Feels like several mini-achievements. 🙂 Try it, I highly recommend it.

2. Ketki introduced me to the amazing world of Infographics. They are super easy and look wonderful. Like a professional. And websites like Piktochart, Easel-ly make it very user-friendly. I have been thinking about all the possible illustrations that can be used in the blog. They are innumerable. So many, that I even dream about them.

3. I am on book three of Song Of Ice and FIre. A Storm of Swords. It is incredible how George R R Martin writes. It was his birthday yesterday, and I wish he lives for a hundred more years.

Spoiler alert of the book : I am very happy Jofferey is dead, but Ygritte too? Thats very sad. You know nothing Jon Snow!

4. I found this eye-catching recipe for Sprinkles cookies. Very easy to put together and bake. And they look like show-stoppers. Found them incredibly handy to impress mother-in-law’s Yoga class friends. 🙂

Sprinkles cookies

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Go on, bake a fresh batch!

Chocolate Sprinkles cookies recipe

Makes : 2 dozen cookies   Total Time Taken : 30 minutes

What you will need :

  • 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup butter (about 100 gms)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • chocolate sprinkles
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

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Bacon-Onion-Coffee jam

The first time I ate bacon was in a jam. Not crispy fried, not in a burger, but as a jam. Yes. That is quite unusual, I know. And I loovehd it. Most people associate bacon with its signature salty and savory taste, and a lot of fat. But cook it for a couple of minutes, remove the fat and what you are left with is a delicious sizzling bacon with much less salt. Ready to be made into a sweet spicy jam.

Bacon in sweeter avatar is not that popular in India yet, although there are quite a few folks out there who experiment with this smokey salty meat. There is this guy Roycin D’souza who makes bacon cake and Ellipsis , a restaurant in Mumbai serves Maple Bacon syrup. Last I heard, they were even making bacon chocolates! Now I am waiting for the day when we start getting bacon lipbalm and toothpaste in India.

When Joana Lobo, was researching for her article in DNA, I spoke to her about this awesome bacon jam. I had not made it in a long time, and suddenly started craving for it. Badly. So one evening, while watching Prison Break, I made this jam. It took just half an hour to get it all together in a pan , and then simmered it for another 15 mins. That’s it. We quickly scooped it up on some lettuce leaves, and had a mouthful of bacon-ey goodness.

Bacon and coffee jam

Bacon Onion Coffee Jam :

Ingredients:

  • 150 gm bacon, chopped fine
  • 2 medium size onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2-3 tbsp dark brown sugar, depending on taste,
  • chilli flakes to taste,
  • 1/2 jalapeno, chopped fine

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Eggless chocolate banana brownies

Eggless brownie 1 (1 of 1)

Just the last time I posted the chocolate brownie  recipe, I had written about the origin of brownie, where someone ran out of baking powder and the flat cakes came into existence. Then, a  school friend of mine requested for an eggless version of the brownie. Over the weekend, I tried a couple of recipes, all within the framework of a brownie, i.e without baking powder. But they tasted rather flat.

Now how bad can a mixture of flour, butter and sugar baked together taste? Not that bad. Ever. I agree. But the experimental brownies lacked the zing. There needed to be something replacing the moistness that comes with egg, but it shouldn’t taste like raw clumsy batter.

I tried adding curd, then some milk. It tasted like yoghurt. Out.

Then some sweetened condensed milk. It got very sticky. Out.

Then half a cup mashed banana and some hot water. That felt right. But still something was missing.

Then I added some baking powder. 1 teaspoon of it and just a tiny 1/4th teaspoon of baking soda. It worked very well. Now we are talking of some brownie heaven. After 3 alterations, I settled down on this perfect eggless version of brownies. Albeit, with baking powder.

I am experimenting with a lot of eggless version of cakes and cookies. Promise to come back with more.

Eggless Banana Brownie Recipe

Ingredients :

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (approx. 1 1/2 bananas)
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp regular salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 and 1/2 cup chopped chocolate chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

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Ukadiche Modak

It is that time of the year again when Ganesha or Ganapati bappa comes to our homes, our hearts and even our streets. And with him he bring lots of festivities and of course good food. The entire region gets swathed in lights and flowers, and all of life’s miseries are forgotten for a while.

We did not have Ganapati at our home and I felt quite bad about that. Then when we shifted to a new apartment when I was 12.  That year I realised, my friend Ketki, had Ganpati bappa at her place and I went to her place for the evening of actual celebration. It took us just one year to become BEST friends. Needless to say, for 10 years after that I would be at her place throughout the festival, and even for several evenings before that to make the decoration for the idol to be set in. Those were quite fun times, with the two days filled to the brim with festivities. We would wake up really early in the morning, her dad and uncles would do the pooja (where we would help), and then her mom and granny would do the modaks (where we would again help).

Modak (2 of 2)

Giving those complicated structural designs to the rice flour dough and then filling it with a sweet sticky coconut mixture, we would get our hands totally messy. And if the coconut particles would get into the dough, that was the end if that particular modak, and we had to redo it. But everyone was patient with us, and soon, we somewhat mastered the art of making a beautiful modak. Ketki was always good at it, but I had a tough time getting them into the right shape.

This post is dedicated to the Ganpati at Ketki’s house and to her mom. For giving me beautiful memories and allowing me to be a part of their home and their hearts.

Now, I will get down to the recipe of this ukadiche modak. Not only in Maharashtra, but several states in south India have different ways of making this steamed delicacy. In essence it is much like momos. The outer cover of these dumplings is made with rice flour and it is filled with coconut and jaggery mixture.

Modak saran (1 of 1)

Ukadiche Modak (Coconut and Jaggery Dumplings) Recipe :

Ingredients :

  • 1 and 1/2 cup freshly dessicated coconut
  • 3/4 cup jaggery, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons khova / mava
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • 3 cups fine Basmati rice flour
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter / mild unflavored cooking oil

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Chocolate brownies in 40 minutes

I have been meaning to post this recipe after the first time I made these, a couple of weeks back. Since then I have made it  several times. Usually quickly after work or sometimes in the morning while having breakfast . These cute little brownies take no more than 40 minutes to get ready since you thought about them. Its lesser time than I take to get ready for work.

Chocolate brownie

Every baker, I am sure, has a no-fail brownie recipe. Although it is really difficult to mess up with brownies. Just throw in a few things together, and bake. They will create themselves.

Apart from the other times when you or someone else craves for an indulgent dessert, these are the peculiar instances when you just have to bake these :

Distracted? Have a lot on your mind? Friends coming over and you have to treat them with something freshly baked? Have to multi-task while baking? Or simply lazy to sieve and whisk and fold? Yes? Then brownie is your remedy, lady!

Now It is said that the first brownie recipe appeared in a cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer in 1906. So it’s a relatively newer delicacy. There are several myths surrounding the origin of a brownie, but the best one which I liked or got convinced is this :

A housewife did not having baking powder and hence her cake did not rise while baking. Nevertheless, she cut it into pieces and served it as a finger food dessert to her guests. The guests were delighted and hence a new baking-powder-less version of flattened cake, a.k.a the Brownie came into existence!

The second recipe for brownies, appeared in 1907, in Lowney’s Cook Book. The recipe added both an extra egg and additional chocolate to the Fannie Farmer recipe, thus creating a richer brownie. She named the recipe Bangor Brownies.

Here is an extract from the book :

https://i1.wp.com/www.newenglandrecipes.org/assets/images/Brownies-1907-Lowneys-Bangor.jpg

And now here’s our recipe for the brownie :

Makes about 16-20 brownies

Ingredients :

  • 115 gm butter (salted), at room temperature
  • 200 gms  granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 85 gms dark chocolate, chopped
  • 85 gms all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

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Creamy Mushroom Ragout

I promised a few of my readers that I will post the mushroom ragout recipe very soon. The creamy texture and the robust mushroom-cilantro flavor took my breath away.

As I had said in the rosti post, I scooped up and ate several spoonfuls of it before we actually sat down to eat. It’s the next best thing to do with mushrooms after the stuffed ones.

All of us at home love mushrooms and have tried it with several seasonings. But I have come to a conclusion that the flavor comes out best when paired with milk products like cheese and fresh cream. Sautéd mushrooms with chillies, and pesto mushrooms etc are great, but don’t stand to win when in competition with fresh cream ragout.

Without much ado, let me get down to pinning the ingredients.

 

Mushroom Ragout (1 of 1)Creamy Mushroom Ragout recipe

Ingredients :

  • 2 boxes i.e about 24-25 button sized mushrooms
  • handful of baby onions
  • 1 and 1/2 cup fresh cream
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 4 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar / lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt

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Swiss Potato Rösti

Few years back, when I was 21 and doing my internship, The Lonely Planet Magazine was introduced in India. I would buy it every month as soon as it was on stands. I’d devour it page by page, one destination at a time. They would also carry a recipe from the places they traveled. Once it was the Swiss rösti, steaming hot pancake-like flat bread of potatoes. With just one major ingredient,  potatoes, it looked very simple. And it was. I made it in the evening one day, those 5-6 years back, it tasted delicious, and then was forgotten for a few years. (May be because I didn’t blog back then).

Fast forward 4 years. We are in Zürich, Switzerland and having a fresh hot rösti at a farmers market.

Fast forward another 2 years and a home-made rösti was sitting on my plate. Crisp on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside. Made in the Zürich way. According to Felicity Cloake who writes at The Guardian, rösti of raw potato is typical only in the Zürich area, rest of the country parboils the potatoes first.

We made it the Zürich way. Shredded potatoes mixed with flour and some cornstarch, salt and liberal amount of pepper.

The correct way to pronounce it is reursch-ti rather than row-sti. The Swiss call it their national dish and the world has taken a shine to it. And why not? Its delicious, easy to make and filling.

I used a trick illustrated by Patrick Williams, where some salt is added to the shredded potatoes, and kept aside for 10 minutes to draw out all the water from the potatoes. It helped wonderfully to make the rösti crisp yet perfectly cooked.

We coupled it with creamy mushroom ragout. And I have to admit, this one is quite a winner. I couldn’t stop eating it, a few spoons at a time, before we sat down for lunch. The mushroom flavor blends incredibly well with the cream and a hint of balsamic vinegar gives it a lovely punch.

IMG_4123_2

Potato rösti RecipeServes 2 or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients :

  • 1/2 kg uncooked potatoes
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil for cooking

Method :

  1. Grate the potatoes. I prefer it unpeeled, but you can very well peel it and then grate. Add some salt, mix well and keep it aside for 10 mins.The potatoes will let out a lot of water. Squeeze out all the water.
  2. Mix the flour, cornstarch and pepper with the potatoes. Add salt as required.
  3. Heat a non-stick pan and drizzle with some oil. Take 1/4 cup of the potato mixture and flatten it out like a pancake on the pan with your fingers. Turn the heat on low, pour about 2 tsp of oil- cover and cook.
  4. Leave it untouched for 5 mins on low heat, preferably with a lid on top, till the top becomes translucent and the bottom gets golden brown.
  5. Flip, and some more oil and let the other side get golden brown too.
  6. Serve the rosti with ragout and some chopped parsley or spring onion greens.

The total cooking time on the pan goes well upto 15-20 mins per rosti , to get the right texture. So if serving a big group, you can make it in advance and heat it on  the pan before serving.

Alternately, several small 3-4 inch small rosti-s can be made instead of the big 7-8 inch to quicken the process of cooking.

Potato Rosti (1 of 1)