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

IMG_4810

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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