Simple Eggless Bread Loaf with cheese and pepper

I think I got my bread baking mojo back. After a hiatus of 3 years, I am back in the game.

Pepper Cheese loaf cut

Baking bread is a time consuming affair and slightly complicated than just throwing in a few ingredients like we do while baking a cake. First it starts with buying or finding the right kind of yeast. Then adapting a recipe to the type of yeast you have, blooming of the yeast, mixing, kneading and first rise, shaping, the second rise and finally baking. So a simple loaf can take anywhere upto 5 hours from start to finish. When my baby was little, I couldn’t guarantee the loaf that I would come to shape it after its first rise, or I would be able to knead it for 5-10 mins without the baby requiring me on an urgent basis (with babies, it’s always very urgent). But now that he is over two, I am beginning to enjoy baking bread again. Its euphoric to see it rise. It is instinctive, scientific and artistic all in one go.

This here today is a simple loaf with cheese and some spices. I baked it twice on the weekend (it was that good), once with cheese and crushed black pepper and the second time with more cheese and a pizza spice mixture which I had at home – very similar to those Oregano spice packets which come with Dominoes Pizza. Its a fool-proof recipe, just follow the steps and the notes to bake your own bread.

This recipe is from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger is adapted to suit Indian flour and humidity conditions.

Whole loaf of pepper cheese bread

 

Eggless Bread Loaf with cheese and pepper

What you will need :

  • 2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 300 grams all purpose flour (maida)
  • 50 grams whole wheat flour (aatta)
  • 2 grams bread improver (see notes)
  • 90 grams freshly shredded processed Cheddar (I used Amul)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or any other spice mixture (see notes)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 4 tablespoon butter (I use Amul salted)
  • 3/4 cup cool water
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco)

What to do :

  1. In a big cup or a glass, warm 1/3 cup of water. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over this water and gently stir it. Keep it in the corner of your kitchen platform till it becomes foamy, about 10-15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, in a big bowl, combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, bread improver, pepper and salt. Mix it with a whisk to ensure that bread improver is evenly incorporated.
  3. Add 4 tablespoons butter to this flour mixture.
  4. After the yeast mixture has become foamy, stir it with a spoon, and add the 3/4 cup cool water to it. Add the hot sauce to this mixture.
  5. Now with the dough hooks of a electric beater beating, add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture in a steady stream so that it all starts coming together to form a sticky soft dough.
  6. After the dough forms a soft elastic ball that clears the sides of the bowl, add the cheese and beat it for another minute so that all the cheese gets incorporated in it. If the dough is too sticky, add some more flour by a tablespoon , if the dough is too dry, add a teaspoon of water. (See notes)
  7. Using a plastic dough scraper, transfer the dough onto a smooth floured surface. Knead it slightly with the plastic scraper. It will still be an extremely sticky dough, just keep flouring the surface and keep bringing the dough together with the scraper.
  8. Grease a big bowl with olive oil or butter and put the dough ball in it. Turn it once to grease all sides of the dough.
  9. Cover it with a plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature till it doubles in bulk, about one hour.
  10. Grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with butter.
  11. Turn out the dough onto a clean floured surface. Shape it into an oblong loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Cover it loosely with a plastic wrap. Let it rise again at room temperature until it reaches 1 inch above the top of the pan. Around 1 and 1/2 hours.
  12. Twenty minutes before baking, pre-heat oven to 170C. Using a sharp knife slash the loaf one-three times diagonal across top,  no more than 1/2 inch deep.
  13. Place the pan on a rack in the centre (or bottom rack – see notes ) of the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes till it is lightly browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped with your finger.
  14. Transfer the loaf from the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool before slicing.

Kneading and shaping the dough

Notes :

  • Adding bread improver to a bread recipe is optional, but I have found that since bread flour is not available in India, and there is no standardised flour type, it is better to add bread improver. Approximately 0.01% of the quantity of the flour and the results are remarkable. To know where to buy it, check this.
  • Pepper is a strong spice so 1 and 1/2 teaspoon is sufficient. If you are replacing it with anything other spice mixture, you can use 2- 3 teaspoon easily.
  • For point no. 6 : I have found that in hot and tropical climate like ours, generally the dough becomes very sticky and needs more flour. So you can add a little amount to the dough or generously flour the work surface so that it gets absorbed.
  • Indian ovens like MR, Bajaj are smaller and hence it is prefarable to keep the pan on the lowest rack and bake. Because the pan is tall and dough has risen 1 inch above the pan. So if you keep it on middle rack, the top gets too browned or burnt. So keep it not he lowest rack, with both rods on. If you have a big commercial oven, use the middle rack.
  • Do not let the loaf cool in the pan, or the bottom and sides will become moist. Always use a cooling rack to cool it.

slices of bread

Pepper and Cheese bread pinterest

Pan Grilled chicken over buttery rice and tomato salsa

chicken-baked

Every once in a while, mostly on a Sunday, I make an elaborate lunch at home. The weekday meals are all made by my mum-in-law, a delicious vegetarian affair. So on Sundays, I try to give her a break and make something myself. A lot of times my folks have to eat the experimentation – uncooked pasta, overcooked chicken , too tangy salad etc. But sometimes, something like this gets created and I can’t wait to put it up here and share it with you all.

chicken-with-salsa-and-rice

This time it is Pepper Pan-Grilled Chicken over Buttery Baked Rice and Tomato Salsa. This technique of baked rice was shown to me by our European business associate, they always bake rice and don’t use any pressure cooker. You can very well cook rice in the pressure cooker and lightly season it.

All the pans that we use at home currently are from Khlos. Wonderfully built and sturdy and yet non-stick, that our oil consumption has drastically reduced.And they look so pretty and are still very affordable.

 

chicken-cooked-in-pan

Buttery Baked Rice

  • 200 gram long grained rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 25 gram butter
  • 400 ml boiling water
  1. Grease a 1.1 capacity ovenproof dish or casserole.
  2. Put the rice in the dish and stir int he salt until well mixed. Dot with butter.
  3. Pour over the boiling water. Cover and bake at 180C for 30 minutes until the water has been absorbed and rice is tender.

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Pepper and Olive Oil Tender Chicken breasts

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 2-3 tablespoon coarsely crushed pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • chilli flakes
  • butter for pan-grilling the chicken and for the sauce
  1. Lightly pound the washed chicken breasts with a chicken rolling pin. Rub it with  the mixture of olive oil + butter+  salt+ pepper + chilli flakes.
  2. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat a thick bottommed pan and melt 1-2 tablespoon of butter. I have used Khlos grill pan to brown the chicken and give the pepper a crackling feel.
  4. Once the chicken breasts are browned on both sides, transfer them and the butter from the pan into an ovenproof dish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 10 minutes so that the chicken gets cooked till the centre.
  5. Remove from heat and reserve the juices and butter.

Tomato Salsa

  • 2 cups finely chopped tomatoes (about 4 tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped green chillies
  • about 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Mix all the above ingredients of the salsa and adjust the salt as per taste.

Assembly :

  1. Slice the chicken and place it on a bed of rice with salsa on the side. Garnish with some mint/basil leaves.

chicken-rice-and-salsa

Palak and Cheese Kofta Curry

Koftas in curry

A few years back, cooking classes were a rage among all my mom’s friends. And they found one Mrs. Kapoor who taught all North Indian curries, rice preparations, koftas, Indian chineese, soups, cakes etc. I had attended one cake workshop with her, my first one, long time back. And then my sister-in-law attended a few of her classes and this is her creation.

The list of ingredients is long, but once you get it all together it is very simple. Just mix it all, fry and put it in the curry.

Filling a kofta

In Indian cooking, unlike baking, a few ingredients and measures can be adjusted. Feel free to do so if you don’t have any particular thing in your house. Or you can replace aamchur powder with say mint powder or substitute with lemon juice altogether. Feel comfortable.

My friends have come up with a specially coated range of stoneware – frying pan and kadhais called the Khlos Life. Its beautiful and we have been using it even for all our daily cooking since we got it. You can check them out on Amazon.

Palak and cheese kofta

Palak and Cheese Kofta in Curry

What you will need:

For the koftas outer covering –

  • 3 potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 1 teaspoon ginger- chilli paste
  • 2 tablespoon corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon aamchoor powder
  • salt to taste, 1/2 teaspoon or so

Kofta Potato cover

For the kofta filling –

  • 1 bunch palak (boiled, squeezed and chopped finely)
  • 3 cubes cheese grated
  • 1 teaspoon ginger chilli paste
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic paste
  • salt to taste , about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • few drops of lemon juice

Palak and cheese filling

For making tadka for the gravy –

  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon ajwain

For the gravy –

  • 4 tomatoes pureed without skins
  • 1/4 cup curd
  • 2 teaspoon besan
  • 3 tablespoon kaju powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon jeera powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • salt to taste, about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup coriander chopped
  • pinch of orange red color (optional)

What to do :

  1. Mix all ingredients for the kofta outer covering and knead it like a soft dough. keep it aside.
  2. Mix all ingredients of the kofta filling and check for seasoning.
  3. Make small balls of the filling and stuff them into disks of the outer covering and seal well. You will get about 10-12 koftas.
  4. Heat some oil in a kadhai, and fry the koftas on medium heat. Drain on kitchen paper.
  5. To make the gravy, I used the Khlos Deep kadhai. Heat the 2 tablespoon of butter, add the ajwain, onion and garlic and saute for  minutes.
  6. In a mixer or a food processor, churn everything required for the gravy.
  7. Pour it over the tadka in the kadhai and cook it on medium heat for 5-6 minutes till it starts to thicken.
  8. Put the koftas in the curry just before serving. Serve piping hot with some chapatis or rice.

Palak Kofta

Notes :

  1. 1 bunch of palak is roughly 3/4 cup when boiled and chopped.
  2. I have used fresh ginger and fresh chilli paste. And packaged ready garlic paste. You can use all fresh or all packaged. Adjust the salt accordingly.
  3. If you wish, add more water to the curry and keep it thinner for rice.

Tomato Curry

Rutvika Charegaonkar

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Madelines!

Oh these lovely, buttery shell shaped little cakes. Crisp on the outside and soft like sponge cake on the inside. And that adorable little bump. It makes it a pretty little unique cake.

It was our 4th or 5th class in Le Cordon Bleu and the chef demonstrated this French traditional cake from the Lorraine region in France. I was astonished. That shell shaped structure looked gorgeous. And then the bump on the other side revealing the soft part inside. The edges – browned and crisp are a delight to bite into.

Madelines with honey

Madeleines are the perfect accompaniment to the evening cup of tea or coffee. They taste best when served warm fresh out of the oven. The crispness of the crust starts to lessen as it gets stored, but biting into a fresh madeleine is a real pleasure.

The only special equipment you will need is a Scallop shell pan. I purchased mine in E.Dehillerin in Paris, but it is easily available at Amazon.in or your local bakeware shop.

The traditional version calls for browning butter and then using it. But there is a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter. So to avoid that, we simply melt butter with orange zest and that gives it the citrusy flavour. If you wish to get the nuttiness of browned butter, brown it in a pan for a couple of minutes, let it cool down and then use it.

This recipe is based on the one we learnt at school and I have further added orange zest and honey to it.

Madelines in shell pan

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Makes 10 Madelines

What you will need :

  • 100 gram all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70 gram butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 65 grams castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do :

  1. Sift flour and baking powder to avoid any lumps.
  2. Melt butter in a pan or in microwave with the orange zest.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and add sugar. Whisk till it becomes pale and creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and then add butter and orange zest mixture. Fold it in with a spatula.
  6. Now transfer it to a disposable piping bag without any nozzle and refrigerate it for atleast 3 hours. You can even refrigerate it overnight.
  7. Before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Brush the shell pan with some melted  butter and drizzle some flour on it.
  8. Pipe molds of batter on the pan and let it bake for 10-11 minutes till it is browned not he edges and cooked in the centre. The centre should spring back when touched.

IMG_3640

 

Notes :

  1. It is essential to refrigerate the dough so that the flour hydrates and it forms that quintessential bump when baked.
  2. This can also be used as a basic recipe and honey and orange zest can be substituted with any other flavouring.

madelines with a bump

Cheers!

Rutvika

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta and the end of my maternity leave

This week is the last week of my maternity leave and I will soon resume work. It is difficult to believe that it’s been 3 months since I gave birth , since the first time my baby boy tightly held my little finger till his fingertips looked white. He still does that, but now he wants to firmly hold on to my index finger. And he looks directly into my eyes, follows me as I move from one side to the other while doing my chores and sometimes I just move to check his ability to follow me. He has also graduated from ‘newborn’ clothes to ‘3-6 months’ set of tee shirts and onesies. And my little boy now generously showers everyone with that toothless gummy smile.

I talk to him a lot. I tell him how momma needs to go to office now, but his ajji will take care of him. He coos as if he understands, but makes me promise him that I will cuddle and hug him as soon as I come home. I promise, he animatedly waves his hands and I pick him up. He is my son, we have a connection and he knows momma will be happier when she works.

As for me, it’s been four months since I am at home. Initially bed rest for a month and then these three months. Now that my baby has a set routine, it gives me time to think of things beyond him. I have to restart from the basic things. I have nothing to wear, pregnancy has made me an L from an M and I need to go shopping. My hair is in a frizzy mess, good foot wear is non existent and my sense of traffic has gone for a toss. I ride my two wheeler at the speed of 20, because after being home-borne for 4 months, even 20 kmph seems very fast. I gotta get back on track before I can resume work.

It’s strange the ways in which motherhood can change you. It has made me paranoid. I worry over his every sneeze, try to monitor his next milestone and insist on placing his blanket exactly at the same place every night.  Moreover I am constantly worried that something might happen to me when the baby is so fully dependent on me. Every fast approaching vehicle feels as if it will bump into me and give a bloody fracture. And so I need to start working. I need to start spending some amount of time away from baby worries otherwise it would make me go crazy.

My baby is exclusively breastfed and I plan to continue that for another 3 months. Office is close by so I can drop in for his feeding times and perhaps also express milk for alternate feedings. It’s a good thing, I will be on my toes. And anyway work expands to fill the time available. So I guess I will be able to do justice at my workplace too.

This baby boy and hence we as parents are lucky. He has one set of grandparents living with him (or we living with them) and another set of grandparents just 5 minutes away. And all four of them dote on him and are indulgent babysitters. It makes it so much easier for me to go out, knowing that he is in very good hands. In fact it becomes my responsibility to be very efficient at work and at home since I have a strong support system.

But right now when I look at him having a conversation with his beloved ceiling fan,  I wonder if I will constantly miss him while at work.

May be. But I need to slightly detach to attach better.

Xoxo,

Loving mama

*******       *******       *******

For the last few days, I have been baking and cooking a lot. Experimenting with new flavors and textures. And one such byproduct is this Balsamic Mushroom Pasta. I like my pasta little well cooked so that it melts in the mouth with the creamy balsamic glaze. Without much ado, presenting a simple pasta dish which can be whipped up in half an hour.

Mushroom pasta

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

What you will need :

  • 2 cups mushroom, washed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup penne, cooked al dente for 10 to 12 minutes or as per instructions on the packet
  • 1 cup water in which the pasta was boiled
  • 3-4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar / balsamic glaze
  • 2 cubes or 40 gms Cheedar cheese cubes, grated
  • dried oregano, basil or other herbs as per taste

Pasta in a pot

What to do :

  1. In a big pot, melt butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and let them cook on medium heat till soft.
  2. Then add the chopped or crushed garlic and stir.
  3. Ad the cream and salt and mix well on low heat.
  4. Then add the pasta to this. Mix well.
  5. Add water and milk to the pan and cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the sauce gets creamier and coats the pasta well.
  6. Then add the balsamic glaze, stir well. Add the grated cheese, dried herbs and stir well.
  7. Serve when hot with some red chillies or paprika.

Pasta in a pot and bowls

Mushroom Turnovers and Oh yes, my trying-to-arrange marriage tales

I have known my husband for the last 12 years. But the first 9 years don’t really count. We took a class together in school, but that was it. We chose different paths, went to different colleges and he was then studying and working in the USA for six years, before he came back and we met.

And in those intervening years a lot happened. I dated a few guys, he must have dated some girls (although he doesn’t talk about it. yet.) , but yes, we were on different paths of life.

And then I cleared my CA exam, was 22 and deemed fit to get married by my parents and other folks around me. Or at least start looking for “suitable guys” so that something “clicks” sooner or later. My attempts at finding a suitable boyfriend to eventually get married to had failed miserably for several reasons. So, naturally my matrimonial ad was placed in some of the arranged marriage groups and related newsletters. I don’t know what it said, but clearly my mom had done a good job at marketing me well, because the whole ritual of meeting guys and their parents and that whole shit started soon enough.

For those of you who are uninitiated about the arranged marriage process in India, let me sum it up for you. Typically, the responsibility of finding a partner for the girl and the guy lies with the family. So as a community activity, people suggest befitting proposals and the families meet, the would-be bride and groom meet too, may be for an hour or so and that’s it. In more advanced cities, the girl and guy meet may be one or two times and boom, a perfect heavenly match is made. Or so they claim.

My mom, the super efficient woman that she is, started working on this project. She made lists, went through matrimonial websites, magazines and generally spread the word around that they are looking for their daughter. She even went ahead and made a fake facebook and orkut (which was very popular then) account and would re-search about the guys before she asked me to have a look at them. Oh man, it was like one organized military operation. And as a result, over a span of two years, my mom and dad evaluated about 200 proposals, spoke to at-least 80 of them and as a fitting climax, I met around 15 of those ‘boys’.

It was hilarious to say the least. I had very little belief in this system of finding a husband, and it just sounded bizarre that I would randomly go and stay with a guy who I have met twice, or say thrice. My savior in this whole situation was my brother, because we would laugh off the whole thing. That kept my sanity intact.

Nevertheless, I had some interesting interactions. Once we went to a guys house, and the whole living room was painted bright red, the chairs, upholstery, carpet, wall hanging, everything right upto the ceiling fan was bright red. Felt like a psychedelic cocaine-induced view of things. On another time, I met a guy alone, in a coffee shop, and in a weird “phoren” accent he started regaling his tales of how many women he had seduced and laid. Urgh. I fled.

We had also met the then Mumbai municipal commissioner’s son, who was as thin as a stick insect. We got to see the palatial home of that bureaucrat, but the guy rejected me for the reason that I had spectacles. He and his father were sent to jail later on when they were convicted in a housing scam. I thanked some celestial power for that most awesome rejection of my life.

One guy, a friend of my friend, was so overwhelmed and out-of-breath the whole time, that he spilled the coffee, accidentally touched my hand and relegated at the shock and finally walked out and forgot to pay the bill. When I politely told him that I don;t think us can work, he e-stalked me for a whole six months after which my friend had to step in and stop it.

I could go on with these tales, but I think it is sufficient for now. My poor mom was getting traumatized by the end of two years, and I was also on the verge of saying yes to a not-that-great-but-okayish guy, which is when my classmate and my future husband rescued me from all of this hoopla. And hence started our love story, our families met, and we got married. 🙂

And P.S: I have known some amazing people having an arranged marriage and it beautifully works for them. So I am not at all against this concept. Just FYI.

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Mushroom Turnovers or Stuffed Mushroom Pies

I got this recipe from a dog-eared book ‘ The Good-Housekeeping’. It’s a very old book I picked up at a flea market, and I don’t think it is in print anymore. But the recipes and illustrations there are excellent.

Mushroom turnovers

What you will need:

  • 120 gm cream cheese , I use Philadelphia
  • 50 gm butter
  • 75 gm all-purpose flour
  • 20 gm cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 100 gm button mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • salt
  • Dried herbs like basil, oregano, thyme

What to do:

  1. To make the dough for the covering, take cream cheese, butter and flour in a bowl and mix well, with an electric beater or knead with hand. Once the dough comes together, (it will still be a sticky dough), place it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a plastic sarine wrap or a damp cloth and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make the mushroom filling. Melt butter in a skillet/pan. Saute the onions till they become translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook them for a while till tender and till the water has evaporated away.
  4. Add salt, dried herbs and mix well.
  5. Blend flour and yoghurt together and add it to the mushrooms. Cook for a minute and then take it off heat. Let it cool.
  6. On a generously floured surface, take the dough, cut it into half and refrigerate one half. Roll the other half into a disk, while being careful to not let it stick to the counter-top or the rolling pin. Be very generous with the flouring.
  7. With a bowl or some other circular object, cut the dough disks into 4-5 inch circles.
  8. Carefully place the circles on a baking mat on a baking tray. Spoon in a tbsp of the mushroom mixture.
  9. Line the edges o the dough disk with the egg wash (or some melted butter) and lift it up from one side, align with the other side and press down to seal.
  10. Brush the tops with egg wash, so it gets a beautiful color while baking.
  11. Refrigerate the turnovers till it is just about time to serve and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 230°C for 12 minutes or so, till the turnovers are golden brown from the bottom.
  12. Repeat with the other dough disk and bake.
  13. Serve these buttery , flaky turnovers with some mint chutney or ketchup.

Turnovers in making

Notes :

  1. The original recipe used sour cream, but I easily replaced it with yoghurt.
  2. These turnovers are basically egg-less with some egg wash. You can replace the egg wash with butter and still get the same effect.
  3. The cream-cheese and butter dough is excellent and you can use any type of savory thick filling inside.
  4. These turnovers are best eaten on the same day. They become soggy the next day. But can be refrigerated for 2-3 days before baking and then baked just before serving.

Turnovers with coffee

Rutvika Charegaonkar

First few days in Le Cordon Bleu and Deviled Eggs

Bonjour Mesdames et Messieurs!

Mon nom est rutvika. Ça va? Je fais bien. Merci beaucoup. 🙂

Well, my French is limited to these few words and phrases, but thankfully for me, and many students like me, we have a translator who translates everything to English at the Le Cordon Bleu. Everything. Even if the chef swears while demonstrating the technique, that gets translated. I am yet to pick up any swear words in french, but very soon.

It has been four days since my school started and it’s quite intensive. We have 6 to 9 hours of class daily, but it’s so much fun! The day is divided into two parts. First the chef demonstrates the technique of making a new pastry for about 3 hours and then the next morning we have to make it on our own, and so on. And, let me tell you, the school does not have any printed recipes. They just give us a blank sheet of paper with the ingredients listed out and we have to write down the recipe during demonstration, in our own words. We have to observe what the chef is doing, hear the translator and write it down in as many words as possible. And write it so well, that it can be repeated next morning. Almost like blogging for myself. 🙂

In our Basic Pastry class of 30 students, we have girls and boys coming in from at least 15 countries. Yeah! And the Director of Cordon Bleu said that there are students from about 59 countries at any time in the school in Paris. It is very interesting, and when I meet a new girl from a different country, I come home and read about that country. For instance in the last 3 days, I read about Austria and Latvia! They have very similar flags, just the Latvian flag color is a deep maroon and Austrian is bright red. That’s some trivia for this week.Latvia and Austria flagOnce we make a pastry, we can take it back home. Since it’s just 3 things that we have made yet, I get it back home and we are able to finish it by: 1. Eating some of it ourselves or 2. Distributing among friends. Danielle my friend and host in Paris has a lot of friends and I am so glad for it, we get to distribute a lot of it. My fellow students in the school who are mostly staying alone have to throw it in the trash, or what else are you going to do with tonnes of dessert?! I know that’s sad, but we also have a plan of finding some homeless people and giving them the desserts! 🙂

Meanwhile, back home a couple of days back, we had made Deviled Eggs for a Diwali party. They are so much like a tart, just the egg whites in place of the tart shells and whipped egg yolk in place of whipping cream! Ha! That’s the Le Cordon Bleu effect.

Devil eggs1

The deviled eggs can be done in innumerable ways and its very very easy. And for a party, they can be made well in advance and refrigerated. A perfect, healthy party food. Kids love it too, because you can control the spice and it’s comforting to bite into soft smooth whipped egg yolk and then feel the tender but firm seasoned egg white.

Deviled eggs

Deviled Eggs Recipe :

For 20 portions,

What you will need :

  • 12 large eggs, preferably 3-4 days old
  • Mustard, Chilli powder, salt, basil, coriander, olives etc for seasoning, as per taste

Steps :

Making deviled eggs is easy, and once you know how to hard boil eggs, most of your work is done.

  1. The egg yolks can be centered by resting the eggs in the carton on their sides overnight (or for about 8 hours). So that when you cut it in half, you get two perfect slices of eggs, with the yolk in the centre.They get sturdier to handle, and look pretty.
  2. Take your eggs from the fridge half an hour before you want to cook them. Let them rest on their sides. This will reduce the amount of cracks during cooking by reducing the shock of any rapid temperature changes.
  3. In a large vessel, place the eggs. Let there be comfortable space for the eggs to move around while boiling, or they might bump into each other often and crack.
  4. Boil one or two more eggs than required, as some of them will crack open while boiling, peel off very badly or yolks may be at the edge and hence may not be usable for making deviled eggs. You can have them for sandwich.
  5. Fill your vessel with cold water, enough to cover the eggs by about an inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to raise the boiling point and help your eggs cook faster.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid and set it on high heat. It will take about 6-7 minutes to get the water boiling.
  7. As soon as it gets to a rolling boil, with large bubbles, take the vessel off heat.
  8. Add a tablespoon of vinegar over your eggs, to make it easier for peeling and let the eggs sit for 30 minutes in the hot water to finish cooking. Put a timer for 30 mins, because if it stays and cooks longer, the egg whites will become tough.
  9. The eggs must first be cooled before they can be peeled. Lift the eggs and place them in a bowl of ice-cold water. This way they cool rapidly and it avoids forming a green ring on the egg yolks while cooling. Leave the eggs to cool for 10 minutes and start peeling them.
  10. Gently tap the egg on the kitchen counter till it looks fractured from all sides and then peel it off. You may need to start the process off by picking a small bit of shell off with your fingernail. Then the egg shells should slip off perfectly.
  11. Then, cut the eggs into half and squeeze out the egg yolks by gently nudging the egg whites. The yolk will usually pop out easily. You can also take a small spoon to ease the yolk out if the egg sides appear particularly thin or fragile.
  12. Then break the egg yolks with a fork.They will seem dry and almost powdery. For nice, smooth fillings, mash the yolks well so that there aren’t any large lumps.
  13. Then add any or as many seasoning as you like. For 10 eggs, I added 2 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon mustard paste, some salt and some chilli powder. But don’t limit yourself to this,  you can even mix finely chopped onion, olives, pepper, Italian salad dressing and so on..
  14. Mix it all very well and pipe it into the halved egg whites with a piping bag or even a ziplock bag with the tip cut off. Or you can simply spoon it into the eggs.
  15. Drizzle with some coriander and chilli flakes for the colorful yellow-white-green-red effect. And you are done.
  16. Now go, get ready and dazzle you guests!

DE close upThree devil eggs

Maharashtrian Chirote or Fried layered crispies

Currently as I write this post, it is just 5 days before I leave for Paris, and I still do not have the Visa in my hand. It is in process since the last 2 weeks, but our not-so-competent (realized just now) travel agent did not mention that an original document notarized in Paris is required for the visa. I had to then urgently call my host in Paris, an amazingly sweet and efficient lady (which I realised now), had to rush to the Paris town hall, get the required document and courier it to me. I will get the document today and then I have four more working days before I fly to Paris. Pray for me.

I have been making to-do lists with a blue pen, then ticking off with a red one, then making another list and working on it, and then another one. It has come to a point where I will need to make a list to index and manage other lists. Phew! You know what I am talking about? It’s that sort of frenzy here right now. I always go crazy when there is a lot of stuff to be done, but right now my craziness is at its worst. To top it, Akshay has gone on a jungle safari which was planned way back , and he has limited phone range there, my mum had fractured her foot and is in a plaster, and my best friend has disappeared to another non-cell phone range area. Where are you guys?!

So for now its just this crazy-to-do-list girl and her my mum-in-law.

The Diwali week has come to an end, and we had a fantastic fun filled Diwali! A healthy mixture of meeting family, partying with friends and then cooking and learning from the masters. In current scenario, my grandma-in-law. Like all grannies, she has a box full of hidden treasures, and I can’t get enough of it. Her secret recipes can be learnt only if you cook with her. If you ask her the recipe, she would shrug it off and say “There’s nothing to it. Just heat some oil, do tadka, saute some things, let it simmer, add some coriander and its ready.” I replay it in my head and try it alone at home. It comes nowhere close to what it tastes like when she makes it. Nowhere close.

So this time around during Diwali, I tricked her into making her crisp, light and multi-layered chirote while I “help” her and for record, I took zillion photographs. Each time I would take out the camera, she would ask me “You will click this too? Whats to click in this?”. I persisted and got the detailed procedure.

So chirote, are a Maharashtrian delicacy made during Diwali. They are a bit cumbersome to make, and takes a while. And hence it is disappearing from Marathi households. Most of us don’t have the technique and/or the patience to do these beautifully ghee-layered crisps. We made about 15-20 2-inch chirotes, and it took us 2 hours. Or more. But once you make them, and they melt in your mouth, you will want to make them again. That’s my promise.

Multi layered Chirote

Chirote or Multi-layered Crisps Recipe

What you will need :

  • 2 cups regular all purpose flour or maida
  • 3-4 tbsp hot ghee or hot clarified butter
  • 4 tbsp whole milk
  • 4 tbsp corn flour
  • 6 tbsp ghee
  • 3 cups ghee/ clarified butter for frying
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

What to do :

  1. Mix all purpose flour, hot ghee and milk and form into a thick dough. Knead well for 5 minutes, till all lumps are broken down and it forms a non-sticky smooth dough. Tip: The dough should peel off the hand without sticking to it.
  2. Let it rest covered on the countertop for 10 mins.
  3. Divide the dough into 11 (eleven) equal size balls. We will be needing 9 ultra thin rotis, but there is a chance of breakage, so make additional 2 as a precaution.
  4. On a well floured surface, with a rolling pin, roll out the dough on all sides evenly, adding flour as needed. The rotis need to be really thin, each one about 8 inches in diameter.
  5. Then in a separate dish, take 4 tbsp cornflour and ghee and mix it with your fingers till it forms a very smooth mixture. Divide this mixture into 6 parts.
  6. Now, take one roti and generously apply one part of the ghee and corn-flour mixture. Then place another roti on top and repeat with the cornflour mixture. Place the third roti on this stack and repeat.
  7. Once this stack of 3 rotis is ready, fold it from both sides and then roll it up from the third side till the centre and the opposite side till the center. Both the rolled up layers should meet and stack on each other in the center.
  8. With a sharp knife, cut this roll into 5 equal pieces.
  9. Take each piece on a flat surface and again flatten it delicately with a rolling pin to upto 2 inches wide. Be careful to not squeeze too much into the layers.
  10. Repeat with the other 6 rotis, stacking them up into groups of three and follow the same procedure.
  11. Now your chirote are ready to be fried.
  12. In a thick bottomed vessel or kadhai, heat the butter. Lower the flame and fry the chirote one-by-one.
  13. Hold the chirota in a slotted spoon over the inside of the vessel. Gently with another spoon, pour the hot ghee from the vessel over the layers in the chirota. Pour the ghee over each side 6-7 times, till it sizzles and becomes slightly brown in color.
  14. Then drain on a sieve for a couple of minutes.
  15. While still hot, sprinkle powdered sugar on it generously and coat it from all sides.
  16. These sexy delicate layered melt-in-your-mouth crispies are ready!

Careful, they are super hot till the core!

Here a step-by-step photo tutorial :

Slathering the rotis with a mixture of ghee and cornflour

Slathering the rotis with a mixture of ghee and cornflour

After stacking 3 on top of each other, start folding it from the sides

After stacking 3 on top of each other, start folding it from the sides

Fold from all four sides and start rolling into a cylinder

Fold from all four sides and start rolling into a cylinder

Cut into 5-6 parts

Cut into 5-6 parts

Flatten each part lightly

Flatten each part lightly

Check out the beautiful multiple layers

Check out the beautiful multiple layers

Hold each on eon side of the vessel with a slotted spoon and pour hot ghee on each side

Hold each on eon side of the vessel with a slotted spoon and pour hot ghee on each side

Continue till slightly brown from all sides

Continue till slightly brown from all sides

When still hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar generously

When still hot, sprinkle with powdered sugar generously

Delicate and melt in your mouth crispies are ready

Delicate and melt in your mouth crispies are ready! Grab a bite!

Enjoy these darlings with some milk. I am sure you can’t stop at one.

And yeah, if you wish I can say Thank you to my granny-in-law on your behalf 🙂

P.S: Dont forget to say a small prayer for my visa.

 

Roasted Eggplant Dip aka Baba Ghanoush

Alongwith the Open faced pies with Arabic dressing made and posted last time, I thought of making it a whole meal with Eggplant dip and pickled vegetables on side. I have been smitten by the strong Moroccan flavors for a while. There is no mistaking the sumac in the pies, and similarly, the robust eggplant flavor delicious mingles with tahini and coriander in this dip.

Several years back, the first time we went to a Moroccan restaurant called Bisto Grill in Mumbai, we had the ‘Baba Ghanoush’ . The name sounded exotic, the price was steep, and hence we expected something ridiculously fancy to show up on our table. But all that was served was a salad made of roasted eggplant with some sautéed onions. Totally bland and flavorless. Duh! So much for expecting an Aladdin come out from his lamp carrying a sizzling smokey Baba Ghanoush! It was disappointing and I wished I could make it at home.

That was back then, when I literally didn’t know how to cook anything. Ofcourse, priority list was different then. I had to first study well and clear my Chartered Accountancy exams. Several days on end, I wouldn’t ever enter the kitchen. Even if I did, all I had to do was chop onions, or wash coriander and similar stuff. Only help mom whenever she particularly “asked” me to.

But now, I can . And I did. My brother still calls it a fashionable version of Baingan-ka-bharta (a popular dish in Maharashtrian and Northern cuisine), but I beg to differ and call it a fancy Baba Ghanoush. Now picture this setting :

IMG_6199

And some of this :

IMG_6329

And then this :

Baba Ghanoush Continue reading

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.