Friday, December 25, 2015

Tea fruit cake

"Christmas, Children, is not a date. But a state of mind"
  -Mary Ellen Chase


Finally!! Christmas is here. Over the years, I have come to love the holiday season!! There is a feeling of joy and hope everywhere!! Everyone seems to have a perpetual smile on their faces. And everyone, including me, is in the holiday mood. I seem to go around with a warm fuzzy feeling with a spring in my step and joy in my heart!!



Every year, we celebrate Christmas with our family in Bangalore. I used to bake loads of cookies, cakes and Panforte. But this year, we decided to visit Bangalore in the month of October. So this time, Christmas in our house is a subdued affair. I did bake the Ginger Bread cookies as Purvi wanted it. But I didn't bake the Panforte that I have been baking since past two years. I just didn't seem to have the energy to do all the cutting and chopping. However, a week back, I suddenly started having second thoughts. I felt that christmas would be incomplete without the traditional fruit cake. So I decided to bake this quick fruit cake that tastes almost like the real fruit cake.


This tea cake combines brewed tea along with mixed dried fruit and brown sugar to make this delicious cake. This dried fruits loaded cake gets the extra flavor and the moistness from the brewed tea. And the chai masala enhances the flavor of the cake to a large extent. Although this cake doesn't involve lot of preparation, it does involve overnight soaking of dry fruits. But that only helps to fuse the flavors better. 




This is not a hard and fast recipe. You can alter the recipe in many ways, to match your tastebuds.  You can use any dried fruit and tea of your choice. The chai masala can be replaced with all spice or a mixture cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. So if you are looking for a recipe that is quick, easy and adaptable then this recipe is just for you. It has sugar, spice and all those nice things that go into making the traditional fruit cake. These pretty cakes stay fresh for upto a week. So they can make great edible gifts as well!!
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!


Fruity tea cake:
Preparation time: 20min+soaking time
Baking time: 50-55min
Serves- 8

Ingredients:
Mixed dry fruits: 300gms (I used dates, dark raisins, golden raisins, mixed peel and some tutti fruity)
Brewed tea- 250ml* (see notes)
Dark brown sugar- 200gms
Chai or tea masala- 2tspns
Butter- 125gm
All purpose flour- 240ml
Baking powder- 1-1/2tspn
Salt- a pinch


Method:
  • Place the mixed dried fruit, Sugar, butter, tea and tea masala in a sauce pan. Cover and heat gently until the butter has melted, Stirring occasionally. 
  • Increase the heat and boil the mixture for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat set aside to cool. Cover and leave the mixture overnight at room temperature.
  • Sift the flour twice along with the salt and baking powder and set aside.
  • Fold the sifted flour into the fruit mixture. Spoon the chunky dough into a greased baking pan and level the surface with the back of the spoon. 
  • Bake the mixture for 50-55 in a pre-heated oven at 180C or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven, then leave to cool completely in the pan. Turn out and serve in slices, spread with butter or honey, if you like.
Notes:
  • To make the brewed tea, boil 1-1/2tspn of tea leaves in 250ml of water. Strain and use accordingly.
  • You can use any dried fruits of your choice for this recipe
  • For a scented flavor, you can use equal quantities of earl grey or Lady grey tea.
  • If mixed peel is not available, you can replace it with a dried fruit of you choice and add grated zest of one orange.
  • The chai masala can be replaced with equal quantity of allspice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gingerbread cookies


Nothing screams Happy Holidays better than ginger bread cookies. There is something about these Spiced cookies. They simply fill the house and heart with festive spirits.


Purvi wanted me to bake the cookies since the time we brought these  cookie cutters. She not only wanted to bake them, but she wanted to decorate them with icing as well. I was touched by her enthusiasm but I wish I could share her spirit. It is simply because I am not very good with icing. My hands, that are so steady during other times tend to shake when I squeeze the piping bag. Straight lines end up crooked and curves end up looking lopsided. I simply don't understand how people can decorate cookies and cakes with those beautiful designs and patterns. My designs look more like a small child's irregular drawings. I prefer my cookies without any icing or decorations. It's simple fast and satisfies my sweet tooth perfectly!!!



But then, Purvi wanted her gingerbread cookies to be decorated. So I set aside a date for this ardrous task promised Purvi that we would bake and decorate ginger bread cookies on that day. I had bookmarked the eggless cookie recipe from allrecipes.com. However, as luck would have it, molasses, that was almost always available wasn't there when I needed it. Why are things always abound when you don't need them and when you do need them they are nowhere to be seen. I tried explaining to Purvi that ginger bread cookies couldn't be baked without molasses and that we would bake them on a later day. But she wouldn't hear any of it. "But you promised" she said with a crest fallen face.

I really wanted to bake the cookies but then how would I do it without molasses? I was thinking about it when I was suddenly hit by the idea of using jaggery syrup as a substitute for molasses. And within no time, we were baking gingerbread cookies.
I don't know about you, but we like our cookies a little crispy. Not rock hard. But I like them to have a crunch when you bite them. But if you are one of those who prefer your ginger bread cookies a little chewy, then you can bake them for a shorter duration.


In the end, Purvi and I had an absolute ball baking and decorating gingerbread cookies. Purvi helped me roll and cut the cookies with the cookies cutters and I ended up icing them. I struggled with it in the beginning but gradually got into the groove. Most of them weren't half as bad. And for someone with shaky hands, I must say that it was fairly satisfactory. 

Purvi said that the cookies tasted very good and she had the best day of her life. My girl is easy to please isn't she?

Gingerbread cookies recipe:
Preparation time: 40min
Baking time: 10-12min
Makes- approximately 5dozen cookies

Ingredients:
Grated Palm jaggery- 1cup
Water- 1/2cup
Butter- 1 cup or 16tbsp at room temperature
Icing sigar- 1 cup icing sugar
Salt- 1/2tsp
Baking soda- 1-1/2tsp
Baking Powder- 1/2tsp
Cinnamon powder- 1tsp
Ginger powder- 1tsp
Chai masala- 1/2tsp
All purpose flour- 4 cups (measured after sifting 3 thrice)
Milk- 2 tbsp

For the icing:
Icing Sugar- 6tbsp
Water- 1tbsp

Method:
  • Mix the palm jaggery and water in the thick bottomed sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil on low heat. 
  • Once the jaggery dissolves and reaches single thread consistency, take off the heat and set aside to cool completely.
  • Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk till light and fluffy. Stir in the salt, cooled jaggery syrup and whisk some more.
  • Add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, dry ginger powder and the chai masala all purpose flour and the milk mix well with a spatula.
  • Divide the dough into four equal portions. Place one portion of the dough between two sheets of baking paper roll out into 1/4 inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into desired shapes and place them on a cookie sheet. Leave a gap of atlas two inches between them.
  • Collect the frills and shape them into a ball and reroll and repeat cutting out until all the dough is used up.
  • Chill the cut dough in the refrigerator for 10-15mins before baking in a preheated oven at 180C for 10min or until the undersides are golden brown.
  • Leave on the rack for 10min before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough.
For the icing:
  • Mix the icing sugar and water in a bowl and whisk till well blended.
  • Transfer the icing into a ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the corner. Pipe the icing over the cookies to decorate. Allow the icing to set for 20mins before storing the cookies in air tight containers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sita Manohara- Mixed nuts halwa



OK. So this is the fourth dessert recipe in a row. But then one can't resist but post them as it is the holiday season. Besides that, who can resist a dessert which comes with the name "Sita Manohara" which literally means one how steals Godess Sita's heart that being Lord Rama. Isn't that fascinating?


I was introduced to this rich and scrumptious dessert by my cousins Bhushini and Renu. Both cousins, are accomplished High court Lawyers by profession. Apart from that, they are also great cooks. They can conjure amazing laddus, halwas and large batches of sun dried condiments. I first tasted this dessert when they had made a large batch of this dessert for a family get together. I took one bite of this warm dessert and I was smitten instantly. I decided that I would make this for our anniversary at that very instant.

This dessert is a mixture of almonds, cashews, walnuts, milk, sugar and clarified butter. I found this a little unusual. That's because, I had never made anything with walnuts as a main ingredient. Since my man is not a big fan of walnuts, I avoid buying them. So it came as a pleasant surprise when S loved this halwa.



So if you are looking for a scrumptious dessert for this holiday season, I suggest you give this warm dessert a try. I am sure this will become a part of your recipe repertoire.


Sita Manohara recipe:
Preparation time- 15min+soaking time
Cooking time- 40-50min
Serves- 6-8

Ingredients:
Almonds- 1cup or 100ml, blanched and peeled
Cashew nuts- 1 cup or 100ml, chopped
Walnuts- 1cup or100ml, chopped
Saffron- large pinch, soaked in 2tbspns of milk
Milk- 4 cups
Sugar- 3cups
Ghee- 2-1/2 cups
Chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)


Method:
  • Soak the peeled almonds, cashew nuts and walnuts in milk for atleast 5hrs or overnight.
  • Blend the soaked nuts in a blender to fine paste and set aside.
  • Heat half cup of ghee in a  thick bottomed skillet and add the ground paste, sugar and the saffron mixture and mix well and cook the mixture on medium flame.
  • Continue mixing so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom and burn.
  • Keep adding the ghee half cup at a time and continue the mixing till the mixture changes color and starts leaving the sides of the pan. This will take about 30-40min.
  • Once the mixture is cooked completely, take off the heat. Garnish with pistachios and serve warm.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kesar pista sandesh- saffron scented cheese fudge


I am back with another sweet treat!! This is my third recipe in a row with Saffron. This is a definite Hat trick. Isn't it?

Sandesh or Sondesh is a soft melt in the mouth fudge made of fresh cheese. This cheese fudge is a gift from Bengal, the Eastern state of India. Unlike the Sweets of the western parts of India, Bengali sweets are made with curdled milk or chenna. For Bengalis, no celebration is complete without Shondesh. I recently read that, this sweet treat is also called as the "Pranhaara" which means the heart stealer. 




The word "Sandesh" has a clear meaning. It means news. As this fudge is an integral part of the Bengali festivities and jubilation, Sandesh became the bearer of good news creating an atmosphere of merriment and celebration in all Bengali households.


I would be lying if I said that I grew up eating Sandesh. As a matter of fact, I tasted Sandesh only a couple of months back. And that too by accident. It was an unusually hot day and I found myself with a large quantity of curdled milk. I usually end up making Paneer when something like this happens. But I was in an adventurous mood on that day and I decided to try Sandesh. And the cheese fudge was ready before I knew it. After that, I decided that I would make this delightful fudge for Dassehra. I did make it as well. But then I couldn't post it because of my unexpected trip to India. It's sad that I couldn't post the recipe for Dassehra or Diwali. However, this fudge doesn't need any special occasion. For Sandesh can turn any occasion a special one.


Kesar pista Sandesh:
Preparation time: 25min+draining time
Cooking time- 10-15min
Makes- 15-20pieces

Ingredients:
Milk- 2ltrs
Juice of two lime
Confectioners sugar-1/2 cup
Saffron-10-15 strands soaked in 1/2 a teaspoon of milk
Cardamom- 6-7 pods finely powdered.
Ghee- a teaspoon for greasing.
Shelled pistachios: 8-10, sliced


Method:
  • Heat milk in a thick bottomed pan and bring to a boil. Keep stirring the milk so that the milk doesn'the burn. Allow the milk to simmer for a minute before taking off the heat.
  • Let the milk to cool for two to three minutes before adding the lime juice gradually a teaspoon at a time. Once the milk is curdled, you will see the milk solids and the whey separate.
  • Line a colander with two layers of cheese cloth and set it down in the kitchen sink. Pour the curdled milk into the cheese cloth lined colander. Gather the edges of the cloth in your hands and squeeze out the whey. 
  • Gently rinse the milk solids under running water so that the sour taste from the lemon juice is removed. Tie the ends of the cheese cloth to the kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for about 30mins to an hour.
  • Unwrap the drained chenna and transfer it to a clean plate/tray or a work surface. Knead the chenna with the heal of your palms for 10-12min or till smooth. Add the sugar, saffron mixture and the cardamom powder and knead for 3-4mins more.
  • Transfer the chenna mixture to a thick bottomed pan or wok and cook over low heat while mixing continuously. 
  • Continue mixing till you see the chenna leaving the sides of the pan. This will take abut 10-12mins. Ensure that the mixture is not completely dry. The mixture should be a little moist.
  • Take the chenna mixture off the heat and allow it to cool slightly. Divide the mixture into 15-20 portions. Grease your hands with a little ghee and shape each portion into a ball and flatten it slightly with your palms. 
  • Garnish with sliced pistachios and serve immediately or Store in an airtight container and refrigerate and consume within two days of making it.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kesar Kaju Katli- Saffron Scented Cashew Fudge


Finally!!! I managed to squeeze some time off from my busy Deepawali Schedule to post this recipe. But before I proceed with my Ramlings, Let me wish you a very Happy Deepawali and a Very Happy New Year to all of you!!!


Now coming to my ramblings, The past three weeks has been extremely busy, exhausting, and lots of fun. It all began when S asked us accompany him on an official trip Bangalore. Since Purvi also had her mid term break, I decided to join him. And before I knew it I was flying to Bangalore. My three week stay in Bangalore was hectic. But it was great fun. This time, I spent a week with my Sister and her family. Watching Purvi and my niece play and connect was pure bliss to say the least.


Since I returned only two days prior to Diwali, I got busy with the preparations almost immediately. This time, I made a large batch of Boondi Laddu, Mysore Pak, Murukkus, Namak Paare and Kaju Katlis. Making all these dishes in a short span of time was a difficult and tiring. But the delightful expression on Purvi's face when she saw all her favorite dishes made my effort seem worthwhile. 

As Kaju Katli is a favorite with all of us, I decided to include this in my Diwali menu. This fudge has only four basic ingredients and can be put together in minutes. All you have to do is keep a few pointers in mind when you are making it. With this, you can have the popular, delicious, gluten free and vegan Kaju KAtli right in your home. So shall we go ahead and see how it's done?? 


Kesar Kaju Katli Recipe:
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: 30-40min
Makes- 25-30 pieces

Ingredients:
Saffron- a large pinch
Warm Milk- 1-1/2 tbsp
Cashew nuts- 2 cups or 500ml
Sugar- 1 cup
Water- 1/2 cup
Ghee- 1tbsp

Method:
  • Soak the saffron in warm milk for two hrs and set aside.
  • Dry roast the cashew nuts till hot. DO NOT let it turn brown. Keep aside to cool completely.
  • Once cooled, transfer the cashews to a dry blender jar and grind them to a fine powder. Try and powder them in one go. Pulsing can make the cashews clump up and turn pasty. If there are a few big pieces that not ground, then sift the powder in a sieve. But avoid over grinding the cashews.
  • Grease a plate with a tea spoon of ghee and set aside.
  • In a thick bottomed pan, mix the sugar and water and cook on low heat till the sugar dissolves. Add the soaked saffron and allow the mixture to simmer for two minutes.
  • Stir in the cashew powder and mix well. Cook the mixture on LOW HEAT while mixing continuously. 
  • Continue mixing for 15minutes after which, the mixture will start to thicken. Keep mixing for another 4-5mins. At this stage you will see that the mixture will reach a thick paste like consistency and start leaving the sides of the pan. To check if the mixture is ready, take a small portion of the cashew mixture and roll it in your with your fingers. If the mixture is cooked, then it will form into a dough a dough almost immediately. Take mixture off the heat at this point.
  • Transfer the cooked mixture to the greased plate and allow it to cool slightly. Grease your hands with a tea spoon of ghee and gently knead the dough for 4-5mins or till the mixture turns into a smooth dough.
  • Place the mixture between two layers of butter paper and roll it out to 3-4mm thickness. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into desired shapes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for upto a week. 
Notes:
  • The cooking time will vary depending on the quantity you are making. 
  • Any kind of flavorings can be used to make this fudge. The Saffron can be replaced with cardamom, rose essence or Screw pine water.
  • For a vegan version, the ghee can be replaced with oil.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Kesar Shrikhand- Sweetened Greek Yogurt


I must have been  four or five when I first visited the city of Mumbai.Mumbai or Bombay as it was called then, was something more than I had seen or dreamt of. Before visiting Mumbai, I had never seen a beach Or the Planetarium. I had never seen a city so crowded. And I had never eaten Shrikhand before that.


I remember like yesterday when my mother and I had spent a couple I'd days in my grand aunt's house. She was my mother's paternal aunt. She was a talented and an enterprising woman who loved to create. She was a fabulous cook and had a penchant for arts and crafts. It was in her house that I first tasted Shrikhand and instantly fallen in love with it. The Shrikhand she had served was yellow, thick, creamy, and had a custard like consistency.  The combination of tart and sweet flavors bowled me over completely. 

From that moment on, I Shrikhand became a favourite dessert of mine. I used to buy Amul shrikhand from time to time lick away the creamy goodness. It was only a few back that u actually thought of making it myself.

The process of making Shrikhand can be a little time consuming but very simple. All you need is a large quantity of thick yogurt, sugar and a piece of clean muslin cloth or a fine sieve and a few hors of refrigeration and shrikhand will be ready. It might seem like a long and tedious ordeal but this creamy dessert is worth all time and effort.

Since Navratilova is on, this dessert will be perfect for the festivities. You can serve this as a desert or as a side dish along with puri. Wishing you all a very happy Navratilova!!!

Shrikhand recipe:
Preparation time: 3-6hrs
Cooking time- nil
Serves- 4 to 6 people

Ingredients:
Full fat yogurt- 12 cups or 3quarts
Confectioners sugar- 1 cup or 240ml
Saffron- 15-20 threads, Soaked in 1/2 a tbsp of milk
Cardamom- 10, crushed to a fine powder
Pistachios- 15-20, finely chopped
Slivered almonds- 2tbsp.

Method:

  • Take a cloth that has been chosen for the purpose of straining. You can use a white teeshirt, a tea towel or a cheese cloth. Stretch the cloth over the top of the bowl and secure the edges with rubber bands or a thread around the outside of the bowl. Pour the yogurt onto the strainer and place the bowl along with the suspended yogurt in the fridge. Allow the yogurt to drain for 3 to 6hrs or overnight. Alternatively a fine sleeve can be used for this purpose.
  • Transfer the drained yogurt to a bowl. Add the sugar, soaked saffron, cardamom powder and mix gently with a balloon whisk.
  • Stir in the chopped pistachios and slivered almonds and chill for an hour or so before serving.
Notes:
  • Ready to use Greek yogurt can be used to make shrikhand. But it will lack the characterstic tart flavor that home made yogurt has. 
  • You can add some fruit puree or berries to give this dessert an exotic flavor.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cream of Asparagus Soup



I tasted asparagus only a fortnight ago. I had neither seen nor heard about them when I was in India. I came to know about their existence only after moving to Africa. To me they seemed like long stems with little feathery leaves. It was only later that I came to know that the "stems" were called as Asparagus and it was actually a vegetable. It did seem very healthy and full of nutrients. Despite this, I couldn't bring myself to cook these spears. Simply because, I really didn't know how to include asparagus in my style of cooking. 


About two weeks ago, I came down with a nasty flu. For three days, I was going around with a throat that felt like it was rubbed with Sand paper and a temperature that refused go down. It was during this period that I craved for a bowl of soup. Since I was not in a condition to make that bowl of soup, S took me to one of my favorite restaurants and ordered this Asparagus soup for me. At first, I was extremely skeptical. It did look rich and creamy. But would it taste as good? I reluctantly took a sip and I was completely bowled. I had never expected the soup to taste so delicious. 


I am not sure if it was the flu, the ambiance of the restaurant, the garlicky flavor. Or simply the combination of all these. The soup was so good that I could have easily licked the bowl clean. After that, I simply had to make this soup. It wasn't very long before I got a large bunch of Asparagus. 


My version of Asparagus tastes a little different than the one that was served in the restaurant. But it is just as delicious. This soup is incredibly flexible and I am sure it would taste just as great with countless variations. 


I know it's not great to fall sick. But a steaming bowl of soup can make things a lot brighter!!!

Cream of Asparagus Soup Recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time- 20 min
Servs- 4

Ingredients:
Butter or oil- 2tbsp
Garlic- 3 cloves, peeled and chopped
Asparagus- 20-25spears
Spring onions- 5, finely chopped
Salt- To taste
Black Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp or to taste
Vegetable stock- 250ml
Milk- 200ml
Cream- 3tbsp
Red chili flakes- 1/2 tsp (optional)

Method:
  • Wash the asparagus and break off the woody ends. If the skin is tough and thick, then peel it. Cut the asparagus into 1/2" cubes and set aside.
  • Heat the butter or oil in a thick bottomed pan. Add the chopped garlic and fry till the raw smell subsides.
  • Add the chopped spring Onions, Asparagus, Salt and pepper and fry for 3-4min.
  • Add the Vegetable stock and cook covered for 10-15mins or till the vegetables are completely cooked.
  • Remove the mixture from heat and set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, blend the mixture in a blender till smooth.
  • Transfer the ground mixture back to the pan. Add the milk, mix well and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. 
  • Stir in the cream and allow the soup to simmer for five more mins.
  • Adjust the salt and pepper if required. Sprinkle the red chili flakes if desired and serve the soup hot with some croutons on the side.
Notes:
  • Leeks and/or potato can be included in the soup.
  • The Spring onion can be replaced with one medium sized onion.
  • The milk and the cream can be replaced with 200 ml of half and half.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kobbari Mithai aka Coconut Fudge


Among all the traditional sweets, the Kobbari Mithai or the Narial ki barfi or Coconut fudge has to be the easiest one to make. With a handful of easily available ingredients, this fudge comes together in no time.



I still remember like yesterday when my grandmother would make these Burfis. She would have a large batch of Kobbari Mithai ready when we arrived at her place for vacation. Apart from that, she also made another large batch and pack them for our return journey. I wish I had the recipe for her version. Anyways!!!

I had posted the recipe for coconut fudge many moons ago. You can find the recipe here. That version was made with condensed milk and cream. Although that version tastes rich and delicious, I wanted to make Kobbari mithai in a simple and uncomplicated way. And this recipe fits the bill perfectly. It is simple, uncomplicated and can be made in minutes. Since Dussehra is round the corner, I suggest you give this fudge a try. This white fudge, with soft melt in your mouth texture, is sure to leave you craving for more.


Coconut Fudge recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Cooking time: 20-25min
Makes- 25-30 pieces 

Ingredients:
Ghee- 2tbsp+1 tbsp to grease
Grated Coconut -5 cups
Sugar- 2-1/2 cups+2tbsp
Milk powder- 2tbsp
Cardamom- 8 pods, crushed to a fine powder
Ghee- to grease.


Method:

  • Grease a plate or tray with a table spoon of ghee and set aside.
  • Heat a thick bottomed pan and add the ghee, grated coconut and sugar and mix well.
  • Keep mixing the mixture on medium heat to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Continue mixing for 15-20min. At this stage the mixture will leave the sides of the pan and comes together in a lump. 
  • Stir in milk powder and cardamom powder and mix for  a minute more. Turn off the heat and transfer the mixture to the greased tray.
  • Level the mixture and run a knife to cut the mixture into squares. Allow the mixture to cool and set in the tray for at least an hour.
  • Once cooled, transfer the precut burfis and serve immediately or store in an air tight containers. This fudge stays fresh for upto two weeks.
Notes:
  • When grating the coconut, make sure you don't include the brown portion of the coconut. Or you will end up with burfis that are brown in color.
  • Do not reduce the quantity of the sugar. The burghs will not set if the sugar is reduced.
  • The burghs can be garnished with chopped almonds, pistachios and saffron.
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