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Apr 24, 2011

Shirazi Chocolate Mousse


I love to bake, I love desserts and I never shy away from a bit of sweet after a meal. Despite that I have never been a fan of essentials like yeast and gelatin, these two ingredients used to be my nemesis but then I got serious about the baking mantra of ‘weighing’ each ingredient. I still try my best to avoid using these guys! I have made mousse with gelatin before and they have always turned out fine but just fine... not great and certainly not perfect. I feel that way about mousse I order in restaurants too, I am so perceptive of the gelatin that even if it’s a tad overdone, my dessert is essentially ruined! I like for my mousse to taste like light, airy pudding and not something well gelatinous. I know enough chefs who do am amazing job with cream of tartar, something I stock but don’t use very much but my favourite mousse recipe is the one below, no cream of tartar, no gelatin, just the goodness of eggs, cream, sugar and chocolate. I think the real trick here is temperature which is why this recipe requires a little practise but once you get the hang of how your ingredients behave, you will master this in no time. This is certainly not a quick version but it is definitely simple. I make this on late Sunday mornings and it is set and ready to eat by dinner time.. that makes it ‘perfect’!

Ingredients:

2 cups cream
3 tbsp fine sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla essence
200 gms semi sweet chocolate

I use a double boiler for this entire recipe. I don’t actually have one, I boil water in a large ‘patila’ (cauldron??) and I use a deep saucepan with a handle to melt/cook stuff in. The cream in this case needs to be heated which is tricky mainly because I like to use fresh cream bought from a dairy but if you use tetra packed cream then I believe it is more stable (preservatives I suppose!). I wish we had access (well at least easy access) to ingredients like whipping cream, whipped cream, heavy cream etc. but we don’t, so either its dairy fresh or Amul etc. while you wait for the double boiler water to boil, you can quickly whip up the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a separate stainless steel bowl (I love stainless steel, temperature control is way easier). Once you have the heat going, hold the cream over the steam and bring it almost boiling point. Slowly pour over the egg mixture, stirring all the while preferably with a whisk. Here’s another tricky part, pour with one hand, stir with the other, then who holds the bowl? I have 3 flat bottomed saucepans for exactly this type of quandary, for the lack of a food processor, these are the next best thing (s). Pour this custard back into the cream vessel and cook over the double boiler for about 3-4 minutes, whisking continuously. The idea is to cook the custard but not let the egg cook separately or let the cream curdle. Take off the double boiler and set aside to cool. In yet another saucepan, melt the 200 gms of chocolate (I use a nice dark chocolate for this, not compound stuff like Bourneville, see if you can get your hands on Callebaut, you will never order chocolate mousse anywhere again!) with a tbsp of butter, you can skip the butter but to be honest I tend to multi task in the kitchen and once my chocolate is sitting pretty in the double boiler and melting, I don’t want to keep hanging around with it, the butter makes sure the chocolate doesn’t stick or burn. I love use Amul butter, it is truly the best butter in India, vis a vis baking and desserts it has the right amount of salt, so I never put salt in my recipes, just the right butter. Melt the chocolate to a runny consistency, then blend into the custard. Whisk and blend well for a minute or two, set in ramekins, teacups, wine glasses, tiny little flower pots ... cool and set in the refrigerator for about 4-6 hours.

I don’t usually dress my desserts much, I feel it may take the attention away from the original flavour, so in this case I put a few chocolate shavings on the top and serve. I set this mousse in tiny china teacups my mum used to have ....I wish I had Turkish coffee cups for this, I remember serving coffee mousse in a set I used to have ages ago...wonder where those went? Anyway, enjoy!

Apr 17, 2011

The Accidental Ice Cream


Every time I read about the history of food, the term ‘accident’ is used very often. Sourdough was discovered because someone accidently let dough ferment, cheese has a similar history and so does the vanilla caramel ice cream I just made. Last evening was yet another hectic session in the kitchen. One flame had sizzling lamb chops, another had a can of condensed milk becoming Dulce De Leche, a third had butter simmering for the butter garlic sauce and the fourth had a bowl of ‘payasam’ almost done. The leftover full cream milk from the payasam was lying in a bowl under the spice cabinets and I was pottering around for some soy to marinade pork strips. I keep a lot of sauces and condiments on the top shelf because I rarely use pre mixed sauces etc. and in the rush I dropped the little bottle of vanilla essence into the milk. There was about 5-6 ml left and it smelt delicious. In this ruckus my elbow knocked into the bubbling condensed milk and a little bit of the water from the double boiler went into the can! I was mildly devastated because that meant the condensed milk was not a tad thinner and I would need another hour or so for it to become tan in colour. Then it struck me, I was just going to skim the watery part of the condensed milk into the vanilla milk and then think of the next step. So that’s what I did, stirred in part of the condensed milk into the full cream/vanilla combo, then I stirred in 2 tbsp of fresh cream. Poured all that into an ice tray and 6 hours later, voila – vanilla caramel ice cream, well more like lolly but I always like crystals in ice cream, it reminded me of homemade mango ice cream from my childhood.

We turned out the ice cream cubes, added few sliced bananas and topped it all with a little chocolate sauce, Ally put some Dulce De Leche on hers and we had a nice sundae by accident!

500 ml full cream milk, boiled and simmered for 5 minutes
5 ml vanilla essence
4 tbsp of Dulce De Leche
4 tbsp of fresh cream

Blend all the ingredients together. Increase the amount of DDL if the concoction is not sweet enough. Freeze overnight in ice trays or if you have lolly moulds, nothing like it! Enjoy!

Shirazi Sweet Chilli Pork


I don’t know why I do this to myself. I just need an excuse to go to Delhi and I start behaving like a depraved (read deranged!) child! I need to buy all the food I can find, my mother would have said that’s because I lived in a famine state in my previous birth. Not that she believed in reincarnation, she was too pragmatic for that, she would have seen my equation with food as a cosmic connection, an obsession that needed more than one birth to come into being! Somewhere on this blog I once chronicled such a meat laden journey back from what was meant to be a harmless lunch with a gal pal. And today was something like that. I went pork shopping after ages and I think I have ranted about this before, but you do NOT get pork in Gurgaon. I will not buy pork from just any store and I will not spend four digit figures on imported cuts of a pig that went to heaven (they always go to heaven coz they’re yummy!) eons ago, no thank you! No wait, I take that back, I do like Green Chick’s pork ham and salami but I would wait to go to Jor Bagh if I needed a lot of it or for an occasion. So anyway, since I have this affliction, I couldn’t help myself and bought 4 lovely pork chops (2 kgs), boneless pork with fat (why buy it any other way, why?) (1 kg), pork with bone and fat (even better!) (1 kg) and 250 gms of cooking bacon, smoked and rind-y... I put this strips on a meatloaf and you will never eat meatloaf it any other way once you taste this!

Anyway, in an effort to organize all the pork I had, I trimmed the chops and brought them down to a less coronary inducing 300 gms (general portion size is 330, but this meal was going to have trimmings too!). The trims yielded around ½ kg of fatty pork, that I cut into slivers and marinated in 2 tbsp dark soy, 1 tbsp crushed garlic, ½ tsp sugar and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and salt. It was in the fridge overnight but a couple of hours are enough too. The chops got a new marinade – crushed garlic, worchestshire sauce, honey, crushed (dry) red chillies (use the chilli flakes you get with pizza) and 4 tbsp of orange or pineapple juice. Now that I have marinated them I can’t really flatten them and make my mother in laws crumb coated recipe, I am going to pan sear them as is. After a day in the fridge, they are going to be super easy to sear, I want to keep them on high heat for about 10 mins straight, and another 3-4 minutes on low each time I flip them. When I pan fry, I like to flip the food just once, to cook evenly on each side be confident and let the food spend equal amounts of time on each side. The pork pieces with bone have been frozen, after two days of pork, we are going to want a break!

Here’s my recipe for a simple and yummy Sweet Chilli Pork.

Add 1 egg and 2 tbsp of cornflour to the marinated pork and mix it all up well, if it’s too wet, you can add another tbsp of cornflour. Fry oil for deep frying, make sure the oil is hot enough, drop a small glob of batter and if it buzzes up you’re good to go. Fry the pork slivers in two batches, fry till brown, I fry on high heat, you have to be attentive but that’s actually the best way to fry stuff you may be double cooking or have a tendency to get overdone. Move it around if the oil is getting too hot, that cools the oil a bit. Remove on paper towels and set aside.

For the Sweet Chilli Sauce

8 small cubes of peeled cucumber
8 small cubes of capsicum, you can use red and yellow bell peppers too.
1 tomato, cut into cubes, not too small, bite sized
1 onion, thickly sliced
1 spring onion, cubed. Keep some of the greens too, cut broad
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp soy sauce (dark)
2 tbsp red chilli sauce (use any generic variant that you like, I use a Thai sweet chilli sauce, so I don’t put the sugar, chilli garlic will do too)
½ cup water
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt to taste
1 tsp sugar (don’t use sugar if you use a sweet chilli sauce)

Heat the oil, throw in the garlic cloves, once the sputter, add the onions (both, the greens too), fry on high heat till they turn transparent then add the capsicum, fry for 2-3 mins. Put in the soy sauce, the ketchup, the chilli sauce, pepper, salt and the cucumber and tomato cubes. Simmer on low for 5-6 minutes. Check the salt, sweet and chilli balance, tweak to your taste and you’re done! Serve the sauce in a separate bowl, the fried pork in another with white rice. Yum!

I don’t like using too much cornflour, it’s good for getting a crispy fry but for Chinese-y sauces, I prefer to thicken with tomato paste or loads of sautéed veggies. If you like loads of al dente veggies in your meals, I sometime do, then go ahead and add bell peppers, mushrooms, flat beans, zucchini to this dish. The problem in our house is that we love lots of sauce/gravy/curry in our meals, so packing in veggies means one of us is going to rob all the sauce and leave all the veggies behind!

Apr 3, 2011

College Chicken Curry


Andy and I met in college, we shared common friends and a common interest in music, food, sports and more! Back then I was in culinary school and despite faring the best in food production I wasn’t a very enthusiastic home cook, in fact Andy did a lot of the cooking. In retrospect I think I learnt a lot of my signature dishes from him! One dish I made really often was a simple chicken curry, a recipe I made up for the lack of ‘simple’ ideas, I could make Poulet Saute Chaussuer but I didn’t a lot about basic India curries. I think the reason this curry turns out really well in the summer is because it is lightly spiced and full of coriander, a flavour we all love.

Ingredients:

1 chicken, about 800 gms (I don’t like using very big birds, if I am serving more than 4 people then I will buy more than one chicken and not a big one), cut into 12 pieces

Marinade:
3 tbsp plain yoghurt, whipped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
10 ml lemon juice

Masala:
3 onions pureed with 2 green chillies
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
2 tomatoes, cubed, if you have the time and energy then it’s a good idea to blanch them and remove the skin.
6 garlic cloves crushed
4 tbsp cooking oil
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala

I use water to puree onions, so I usually dry off the onion paste in a hot wok/kadhai first. Once the puree is dry, add the oil (hot oil is better) and the garlic. Fry on low for about 7-10 minutes, till the onion paste is brown. Add the masala’s and fry till the oil separates. Add the tomatoes and 3/4th of the coriander. Cook for few minutes and add the marinated chicken pieces. Fry on high for 4-5 minutes, till the chicken pieces are evenly light brown and the oil separates. Pour in the leftover marinade and ½ cup of hot water, check salt and cook for 15 minutes or till the chicken is done. Garnish with the leftover coriander leaves.
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