Jun 30, 2011

Relishes Revisited

I have 2 fondue pots and one is a collectible and we don’t use either of them. I am a total cheese person but the rest of the family prefer it in either sandwiches or pizzas, I can have it with Indian food if I have to. We used one of the potss for chocolate once but no one cared much for the hugely tedious, bite sized collection of strawberries, orange segments (they are awesome with chocolate!), sponge cake (homemade), shortcrust pastry pops and bananas (I love bananas and consider them perfectly acceptable for service!). So that’s the deal with my kitchen and fondue, I have however found an ingenious application for the fondue forks. I once saw our recently eloped nanny do this with tomatoes and I thought it was a brilliant idea... she would stick a nice, big, juicy tomato on one of the forks and roast the hell out of it on an open fire and she did this fast, so it wouldn’t puncture all over and ooze on the flame. Then she would crush the tomato, burnt and all; dribble some mustard oil on it, salt and red chilli powder, the coarse one that has seeds!

I started doing the same thing, except I switched the mustard oil with olive and the chilli powder for freshly ground pepper powder. I use this relish everywhere, on sandwiches, in burgers, on pizza and even as a topping for crackers. I recently found a recipe of Mediterranean lamb burgers that a version of this relish with aubergines... supreme idea! Seriously, this is soooo fresh, so full of flavour and yet so decadent and rich.

You need:
2 large, firm, ripe tomatoes
2 small, firm, aurbergines

2-3 tbsp olive oil
4-5 pods of garlic, crushed/pulped (ever since Anthony Bourdain trashed the garlic press, I don’t make a mention of it!)
1 tsp mustard powder
Fresh ground pepper
Sea or regular salt
Juice of 1 lemon

Stick the veggies firmly on fondue forks and roast on an open fire, rotating once the area starts getting burnt-ish. Do this over low heat, so the veggies cook through, it takes time but it’s worth it. And it’s fun too, its urban bbqing ...quite honestly cooking on an electric bbq is as bad as roasting on a stove fire... I still do marshmallows like that. So anyway, take some time, roast these out, place on a glass or metal plate and let them cool slightly. Now use a fork to mush them up a bit and season with the rest of the ingredients. Serve with crackers and cheese, on or in sandwiches, make a Mediterranean hot dog with this ...the options are endless.

If you like relished extra potent and tangy then don’t use the mustard powder, replace with balsamic vinegar. You can do the same thing with Tabasco or any other hot sauce, drop the mustard and use this instead. You can also use a teaspoon of sugar to bring out all the other flavours. Enjoy!

Jun 28, 2011

Churros Cheer

I first had Churros when I was around 14, in Kathmandu, except at the time I had no clue that what I was having were in fact ‘churros’. There was an awesome Oberoi property there with a casino (of course, it was the 1990 ya!), which my dad was a patron of. So we would get this annual family visit which we always took during our Dusshehra holidays in October. On a separate note, you HAVE to see Nepal in October! While my parents enjoyed the mysterious joys of the Casino, I don’t say mysterious because we didn’t have access, we had plenty of access. That’s where I saw a 10-12 year order a ‘screwdriver’ and I don’t know if he took to back to a parent! We just weren’t allowed to gamble, so after wandering aimlessly amongst what we didn’t know were usually an assortment of affable drunks we wound up at the coffee shop. Two of my cousins, few years older and me. They ordered, we ate, then we freaked because this would end up on the bill when we leave in a couple of days ... turns out everything we ordered with our room No.’s was on the house! Damn if only we knew, I would have had a dozen delicate platters of that damn doughy, crispy, wonderful thing!

The second time I had them, I knew exactly what I was having and I was having them with the head of kitchen operations of the outlet and she had really pumped me up about them. I don’t know if it was the product promotion or the sweet memories but this time around, the whole experience broke my heart. They were bulbous, slightly overdone and I could taste the oil (sorry about the gross anomaly, but it was like, tasting the smell of hot oil!). The only salvation was the chocolate dipping sauce, exquisite! So then I figured I’m going to have to make me a batch! I tried a total of three recipes and all three were good, this particular one was great. If you have ever made authentic cheese balls, then you will be familiar with how this batter/dough is constructed. It has few panic moments but in the end it all comes together. Follow the measurements to the T, that’s essential! And the other thing is the temperature of the oil, it has to be HOT but not smoking, there’s a fine line and experience makes it clearer! I use a smaller fluted nozzle, what makes these super oily is the time they spend in the oil, if the oil is of optimum temperature, these guys need 4 minutes tops in there and for that they can’t be too thick, they won’t cook through. You don’t want churros that are gooey inside, you want them cake crusty on top and angel food cake-ish inside. The other thing none of the recipes mentioned was that after around 4 batches of 4 churros each, the oil got all bubbly and frothy (it’s the butter in the dough!) and the last batch were a tad oily ...so watch out for that! Enjoy!

Churros are essentially fried, dough pastry, quite like donuts but Spanish ones. Dusted with sugar and served with a sweet dipping sauce. These go very well with most chocolate based sauces but NOT bottled ones. Use Nutella if you don’t want to make your own chocolate sauce. Another variant I love is making a batch of the dipping sauce with 2 tbsp of either Kahlua or Baileys, delightful!

Makes: 16-18, 6” churros


250ml (1 cup) water
100g butter, most recipes say unsalted butter, which is not available locally packaged and dairies always make it very fatty. So I use regular yellow butter, my all time favourite brand is Amul and I skip the salt.
150g (1 cup) plain flour
3 eggs, lightly whisked
Vegetable oil, to deep-fry

Chocolate Dipping Sauce: this time around I committed chocolate tempering sacrilege by using the micro, I am just not a microwave friendly person and not a big fan of shortcuts either... a microwave doesn’t allow me to spend time with my cooking!

2 tbsp fine sugar, I use less sugar because we like our chocolate dark, even Ally, she likes milk chocolate bars but for other stuff like desserts and ice creams, she loves dark chocolate.
200g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt once, I had to double the sugar, that’s super dark and Ally said it was ‘sour’!!)
250ml (1 cup) milk
2 tbsp butter


Combine water and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until butter melts. Remove from heat. Add the flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and the dough comes away from the side of the saucepan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes or until cool. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, until well combined. Spoon dough into a piping bag fitted with a 2cm-diameter fluted nozzle.

Heat the oil. Fill up your piping cone and pipe in the churros; I made them 6” inches long, keep a knife handy to help drop the churros from the cone. Deep-fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer churros to a plate lined with paper towels. Dust with fine sugar, the recipe said icing sugar but I always feel fine sugar stays better and icing sugar is a bit cornflour-y. Repeat with the remaining dough, reheating oil between batches.

For the chocolate dipping sauce, combine the chocolate, milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.

Arrange churros on a platter and serve with chocolate dipping sauce.

Recipe Courtesy - Rodney Dunn, tested and tweaked by moi!

Jun 26, 2011

Coffee Cravings

The ‘Umm Ali’ really took us back to the comfort of custards and warm, milky desserts. Along with that I had a Baskin Robbin’s disappointment at the mall; I am yet to find one outlet that has all the famed 31 flavours. The new Grand Marnier flavour was a tad to tangy for me and I missed the booziness, same for Tiramisu, I don’t much care for alcohol-free Tiramisu. And since I love to complete a meal with coffee, I was craving a scoop of coffee ice cream, no luck! Then I figured the best way to manage this craving was make a coffee dessert for myself. I have a special affinity to custards because I grew up with cousins from an army background. We stayed at an officers Mess in Kalimong and all I remember is the smell of peach orchards and the crème brulee! I found this recipe a while back and I had been dying to try it. The only problem I had while standardizing it was how to explain how potent the brewed coffee should be? To be honest, it should be stronger than what you would drink yet not be undrinkable.

Another thing...if any of you are planning to open an ice cream store, keep a coffee ice creams gourmet section, I would love a Cafe Au Lait, a Cafe Latte or even a Cappuccino as an ice cream!

(Makes 4)

600 ml fresh cream

6 egg yolks, make sure no egg white slips in, I know this sounds tedious but always keep few small bowls handy, one main bowl to collect the yolks, one to hold the whites, and one to slip individual yolks into, that way if even one is spoilt, it won’t spoil the whole batch.

150 gms caster sugar

175 ml freshly brewed strong coffee, I have never made this with instant coffee, so I don’t have a substitution option and to be honest, some things, well most things should not be substituted.


Preheat oven to 150°C. Place 4) ovenproof ramekins in a large flattish cake pan. Place the cream in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, till it’s warm, don't let the cream boil). On the side, place the egg yolks and 100 gms of the sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined. Place bowl on a damp cloth and gradually add warm cream while stirring constantly with a fork. Stir in the coffee. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a bowl and pour the mixture evenly into the ramekins. Use a ladle if you don’t think you will get the stream into the ramekins; you don’t want to waste any of this! Put the roasting pan on a shelf in the middle of the oven. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to reach three fourth of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or so or until the mixture sets. Remove the ramekins and cool for 1 hour, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours till chilled. I cover it because I hate that wrinkly skin they get on top when the top dries off in a fridge!

I make the caramel in a pan, always have .... heat a non stick pan, throw in the remaining sugar, let it bubble and darken, once it has caramelized, you can top the brulee before serving. I personally love the hot and cold dessert combination, this kind of turns out like that!

Jun 24, 2011

Umm Al-yssa

I am a big fan of buffets, unless they are seriously flawed, which they ever so often are! We had a buffet at the coffee shop of a 5 star deluxe a while back, it was a freebie (which didn’t make the sufferance any easier!) and it sucked! Those memories came flooding back last afternoon. This month has generally sucked for me so any respite of a nice meal in a nice place is welcome. We headed out to have a dig at this Oriental buffet in the vicinity, at a fine dining joint that serves pretty decent Indian Chinese food. When we found it closed, we chose its twin next door, run by the same management ... big mistake! Indijoe’s is essentially a takeoff on TGIF and the only way you can tell so is by the memorabilia adorning the walls. This place was so promising in the beginning that I was adamant to sample every steak on their a la carte menu but thank God I didn’t!

The buffet yesterday was like a badly planned wedding party menu. They served from Golgappa’s to beer batter fried fish and nothing clicked. The fish tasted of cooking oil (more like the smell of hot cooking oil), the pepper chicken looked boneless but were actually just bad cuts of chicken (how do you do that? How do you get bad cuts of chicken, the bird has everything practically marked out for the right cuts!!), the noodles were oily and very very spicy (??), the oriental vegetables were poorly selected and they were in an undefined and unpleasant sauce. We managed on Dal Makhni, the chicken pulao (there is no such thing as chicken biryani!). The only salvation of the day were the naan’s (which every crap joint manages to do well!) and one of the many desserts, a middle-eastern dessert called ‘Umm Ali’. Literally translated into Ali’s mom ...Egyptians like to stake claim over this dish but I truly believe it was a Beduoin mom with a flair for desserts and a son she loved immensely! The Umm Ali in this buffet was to die for! Rich, creamy and perfectly sweetened...

I usually make it in the winters because its full of dry fruits but after yesterday, I want to make this again, I’ll hold the dry fruits and serve it warm not hot!

Umm Ali (Alyssa!!)


4 plain butter croissants, cut into small pieces
Handful of raisins
2 tablespoons slivered toasted almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons pistachios
200 gms condensed milk (in India that’s half a tin)
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
1 /2 cups water
1/2 cup cream, whipped


Combine croissant pieces, raisins, almonds and pistachios in a baking dish, add the condensed milk , vanilla and water in a large saucepan and bring to boil then remove from heat and pour immediately over the croissant mixture in the baking dish and set them aside for 5 minutes or until croissants absorb most of the liquid. Put the whipped cream in a piping bag and pipe the cream over the prepared mixture in the baking dish. Place the baking dish in a preheated oven at 200°C and bake for 5 minutes or until the cream topping is golden color. Serve immediately.

This dessert has a tendency to have somewhat of a gooey factor but believe me in this kind of summer, you would rather have a gooey milky dessert than a gooey chocolate one, it just seems too heavy for day time dessert binge fests!

Jun 18, 2011

Kofta Times

The whole spicy food thing is getting on my nerves now. I mean, i don’t have anything against fragrant, spiced food but why the hell is everything we eat so damn pungent. Again, don’t get me wrong, I am a big one for chilli pickles and raw green chillies with a meal but I hate it when perfectly delicious food is made spicy for no apparent reason (or maybe that the dish is otherwise so poor, only chillies can salvage it!). So off late I have been cooking dishes that are low on the ‘mirchi’ factor but get full marks for flavour. Arab cooking is like that, very aromatic and you can actually taste the meat. I am slightly averse to the flavour of lamb of mutton that has been boiled or worse still pressure cooked, but Arabs manage to overcome that with such few ingredients. I make these Kofta’s that are in simple tomato gravy, very Mediterranean in essence and the whole dish is surprisingly light for something made with red meat.

For the Kofta:
½ kg mutton mince
½ cup finely chopped onions
2 green chillies finely chopped
4 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
1 egg

Paste of 1 onion
4 tomatoes blanched and coarsely chopped
3 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp garlic paste
½ tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala

Mix together all the kofta ingredients and leave aside. Heat oil, fry the onions, ginger and garlic pastes till lightly browned. Add the masala’s (except the garam masala) and fry for another 5 minutes or till the oil separates. Add a cup of hot water to the masala and simmer for few minutes. In the meantime, make small balls of the Mince mix and drop into the simmering curry. Leave some space between each to move them around but not just yet, let them get done on one side so you don’t have to flip these delicate sweeties around too much. Simmer on each side of the meatball for 7 minutes or so. Sprinkle the garam masala and finely chopped coriander on the top of the curry and serve with rice or ‘khubus’.

This dish turns out yum in a ‘Tagine’ pot... these Moroccan earthenware pots are excellent to stew foods in and for ‘paella’ like pulao’s. Used in Africa as well, this two piece set, has a shallow pot/dish to place the food in and a tent like lid to cover with. All the space in the peaking lid holds on to the steam, flavours and fragrances of the dish and whatever you make comes out rich and wholesome!