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Nov 26, 2012

Christmas is a Comin'

More than Diwali, more than birthdays, it's Christmas that gets our family all revved up. My brother and I went to a Convent school for the most part and I went on to marry into a Catholic family, which only reinforced our deep love for this time of the year. Christmas is crazy in my husband's family, the joy, the food, the presents, of dear God, the presents, its truly magical! The Shirazi family takes their Christmas very, very seriously, surprises are intricately planned and played out, gifts are hugely customized, hidden, dolled up and all this comes with an insane amount of 'tomfoolery'. Onions and underwear will be wrapped in red, gold and green, only to be opened by a hysterically enthusiastic recipient who least expects 'that' to be in there! Hilarious and we have it all on video!

We are now starting to feel the spirit of Christmas as the weather gets nippy. Wine has already been mulled and consumed, twice over, all in the name of Christmas planning and recipes. 3 elaborate cakes have brought in a new found confidence with regards to icing, so this year our fruit cakes will be all 'pretty'! We were supposed to do the tree this weekend, yes last week of November, but it got too busy, so now we have a mid week plan for that chore. I am making chocolate fudge, rum balls, peanut butter cups, fruit cake and chocolate coated strawberries this year and mulling rum and wine. The new recipe I developed comes out of this lovely fortified Port we get here, its called the Nashik Port and at Rs. 300 a bottle its a super steal. For most wine lovers, its a bit too sweet, which is where citrus as a flavour comes in. The coolest part of this recipe is that once the wine is over, you just need to top up the bottle with more wine or rum, cognac and even brandy, really depends on what you like to enjoy as an aperitif during this season!

Shirazi Mulled Port (Rum, Cognac, Brandy)

Choose a nice bottle for this, you can stick with the wine bottle but only if it's glass. Also I really do believe that coloured glass affects the maturation process at some level, so I chose a faux antique collectible in a deep red. Wash and dry the bottle, sun it for sterilization and make sure it is bone dry when you fill it.

Ingredients:

1 bottle Port Wine
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
6 cloves
2" piece of dried ginger
2 tbsp honey
1/2 an orange cut into small cubes, small enough to go through the neck of the bottle you choose, not teensy bits though, keep the rind and all.

Use a small pan or kadhai/wok that has a heavy bottom and melt the honey on a very low flame, add the whole spices and cook for 2 minutes or so, don't let the honey char, put off the fire if you need to and let it cook in the residual heat of the vessel. In a separate pan, decant the wine and put on a very low flame, add the honey/spice mix and stir well, cook for few minutes, covered. Remove and cool. Put the orange bits in the bottle you will be storing the wine in, top up with completely cooled mulled wine. Cork and keep in a cool place for a day. Taste it the next day to test potency, it is least potent right now, it gets stronger each day, so I suggest you refrigerate and consume within 3 days, else the orange and ginger can get overpowering. You can use this mulling mix for up to 4 times, as long as you are regularly consuming from it. The addition of fruit allows pathogens to grow, so this is a beverage that needs to keep moving or being used, like any good wine, you wouldn't want it to become vinegar over time. Enjoy and Season's Greetings!

*If you want to use a dry red wine instead of Port, you can half the quantity of the orange and replace with canned peaches, cut into bits, its such an interesting flavour, I loved it!

Nov 6, 2012

Shirazi Chocolate 11 pm Pudding

I haven't stopped eating since A left the week before last! Stopped as in, not for more than 2 hours, its crazy! This is so not me and yet in one sense its typically me, I don't eat non stop most of the year but come winter and food is all I can think of, even the minutes I didn't think of food earlier. When A was here we tanked up on steaks and thin crust pizza's, chorizo hot dogs and sushi ... lots of ice cream and chocolates, baklava and candy. Now I am on to more 'desi' favourites like Panjiri, Mooli Parantha and Rogan Josh, terrible! The drift here is that if you (or me for that matter) fall off the 'control' wagon, it is super tough to hop back on, I have been running but 5 days instead of 7 and 3-4 kms instead of 5, bad bad girl! To compound this issue, we have darling V who has severe control issues of his own. He messages me at 11 pm (from within the same house!) that he wants something warm and fudgy, I suggest ice cream, he screams 'warm' at me, I try to argue but he can tell that a little birdie in my head was already started planning the prep. When you see that look in my eyes, you know I am going to cook no matter how many negative and mean words come out of my mouth, I will probably be refusing to make anything on my way to make something!!

So I decided to make Cake in a Cup, I make these in ramekins, they are super super easy, all you have to do is make sure you use good chocolate and beat the egg whites pretty good.I don't bake or cook in the microwave and I have always been a bit suspicious of mug cakes and the like, its a cook thing, if it's too simple then it can't be ecstasy inducing and how wrong a perception that is, for so many a simple recipes turn out so many a yummy things :)

Shirazi Chocolate 11 pm Pudding

120 gms dark chocolate
2 tbsp sugar, since I use semi sweet dark chocolate, if you use unsweetened, then double the sugar
4 tbsp butter
2 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp crushed roasted almonds
Olive oil spray or butter for the ramekins

Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler or in a microwave. I have limited control over nuking stuff, so I boil a pan of water over which one of my Borosil glass bowl sits very well, and that's where the butter and chocolate goes. Once that's all so gooey and shiny, remove and cool a bit, add the sugar and the vanilla essence, I use a whisk to put this whole thing together. Beat in the egg yolks one by and one and make sure it mixes well. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites till they are light and fluffy, almost peaky (but that's so hard to do when this is a quick chocolate cravings solution!), I used a hand mixer for this and it wasn't a bright idea, the hand mixer works the best or a large wire whisk if you have the energy post 11 pm! Use a spatula to fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix, add the roasted almonds, fold those in as well. I use salted roasted almonds, awesome with the dark sweet chocolate. Grease three ramekins with an olive oil spray or a smidgen of butter, fill 3/4th with the chocolate mix and bake at 180 C for 15 minutes, serve with fresh whipped cream or coffee ice cream or chocolate ice cream or vanilla if you really have to. We sadly didn't have ice cream but after one bite, we didn't need any! Enjoy hot!

Nov 2, 2012

Wholewheat Spaghetti over Spinach Chorizo Alfredo

So V tells me to cook at 5 pm and apparently a couple of people are coming for dinner. The thing is, I want to throw a tantrum about the whole last minute thing but then again I haven't cooked since the day before, so secretly I am pining to. Great then, we have company for dinner and I have food to cook, yay! As usual situations like this don't come without complications, there is no one to go grocery shopping and much like the cookery show I have going on in my head, I only have ingredients on hand to work with. I have chorizo, spinach, wholewheat spaghetti and good cheese, pretty much staples in this kitchen. Great then, I'm doing a Spaghetti Alfredo with spinach. This is perfect comfort food, it has greens, carbs, fats and loads of flavour. In my head Italian sauces sync with seasons, I would do a marinara in summers and all the creamy, cheesy ones in winter. You can pop this in the oven for a quick bake with a Parmesan topping, I am serving it with a garnish of oregano and that's it!

Alfredo Sauce:

2 large bulbs of spring onions, sliced thin
12-15 leaves of spinach cut into thin ribbons
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk, use one cup first and parts of the second to get the right consistency of the sauce, I keep it as thick as heavy cream, pouring consistency that is.
8 slices of Chorizo, cut into bits
2 tsp Oregano, I use a local brand called Keya, very nice aroma and since its grown closer to home its fresh dried compared the imported ones we get which may have been cultivated and dried years ago. 
Freshly ground black pepper, we like lots of it
Salt

Spaghetti:

Boil 1/3 rd pack of Leonardo Wholewheat spaghetti in about 4 lts of water, put a tsp of salt in it and a drizzle of olive oil. I boil till its done, we are not big on al dente.

Heat the butter, saute the spring onions and garlic for few minutes, add the spinach and the olive oil and saute till the spinach is soft and dark green. Add the flour, mix it all up well, I use a wooden spoon to do this, its gentler than metal. Saute the flour mix for 3-4 minutes so the flour cooks through. Add a cup of warm milk and stir well, the sauce will thicken quick so keep the second cup handy, pour to make a consistency, though the sauce thickens as you cook. Use the back of the spoon to mash out the flour blobs. Season with oregano, pepper and salt.  Stir in the Chorizo bits and pour into a baking/serving dish, depending on whether you will serve as is or bake it. Boil the spaghetti, drain and put over the sauce, sprinkle oregano and serve hot. If you feel this is a tad bland for your palate, you can spice it up with chili flakes, they work best with Italian food. Serve with crusty bread and grated parmesan on the side. Enjoy!
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