Monday, December 23, 2013

Chocolate Crinkles

This is our first christmas in Ahmedabad. Christmas in a new place is always hard for me. It means, beginning all over again with new customs, traditions, piecing everything together, both the old and new. When the season of advent began, I felt pretty low. I had the same feeling when we moved to Germany 4 years ago, so I knew that such feelings were normal. All the pictures of the christmas markets popping up on Facebook made me yearn for the european charm of the season. The only consolation was that I did not miss the harsh season of winter and once we opened our boxes of decoration, our home began to resemble a litte christmas market. 

First week into December began the questions as to when preparations would begin in the kitchen. I was not yet in the mood, not yet ready. Moreover, the kitchen was only fifty percent set up. Boxes were half opened and my utensils and gadgets were waiting patiently for a place to call their own. Last weekend, hubby and I pulled our sleeves together and gave both the kitchen and pantry a make over. And monday, the ball got rolling. 
Living abroad has certainly taught me to think out of the box and look for new recipes to brighten up our platter. When these crinkles popped up on my computer screen, I knew I would bake them. These are so very easy to bake and when they begin to slowly crinkle in the oven, there itself lies the satisfaction that you have done it right. They have turned out to be a complete winner in my entire set of goodies prepared this season. With another day to go before christmas, you can surely whip out a batch or two!


Source: Simply recipes
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar(see notes)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

Method:
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty black dough.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat thoroughly.
  3. In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.  Slowly mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined. Do not overbeat
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for 4 hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160C(See notes). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the confectioners sugar in a wide bowl. Take clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1 inch sized balls using your hands. Roll the balls in confectioners sugar and place on the baking sheet. 
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Notes:
  1. Adjust the amount of sugar according to your liking. We needed it to be a tad sweeter and hence I used 2 cups of sugar. Also, since the sugar available here is pretty thick in size, I gave a whizz in the mixer to make the grains a bit fine(but not powder).
  2. No two ovens are the same. Since I am back to my oven of the past which was in storage for 4 years, it has taken me time to get accustomed to it. The above temperature and time is best suited for mine. The crinkles turned out crisp on the outside and chewy like a brownie on the inside.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Apple crumble

So I thought I would begin my post in March with phrases like "spring is in the air" or "we can feel spring approaching" BUT it's a different story altogether. SPRING is already here and I find it hard to believe. Last Monday we woke up to thick blankets of snow and today we wake up to new life sprouting from the ground. After six long months we were greeted with a gorgeous sunrise and blue skies. I went out for a long walk and spotted the first spring flowers in private gardens. I could have done a little jig at the first sight of colour!!
Coming back to this recipe, we had first tasted it in the plum form at a friends home two years ago. I had blogged about it here. The fruit crumble is a dish of British origin where fruit either in the raw form or stewed is topped with a crumbly mixture of flour, butter and sugar and then baked in an oven till the topping is brown and crisp. Some of the fruits used in a crumble are apple, plum, peach and blackberry.  The crumble is then named after the fruit which is used in it, as mine would be an apple crumble.
This particular dessert is fast to prepare, can be had as it is or served along with custard, whipped cream or ice cream. It sure is a winner when served at a gathering.
A serving of golden brown apple crumble.
Pictured with a topping of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

  • 750 gm or 5 apples
  • 50 gm brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
For the crumble:
  • 300 gm plain flour
  • 175 gm brown sugar
  • 200 gm unsalted butter cubed at room temperature
  • knob of butter for greasing
Method:
  1. Wash, peel, core and chop the apples into small cubes.
  2. Mix the chopped apples with the sugar and cinnamon powder. 
  3. Sieve the flour. Place the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Taking a few cubes of butter at a time rub into the flour sugar mix. Keep using all the butter and rubbing till the mixture resembles crumbs. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  5. Grease a 26 inch ovenproof dish. Spoon the fruit mixture at the bottom of the dish, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.
  6. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes till the crumble is browned.
  7. Serve with custard or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

One pan Eggless Chocolate Cake.

I had made plans for this weekend. Since the kids were to have an entire week's holiday thanks to the German carnival, I wanted to make the best of it. Attend a carnival parade, a visit to a museum, maybe squeeze in a german town too. Our girl had different plans though. Wednesday she returned home from a two night choir trip from school. She looked happy and content with the good time she spent with her friends. Towards evening I recognised the nagging cough of hers and something told me that a fever was on its way. True to my thoughts, she woke up with a burning forehead and body too. Today is day 3 and we are nowhere close to respite. Since the doc has recognised it as a viral fever we are to expect it to last for a total of 5 days. 

Today being day 3 of playing nurse, I am close to wanting to run away somewhere. But that, I cannot do. In between preparing meals for the healthy us and sick man's food for her, I also desired to have a sweet treat. Only that I wasn't prepared to slog myself away in the kitchen for a few more hours. Call it good luck or what, I bumped into this recipe last night during my time spending next to her. It's a no fuss, no frill cake. The best part being that you dump all the ingredients in the pan you will be baking in, mix it all together with a spatula, bake and voila, you are done!!
The perfect recipe for today!! While I did have my doubts about the end result, it has turned out to be a super soft and moist cake. Also got the thumbs up from sonny boy.  So when you are tired and wanting a sweet treat with zero effort, I suggest you to bake this cake. You won't be disappointed.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 and a quarter cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and a quarter cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Take an un greased 12" round baking pan.
  3. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt in the pan.(see above pic)
  4. Stir till the mixture is well combined.(see above pic)
  5. Pour water, oil, vinegar and vanilla to the above and stir well till you have a smooth batter.(see pic above)
  6. Place the pan in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Enjoy the no frill, no fuss cake..:D

Notes:

  • The original recipe has measures for an eight inch square pan. I wanted a slightly larger cake, hence increased the proportions accordingly.
  • I sieved the flour and baking powder together though it was not mentioned in the original recipe.
  • I had a doubt whether the cake would be stuck to the pan as it was not greased. It comes out perfectly. 



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mirchi ka Salan

We have a Turkish shop in Lohr which I frequent as it's my main source of coriander leaves. While packed frail leaves are available at times in the local supermarkets, I am able to get the freshest bunch from this place. Yesterday, along with the leaves, I caught a glimpse of these fresh big green chilies calling out to me. With the weather being cold and the incessant rains providing misery, I imagined us relishing piping hot mirchi bajjis. 
Well, this morning turned out with a different plan. Breaking my head for a while about dinner, this particular dish popped to my mind. Since I already had the chillies along with the required ingredients, bajjis were soon replaced with Mirchi Ka Salan.
Mirchi ka Salan is a popular curry of Hyderabad. The chillies are deep fried briefly and then simmered gently in a paste made of spices and peanuts together. The nuts provide a nutty texture to the dish. While traditionally it is served along with Hyderabadi Biryani, it also makes for a great accompaniment with plain rice or rotis.

Source: www.sanjeevkappor.com(recipe adapted to suit our taste)

Ingredients:

  • 12 big green chillies
  • Oil to deep fry
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 3 dry red chillies(long)
  • 1" ginger chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • marble sized tamarind
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1medium onion chopped very fine
  • salt to taste


Method:

  1. Wash and wipe the green chillies. Slit them lengthwise gently, taking care as to not break them into two. 
  2. Heat sufficient oil in a kadai, deep fry the chillies for a minute. Drain, place them on an absorbent paper and set aside.
  3. Dry roast sesame, coriander and cumin seeds.
  4. Grind them to a paste along with the roasted peanuts, ginger, garlic, dry red chillies, turmeric powder, tamarind and a little water.
  5. Heat two tablespoons oil in a vessel. When hot add the mustard seeds. When they splutter drop in the curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds. Add the chopped onion and fry till golden brown.
  6. Add the ground paste and fry for 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Take care to not burn.
  7. Rinse the mixer with a cup of water and add this to the fried paste. Mix well and bring it to a boil.
  8. Reduce the heat and cook it for 10 minutes.
  9. Add the fried green chillies and salt to taste. Cook on low heat for a further 10 minutes.
  10. Take off the heat and serve with hot rice or rotis.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vegetable Puffs

One of the reasons I do not see myself making Germany or any of its neighbouring countries as a place to settle down for good is the WINTER. Snow is fine, I can get along with it, the low temperatures, yeah, can live with that too. So what's it that gets me down...................................
it's the definite lack of colour.
And when you add never ending rain, grey skies and bare trees to the picture, it's a sure path to looking grumpy and feeling low. So rather than sit around and brood myself out, I have been spending time in the kitchen a wee bit more than intended. After the cooking, I must be also providing sheer entertainment to my german neighbours with my crazy antics during the photo shoot. Well, a girl's gotta keep herself busy even if it means looking crazy.

Coming back to these vegetable puffs, who would have ever thought that these could be made at home. My memories of the crispy crust with a soft filling of spiced onions, potatoes and peas goes back to the days when mum would thrust a few rupees in my hand and ask me to bring these home on our way back from school/college. On such days, we were a happy lot and couldn't wait to get back home and dig ourselves in. 

When a fellow expat and I were talking about the food we missed so badly, she surprised me by saying that there was puff pastry available and it was good too. The funny part about shopping in Germany is that you've got to know the german terms of your grocery list, else you can simply assume that ingredients are simply unavailable. Thanks to her, I've been preparing these vegetable puffs quite often, more so, whenever I am reminded of home.

Ingredients:
  • 2 sheets puff pastry(see notes)
For the filling( for 10-12 rectangular puffs):
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • a fistful of frozen or fresh peas
  • a medium sized onion sliced fine
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp bafath powder or red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tbsps oil

Method:
  1. Wash and boil potatoes with skin in sufficient water. Cool them, peel, mash well and keep aside.
  2. Slice the onion fine.
  3. In a handi/vessel heat the oil.
  4. When hot, add the mustard seeds.
  5. When they begin to splutter, add the onions and fry well.
  6. As the onions turn golden brown, add the chilli/bafath and turmeric powders.
  7. Mix well and continue to fry for a minute.
  8. Add the boiled and mashed potatoes along with the green peas.
  9. Mix well and continue to cook till the peas are cooked(5 to 7 minutes). Keep stirring and avoid the mixture from burning.
  10. Switch off and let the mix cool down.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  12. Line a baking try with parchment paper.
  13. Spread out the pastry sheet on a clean platform.
  14. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into equal shaped rectangles(see pic above).
  15. Place the potato filling in the centre of each rectangle. Do not overcrowd the base.
  16. Close or seal the potato filling with the folded flap and seal the edges well(See pic above).
  17. Place the puffs neatly in a line on the baking try. Do not keep too close to each other.
  18. Place the tray on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes or till they are golden brown in colour.
  19. Remove from oven, let cool(Do not burn your mouth as I did) and have them with a hot cuppa tea.


Notes:
  1. Puff Pastry is called BL√ĄTTERTEIG, available in Edeka, Kupsch, Lidl and Tegut. There are two kinds available, one in the frozen section and the other in the coolers(along with the butter, curd etc). The frozen pastry can be kept upto many months, where as the one in the coolers need to be used within a short period of time. Personally, I prefer the latter.
  2. Puff pastry comes in sheets or in different shapes too. It is left to your personal choice as to what you would like to get and how you would like to shape it.
  3. You can experiment with the filling. This is a simple recipe which my family likes. You can add minced meat, eggs, vegetables, different kinds of herbs and spices too. Experimentation is the key.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pork Vindaloo

Off lately, the family and I have been watching the BBC food series on our iPad. One of the presenters being Madhur Jaffrey, we love the way she weaves around different states of India, cooking up dishes relevant to the state in exotic locations. Like the Pork Vindaloo, a dish which the Goans prepare a lot. Influenced by the Portuguese settlements that arrived in the early 16th century in Goa, the name Vindaloo is derived from the Portuguese dish "Carne de Vinha d'Alhos", which means a dish of meat(pork) with wine(vin) and garlic(alho). It was fascinating to watch Madhur cook in the famous ruins of the St. Augustine's monastery in Old Goa. She sufficiently inspired me to try the same in my german kitchen and the result being, we have a new found love.

When you do intend to prepare this, I suggest you to plan in advance as this recipe requires overnight marination. 

Ingredients:

  • 1250 grams pork, cleaned, washed and cut into big cubes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsps brown/malt vinegar
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 large onions sliced
  • 2 medium chopped tomatoes
  • 3 slit green chillies
  • 3 tbsps oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup water
For the MARINADE:
TO POWDER:
  • 12 long dry red chillies
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3" cinnamon stick
  • 12 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp pepper corns
  • 6 cardamoms
TO GRIND TO A PASTE:
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 2" piece ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 tbsps vinegar

Method:


  1. Apply salt and 5 tbsps brown vinegar to the meat and keep aside for 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile grind the ingredients coarsely mentioned in TO POWDER.
  3. Grind the ingredients to a paste mentioned in TO GRIND TO A PASTE.
  4. Mix the powdered spices and the ground paste together to form a thick dry paste.
  5. Apply half of the above paste to the marinated meat and refrigerate it overnight. Refrigerate the remaining paste too (Pic 1 and 2 above).
  6. On the following day, slice the onions, crush the garlic, chop the tomatoes and slit the green chillies.
  7. In a deep bottomed vessel heat the oil.
  8. When hot, drop in the crushed garlic and fry for a few seconds till you get an aroma.
  9. Add the sliced onions and fry till golden brown (Pic 3 above).
  10. Drop in the slit green chillies, chopped tomatoes, the remaining paste and sugar. Fry well for about 5 to 8 minutes on high heat. 
  11. Add the marinated meat and continue frying for another 5 minutes.
  12. Add a cup of water *(see note), bring to simmer and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat.
  13. Adjust salt to taste, remove from heat and garnish with slit green chillies.
  14. Pork Vindaloo can be had with rice or bread of your choice.

Notes:

  1. You can substitute brown with white vinegar.
  2. The water that has been used to clean the mixer of the ground paste can be kept aside and used in the preparation.
  3. Pork Vindaloo can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator. The longer you keep it, the better it tastes with each passing day. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mangalorean Cashew Macaroons

If you were to ask any Mangalorean to name one of their favourite childhood sweets, I am sure the majority of them would reply "Macaroon" pronounced more as "Mukroons"...:D
The sugary goodness coupled with the crunchy cashew nuts would simply melt in ones mouth. From what I recall, we always got these macaroons from a sweet meat shop called Taj Mahal which was located right at the city centre. So a trip to the city meant a definite pack of goodies. 
I remember them being quite expensive by the kilo and had simply assumed that they must have been laborious to prepare. Not to forget also the price of cashew nuts.

Moving to Germany saw me being introduced to the coconut macaroons. A christmas preparation in many households. Sadly, I never developed a liking to it.  While the germans like their macaroons to be golden brown and heavy with coconut, I wanted to retain the colour, look and texture of the original ones I remember eating from childhood. Today, I was inspired to experiment on making a small batch of them. So, here goes....

Ingredients:
  • 1 egg white at room temperature
  • 175 gm finely powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 75 gm unsalted cashew nuts
Method:
  1. Chop the cashew nuts coarsely.
  2. Preheat oven to 90C.
  3. Separate the egg white from the yellow. There should be no traces of any yolk at all.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg white till stiff. When you lift the whisk, the peaks should not drop or fall down.
  5. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time to the egg white and keep beating. Continue till all the sugar has been used.
  6. Beat in the cardamom powder.
  7. Gently fold in the chopped cashew nuts into the sugar egg mix.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Drop in spoonfuls( I used a tablespoon) of the macaroon mix. Use the same level of mix for each macaroon. I din't bother about the shape. I let them be irregular as it is. Use up all the mix(makes 12).
  9. Place the tray on the lower rack and bake them for 40 to 50 minutes until crisp *See note
  10. Remove the macaroons from the tray and let them cool.
  11. Store in air tight container.


Note:

  • When trying out a new recipe in your oven, I suggest you to know your oven well. Baking procedures and temperatures differ from oven to oven. I have a manual for mine which clearly states what rack should I place my tray in(lower, middle or higher), what temperatures should I use and how long should the baking process be for different recipes(cookies, cakes, pizzas, meringues). Based on this information and using my judgement, I proceed with the recipe.
  • If you like your macaroons to be slightly/golden brown you can raise the temp up a bit to 120C.