Monday, 30 April 2012

Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Biscotti

If I adore something, I would definitely be making different flavours and varieties of them. Biscotti are one among them. I have been making these jewelled cookies on and off whenever I feel like baking something that uses no butter and something that could be stored for a while. Biscotti are great to snack or for an evening tea and easy to make so I tend to load them with whatever fruits and nuts I have in hand. 

Talking about Biscotti, these are Italian biscuits that are baked twice until dry, crisp and crunchy. They are studded with dry fruits, nuts and chocolates. We normally have it by dunking in tea/coffee. These are fantastically versatile and we can use our own favourite combination of dry fruits, nuts or chocolates. I found this recipe on Good Housekeeping Magazine but added apricots, and more nuts. As my husband dislike chocolate, I added chocolate just to half the dough and they were just delicious, with or without chocolate.

Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Biscotti
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: About 45 minutes
Makes: About 40 mins

90g shelled pistachios
70g lightly roasted hazelnuts
70g apricots, chopped
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
3 (~190g) medium eggs, lightly beaten
75g milk/dark chocolates, chopped into small chunks
1 tsp vanilla essence
275g all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

1. Line a large baking sheet with baking or parchment paper. 

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.

3. Add in eggs and stir until clumps form, then bring together with your hands, kneading until smooth.

4. Add nuts and chocolate and knead until evenly distributed (dough will be a stiff and a bit sticky) sprinkle little flour to make it less sticky and manageable, but don’t add too much.

5. Preheat the oven to 180 ºC (160 ºC Fan), gas mark 4.

6. Now, on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half and roll each dough into two 15 inch sausage shapes. Place them on lined sheets, spacing much apart. Bake them for 25 minutes or until the dough is slightly golden and has spread, then cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Turn down the oven to 140 ºC (120 ºC Fan), gas mark 1.

7. Using a serrated bread knife, cut rolls diagonally into 1cm thick slices. Lay flat on baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes until dry and lightly golden – They will harden on cooling.

8. Cool completely on wire rack and once completely cooled store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is a thick citrusy sauce of velvety texture. This luscious, smooth and creamy curd can be spread on toasts, lemon cakes, cup cakes, drizzled over ice creams, cakes, scones, tarts and also used to sandwich macarons. As lemons are the prime ingredient and the one that dominates the flavour use fresh lemons that are plumb, juicy, firm and don’t have any blemishes on them. Fresh lemons contributes a lot to the flavour of the sauce, so, do not replace fresh lemon with the bottles ones you get in stores.

As the lemon curd calls for cooking of eggs, I cooked it over a saucepan of simmering water instead of stove top cooking. You can also cook it over stovetop on a very low heat with constant stirring to prevent scrambling. But, if you leave it unnoticed, you might end up having some scrambled eggs in the mixture. To be on the safe side, it is always best to pass the sauce through a strainer once done to get rid of any lumps. Cover with a cling film to avoid a film forming on the surface and let keep refrigerated. You can also freeze this.

Lemon Curd

3 egg yolks
1 large egg
½ cup (100g) sugar
¼ cup lemon juice (Juice of 1 ½ large lemons)
50g cold butter, diced in small pieces
Finely grated zest of 1 or 2 lemons
2 tsp corn flour, mixed in 2 tbsp water

1. Place yolks, egg, lemon juice, corn flour mixture and sugar in a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook till curd is thick and creamy and coats the back of the spoon. Make sure you stir constantly through out to avoid the egg scrambling.

2. Remove from heat and strain to remove any lumps. Stir in butter and mix well until butter is melted and the curd is smooth and velvety.

3. Pour into a bowl, cover with a cling wrap right on the surface and let it chill in the fridge till ready to use.
4. When ready to use, stir a little with a spoon or spatula to loosen the texture. Put in a piping bag and pipe as you wish.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Cabbage Thoran / Cabbage Varavu/ Kerala Style Cabbage Stir-fry

Certain foods, songs and places bring lot of old memories. For me it takes me down the memory lane and I get lost in them. It usually happens when it comes to songs and certain foods. I can truly relate each incident to each food or song. Recently I downloaded an application on my phone where you can access to worldwide radio stations. I now have access to some fantastic stations that play continuous 90’s Hindi hit songs which I used to listen while I was young. Boy, did it take me back to my childhood days from the time I first left for UAE to my school days through to my college days. Those were one of the best times of my life, no worries, with all siblings together under one roof with lot of chaos, noise, fights, chit chat and with loving parents to care and love for. I miss all of that innocent part of my life and I just wish if I could go back in time.

Certain songs and foods also take me back to my good old days with my dearest granny, one of my favourite personalities. May her soul rest in peace. I used to spend loads of time with her during our vacation back home, sit out in the veranda during monsoon, watching the rain and reading newspaper or just random talks and nibbling on some pistachios. And I cherished every moment I spent with her and I wish she was still with us. At times, I miss her a lot. How I wish the time never changed, people never changed and life never changed. It makes me very emotional at times, few tears dripping down my cheeks when I go through those memory lane and think of the people whom I love in my life and have left us.

This cabbage thoran is one that takes me back into my first school days in Kannur. We used to have lunch from our school canteen and rice, thoran, pappadom, sambhar, pickle and fish fry was one menu that I remember. Cabbage thoran was one that appeared on regular basis and something that I never liked so much. Recently, after making spring rolls I had quite a bit of cabbage leftover and I planned to use it up by making some thoran. It came out well and we really liked it. Those old school memories just came to me, un-invited. Cabbage thoran also contributes to Kerala Sadya.

Cabbage Thoran / CAbbage Varavu/ Kerala Style Cabbage Stir-fry
Serves 4

400g/ 3 heaped cups of thinly shredded cabbage
½ a cup finely chopped onion
2 green chillies slit
2 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ - ½ tsp turmeric powder
1 twig curry leaves
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut or frozen
salt to taste

1.Heat oil in a saucepan, splutter mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and green chillies and sauté for 30 seconds.

2. Throw in onions and add salt. Sauté until onions go soft. Add in turmeric and sauté for few seconds.

3. Add in the shredded cabbage, turmeric and mix well. Cover and cook until almost done

4. Add coconut, mix well and cook till done.

Serve alongside plain rice and other curries.
Note: If the cabbage is releasing lot of moisture, open the lid and cook on high heat. Here the cabbage is quite tough and so I add couple of spoons of water, cover and cook it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Guest Post~Hazelnut Macarons with Mocha Ganache

I am just done with my spring cleaning and finally sorted my kitchen cabinets. Pheww. My kitchen cabinet’s been overflowing, with all the stuffs jumbled up in spite of cleaning them every couple of months. Things being lost deep in the cabinets and myself trying to fish them out standing on a chair and often knocking the jars off the shelf has been happening regularly since the past few weeks. So I had to do organize it and I planned to do it big. It took me several hours for 2-3 days to sort them out, but finally it is done. There were many unused and sparingly used spice jars and that left me wondering if there is any spice that I don’t really own! I never even used some of them.

While cleaning the cabinets, I also found out these pack of hazelnut hiding in a corner. I went ahead and baked some great biscottis a while ago and with the leftover ones, I could not think of baking anything but macarons. Hazelnut macarons tasted very different from the regular almond ones and had a great hazelnut flavour which would pair well with nutella. It was delicious, came out perfectly baked and looked great.

I felt honoured when Ambika asked me to do a guest post and these macarons were the first that came to mind. To see more of the post, recipe and pictures, please hop over to Ambika’s Kitchen. She’s got a great space there

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Tomato Rasam (Spicy South Indian Tomato Soup)

During our visit to India last year,  we had been to Kumarakom house boat which was an amazing experience.  We had great relishing meal prepared by the on-board crews and rasam was one of them. Rasam is a South Indian watery soup and varies slightly from region to region. There are several types of them like tomato rasam, lentil rasam and pepper rasam to name a few. Some uses dal/lentil to thicken the soup, but I haven’t used it mainly because I wanted to keep it simple, watery, and I was too lazy to cook dal and mash it.  I have used the spices as mentioned in the little book that own, but you really can get instant rasam powders from supermarkets these days. I dont think you really need to get all those readymade stuffs. It is not that tricky to make it home and i found it quite easy and instant.

The other day I was preparing lunch and all of a sudden I got this craving for  rasam that I had from the houseboat. Thanks to the social Networks, I got hold of my dear friends Nisha Rosh and Dhanya KP instantly, who approximately gave me their recipe. My tomato rasam is a result of their recipe and valuable tips combined with another recipe from my favourite book Lalitha Pachakam by Nikhila Govind. I normally mix and match few recipes to make something. I am not sure if I am doing the right thing but I have always been like that. Thanks you guys for the recipe and tips; it was simple, fuss free, delicious, and just the way I wanted it to be. A thin tomato soup with tantalising aroma and flavour with a note of heat from the crushed pepper was the result. Just perfect for a cold afternoon.

Tomato Rasam (Spicy South Indian Tomato Soup)
serves 4-6

4 medium/350g/2 cups finely chopped tomatoes
4 cups boiling water
1 tbsp tamarind
¼ cup hot water
salt as necessary
A handful of coriander leaves with stem on

To temper:
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp black mustard seeds
6 shallots
5 fat cloves of garlic
2 twig curry leaves
¼ - 1/2 tsp asafoetida
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp pepper corns
4 dried red chillies

1. Boil tomatoes in water for about 10 minutes until it is soft and cooked. Pass it through a sieve and squeeze all possible pulp out. Reserve the strained liquid and discard the seeds and skin in the sieve.

2. Mix tamarind in hot water and squeeze to loosen its tough pulp. Pass it through a sieve again and pour it into the strained tomato juice.

3. Pour the tomato and tamarind mixture into the tempered oil or viceversa. Add in coriander leaves with stalks, salt and cook until it starts to boil.

4. Just before serving discard the corinader leaves and have it before your regular meal or pour it into plain rice along with dal and sambhar.

To temper:
1.Using a pestle and mortar gently crush the garlic and shallots just to break them up.  Keep it a side.

2. In a dry pan roast cumin and pepper for about 30 secods or until they leave aroma. Pound them to fine powder.

3. Heat a pan and add oil. Add in mustard and cumin and let them crackle. Once they start crackling, add red chillies broken into two, curry leaves, onion and garlic. Once they go soft and trasnparent, add in roasted and ground cumin and pepper, asafoetida, turmeric and stir for few seconds.

Even though it mentioned gently crushed garlic and onion, I finely chopped garlic and shallots in the recipe and I dint like the feel of chopped onions. I would be using gently crushed garlic and shallots next time.
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