Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Glamorous Heart Cake


Whenever there is an upcoming marriage in the family, I make sure that I get my special moments with the bride or groom to be. I was brought up in the joint family. I have no sibblings but have 4 cousin sisters and 2 cousin brothers, we grew up as a tight knit family. It does not stay that way though, so then you begin to carve out these moments with more effort to be treasured later. With all my cousin sisters I have tried to make those moments precious, they got married and absorbed into the vortex of life that followed. So before the last of my cousins gets married we spent this refreshing holiday together last September after celebrating his birthday in Blr last year.

Now I am back in Mumbai and so a special cake for everyone in the family. I asked Hrushi what he would like but he trusts my judgement more or the experiment more don't know, he left it to me. I knew I was going to make Mascarpone cheese for his birthday so did a advance test. The test was successful in My Kitchen Lab. Will soon share it here.

The Mascarpone cheese goes really beautifully with fresh fruits, it was a discussion and then Deeba's post that made me feel confident that this will be one Glamorous cake for a birthday. 

This is an elaborate recipe so I preferred making it over 3 days.

Day1: Made the Heart sponge cake
Day2: Made the Mascarpone cheese and left it to drain and firm up in the fridge.
Day3: Did the layering and left it to chill in the fridge. Added the ganache on top.
Day4: At midnight the cake was cut. The flavors were soaked well. The Fruits still crunchy. Happy appreciative smiles and many drools.

Ingredients

For the Heart sponge cake

1.5 cups All Purpose Flour / Maida
2 tsp Baking powder
1 cup Curd
3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup condensed milk
1 tsp Raspberry essence
1 tablespoon flax seeds powder + 3tablespoons water; rested for 10 mins.

Measure out the flour and along with the baking powder sieve it. Keep aside.

In a mixing bowl, add curd, condensed milk, oil, raspberry essence and sugar and beat until fluffy.

Add the flax seeds powder sludge which would have become albuminous to the wet ingredients. Mix well.

Now add little by little the flour and baking powder mix. Fold in the flour to get a batter that falls in layers when poured.

Preheat oven for 10 mins at 180 deg celcius.

Prepare heart shaped tin by greasing and dusting with flour.

Pour the batter into the tin. Tap the tin gently on the counter to remove the air bubbles and evenly spread the cake batter.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 mins or till top is golden and knife inserted in it comes out clean.

Let it cool in the tin for 30 mins and then demould onto a plate. I left the cake covered on the counter for an entire day. If you are doing the entire cake in a single day ensure it cools completely before you do the layers.

This cake is slightly dense and works well with the wet layers. It provides the required support and
absorbs the liquids released by the filling.

For the layered filling

1/2 cup Orange Marmalade 
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon Raspberry essence
Mixed cut fruits
(I used 2 ripe pears + 1 apple with skin + 2 Nagpur oranges peeled + 1 cup Pomegranate arils, choose a colorful combination of fruits.)

After the cake is cooled completely, start the layering. Slice the cake horizontally.

Put the slice into the cake tin. First spread the Orange marmalade, level it out evenly.

Chill a splash proof bowl in the freezer. Next in the splash proof bowl put the mascarpone cheese, raspberry essence and add little icing sugar at a time and keep beating with a wooden spatula till all icing sugar is incorporated and you get stiff creamed mascarpone.

At this point add the mixed cut fruits to the creamed mascarpone cheese. Mix gently.

Fill  in all the mix into the tin. Place the top slice of the sponge cake over it. Press a bit to make it stick to the filling. Cover the tin with cling film and keep in the fridge to chill.


For the Ganache

1 slab of Bournville Dark chocolate (I used Hazelnut)
50 ml fresh cream

Just before serving, make the ganache. Remove the set layered cake onto a serving dish. You can just turn it upside down on any plate for support and place the Final serving plate face side down on it. Turn it upright again. Remove the support plate. Leave it to stand upright for further decoration.

In a bowl break the bar of  chocolate into pieces. Place the cream in a clean bowl and heat till it starts boiling, keep stirring so it does not spill over. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate pieces. Beat it to dissolve the chocolate and fluff up a bit.

Pour the ganache from the center and move outward. Spread it with a butter knife. With a clean finger draw the swirl at the center to give it a effect of a rose bud. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sayandesh, A Sandesh for Sayantani

 This is Sayandesh!

It marks our friendship, of borrowing from each others culture and making it our own.
 
It was two years ago that Sayantani and me had decided to meet at the Durga puja in Kormangala, Blr. We both lived there at the time, but for some reason we missed each other by a few hours and did not meet. Ever since we have always wanted to meet in person but now she lives in Kolkata and I in Mumbai but friendship knows no boundaries. It is entirely credit to Sayantani the sweetheart that she is. She keeps in touch inspite of her busy schedule as a mother with a growing child and demands on the home front.

Some time ago I made sandesh from her blog and shaped them into plain ovals. She saw them on my Fb page and commented that I deserved some sandesh moulds! She offered to send me these special stone moulds and I accepted the showering of love without the least resistance. There are those genuine people whom you can allow that entry into your coterie, she is one of them.

I was thrilled to open a packet of these goodies that you see below. Carefully packed was a Speedpost from Kolkata, a jar of Pyaraki (I love the sound of it). the raw mango and pineapple relish, a table cloth a sling pouch and those priceless stone sandesh chachch.


This packet arrived at the time when on a foodie group we were discussing about family heirlooms and preserving traditions! It was fun doubled when Preeti announced that she too had received her packet delivered in Pune at her Mom's. Immediately we decided that to have a Sandesh fest and name it after Sayantani, so you see the Sayandesh here!

This Sayandesh is special because though it looks like Nolen gurer sandesh, it is not. I am using Sayantani's original recipe here. This one is made using Dark jaggery from Gondavle, Satara. Anything from Gondavle is special for me. Bengal meets Maharashtra in this Sandesh. That is how it is for us friends. Preeti and me waited till the sandesh moulds flew to UK and then we synced this sandesh making, she in her English kitchen and me in my Mumbai one. We both dedicated the creations to our dear friend Sayantani.
 

Ingredients

1 liter Full fat milk
Juice of ½ a lime
2 tbsp Powdered sugar
4 tbsp Dark Jaggery from Maharashtra

Preparing the chenna or cottage cheese

Boil the milk.

To the boiling milk add the lime juice. Keep boiling till all the milk solids clump up and the clear whey separates out.

In a large bowl place a large sieve. Line it with muslin cloth. Pour the curdled milk into to the cloth. The whey will drain away into the bowl and the solids will remain on the cloth. 

Wash it under water to remove the traces of lime juice. Leave it to drain completely for 1-2 hrs.

Remove the cottage cheese ball on a counter after completely solidified. Knead for 10 mins to smoothness. Press with the heel of the palm to get rid of the graininess. 

Mix in the sugar and jaggery and then knead.

Then remove this mixture into a non stick pan and put it on heat. Keep stirring till you see the mixture leaving the sides of the pan. It takes about 5 mins.

Let it cool till you can handle it. Lightly oil the sandesh moulds. Shape into marble sized balls. Press them on the moulds to imprint the designs. Separate from the molds and place on to a serving plate.

Enjoy at room temp or chilled either ways you will be transported into old world Bengal...

This post is incomplete if I do not share a little thing that came in the parcel as packing (involuntarily) is a doodle by Sayantani, it is her signature and that's who she is!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bramhani Taat


(Clockwise: Methkut, Beetroot Yogurt, Tomatochi BhaajiGoda Varan on Rice, Ghadichi Poli and Papad)

In the Bramhan homes in Maharashtra the food that is cooked is very simple for an everyday meal. It consists of two carbohydrate components of rice and chapati/ Poli in Marathi. A dal like a simple Goda Varan that you see here or a sweet and sour dal called Aamti which is the source of protein.  A stir fry made with a fresh vegetable. Here you see a Onion and Tomato bhaaji. In some Brahman homes where onions and garlic is not consumed you may find these absent altogether in the food. The salad is called Koshimbir, it has many variations, see here and here. For brightening up the taste buds there is always a chutney wet or dry that you can dip your finger into or a pickle to lick up. Here in the Taat you see the quintessential Marathi dry chutney called Methkut. To give a crunch to the meal a papad is indispensable.

On a festive day the Taat would have a ras bhaaji/ wet curry and a sweet like puranpoli/ kheer/ sheera/ shrikhand

To round off this meal would be a vati/ bowl of buttermilk or Taak.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bhapa Doi

When you must have a creamy dessert and still not worry too much about calories you can make Bhapa doi. In simple English Bhapa Doi is steamed curd the Bengalis would say. It is a delicious dessert that can be whipped, steamed and chilled. Yeah the chilling time is the longest in this recipe else everything else is quick. This is also a dessert that can be made ahead of time and served at a party.

The basic bhapa doi can be decorated with nuts and dry fruits, oh! why even fresh fruits would be good. I chose to decorate with soaked raisins and sultanas and a handful of crushed walnuts to give it some texture.

While in the Western cooking you have a baked cheesecake and a no-bake one, here is a steamed cheesecake of Indian origins actually a Bengali Mishti. It makes me wonder how this got created? Condensed milk was not a common place ingredient in an Indian kitchen until a decade ago. Who created it and what was the need that spurred this creation? Was it created in a home or a restaurant or a Mishti shop?

Till some one educates me more on it, here is the recipe that I arrived at after a lot of googling and my gut feel about what will give me the best consistency. This turned out a luscious dessert.

Ingredients

The Basic Doi

1 tin Amul mithai mate
1 cup well set homemade curd
1/2 cup milk
2 big pinch nutmeg powder

In a big bowl take all the ingredients and 1 big pinch nutmeg powder. Beat till smooth and homogenized. In an aluminum tin or jelly mould pour the mix. In a pressure cooker add enough water and place a ring or vessel to give some height. Put the mould over it and steam for 25 to 30 mins. Let it cool completely and then sprinkle a big pinch nutmeg powder over it. Chill in the fridge for atleast 4-5 hrs before serving.

For the garnish

1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoon sultanas
1 tablespoon crushed walnuts

While the Bhapa Doi is chilling in the fridge. Boil water and add the raisins and sultanas to it. Let them soak till you need to serve. Drain the soaked raisins and sultanas on a sieve, keep the water. Use them to garnish. Save the water, it is laden with the sugar from the dry fruits and use to sweeten your cold drinks.

To serve, unmould the Bhapa doi into a serving dish and garnish with chopped walnuts and soaked raisins and sultanas.

Serves 4 generous portions or 6 small ones.


Updated: 15 Oct 2012

Another time powdered with Pistachios and in this one skipped the cup of milk to get a Bhapa doi that can be cut up like a cake for my bro, Sumeet's birthday. It was so much like Kharwas!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Goda Varan

 Such a colorful meal!
(Clockwise: Methkut, Beetroot Yogurt, Tomatochi Bhaaji,
Goda Varan on Rice, Ghadichi Poli and Papad)

When Cynthia, a reader of this blog asked me to make Goda Varan or plain dal which is a staple in Marathi homes, I was very sure that the picture would be boring and repetitive on this blog. Did I know that this Marathi Taat of an everyday simple meal would look to colorful, like Holi on a Thali! Never.

Until I pulled out the camera and focused on it to click what is supposed to be just another meal. Yet it is not, if you look at it carefully it a beautiful balanced meal so characteristic of Maharashtra. This one is what would be a typical Bramhani Taat. However even though this post is about Goda Varan one of the components of this Thali (in Marathi it is called Taat) you will be keen to know more about it I am sure.

Back to Goda Varan, the simplest dal mostly served at the begining of the meal to start up an appetite. Many a babies are fed on this and many Maharashtrians who can't bear chilies swear by it. This forms the protein component of the Taat. The Dal though involves no sweat yet is very flavorful, it does not even have any tadka or phodni involved. This is how a Goda Varan is made in the Bramhan homes that I have frequently eaten at. Depending on which part of Maharashtra this is made the only variation would be adding sweetness to it or not. I have always known it with a bit of sweetness in it.

When I have hyped so much on the simplicity, you would definitely like to add it to your repertoire won't you?

Ingredients

1 cup split pigeon peas/ tur dal
1/4 teaspoon strong asafoetida/ hing
1/4 teaspoon turmeric/ halad
1 teaspoon oil
1 inch piece of jaggery/ gul
salt

In a small pressure cooker measure out the tur dal. Wash it clean with water. Add turmeric, oil, asafoetida and top up with water just to cover the dal enough.

Close the lid and keep on heat. Allow 4-5 whistles to cook dal till mushy. Switch off heat and let it cool. 

Open lid and beat up the dal while still hot to crumble it. I use a traditional Ravi to do it. Salt the dal and boil along with jaggery. You can thin it a bit with additional 1/2 cup of water.

The sweet smell is enough to get you hungry. Serve it hot over a mound of rice. A squeeze of lime, a dolop of curd and a drizzle of sajuk tup and you are in heaven!

Serves 4 if it is just a poli, bhaaji, varan, bhaat meal.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mint Pesto


Mint is very popular in the Middle Eastern cuisine. The mint tea is as refreshing as the pesto. It is use to flavor the non-veg stews and as garnish to couscous or tabouli.

Mint Pesto is a raw sauce, to Indians it is familiar as a chutney. A little goes a long way.

Today yet another delicious dip for the Arab Meze serial is here.

Ingredients

1 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup toasted walnut
2-3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Olive oil
salt

In a chutney jar put all the ingredients together and grind to fine paste.

Remove to a serving bowl and place it along with the other items on your Arab Meze menu.

Yet another dip is ready to enjoy in just about a whiz!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Labni


Fresh cream cheese made from yogurt, "Arey that's our chakka!" said my family. All your life you have eaten the fresh cream cheese made from yogurt by sweetening it with sugar to make Shrikhand and then you find that there exists a savory version of it somewhere in the world. That is exciting in itself. Well though I am posting this recipe now its not like I discovered it just now. I have been making Labni for years now. Anyways, what's there to make in Labni? It is so simple, except waiting and then whisking there is no work involved really.

Ingredients

1 liter Curd
salt to taste 
Olive oil for drizzle

Take a muslin cloth, Tie the diagonal corners together to form a bag. Pour the curd into the bag. Tie it up closer to form a ball. Either hang it over the basin or put it in a sieve. Collect the whey dripping in a vessel for other uses. (Whey can be used to knead dough instead of water, so you don't waste the nutrients in it.) Best is to leave it in the fridge so it does not sour too much. For about a cup of Labni you do require a liter of Curd.

After about 8 hrs, you will get a nice drained ball of cheese. Remove the muslin pouch to the counter. Roll together the cheese ball and remove to a bowl. Add salt to it and whisk to get a creamy Labni. Drizzle with olive oil. It's ready to dip your  warm Khubz

It is a very refreshing dip.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Khubz


Khubz or Pita bread is something I was introduced to by my uncle MJK when I was in my teens. Whenever he visited the Middle East he came back with huge discs of Khubz. Later I came to know that they are called Pita bread in the US and the name became fashionable.

Yes essentially Khubz is a common name for bread in Arab countries. How I would describe Khubz as a leavened bread round like a roti, thicker than Naan. It is only when you make smaller ones like phulkas you make them slightly less thick. For a good pita to puff up it has to have some thickness in proportion to the disc size. A 4 inch Khubz should have atleast 1/4 inch thickness before going into the oven. Khubz is an indispensable part of an Arab meze.

Khubz or Pita bread is very versatile, dip it in, mop up stews n curries, open up the pockets and make sandwiches, that is onething you can't do with a chapathi, you will agree. As I write this I remember a conversation with a loved one. He lived off pita bread substituting chapathi as he is in the US and wasn't skilled enough when younger at rolling out the daily Indian bread. I used to feel so bad for him even though I like Khubz a lot but it cannot substitute something that you ate everyday of your life when growing up. Yet who would not like a perfectly puffed up Khubz for a change?

I like to tear my breads with my hand but some people like theirs cut up into wedges, do it the way you like it, but don't forget to enjoy!

I also like it that this bread it fat free. So here is how to make it.

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat flour or maida
2 tsp. dry yeast 
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. salt 

To begin take about 1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour from the measured flour. Add the yeast to it and then add the 1 cup water slowly to make a sludge of it. Let is bubble up for 30 mins.

Then mix in the rest of the wheat flour and knead to form a ball. Keep it aside for proofing till doubled. 

At this stage incorporate the salt and knead for a min. Divide into 8 portions and roll out on a floured surface into 4 inch diameter and 1/4 inch thick discs.

Preheat oven to full power and 250 deg celcius. This time I used the grill mode for baking as it has the highest power setting. On the top rack bake the Khubz for 10-15 mins till slightly golden spots appear on it. They will puff up into nice pillows of warmth. 

On cooling they might fall flat but will still have pockets.

Serve with the dips like I made here or make Pita pockets with falafels and choice veggies.
 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hummus bi Tahina


The picture of the Middle east flashing on TV is always one of meat being cooked everywhere. It gives the impression they are complete carnivores, even though they eat a lot of vegetables and chickpeas! But here I am presenting a complete veg meal from the Arab cuisine, three dips that a Indian vegetarian can enjoy. Hummus bi tahina or chickpeas with sesame seed paste is the first I show you here.

Hummus is healthy as it has protien and is low in calorie, no wonder we can include it in our foods without worrying about the carb dose. It is rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. Ok so before you start swallowing capsules of hummus in the near future take some time out to make this really easy peasy dip which if you have preped in advance is ready in a jiffy.

Ingredients 
1 cup chickpeas /Kabuli chana, soaked overnight and cooked soft
juice of 2 lemons
1/8 cup Tahina
6-7 garlic cloves
salt

For the garnish
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika/ Kashmiri chili powder
few sprigs of parsley or cilantro, finely chopped

Grind the chickpeas in a blender (or food processor) with the lemon juice, tahina, garlic, salt and enough of stock from boiling the chickpeas. It should be a soft creamy consistency easily scoopable on a morsel of pita bread.

Yes and next coming up is a post on how to make Pita bread, you will come back to read how I made them won't you?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Arab Meze: Khubuz, Hummus, Labni and Mint Pesto

L to R: Big bowl of Hummus, Sliced Totapuri Mango, Labni, Mint Pesto and Khubuz

The Middle Eastern culture has a wonderful social leveler in its eating habits. It is probably that brotherhood that has made Islam so popular in that world. In theory it is the culture of eating from a common platter that unites men from different walks of life. This is reflected in the way food is served in the Middle Eastern countries of Turkey, Cyprus, Balkans, Greece etc and most countries under the Osmani Empire. It is common to serve bowls of varieties of relishes, starters, breads and fruits mostly melons, in a single meal. It could be a breakfast, lunch or dinner. This layout of a variety of foods in small bowls and platters is called a Meze. Turkish in origin but included in English now. I am thinking the Hindi word "Maza" which means "to relish" would have been derived from it. Even if it were not. Meze is maza, it is fun to relish different dips in a single meal. It appeals a lot to Indians for we have our own Thali.  Will write on the traditions of a thali and the cultures associated with it in a separate post.

Coming back to Meze, specifically this Arab Meze. I made it mid week when time was lacking. It is very easy to put together with advance prep. I realized this was a balanced meal and so healthy where you can control the amount of oil going into the food and it still tastes awesome. It even includes a fruit that is supposed to be eaten as a dessert but I would recommend beginning the meal with it.

Like you see in the picture I made a big bowl of Hummus, Labni, Mint Pesto, Khubuz and sliced some Totapuri Mango though a Musk melon would have been more authentic when I did have the option. Following this post you will find a series of each of these recipes labelled as Arab Meze.

Will leave you on it, Enjoy the Arab Meze... maza lo Arab Meze ka...

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Pista Cake Bake Together


You have looked at the picture and wondered finally did She learn to decorate?

Last weekend we had a virtual bake together. Anshie of  Spiceroots had got us drooling with a beautiful shelled pista studded cake, so we coaxed her into sharing the recipe and then followed this bake together. I was watching all the frantic activity thru the day, as the status updates said, pistas shelled and slivered, cake baking and home filled with aroma, discussions on what creative liberties one can take with the recipe and the dressings et al. One awesome picture was posted first thing in the morning by M, who is a beyond awesome baker and decorator to cheer us on.

I love to bake but you know me I am not too much into decorating or rich cakes, except the last time when I attempted the Moist Chocolate Cake. This time however it is the magic of a lil world of foodies that pushed me into it. In between anecdotes Anshie mentioned about her daughter teasing her why she had tied a diaper around a cake tin? I scampered into my kitchen immediately! Keep reading to know what spurred me on...

The original recipe for Sicilian Pistachio Cake With Golden Neoclassic Buttercream is the point of reference however due to my family's vegetarian choices I decided to adapt it but decorate it just like you see it there, all with the blanched, slivered pistachios that make the cake look so gorgeous.

Here are my adaptations of that classic cake:

Serves: I halved the measures as it is a rich cake to get 6 decent servings

Cake: eggless, used flax seed powder. Sour cream replaced with thick curd/ yogurt. No soda increased baking powder. 

Cream: eggless, honey in place of golden syrup, lime zest big pinch instead of pista essence. 

Verdict: Rich creamy all the way a pista celebration. 

Next time: I would make a light pista butter for the frosting.

So putting down the recipe here to look back and use it when I want, for it was a success truly.

Ingredients

For the cake:
1 tablespoon of flax seed powder (soaked in 3 tablespoons of warm water and rested for 10 mins)
1/3 cup, thick yogurt
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup lightly toasted pista
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cups leveled,white flour/ maida
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee or butter

In a mixing bowl, measure out yogurt, vanilla extract, butter and beat together till light and fluffy.

Grind pista to a coarse meal. Mix together the pista meal, flour, powder sugar, baking powder and salt to make it airy.

Fold the dry ingredients into the the wet beaten ingredients. Meanwhile keep a greased and flour dusted 5 inch tin ready. Pour the batter into the tin. Level out the batter by tapping it on the counter.

What I unlearnt is, the usual pulling the batter to the edges to level out the batter after it bakes.

No more cutting out the dome to flaten the top of the cake and no more wastage.

Now get ready for a new learning! The original recipe mentions use of cake strips. You can buy those if you are in the US but in India, we are very resourceful. We wet a kitchen napkin. Tie it around the cake tin. This will ensure an even rise. This is the take way for me from the bake together. Doesn't it look just like a diaper on the cake tin?


I baked the cake in a preheated oven at 180 deg Celsius in the convection mode for 45 mins. Till a knife pricked in came out clean. This mode turned out best for the cake. It retained its green color which is so important for this cake. Let the cake cool completely for 1.5 hr. Put it in the fridge for 1/2 hr.

You get a perfectly flat top cake best for decoration. That is what you do next. So get the cream ready now.

For the cream and decoration
1/8 cup icing sugar
1/8 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 big pinch lime zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 drops pistachio essence (I skipped it)
1/4 cup blanched pista nuts, slivered

Put butter, vanilla, lime juice in the bowl and whisk. Mix in the honey and the icing sugar whisk till light. You get a beautiful creamy dressing.

Now spread the creamy dressing over the cake and carefully decorate with the pista slivers. There you have the wonderfully studded cake. Drool.

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