Friday, January 30, 2009

Savoury Dough-Nut....naah..call me 'Medhu Vada' !

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.--Madam Benoit







Ok let us travel back in time, when a little girl saw the vada for the first time and thought it to be the 'chakra' of Lord Vishnu and kept rotating it on her index finger.

For those who do not know about Indian Mythology, fret not I will elucidiate.
Now as per the Hindu mythology goes, there are three main Gods--
Lord Brahma- The Creator,
Lord Vishnu- The Preserver, and
Lord Shiva- The Destroyer.

Each God has his own symbolic refrence, like Brahma is associated with the lotus flower, Shiva with snakes entwined around his neck and Vishnu who carried his ever-rotating "sudarshana chakra" on the index finger of his right hand. This chakra is used to demolish demons and their empire, who wrong the humans living on Earth.

If I have to describe it...its like a thorny elleptical ring with a hollow in the centre; and which rotates on the index finger of Lord Vishnu. Imagine rotating a key chain with your index finger.

Ok fast forward to present times. The little girl is me, and till today every time I see a 'medhu vada' I have to beat this urge to pick it up and rotate it with my finger.

Then when my tete-a-tete with the famous(or infamous) American doughnut happened. I was immediately reminded of the medhu vada.

My husband is a big fan of all south-indian delicacies; but sadly this does not top the list of my favourite cuisines. At max I can have an utthapam that too with ketchup and only sambhar, no coconut chutney for me please.

I know all south-indian foodies out there would be cursing me as eating utthapam with ketchup is a crime. Please forgive me! I am all about spicy food with no trace of coconut in my savoury dishes...I love sweets made with coconut though.
(However that does not mean that you will not find dishes from this cuisine at my blog, I love my hub and will make it because he likes it and yes, I eat it too. I don't dislike it...just not a big fan.)


The region of southern India itself has a number of cuisines.Chettinand is one of the numerous style of cooking that southern India has.

Chettinad cuisine hails from the deep southern region of Tamil Nadu, India—it is one of the spiciest, oiliest and most aromatic in India.

Although the Chettiars are well known for their delicious vegetarian preparations, their repertoire of food items is famous and includes all manner of fish and fowl and meats, as well as delicate noodle-like dishes and carefully preserved sun-dried legumes and berries that the Chettiar ladies make into curries. Oil and spices are liberally used in cooking and most dishes have generous amounts of peppercorn, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, nutmeg, green and red chilies, etc



I made this Medhu Vada, with a little variation, as I added bengal gram to the otherwise black gram lentil (skinless) recipe alongwith rice flour for added crispness.




Chana Dal Medhu Vada
(Savoury fried lentil doughnuts)

Ingredients-
1 cup bengal gram dal/chana dal,soaked overnight
1 tbsp black gram lentil (skinless)/urad dal,soaked overnight
2 tbsp rice flour
4-5 tbsp coriander/cilantro,finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1 tsp carom seeds/ajwain
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp tamarind paste/imli
1/2 tsp root ginger powder/sonth
a pinch of baking soda
salt to taste

oil to deep/shallow fry


Method-

First, in a heavy duty blender, grind the soaked bengal gram and black gram lentil.

In a bowl, add this ground paste with the rest of the ingredients (except oil); to make a thick paste...almost like that of a cake batter.

Wet your hands. Take one tablespoon of this batter and place it on the (wet)palm of your other hand. Make a hollow in the center of this spoonful of batter, to make it look like a ring(doughnut). Drop it in hot oil and fry on medium heat.

Note:The oil should be hot, but not smoking.

I shallow fried mine,to make it healthier without compromising on taste.





This goes out to RCI: Chettinadu Vegetarian Cuisine event being held at Few MinuteWonders; the original concept of Lakshmik(of Veggie Cuisine).

I also send this over to My Legume Love Affair hosted by Srivalli, the brainchild of Susan.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Microwave 'Sattu' Tarts... & ATOM


Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne





I am a staunch believer of the above adage. So when I got into cooking for my love, after wedlock; I made sure that I didn't restrict myself to only Indian cooking , which incidentally is one of the largest and widely varied cuisine type, afterall 'she' is the oldest and the biggest republic known to the world !

I am always on the look out for new dishes/recipes... constantly stretching my boundaries....challenging myself...and the kitchen provides me with limitless oppurtunities. My haven, and as some dear readers rightly observed that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen..isn't it inevitable with all the infinite possibilities that entyce me.





I want to share here what chiselled my adventurous soul.

My father is a man well-travelled...knowledgeable about people and their ways. I remember the first time I went to a gourmet restuarant (that is the first time I can remember/was aware); my dad handed me the menu and told me to place my own order; while my mum vehemently told my dad otherwise, that he should not let a five year old kid decide what she wanted to eat. In any case I placed my order and ate it all (more so beacuse I wanted to show that I am a grown-up well-mannered girl finishing her plate..;p).

I have always strived to be like my dad, ..perfect...to be an all rounder...be able to strike up a conversation with anyone...on any topic...to be giving and kind....to laugh and be brave. Come to think of it I have been influenced more by the men in life ...can't ignore that I have grown amongst boys, my cousins(mostly brothers), uncles, grand pas'....though my dad being the vital influence.

He is a worldly wise man and unconciously has influenced me in slightly more ways than my mom. My whole character has been shaped on his ideals. I was never the cliched daddy's princess , infact I was constantly questioning with him...arguing...debating...(yes! I wasn't an easy child). He had taught me to think for myself...decide, and then stick by my decisions...hence all the questions and I wouldn't rest till I had the answers convince me. (chuckle)

My mum still says that I was a dare devil born within a body of a girl..a rebel of sorts, all her life she has kept telling me "behave like a girl"..."be a little fearing/coy"...lol..., however she is my grounding-factor.

So taking on my dad, I also have a streak for explorations.....even in the field of cooking/eating. I am blessed that my darling hub shares my passion. We both love having fun...taking pot shots at each other....living on the edge...adventurous...yeah.. we were meant to be..lol. (Touch wood!)



I have dabbled in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Italian, French, Greek, African, European cuisines and everything in between! Well that obviously doesn't mean I have made every dish of every cuisine...but hey I have walked the Earth only for twenty-five years yet. :)

We will keep to French cuisine today as this post was inspired by ATOM (A Taste Of Mediterranean)'s current region- France. The event is brainchild of Tony. You can read more about it at Fanny's blog too.

Tony and his Mediterranean blogger friends are on a globe-trotting spree. Every month they will travel to a different region of the Mediterranean by recreating traditional dishes using their own individual styles...ofcourse having fun along the way. They have some gorgeous stamps of each region...which is a collector's item...and I intend to collect all the stamps.


"The French... have surrounded food with so much commentary, learning and connoisseurship as to clothe it in the vestments of civilization itself... Cooking is viewed as a major art form: innovations are celebrated and talked about as though they were phrases in the development of a style of painting or poetry... A meal at a truly great restaurant is a sort of theatre you can eat."
--Richard Bernstein, The Fragile Glory

Indisputably, one of modern France's greatest treasures is its rich cuisine. The French have an ongoing love affair with food, and their reverence for time spent eating is evident in any culinary establishment nationwide. It is also manifested in the traditional family gatherings around the home dinner table, particularly the Sunday mid-day feast which is prepared lovingly over many hours and consumed leisurely through a bevy of appetizers and main courses, usually accompanied by a number of wines and often lively discussion which tends to center on political topics.






It is interesting to note-

What is perhaps less widely recognized is that France's reputation for fine food is not so much based on long-held traditions but on constant change.

In fact, the general expectation of good eating is a relatively new experience for the French. At the time the Bastille was stormed in 1789, at least 80% of the French population were subsistence farmers, with bread and cereals as the basis of their diet, essentially unchanged since the time of the ancient Gauls nearly two millenia before.
The era of the French Revolution, however, saw a move toward fewer spices and more liberal usage of herbs and refined techniques, beginning with François Pierre La Varenne and further developing with Napoleon Bonaparte and other dignitaries, Marie-Antoine Carême.







When it comes to French cuisine, I am yet to try home-made puff pastry....yes I know store -bought do well too...but its my deepest desire to learn the process. Secondly I want to make tarts more often. I do not have any ramekins here, nor muffin trays...yet I made my first tart here in Hong Kong and that too in a basic microwave(not the convection one)....I just couldn't beat the urge to break from tradition. (I can't change me...lol.) Tarts...err..life made easy and quick. ;p

I made my tart savoury, for if you have been regularly reading my blog you would know that sweets rule here...its no wonder I am a dessert-first type of a person. So to balance the yin-yang of this blog I had to make my tarts savoury. :)


This is a twist from the classical pâte brisée, in that that I have used 'sattu' in addition to the regular pastry/all purpose flour and added minced chives to the pastry dough.






'Sattu' is a coarse flour made from various dry roasted grains like roasted barley and dry roasted Bengal gram or 'kala chana' which are actually black chickpeas, not the commonly seen, beige coloured chickpeas most people are familiar with in the West. It has a distinct nutty flavour and is high in proteins, fibre and betaglucan.


It is difficult to assign it an English name that makes sense, so I will just call it sattu.





The fact that the tart turned out right on my first attempt has already raised my spirits by quite a number of notches. I’m not sure what your experience with making tart dough has been like, but mine involved apprehension and nervous excitement. I stopped short of consulting the stars before I embarked on this microwave tart-related endeavour. So, after working my way through a significant number of recipes, I finally arrived at what I call the perfect MW tart dough. The one I made isn’t a classic pâte brisée, but I do adore the richness of this thin crust. It is crisp and flavourful and ofcourse highly nutritous.








Microwave 'Sattu' Tarts


Ingredients-


For Tart Shell (makes four tarts)--
1 egg,cold
1/2 cup butter, chilled
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup 'sattu'
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp chopped chives
cold water (for sprinkling)



For Filling--
1 1/2 cup baked beans (either store bought or home-made**)
1/2 cup mozarella, chilled and cubed
2-3 cherry tomatoes, sliced--for garnishing
1 tsp garlic
2 shallots, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp butter





Method-


Tart Shell
In the bowl combine flour, sattu, chives and salt. Add in chunks of butter and pulse (in a food processor) or cut through with wooden spoon/butter knife carefully until the mixture resembles very coarse sand.

Note: Do not use too much of your hands, for too long as the heat from the hand will soften the butter fast.


Next,make a well in the center of the flour/meal and crack open an egg in it. Now incorporate the flour slowly to form a soft pliable dough, but not too wet/sticky nor too stiff.
(Use chilled water, if at all required to form the tart dough.)


Wrap the dough tightly in cling foil and refrigerate for 1.5-2 hours.
Roll out the chilled dough to about 0.5 cm in thickness. Using a glass rim cut circles of approximately 8 cm in diameter (pic above) / into a circle large enough to fit your tart pan.


I used the base of my ceramic mugs after inverting them, to make these tarts as I did not have a tart pan.


Press the dough to the base of the inverted mug, without stretching it and pinch any excess off along the edge.
Prick the the dough with a fork several times and bake in the microwave for 5 minutes on medium high.
(In case of using a tart pan, 'bake blind'.)


Cool completely before filling.




Filling
In a saucepan, heat the butter. Add the shallots and garlic. Stir.
Add the baked beans. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and simmer for a minute. Cool.

Add the filling to the individual tarts. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and top with the cheese.
Bake in MW for 30 seconds on high.


Serve.
I served mine with a dash of coriander viniagrette.







We had these tarts in breakfast and for lunch. Filling and oh so good...I just can't get enough! :D

I also send this over to My Legume Love Affair hosted by Srivalli, the brainchild of Susan.


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**Home made baked beans are easy to make. Here is one way I make them.

Step 1-Soak 1 cup of red beans/rajma overnight.

Step 2-The next day, place beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover the beans. Add a pinch of bi-carb/baking soda + 1 tsp of salt and place on medium high heat to boil.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil turn off the heat and remove the beans from the stove. Allow to sit for one hour. This is called a “quick soak” and will soften up your beans and allow them to cook faster.

Step 3-After letting the beans soak for one hour place them on the stove once again and bring water to a boil again. Once the water boils turn the heat down so that the water is still boiling but won’t boil over the top. Boil the beans this way for 1½ hours or until they “pop” (skin breaks open).

Step 4-Once the beans are cooked/done. Remove from heat and drain the water. Place the beans in a crock-pot. Add 2 cups of ketchup with 1 tsp of dried oregano flakes and 1 tbsp of butter. Cook covered, on low heat for half an hour or so.

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Update: On Vibaas prompt I also send the first picture over to Bee's Jan Click Event @ Jugalbandi.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cheesy Beans on Baguette......& Gong Hei Fat Choy/ Jai Hind !

“Red beans and ricely yours."
Louis Armstrong loved red beans and rice so much he signed his personal letters thus.







Who says cooks don't need breaks....well certainly I do. Its Chinese New Year (Gong Hei Fat Choy) and the biggest holiday time here. Made some delectable stuff about which I will post later(please be patient!)

Its the 2009 Lunar New Year Cup soccer tournament and hub is having friends over so will have to make some (read 'a lot') snacks and drinks for everyone. And I am making my popular (by demand) Cheesy baked beans on Baguette with some Masala Cola.

Baked beans are a classic example of a "loss leader", a product sold by supermarkets for an abnormally low price, often less than cost. If you are in the US, you might ask where can I get Baked Beans. There are a number of places I know in the Seattle area, Cost Plus (various locations), English Pantry (Redmond), you can also ask the guys at the Kangaroo and Kiwi Pub in North Seattle.
Baked beans are to be found everywhere and its a great way to sneak in proteins in vegetarian diets and kids who are picky eaters.

This is one appetizer I serve when I have surprise guests or large crowds to please. I have been making these for as long as I can remember. They were a hit when I made these for my friends when they were over at my place for "group-studying"...supposedly.

Its simple and is put together in just two minutes...no I am not exaggerating. My version is tasty, simple and extremely quick.


Cheesy Beans on Baguette
Ingredients-
1 baguette (or any other crusty bread)
1 can baked beans (Heinz or any brand)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
handful of black olives, sliced in halves
1 cup grated cheddar cheese


Method-
In a microwave safe bowl, pour the canned baked beans. Add salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, olive oil and mix well. Microwave for 40 seconds on high.

Meanwhile, slice up the baguette and toast the slices, in the middle rack of your oven for 30 seconds.

Place the baguette slices on the serving plate. Spoon out a tablespoon of the beans on it. Top with grated cheddar and olive slices. Heat for another 20 seconds or so.

Voila! Its done.


I send this over to the SuperBowl night at Cathy's place.

And to all fellow Indians out there--- A very happy and cherished Republic Day! Jai Hind!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tipsy...err....Persimmon Trifle with Walnut Croquants

“A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.”






I am a nuts-about-fruit girl ...anything with fruit in it can lure me easily. I am game for all kinds of fruits...the rarer and more exotic it is...the more I crave it...lol. And if the fruit is in a dessert form...nothing beats it! As you know from these-fruit custard, choco-strawberries in a jiffy, going bananas over banana, jamming with strawberry.... my surrender to desserts with fruits is a common instance. I even start my day, sweet....so lets continue the sweet-celebration.


The latest two fruits added to the long list of 'fruits I have eaten' are-dragon fruit and persimmon. And as you guys must have guessed I did make desserts out of both. :)


However we will stick to 'persimmons' today. Persimmons are a mysterious, surprising fruit, unknown to many, eaten by few.

When I first saw a persimmon at the fruit stall here, I thought they were tomatoes...just not very ripe ones. I kept wondering why they were selling it with the other fruits and not vegetables, till one day I couldn't stand it any longer and in broken cantonese-cum-english-cum-sign language I managed to understand that they are fruits and not vegetables. Came back home hurriedly and googled for pictures/information on this queer fruit. After much research, I bought the fruit. Let it ripen for two days before I sliced it open...and the fruit was luscious and sweet ...it tastes like a mix between Rhubarb and Toddy Palm fruit/Palmyra (which is also referrred to as Taad or Taad-Gola in India). The fuyu, non-astringent variety of this fruit has got a heady...almost sweet alcoholic taste.

Native to China thousands of years ago and then introduced in Japan, the persimmon has become Japan’s national fruit and one of the traditional foods of the Japanese New Year.

Persimmons are well worth trying not only for their exceptional flavour but also for their beta carotene; they also have some vitamin C and potassium. There are two types of persimmons: astringent and non-astringent. As novice persimmon eaters often belatedly discover, the astringent persimmon has two personalities. When ripe, it possesses a rich, sweet, spicy flavour. The unripened fruit, however, tastes so bitter that biting into it causes the mouth to pucker.

The astringency is due to the presence of tannins, a group of chemicals that occur in tea, red wine, and in a few other fruits, such as peaches and dates, before they ripen, though the quantity in a persimmon is much greater. As the fruit ripens and softens, the tannins become inert and the astringency disappears.

It tasted great as a fruit and immediately I thought of pairing it with chocolate and chantilly...with may be a dash of rum.


Caution: Never eat this fruit on an empty stomach and the fruit should be extremely ripe before it can be eaten.

You can read more about this fruit here and here.







Chocolate Persimmon Trifle
(with Walnut Croquants & Creme Chantilly)

Ingredients-
(for two cups of trifle)
1 persimmon fruit, pulp/cubed
1 recipe of your favourite chocolate cake, 1/2 pound (you can keep half the cake in the fridge for later use)
1/2 cup chantilly-(1/2 cup whipping/heavy cream mixed with 4 tbsp of sugar + 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract)
4 tbsp of melted dark chocolate
2 tbsp of light rum with 1 tbsp sugar dissolved

For walnut croquants-
a handful of crushed walnuts
5 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp water



Method-
First warm the cake for half a minute. Use half the cake. Then pour the sugar-rum syrup over it. Break/crush the cake with your fingers. Set aside.

Make the creme' chantilly using the heavy cream, sugar & vanilla extract.

To make the walnut croquants--
Mix the sugar and the water over a medium flame till its sticky but not too viscous. On a foil lined cookie sheet, spread the walnuts and pour the sugar syrup on top. Bake in the oven for a minute or less. Allow to cool to harden a little.

For the assembly--
In a glass, first layer with the cake, then the melted chocolate, followed by persimmon fruit and the walnut croquants. Top this with chantilly.
Repeat these layers once more. Serve chilled with a chocolate cake slice,if desired.




Now for my signature interesting facts-

Persimmon, known to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the gods" is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees of the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae). They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses. While the persimmon fruit is not considered a "common berry" it is in fact a "true berry" by definition.

The sexuality of persimmons is particularly baffling. Some trees are male, some are female, some have flowers of both sexes, some change their gender in midlife, no doubt for personal reasons. Some are self-fertile, some need a pollinating tree. Some have no seeds. The most important distinction for the cook is that some taste horrid all the way up until the moment they ripen, at which point they become so soft inside they are like little jellied balloons. Others -- the so-called "non-astringent" types -- sweeten while still firm.

Folklore..
It is said that you can predict the winter by taking the seeds out of some persimmons and then slicing the seeds. The shape that shows up the most inside each seed will tell you what kind of winter to expect. The three shapes resemble three eating utensils.
A Knife shape means there will be a cold icy winter (as in the wind will slice through you like a knife).A Spoon shape means there will be plenty of snow for you to shovel.A Fork shape means there will be a mild winter

Culinarily, persimmons have fared less well. Many people remember their first taste as a form of persecution: an unripe sample offered by a teasing grandfather, a wicked older sister or the neighborhood bully. Had they persevered and tried one ripe, they might have grown up prizing them as much as the native tribes prized their Diospyros virginiana or the Japanese their Diospyros kaki.


If ever you get a chance try this fruit...its worth it! I am in love with this exotic fruit and you will see more concoctions here...soon.

I send this over to The Alchemist Chef's Valentines' Day Recipe Competition.

I share this with Trupti for her AFAM: Persimmon event, brainchild of Maheshwari.

Also in the second picture (from top), I made an A3 size, paper table mat for kids with mickey mouse cut-outs from a magazine. Its easy to make and can be disposed off. The kids enjoy it. I share this crafty idea with Shama for her 2009 Kids friendly crafts.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chicken Gazpacho

“Cold soup is a very tricky thing and it is the rare hostess who can carry it off. More often than not the dinner guest is left with the impression that had he only come a little earlier he could have gotten it while it was still hot.” -Fran Lebowitz, journalist



I got acquainted with this refreshing soup for the first time when I was working with HSBC. A Latin American colleague of mine introduced me to this soup. Now at my mum's place, a soup means it has to be piping hot...or its not a soup, so I never really tried making this.

However my hub has trotted the globe quite a bit and I guess is worldly-wise (grin) and is far more adventourous than I am ...even in terms of the food he eats.(chuckle!)
I have made several versions of this gazpacho, as I don't like repeating my dishes ...unless absolutely necessary...lol.
So without much a do I made this soup today morning for breakfast...(trying to keep it slim and healthy....as long as I can) !



This classic chilled tomato soup is chock full of garden-fresh vegetables, cholesterol free, and made with very little added oil. My twist to this classic is only in adding shredded poached chicken to the otherwise garden-full bowl !


Chicken Gazpacho
Ingredients-
1/4 cup diced red-peppers
1/4 cup diced yellow pepper
1/4 cup diced carrots,slightly blanched
1/4 cup or less chopped green beans,blanched
2-3 small green chillies (adjust according to taste)
2 tbsp vinegar
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
1 stalk of spring onion, chopped
2-3 basil leaves,minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 cup cooked fusilli (optional)
a dash of olive oil
4-5 cups of vegetable broth/chicken broth
1 large ripe tomato,boiled and pureed
1/4 cup tomato juice
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup shredded poached chicken (optional)


Method-

In a saucepan boil 2 cups of water and add the diced carrots and green beans, for a minute. Immediately drain them and place under cold tap water.


In a blender add the garlic, chillies,tomato puree, tomato juice,vinegar, celery, half of the red & green peppers ,half of the carrots and puree them together with the broth. ( I like my gazpacho not so thick/creamy so I added more broth.)

In a heated deep bottomed pan, add the olive oil with the chopped spring onions, basil leaves, cumin powder, remaining red & yellow peppers, blanched green beans and remaining carrots. Stir.

Finally add the puree with the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Add the shredded chicken and fusilli. Remove from heat and let cool/chill.

Serve warm/chilled (traditionally its served chilled) with croutons or cheese bruschetta.





During its long, arid summers, Andalucía cools itself down with chilled gazpacho, a hearty and pungent soup that has gained fame throughout the world for its amazing thirst-quenching quality.

Often described as a liquid salad, gazpacho descends from ancient Roman concoction based on a combination of stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar. As Romans labored to build roads and aqueducts across Spain in the scorching heat, this soup replenished them with the necessary salt and vitamins lost through physical exertion.

Later, shepherds and farmers added vegetables to make it more hearty and satisfying. Because tomatoes and bell peppers were not indigenous to Spain, these ingredients were not added to the soup until after Spain's discovery of the New World. Since that time, gazpacho has remained relatively unchanged - an unpretentious soup designed to quench the thirst evoked by the unrelenting Spanish sun.








Note: This soup can be made vegetarian/vegan by skipping the chicken and/or adding tofu/cottage cheese cubes instead.



I share this with HotM(Heart of the Matter) which is dedicated to healthy cooking and eating.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Creole Baby-Mac Salad with Coriander Viniagrette

"A man too busy to take care of his health, is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools."
--Spanish Proverb




My apologies to all my readers, for having been away from blogosphere for the past couple of days. I started my blog on October 15th 2008. Its been a joy ride since then, untill a couple of days back when I came across an unwanted element here on blogosphere (my first bad experience). The person in question has been notoriously involved in chatting up young women bloggers and bothering them (which I later found out from fellow bloggers). I was taken aback when the person dared to leave a comment on one of my posts saying that he has saved my profile picture to his screensaver....talk about pliagrism!

For once I actually thought I should delete my picture.I was upset and very disturbed. But then my hub...my rock...cajoled me into being brave and reinstated the point that this is a public forum, so I should take this incident with a pinch of salt. A few blogging friends too advised the same.



All my readers, my blogger friends, my visitors,...you guys are my support system! I owe it to you and so I had to share this with you all.
I was not going to sit back and let things happen. I want to forewarn my friends here. Be cautious and lets stay united!








We had gone for morning walks lately, as the weather is not all that chilly now. So keeping in with the healthy streak I made some quick macaroni salad.



Creole Baby-Mac Salad with Coriander Viniagrette

Ingredients-
Coriander Viniagrette- (can be made ahead and kept in jars,in the fridge)
1 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup coriander leaves
2 tbsp champagne vinegar/plain white vinegar
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp finely minced garlic
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste




For the salad-
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
3 salad shallots/onions, minced
1/4 cup green peas
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 tsp capers
1/2 tbsp minced green/red chillies(adjust according to taste)
3 cups baby elbow-macaroni,cooked
a dash of olive oil



Method-

Coriander Viniagrette-
Roast the coriander seeds slightly in a pan,over medium flame.
Put all the ingredients, except the oil and the coriander, in a blender. Process until smooth.
With the blender running, slowly pour in the oil until it’s well blended.
Chop the remaining coriander very fine and stir into the dressing.
The coriander taste is very strong, start with 2 tblsp and only increase the quantity if you want a stronger-tasting result in your salad.


Note:This vinaigrette is an excellent marinade for ribs or fish. If you like a stronger lime flavour add 1 tsp lime zest to the blender as well.




Now, for the salad--
In a bowl,mix all the ingredients (for salad) and toss with 2 tbsp of the coriander viniagrette.
Check seasoning and serve with some refreshing lemonade.



See the lbs vanishing!! :D








Louisiana Creole cuisine is a style of cooking originating in Louisiana (centered on the Greater New Orleans area) which is a melting pot cuisine that blends French, Spanish, Caribbean, Mediterranean, American, and African influences. It also bears hallmarks of Italian and German cuisine. There are some contributions from Native Americans as well.



South Louisiana has two unique cuisines: the Creole cuisine with its rich array of courses indicating its close tie to European aristocracy, and Cajun cuisine with its one potmeals, pungent with the flavor of seafood and game.



Most people eat to live, Creoles and Cajuns live to eat! Their very existence is food, more food and still more food! They are not greedy and certainly not selfish. They will gladly share a meal with you, offering the choicest morsels for your pleasure. They have adopted the Spanish "my house is your house" philosophy and are happy to make sure your stomach is full.



What is the difference between Creole and Cajun cooking? Most Louisianians claim the answer is simple. Many of the early Creoles were rich planters and their kitchens aspired to the grande cuisines. Their recipes came from France or Spain as did their chefs. By using classic French techniques with local foodstuffs, they created a whole new cuisine, Creole cooking. The Cajuns, on the other hand, were refugees who relied on their Acadian cuisine tradition and made the best of what south Louisiana offered merely to survive!



The Creoles were the European born aristocrats, wooed by the Spanish to establish New Orleans in the 1690's. Second born sons, who could not own land or titles in their native countries, were offered the opportunity to live and prosper in their family traditions here in the New World. They brought with them not only their wealth and education, but their chefs and cooks. With these chefs came the knowledge of the grand cuisines of Europe. The influences of classical and regional French, Spanish, German and Italian cooking are readily apparent in Creole cuisine. The terminologies, precepts, sauces, and major dishes carried over, some with more evolution than others, and provided a solid base or foundation for Creole cooking.



Creole cuisine, then, is that melange of artistry and talent of cooking, developed and made possible by the people of various nations and cultures who settled in and around New Orleans, and is kept alive by Louisiana sharing it with the rest of the world.






I take this over to the Housewarming party hosted here.

And to none other than Presto Pasta Nights, held by Ruth (of Once Upon a Feast) and co hosted by Erin (of The Skinny Gourmet).

To health and happiness!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vegan Banana Chocolate Bread..a slice of goodness!

The banana plant is not a tree. It is actually the world's largest herb!



As my regular readers would know, that I like to dig up dirt..err...history about the food I eat. Although I may not be a food historian(as so many of you have asked me), but you can trust the information you have here to be true and reliable. Afterall, I wouldn't tell you things I did not believe in. However (as a disclaimer), still the content here are only my humble views/finds and your discretion is advised. ( ahem! I sound so formal..)

The food we eat always has some story attatched to it...and I like exploring them. It can be a simple burger, the humble dal, a rustic gatte ki sabzi , the medicinal use of spinach dumplings, or the new experience of the khasta kachori,the sweet story behind the torte,the tradition of the challah, the love story in the gateau, or the history of the speculas, or even the twist in the krusczyki ...and lots more that you get to read here at Zaayeka.

I love to share ...so alongwith the delicious recipes I share the 'his'-'story' of the food too. You sure want to know all about the stuff that goes on your plate...and eventually in your stomach. The story intrigues...it excites..it informs, and at times I have used the stories alone to feed kids....they eat it all up ....just listening to all the interesting anecdotes about the food.



Coming to today's recipe I made this delicious and healthy Vegan Banana Chocolate Bread. This is my first foray into vegan cooking. Its rich with the banana flavour and so moist it practically melts in your mouth. A must try if you are going to have guests over; as the bananas spread their fragrance...right through from the oven in your kitchen into the whole house (you don't need to spray any room freshener) and enticingly welcome your guests, making them feel at home instantly!







Vegan Banana Chocolate Bread
(The recipe is adapted from here.)

Ingredients-


1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup margarine/vegetable fat,softened
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large bananas, mashed to pulpy form
1/2 of a large banana, sliced
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder


Method-
Grease a bread loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the flours,baking soda,corn starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and make a well in the center.
In a separate bowl combine the bananas, sugar, vanilla extract and vegetable fat.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mix, all at once.
Gently but thoroughly bring all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon, then pour into the prepared loaf tin.Fold in the chocolate chips.
Layer the sliced bananas on top.
Bake in the oven for an hour or so (depending on your oven),or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the cake from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tip: Since this cake does not contain any protein from the egg, and has mashed fruit pulp, it may take longer to cook. Be patient, but keep checking!



Now for the interesting bit-

The true origin of 'bananas', world's most popular fruit, is found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious visitors, bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE.
In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, an usual fruit he saw growing on tall trees. He is even credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world.
According to Chinese historian Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese masses until the 20th .
The people in this region were rice eaters, and wheat was unknown here, so breads were not part of their culture.

Theophrastus (a Greek naturalist philosopher) around the 4th century B.C., in what is probably the first scientific book on botany, describes the banana plant. We know that the Greeks made bread with honey, spices and fruits around the time of Pliny (23-79 A.D.), and we also know that Pliny had knowledge of the banana (he also described them in 77 A.D.) So, could the Greeks have made any banana bread? A possibility, they made 'bread' and had bananas.

It was almost 350 years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: "Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades."

However, Banana bread first became a standard feature of American cookbooks with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder, in the 1930s (and appears in Pillsbury's 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook). The origin of the first banana bread recipe is unknown. The home baking revival of the 1960s and the simplicity of its recipe led to an explosion in banana bread's popularity. The cookbooks of the 1960s added to its popularity because they commonly listed multiple variations of this bread that added fruits and nuts.







Bananas & Us--


Anaemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anaemia.
Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect food for helping to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.
Brain Power: 200 students at an English school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.
Constipation: High in fibre, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.
Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin - known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.
Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heart-burn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.
Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.
Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods (such as bananas) every two hours to keep levels steady.
PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer, trypotophan.
Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking, as the high levels of Vitamin C, A1, B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalise the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water-balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack.
Strokes: According to research in "The New England Journal of Medicine"eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!
Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a "cooling" fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. In Thailand, for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.
Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralises over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.
Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that, if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

To health and goodness!

I share this recipe with Sweet and Simple Bakes' current challenge.

Grace for her Cinnamon Celebration. And this goes to Varsha who is hosting the One Page cookbooks' event for the dessert part/section.

A friendly reminder-

Rose (of All about Cakes) who is giving away a 100 piece Betty Crocker Cake Decorating Kit at her blog, to celebrate her 100 posts. Visit her to win the bundle!




Friday, January 16, 2009

Simple Cheese Bruschetta

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”-James Beard




Bruschetta is one of the simplest things in the world to make, and can be very satisfying if you have good extravirgin olive oil.
Hub loves these...and so do I...so just made them to go with some hot cocoa this evening. Because thats all the cooking I am doing for today, (smile) going out for dinner in the eve.



Simple Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients-
(quantity depends on the number of people being served and the number of helpings each)

bread, ideally freshly sliced Tuscan bread garlic extra-virgin Olive oil ripe tomatoes
cheddar cheese slices
dried oregano flakes

Method-
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the sliced bread with the olive oil.
On a lined cookie sheeat, place the bread slices and toast in the oven for about 5 mins.
Now, gently rub them with a cut clove of garlic.
After rubbing the slices with the garlic, rub them with a very ripe cut tomato as well.
Place a cheese slice on top of this bread and place in the ovenh again for a minute.
Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle some oregano on the bruschettas.
Cut the slices in half, and serve.



This goes to the Bread Mania event hosted by Sindhura (of BayLeaf).


This also goes out to Cooking For Kids- Milk event, held at Neivedyam, to Sindhi Rasoi ; and to
and to a dear friend, Harini/Sunshinemom (of ToungeTicklers) for FIC-Yellow.

-----------------



Also I want to take this oppurtunity to thank all those who have recognized and awarded my efforts. Thank you once again for all the encouragement and belief in me- Sudeshna, Andhra Flavours, Usha ,Mediterranean Turkish Cook and Sahaja (most recent).


When I was given these awards I was fairly new to the blogging world. Now after three months (and after 50 posts) I finally pass the following awards to my friends and colleagues in the blogosphere. I am honoured and happy that I 've hit half a century here, and so sharing my happiness with you only doubles it ! :)

I pass the following Butterfly Award to some really colourful blogs of note--
Nihal, Usha, Andhra Flavours, Jenn, Teresa R, Barbara C. Thomas, Curry Leaf, Ann, Culinary Wannabe, The Key Bunch, AquaDaze, AK Mom, Pigpigscorner, Lore, Reeni.


I pass the following Lemonade Award to a few refreshing blogs I know--

Proud Italian Cook, Sudeshna, Sahaja, Arundhuti, Gattina, Tartelette, Yasmeen, Sangeeth, Soma, Rosa, 5 Star Foodie, AnuDivya, Medena, Srivalli , Harini.


(Only wish I could add more to the list of awardees...there are so many blogs I adore...I have increased the number to 15 instead of 10...and yet I wanted to add more, but I guess rules have been stretched and I don't really want to break them... sigh!)

The rules for the awards shared above, are as follows-

Add the logo in your blog.
Add a link to the person who gave you the award.
Nominate 10 other blogs of your choice.
Don’t forget to add links to those blogs in yours'.
Also leave a message for your nominees in their blogs, informing them about the award.

If you already have received this award and its redundant, excuse me please. Its the thought that counts..isn't it!

Share the joy and have fun friends!



N.B. If anyone has any problem saving the pictures(award logos) as I have disabled right click on this blog,(out of fear of the stealth of pictures/material, happening in the virtual world these days); do get in touch with me and I will personally email it to you. My apologies for the inconvinience.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sesame Speculaas & Makar Sankranti

"Tilgul Ghya Aani God God Bola !"


This is a saying in Marathi dialect, which means "have tilgul (sweets made with sesame) and speak as sweetly as it's sweet taste". If ever you happen to be in Mumbai (Maharashtra, India) on the 14th of January, you will find people offering tilgul to each other while repeating the quote above.


This is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day every year i.e. the 14th of January. This is because the festival of Sankranti is based on the solar calendar unlike the rest of the Indian festivals, which are based on the lunar calendar.

Makar literally means "Capricorn" and Sankranti is the "day when the Sun changes it's position from one sign of the zodiac to the other".


It is supposed to be an auspicious day and is celebrated with lots of donations/alms and cooking 'Khichdi' (a dish made with moong daal (split mung lentils), rice, clarified butter and spices) in the Indian houses. Sesame seed sweets (tilgul) with sugar or jaggery are made, eaten and offered to all.


This occasion is considered so auspicious that people think whosoever dies during this Uttaraayan (i.e. the Sun being in the Capricorn house) period goes to heaven directly.
Bhishm Pitamaah of the epic Mahabharata waited for this period to come so that he could attain 'Nirvana' (relief from the cycle of birth and death).

This festival is celebrated in almost all of India in one way or the other. It is the harvest time for farmers.In Southern India, it is called 'Pongal', in Punjab it is called 'Lohdee', in Maharashtra it is called 'Til (sesame seeds) Sankraanti' .






Now a little something on "Speculaas"--They are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned, spiced traditional Dutch biscuit/cookie that are enjoyed on the Feast of St. Nicholas (also known as Sinterklaas). For those unfamiliar with this celebration, it takes place on December 6th to commemorate the death of St. Nicholas of Myra. St. Nicholas was a man of great generosity especially to those less fortunate and his love of children is reflected in the tradition of Dutch children putting out their clogs (shoes) on the eve of December 5th so St. Nicholas can fill them with candy and presents.



So why Sesame Speculaas during Makar Sankranti?

Well, speculaas are sweets/cookies that have once been the symbol of generosity, and since Makar Sankranti is all about being gracious and benevolent to the needy and giving alms; I thought they are connected....in some way!

Hence, you are offered this rare combination and asked to talk sweetly with all. Afterall, we don't have a bone in our tongue for a reason. God never wanted us to be harsh and rude, so he gave us a flexible boneless toungue to speak. :)










I adapted this recipe from a Cookie book I borrowed from the library here. "The Best Of Baking" (International Culinary Society, NY)





Sesame Speculaas
Ingredients-
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup less 2 tbsp brown sugar (adjust according to your taste)
3 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 cup ground blanched almonds
1 1/2 cup plain flour
4 tbsp sesame seeds, for sprinkling
a pinch of baking soda

butter for greasing
flour for dusting
milk for brushing



Method-
Cream butter and sugar together. Add the cardamom, cinnamon and mix well.
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda and ground almond meal.
First stir in the butter and sugar mixture to the flour mix, then knead vigourously.
Wrap dough in foil and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Roll out the chilled dough carefully placed between two parchment sheets, about a cm. in thickness. Using a round form/cookie cutter cut out discs of the dough.
Place the discs on a lined cookie sheet.
Brush thinly with milk and sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
Bake on the middle rack of an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees, for about 10 mins.
Immediately remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a rack.
Can be stored upto a week.







This also goes out to Cooking For Kids- Milk event, held at Neivedyam . And to

And to Priti (of IndianKhana) for her Festive Food- Makar Sankranti.



And while I was baking this I thought I would make a mention of Rose (of All about Cakes) who is giving away a 100 piece Betty Crocker Cake Decorating Kit at her blog, to celebrate her 100 posts. Good news on an auspicious day! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gatte ki Sabzi

"Atithi Devo Bhavo"


This is a quote in sanskrit . It means "A guest(atithi) is like God(Devo) visiting himself" so we should serve him/her/them with love and great care.
We,Indians quite live by this adage, even to this day. If you have a guest visiting, it means laying out the best fare...welcoming them warmly into our home with open hearts.

Honestly, when I was living with my parents,I wasn't really happy all the time we had guests (and trust me we had plenty!). We kids had to be at our best behaviour, forgo any other commitment unless absolutely necessary, and be present to welcome the guests. Feed them and see to their comfort before our own.
I didn't quite understand the emotion of the host-hostess (read 'my parents') I guess.

Now that I am married and am the lady of the house, each time we have guests I am on my toes and thinking of new dishes to serve,lighting of the house, what linen to use, et al.
If I stand back and look, I realize that I am doing what my mum did and I actually cringe at the thought that how much trouble my parents went through trying to help us be at our best, cater to our tantrums; and at the same time seeing to the smallest need of the guest and all that goes into the elaborate affairs of hosting a party...phew!


This was one of the dishes that I had prepared for the very first guests (DH's paternal uncle, aunt and their two kids) at our house. They had not eaten this dish before and loved it. Uncle had instructed aunt that she take the recipe from me. :)
I remember clearly the gratification I felt after their visit. I still feel that same surge of satisfaction and pride, each time we cater to our guests and when they leave our home, taken care of, well-fed and happy.

Maa and Papa, if you are reading this...I now understand the feeling and respect you even more.







India is a land of varied cultures...its tolerance of different religions and cultures shows in its people and their food. India spans over a large area so she has the mountains,the plains, the beaches, the coastal area, the plateau and the deserts.The landscape too affects the cuisine of each region.

Gatte ki sabzi is a dish from Rajasthan, Western India. Since this is the dry desertbelt of the country,cuisine is predominantly vegetarian and dazzling in its variety. Food is cooked with minimum use of water and people prefer to use more milk, buttermilk and clarified butter. Dried lentils, beans from indigenous plants like sangri, ker etc. are used liberally. Gram flour/chickpea flour is a major ingredient here.

Gram/chickpea flour is also known as "besan." It has a slightly nutty flavor and earthy aroma. The high-protein content makes it ideal for the large vegetarian population in India. Used widely as a thickener in curries, it also is used to make fritters called pakoras.

Gatte Ki Sabzi is a popular Rajasthani curry recipe. Gram flour is the major ingredient here. This a totally desert dish, as in Rajasthan–Desert of India. There are no vegetables used, just gram flour dumplings('gatte') that are simmered in a curd sauce/curry ('ki sabzi').








Gatte ki Sabzi
(Chickpea flour dumplings in a spicy curd sauce)


Ingredients-

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
2 tsp coriander powder
2 1/2 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
1 cup curd, lightly beaten
salt, to taste
2 tsp oil
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 cup water


Method-

In a bowl, mix chickpea/gram flour with salt, 1 tsp red chilli powder,1 tsp coriander powder,1/2 tsp turmeric and 2 tsp oil. Sprinkle a little water to make a stiff dough.
Make 5-6 thin and long strips of the dough.
Put these strips in boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.
Tip:You can tell that the 'gatta' strips have been cooked, when the dough strips rise and float on the top, of the boiling water.

Cut each of these gattas' strip into small pieces/cubes.
To the lightly beaten curd, add salt,1 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Mix well.

Heat 1 tbsp clarified butter in a kadai. Add the cumin and mustard seeds till they splutter. Add the ginger-garlic paste, and add the curd mixture. Add a cup of water.
Cook it for 5-7 minutes while stirring continuously till it comes to a boil.
Add the gatta pieces.
Simmer the flame and cook for another 5-7 minutes.Turn off the gas.
Prepare the tempering, of red chilli powder with one tsp of clarified butter/ghee that is heated.
Pour this over the curry.

Serve warm with paratha or steamed rice.


This goes out to JFI: Chickpea hosted by MS (of SometimeFoodie).

This also goes out to Cooking For Kids- Milk event, held at Neivedyam.

Also this goes to MLLA- 7th Helping, brainchild of Susan and now hosted by Srivalli;

and to a dear friend, Harini/Sunshinemom (of ToungeTicklers) for FIC-Yellow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

French Perigordine Choco-chip Walnut Pastry


"The kitchen is a country in which there are always discoveries to be made." Grimod de la Reyniere



I don't know how many of you out there want to cook/bake something when you are feeling bored or upset. Well I do. Only last Friday, in the afternoon I ranscaked my fridge and cupboards to see if I had something to make these delish pastries the recipe of which I had read in a book in the library a couple of weeks back (yes yes,I read cook-books in the library!). :D

Having found all the ingredients I put on my chefs' hat and began work. In no time I was tired yet happy,looking at the wonderful pastries I felt a certain warmth run through my veins. The experiences in the kitchen are very theraupatic.

This dessert is of french origin.

French Cuisine! France has blessed the world with a variety of gourmet goodies. French gourmet dinner cuisine is a touch of luxury and always leaves you satisfied. Through history the French have harnessed the essential ingredients and techniques passed down generations to culminate into harmonious blends of herbs and spices in order to create the most honored traditional gourmet cuisines that are enjoyed worldwide.Their desserts as we all know are internationally acclaimed.

French desserts are known worldwide. There are times that you eat a dessert not even knowing that it originated from a French kitchen many years ago. The word dessert comes from the French word “desservir” which means “to clear the table”.

Walnuts are famous from Perigord and are grown every over the south east area of France. So its obvious that the Walnut cake is the most popular of desserts that's eaten in the region.

And since walnuts are my favourite nut, I just had to make these. Another reason to have this pastry was the good news delivered to me by HoneyB that my baby ...my blog (Zaayeka) was featured on Jenn's Finest Foodies Friday, which is no less than an honour as I have been blogging only for three months now. :)

So after a lot of searching and researching...I adapted slightly the recipe and made these lovely dense, yet moist cakes.





French Perigordine Walnut Pastry

Ingredients-
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts,finely ground ( leaving a few walnuts just coarsely chopped)
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
4 tbsp plain flour
a pinch of baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips


Method-
In a bowl, separate the egg whites and whisk till they form soft white peaks.
In a different bowl, mix the other ingredients with the egg yolks.
Add a spoonful of eggwhite to the mix, now fold the entire egg-whites into the mix.
Bake for 40 minutes in the centre of your pre-heated oven.
Cool and serve with whipped cream.


Note: I sliced the cake first in half , layered it with whipped cream. Then for simplicity of serving I cut it into pastry size squares.




A simple yet very rewarding recipe! Its for keeps. Bake it once and you will make it again and again....




I don't decorate my cakes...not because I don't want to but because I don't have too many kitchen aids..no offset spatula but a butter knife...no piping cone or pastry bag. I am sure many out there also are in dire need of a baking set. So here's some good news. Rose (of All about Cakes) is giving away a 100 piece Betty Crocker Cake Decorating Kit to celebrate her 100 posts.Now thats' good news..ain't it! :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Burger Battle !

You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars. -Charles Kuralt



Well so we love our burgers...as we all know America gave the world a dish that is quick and affordable, thus uniting the masses, and not to forget ...DELICIOUS !

Ok health fanatics will prefer to die with hunger than eat an inviting burger. But to blame the burger is totally unfair. It can be made with fewer calories and still taste great. Heres' my version of the world-famous, chicken burger.

Chicken Burger

Ingredients-
(For two burgers)
500 gm minced chicken (I buy 5 pieces of chicken thighs and mince at home)
1 egg
2 tbsp corn flour
1 cup fresh chives, minced
2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Tobasco (I prefer 'red pepper')
1 tsp ginger paste
1tsp garlic paste
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
a dash of soy sauce
salt to taste
2 cheddar cheese slices
2 sesame topped whole-wheat buns (either home made or store bought)
2 tbsp margarine (instead of butter)
Ketchup


one slice per burger of-
onions
tomatoes (optional)
lettuce (optional)

Method-

In a bowl, add together the minced chicken,lightly beaten egg,cornflour, chives, oregano, salt, pepper, tobasco, soy and ginger-garlic paste. Mix well to form a sticky dough. Add more cornflour if the mixture is too sticky.

Wash your hands and apply ever so lightly a little oil on your palms. Now divide the sticky-dough like, minced chicken mix into two equal parts. Form round patties by rolling in your palms and then slightly flattening it with your fingers.

In a hot skillet, put the margarine and place the chicken patties immediately. Cook on one side for a minute or two and then flip to cook the other side.The patties should turn a golden brown.

Now toast the slices of the buns slightly.

For assembling- place the bottom half of the bun with a cheese slice, then place the onion slice. Put the patty next. Drizzle with ketchup (add the lettuce and/or tomato slice now, if using) and cover with the bun top.

Serve with home-made fries. Bite in....





Now here is some 'food for thought', after you have fed your stomach that is. :p

Tracing history back thousands of years, we learn that even the ancient Egyptians ate ground meat, and down through the ages we also find that ground meat has been shaped into patties and eaten all over the world under many different name. You will be surprised to know that burgers existed (ofcourse not like the way we know them now) even during the 13th century!

1209-1121 - Genghis Khan (1167-1227), crowned the "emperor of all emperors," and his army of fierce Mongol horsemen, known as the "Golden Horde," conquered two thirds of the then known world. The Mongols were a fast-moving, cavalry-based army that rode small sturdy ponies. They stayed in their saddles for long period of time, sometimes days without ever dismounting. They had little opportunity to stop and build a fire for their meal. The entire village would follow behind the army on great wheeled carts they called "yurts," leading huge herds of sheep, goats, oxen, and horses. As the army needed food that could be carried on their mounts and eaten easily with one hand while they rode, ground meat was the perfect choice. They would use scrapings of lamb or mutton which were formed into flat patties. They softened the meat by placing them under the saddles of their horses while riding into battle. When it was time to eat, the meat would be eaten raw, having been tenderized by the saddle and the back of the horse.

1238 - When Genghis Khan's grandson, Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), invaded Moscow, they naturally brought their unique dietary ground meat with them. The Russians adopted it into their own cuisine with the name "Steak Tartare," (Tartars being their name for the Mongols). Over many years, Russian chefs adapted and developed this dish and refining it with chopped onions and raw eggs.