Thursday, 14 May 2015

Harissa spiced eggs on cheesy English muffins

My boss Dora is one of the best cooks I've come across. Till we moved to our professional kitchen a year back, I had the privilege of enjoying some of her cooking during lunch breaks and it was my first foray into the world of French food. Not only are her creations delicious, the fact that she used to whip them up in no time was something that amazed me. Be it a simple puff pastry pizza, or her signature vegetable lasagna- the taste was consistent all throughout, not to mention the copious amounts of mint tea we used to drink during brainstorming sessions.

I mentally wrote down her quick recipes and of course threw so many doubts her way as well. She is the one who made me experiment with aubergines for the first time, and enjoy fish in various forms (Ro secretly thanks her for my tolerance to mackerel now). Dora's Tunisian routes (which is her strong point, even when it comes to macaron flavours) made the dishes even more interesting. She introduced me to harissa, ras-el-hanout, brik pastry and so many other ingredients and dishes that were then new to me.
This recipe or rather creation is truly Dora's. When we were short of time she would whip this up in a matter of minutes and i would devour it without batting an eyelid. I have watched her do it so many times, but even now it just doesn't taste as unique as hers. I remember making it at home the first time and it was an instant hit with Ro. I have then made it at several brunch sessions and everyone s absolutely enjoyed it.

Over time i changed the procedure and ingredients a bit, but it still is hands down one of the best recipes I've learnt from Dora. I have also used the authentic home made harissa paste she gave me, which is as authentic as it can get.. Once you taste the real thing, you will not want to try any of the store bought versions.
On a different note, i think i have cracked my lighting issue. It's still a bit harsh, but i have narrowed down my light source and that is half of the issue sorted there. Now i just have to play around with diffusing and stuff to get it right. Talking about photography, this recipe goes straight to the #happyeggtastemakers challenge this month, which is to cook something using the happy eggs co and photograph it using food stylist and instagrammer Marte Marie Forsberg's top 5 tips for creating the best looking food. I hope i have done justice to the image, seriously, it tasted fab.

This harissa spiced baked eggs are so easy to make, you have to try it out. You can do so many different versions of it, and it would just not go wrong. Thank you Dora, for all those cooking lessons which you unknowingly instilled in me. I really do miss it :)

Serves 2
English muffins- 2, sliced in half to get 4
Cheddar cheese slices- 4

Spring onion greens- 2 tsp (to garnish)

Olive oil- 1 tbsp
Shallot- 1 large, finely chopped
Bell pepper- 1, finely chopped
Garlic- 1/2 tbsp, finely chopped
Harissa paste- 2 generous tsp
Tomato- 2 small, finely chopped
Double cream- 1/4 cup
Salt and pepper- to taste
Eggs- 4
Preheat oven to 175C and line a baking tray with foil paper.
Place the muffins, cut side up and top with the cheddar cheese slices
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet and saute the shallot, bell pepper and garlic till soft, around 3 minutes on medium high heat.
Make a paste with the harissa and some water and add to the pan.
Stir till it loosens and coats the vegetables.
Add the tomato slices and cook till they turn mushy, after which you pour in the double cream and mix it all together
Season with salt.
Separate the mix in a few places and break the eggs into them.
Break the yolk and stir it gently into the mix. This is purely optional, you can of course leave the yolk intact
Bake for 10 minutes, or till the eggs are cooked. 
Around 5 minutes into the baking time, put in the tray with the muffins.
Once done- the eggs cooked and the cheese on the muffins melted, take them out of the oven, wait for a few minutes for the bubbling to settle.
Slice the baked eggs into four and place on the cheesy muffins.
Garnish with spring onions and serve warm.

Notes: You can use bread slices, ciabatta, crumpets (these are the best) and any break of choice as the base
Add prawns, shredded chicken, minced meat etc to the mix before topping with the egg

With thanks to the happy egg co for the voucher

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Palak paneer (spinach and paneer)

IMG_5900 (1)
Its been a bit quiet around here hasnt it? Well, I finally decided to unpack my props after about a month of moving into the new place and when that got sorted, I had trouble with the whole lighting situation. I had to find ways and means of utilising what little light came from the one window in my living room. From a house with floor to ceiling windows, this came as a complete downer. I cribbed about it to Ro and he said a good photographer would figure out how to manipulate light whatsoever. Challenge accepted was my reply!

The fact that we have terrible weather now hasnt helped either. I mean seriously.. enough with the whole rain, wind and single digit temperatures. We had 1 week of brill weather where everyone rejoiced and thought summer arrived early, only to be fooled by this ridiculous cold spell soon after. So its back to boots and shawls for a lil more longer i suppose.

Anyways, after a few hasty trials with the camer, I finally called it quits. This was the outcome of the final few trials and although I'm not happy with it at all, i thought i should feed the blog with this rather satisfactory preparation of palak paneer. Its been ages since ive cooked with panner and its the first time ive tried palak paneer at home. I cant remember the last time i tasted palak paneer and so even though it didnt taste exceptionally good, i cherished it to no end. It was delicious with hot chapatis.

Recipe adapted from here (serves 2 to 3)
Paneer- 225 gms, cut into cubes

Baby spinach- 200 gms
Garlic- 3 small pods, roughly chopped
Ginger- 1/2 inch, peeled and roughly chopped
Green chillies- 2 small, chopped

Ghee oil- 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf- 1 small
Onion- 1/3rd cup
Garlic- 4 small pods, peeled and finely chopped
Tomato- 1 small, finely chopped
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder- 1 tsp
Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Water- 1/2 cup
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Kasoori methi- 1 tsp
Double cream- 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Soak the paneer cubes in some warm water if its hard..especially if its store bought. This would soften it pretty much. Drain before using.
Cook the spinach in a microwave, for about 3 minutes, covered. Blanching is ideal, but i was too lazy to do that.
Purée the wilted spinach with garlic, ginger and green chillies and keep aside.

In a kadai, heat the ghee and add the cumin seeds and bay leaf.
Once they splutter, add the onions and cook on medium heat till golden brown.
Throw in the garlic and saute for a minute or two. Dont brown it.
Add the tomato and cook till the oil slightly separates at which point you put in the spices- turmeric, chilli, coriander and asafoetida- and cook till the raw smell disappears.
Pour in the spinach purée, mix it all together and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes along with 1/2 cup water.
One the sauce starts simmering, add the paneer cubes and salt and continue to cook for a few more minutes. The paneer should be coated well with the palak masala.
Sprinkle the garam masala and kasoori methi and mix it all in
Finally stir in the double cream, close with a lid.
You can pour a tsp of cream on top of the palak paneer when ready to serve.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Vanilla and matcha green tea latte

Well I guess i jinxed my wow of silence too soon. I decided to be proactive and plan and schedule a post for when I'm MIA. I thought I was going to be super busy with packing and such but I kind of am done with 90 percent of it. Ro has been fab and did a lot of it and now I'm just left with my humongous prop shelf which I have to start on. One good thing that has come out of this move is the fact that I've done one big massive spring cleaning. Gave a lot of clothes, bags and shoes to charity, cleaned out the fridge--waaay too many chutnies and sauces that i don't like/ use- threw out all those expired packs of gulab kamun and jelebi mixes and it feels great. 

So i decided to put my time to good use and taste test the teapigs kit that was sent to me a couple of days back. Teapigs is a brand I'm quite familiar with. They have a fab variety of tea's which catch my attention every time i go to a nice cafe. I am quite a big fan of their fruit teas and if i do find any at a cafe then that's what i go for. Teapigs have been around for the past 8 years and they indeed produce a range of very best quality teas. Their everyday brew which i taste tested is rather string and is a good option if you want to add some milk in, but still maintain the strength. Teapigs also gives you more bang for your buck by incorporating more tea into their tea temples than most other teas (precisely 14% more than PG tips) so you get more out of you cuppa. Now who'd not want that??

Coming to matcha..I'm a matcha virgin and so was kind of looking forward to what the matcha hype was all about. I had a vague idea how it would taste and must say I wasn't wrong. I'm still making up my mind about whether I like it or not. It took me about a year to like green tea, so I'm pretty sure I'll be a convert soon. This latte on the other hand was bearable, in the sense, its got vanilla in it and that makes anything taste fab. I am more excited about the Aerolatte frother that came with the kit and i love love love it, Yup, all that froth you see is with that beautiful thing. Matcha is something I'd like to experiment with a bit more, especially in baking and see the results. I shouldn't judge it already.

Makes 2 small cups (recipe from here)
Matcha green tea powder- 1 tsp (I used teapigs matcha powder)
Hot water- 1/3 cup
Granulated sugar- 2 tsp (adjust to taste)
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp
Milk- 1/2 cup

Into two cups add 1/2 a tsp each green tea powder.
Top with 1 tbsp each hot water and mix well to dissolve the tea powder. Make sure there are no lumps, and mix it in well. You can use a frother to make this job easier.
Pour in the remaining hot water and stir to combine.
Add the sugar and vanilla extract, mix well till the sugar dissolves.
Warm up the milk to a simmering point or warm it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds, making sure you don't bring it to boiling point.
Using the frother, froth the milk. Don't over do it to the point where the milk gets too thick, or else you'll have trouble mixing it with the tea.
Slowly pour the froth over the tea and dust with some matcha powder.
Mix well before you drink.
Notes: Next time id reduce the green tea powder to 1/2 and use that between two cups. The tea is very strong and a lesser dosage would have tasted much nicer.
You can replace the vanilla with almond extract to give it a twist.
If you don't have a frother, use a French press, like i have explained in this post

With thanks to the PR agency for the teapigs kit.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Lemon Griestorte

So... we are moving! No not moving to another country, although at this point that's how i feel. Ro has been wanting to move out of central London into the suburbs for, well, bigger house, more space, not wanting to stare into the neighbours rooms, countryside a stones throw away and so on. I on the other hand have been clinging on to our conveniently located apartment and every time Ro brought up moving I'd retaliate and it would end up in a fight. And then it happened. The owners decided to sell the apartment and in 4 days it got sold. So we had no choice but to take that decision to finally move out. On one hand i want a bigger house, more space to store my junk etc etc, but on the other i really don't care about a larger place..its just more difficult to maintain and I'm so not a suburb girl, im a hard core city girl..which makes me realise after 9 years how different Ro and I are. Why did we not talk about things like this when we were courting?

So yes, we are moving to the other end of London (well, if i can still call it London), to Amersham. It is a beautiful lil place, the kind i love- quaint cafes, nice shops, no high street brands etc etc. But its on the last possible stop on the Metropolitan line, is an easy 45 minute to an hour trek into c. London and worse of all, i have to start driving. I have been so used to hopping on a bus from right in front of my apartment and now with this move i have to drive and do all the formalities that come with it. I thought i'd left behind driving and traffic back in India!
IMG_5612 (1) 
Ro and I have been arguing ever since this move has come up because unlike all other men, Ro needs to have an opinion about every thing. Even what frikking colour the table cloth should be. We have been looking at houses to buy and have given us till end of the year to settle on something. I have been pinning things for 'the' home right from when Pinterest came into existence and Ro (being all technical and practical and bloody irritating to the core) has just taken all the fun out of setting up a new home. I know, its a long way off, so i have, for the moment decided to back off and cross the bridge when i get to it. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to notice I'm upset and angry and has conveniently gone about figuring things out on his own!!!!

Anyhoo, we move end of the month and it takes 3 weeks to get a darn Internet connection, so this is going to be my last post for a while. I baked this cake to take to a friends and it was well received. It screams of summer (wishful thinking) and takes absolutely no time to bake. Its apparently a German cake and gries means semolina. I baked it twice in a weeks time and that says a lot about the cake. Its quite versatile in the sense you can change the flavours from lemon to orange to passion fruit to plain vanilla, fill with fruits of choice, and end up with a gorgeous cake. There is no rising agent or oil or butter, its purely the eggs that give it the light and airy texture. Don't deflate the eggs and more importantly, don't over cook. If you feel that the cake springs back to the touch, just take it out of the oven irrespective of the time.

Recipe adapted from here
Eggs- 3 large, separated
Caster sugar- 110 gms
Lemon juice- of half a large lemon
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Lemon zest- of one large lime
Fine semolina- 50 gms
Powdered almonds- 1 tbsp

Double cream- 150 ml
Icing sugar- 1 tbsp 
Vanilla extract- 1/4 tsp
Lemon curd- 3 tbsp
Pre-heat oven to 180C, grease and line a 9 x 2 inch jelly roll pan (or 2 6 inch cake pans) with baking paper
Place the separated egg yolk into a large bowl and whisk well with the caster sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract till they turn pale and thick. I just whisked using a wire whisk but feel free to use a hand blender or free standing mixer.
Fold in the lemon zest, semolina and powdered almonds gently and keep aside. A spatula makes this easier.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. A hand blender or a free standing mixer with whisk attachment is advised or else you'd just end up with aching arms. That said, I've done it a few times before and its not as bad as it sounds.
Using a spatula fold the egg white into the yolk mix gently, making sure you don't deflate the batter.
Transfer the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake in the centre rack of the oven for about 17 minutes for the jelly roll pan and about 20 minutes for the 6 inch cake pans. Make sure you don't over cook or it becomes tough. 
Its done when you gently press down the cake with your finger and it springs right back.
Take out of the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes after which you can turn it out on to a cooling rack, peel off the baking paper and leave to cool completely.
Use a round cutter to cut out mini cakes of your choice and assemble. 

For the filling, whip the double cream with icing sugar and vanilla extract till peaks form, again make sure you don't over do this or it will start to curdle.
Place the cake on a plate and spread the lemon curd generously.
Top with the whipped cream, spread it around, it really doesn't need to be all even.
Top with the second cake, sift some icing sugar on top and serve.
Notes: The cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring it to room temperature before serving (if its not too warm) if possible.
The sponge can be made a day or two ahead , cooled, cling wrapped and kept in a container till ready to assemble.
Cooking time is crucial for a sponge cake. I  took mine out in about 18 minutes and it had cooked a bit too much already. However, when i did the layer cake the first time, it took me 20 minutes and it was perfect consistency.
From the above measurement you'd get only around 3 cakes, and the rest of the cake was eaten up on its own. I suggest you double the recipe if you wanted to serve it as a dessert for a larger group. I did this method for some variety, but i strongly suggest the layer cake if you wanted to serve at a party. It would serve 6 to 7 people.
Replace the lemon curd with any curd of choice- mango, passion fruit etc.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Shami kebabs with coriander-mint chutney

I love kebabs, and its a pity we don't get them as frequently as we did back home. We had this really nice tandoori restaurant near home and my dad would so often go pick up tandoori chicken, seekh kebabs, chicken tikka and the like from there. Even now when i go back home, he gets me the kebabs and it tastes just as nice, but i just haven't had anything close to that here. I mean Tayyabs is good and so is Kadiri's but they are so far away, and i miss those corner kebab places you find in abundance in India.

So the next best thing is to try and make your own. I have a few favourites that i have proudly mastered, like the Afghani murgh malai kebabs, the beef seekh kebabs and chicken tikka, and they make it to the table at most of my parties because they are so easy to make. Shami kebabs on the other hand is a bit difficult to make, i admit, but so frikking tasty and def up there on the kebab list. Like seriously melt-in-the-mouth types.
I had some friends over last weekend and I made these kebabs as starters and served them with a spicy coriander mint chutney, which i must say came out so well. The one time i previously made them, they were bitter...its a problem i always seem to face with coriander leaves when ground. I started putting it together with a plan b in mind, 99 percent sure it wasn't going to turn out nice, but then, it just did...and i decided to post it here before i forgot the measurements.

The recipe is from Maya's Yummy O Yummy, a blog i religiously follow for all my mallu recipes. She's really got some amazing stuff up there so do drop by and check them out. 

Makes 25 to 30 small patties
Ground beef- 1/2 kg
Chana dal- 1/2 cup, rinsed
Ginger- 1 1/2 tsp, peeled and chopped
Garlic- 2 tsp, peeled and chopped
Onion- 1 cup, roughly chopped
Dried red chillies- 2
Salt- to taste
Water- 1/2 cup

To grind
Coriander seeds- 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds- 1 1/2 tsp
Whole peppercorns- 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick- 1/2 inch
Cardamom- 2 pods
Cloves- 4

Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup, washed and roughly chopped
Mint leaves- 25 (around 1/4 cup packed)
Onion- 1/2 cup, roughly hopped

Oil- enough to shallow fry the patties
Egg- 1, beaten
Into a pressure cooker throw in the ground beef, chana dal, ginger, garlic, onion, red chillies and salt.
Break the meat down, while mixing in the other ingredients as well.
Pour in the water and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or for around 2 to 3 whistles.
Once the pressure releases, open the cooker and add the ground mix.
If there is any water, put it back on medium-high heat and cook till the water completely evaporates, while stirring continuously.
Keep aside to cool.

Once cool, transfer the contents of the cooker into a food processor/ blender along with the coriander, mint leaves and onion and grind to a paste.
(I do not have a food processor and my spice mill is too small, I'd have to grind it multiple times, so i used my immersion blender which surprisingly worked fine. I think I've solved my minced meat dilemma for cutlets)
Transfer the ground meat to a large bowl and start making small lime size balls and flatten.
You can freeze the patties at this point and continue with the next step once you take them out of the freezer.
When ready to cook, heat oil in a pan, dip the patties in the egg and fry till brown on both sides.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot with the chutney.

Notes: The shami kebabs are traditionally made with ground mutton, but i went with beef. Feel free to use the exact measurement of ground lamb.
The kebabs weren't spicy at all, and so i made the chutney a wee bit spicy, which worked well.

Coriander-mint chutney
Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
Mint leaves- 1/4 cup
Cumin powder- 1/4 tsp
Lemon juice- a generous dash
Green chilli- 1, chopped
Salt- to taste
Yoghurt- 2 heaped tbsp

Blend together all the ingredients, except yoghurt, in a food processor (I used my spice mill).
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the yoghurt.
Adjust seasoning if required.
The chutney stays in the refrigerator in an air tight container for about 5 days.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Rosewater pistachio cupcakes with mascarpone cream frosting

Because its Valentines day and because no ones going to do anything special for me and because I felt like eating cake :)

I used to get all upset cos Ro hates everything to do with celebrating something (although he gives me some darn gift these days so i wouldnt sulk and make his life hell). These cupcakes were baked eons ago for Great British Chefs. I'm not a rosewater fan but the pistachio cake on its own is brill. Try it, cos you know, its Valentines day and all.

Makes 8 cupcakes
Pistachio nuts- 50 gms
Ground almonds- 60 gms
Plain flour- 25 gms
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Butter- 100 gms, at room temperature
Caster sugar- 100 gms
Eggs- 2 small
Milk-2 tbsp
Rosewater- 1 1/2 tsp
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Preheat oven to 176C and line a cupcake pan with 8 liners
Grind together the pistachio nuts, almonds and plai flour in a grinder or food processor. Make sure you dont over do this, or else you will be left with lumps.
Transfer to a bowl and add the baking powder.
In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one after the other, beating well after each addition.
Pour in the milk, followed by rosewater and vanilla (if using) and mix well until well combined.
Fold in the ground mix using a spatula, till there is no trace of it in the batter.
Pour into the cupcake liners till about 3/4th full and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or till a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes come out clean.
Take them out of the oven and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack while you get the frosting done.

Mascarpone cream frosting
Double cream- 100 ml (cold)
Mascarpone cheese- 250 gms 
Icing suagr- 2 tbsp
Red food colouring- a small bit to get the rose colour (optional)

Whisk the double cream in a large, clean bowl using the whisk attachment of your mixer or even a hand held whisk till stiff peaks form. Be careful to not overdo the beating or else it would split.
In another bowl mix the mascarpone cheese and icing sugar slowly till well combined.
Add this to the whipped cream, followed by vanilla and food colouring and continue whisking on low speed till they all come together and are mixed well.
Transfer into a piping bag and once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe them.
Store in refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Telegraph Cruise Show with James Martin

Picture courtesy Siren Comms

I've never been on a cruise. I remember how awed i was at the Star Cruises that had taken India by storm a long time back with the cruise liners all named after the star signs. It was a pretty cool thing at that time and i remember a friends sister and husband went on their honeymoon on the super star Virgo or something and we ooh-ed and aah-ed at how lucky she was. Back then it was so totally a luxury thing that was just beginning to gain popularity.

Whereas now every other person i know has been on a cruise, a lot of them on immensely fancy ones. I most certainly want to go on one sometime in the future, but till then I will have to make do with attending annual events like the Telegraph Cruise Show which i was invited to beginning of this year. It was at the London Excel Centre and spanned over 3 days. The event mostly targeted travel enthusiasts, cruise fans, first timers and anyone who was interested in learning more about cruises. There were a wide range of talks by industry experts, interactive Q & A sessions with travel experts and a lot of offers on cruises which were exclusive to the show. 
Picture courtesy Siren Comms

However, from a food enthusiast's point of view, the interesting bits were the cooking demo's that were part of the show. P & O Cruises' Food Heroes James Martin, Eric Lanlard and Michelin starred chef Atul Kochhar put up free live cooking demos along with wine expert Olly Smith who hosted a free wine tasting session. These celebrity chefs, on top of featuring heir own signature restaurants, bars and dining experiences, would be travelling on numerous cruises throughout the year and you will have the opportunity to accompany them on shore excursions, be part of cookery demo's, and even join them for hosted dinners at the chef's table. 
We opted to attend James Martin's session at the Kitchen and also dragged the husband along, him being a big fan of Saturday Kitchen Live and all. James Martin, who was exuberant all throughout the 2 hours was absolutely fun to watch. He kick started the show with some almond biscotti, followed by a fillet of mackerel with dressed crab, pickled turnips, cucumber and radish. He then showed us how to portion a chicken and to grill it to perfection. He served the grilled chicken on a bed of cauliflower cous cous which I'm soo going to try. The highlight of the session however was the gorgeous monkey bread he baked and served with a snicker bar ice cream. The very thought of it is making my mouth water, and its been at the back of my mind ever since i saw the demo. Its about a million calories with 2 bottles of maple syrup and tonnes of butter, but so totally worth it, i can tell. We were unfortunately not allowed to taste any of the food, but going by how they looked, they were all bound to taste brilliant.
PicMonkey Collage
If you do fancy any of the dishes i mentioned, (especially the Monkey bread) i suggest you get on board one of the P & O cruise liners and have it hand made by the man himself :)

Thanks to The Telegraph Cruise show for a VIP invite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself :)