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Dec 29, 2011

Pesto. Lots!


Its no news to readers of this blog that I love Pasta, right? And that I dream of Basil? Well… That and that I also love pesto. I’ve never tried it, but I guess I can eat basil pesto in almost everything, if you feed me. :) But then, fresh basil is little hard to find in Hyderabad. You need to be present when the vegetable load is being stored in the super market. You get there even 10 mins late, and Basil’s all gone. Guess am not the only one in love with this herb.
So during this week’s grocery shopping, I was delighted to find bunches of fresh basil , which I promptly picked. All of it. And made pesto with it all. Right now, I have enough pesto to make pasta for a full week. And the entire fridge is smelling like basil , inducing mouth-watering feelings in my head. :)

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When I decided to finally drag my lazy self into the kitchen today, I decided it has to be dry pasta, with no sauce, and only pesto as the seasoning. I added the veggies and sautéed them in lot of olive oil, added garlic, and just a little oregano and red chilli flakes. And two big scoops of pesto. Needless to say, I am currently a very happy woman, with her stomach full of awesome pasta, and house smelling of fresh basil. :-D

Ingredients (Good enough to season Pasta for 5 people)

Basil Pesto - 4 Tbsps
Olive oil – 4-6 tbsps
Onions – Diced thin, 2 medium sized
Green , Red and Yellow Peppers – Sliced very thin – 1 each
Cherry Tomatoes – sliced into half – 10-15
Aubergine/Brinjal – Stove roasted, and mashed into a pulp – 1/2 cup (optional)
Red Chilli Flakes – 1 tbsp
Dried Oregano – 1 tbsp
Sea Salt – To taste
Garlic cloves – sliced very thin , 10-12

Pasta – Cooked per instructions on the box – 1 cup (for two people)

Parmesan cheese – 1 tbsp worth shavings

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Instructions

Sauté the onions, peppers , garlic and cherry tomatoes till they all are cooked.
If using roasted aubergine, add it to this mixture.
Add the pesto this , and mix well to coat all the vegetables
Season with Oregano and chilli flakes and add salt to taste

This mixture can be cooled and saved in the fridge for later use also.

Mix 1.5 cups of this sautéed mixed vegetables with cooked pasta, and serve hot.

Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if using.

Dec 14, 2011

Nutmeg Cranberry Cake

The original recipe for this cake is Arundati’s, and I’ve even replicated the cake couple of months back. But this time when I began to make it, I added some modifications. I reduced the liquid content because I felt the batter would be too runny. I added some berries, and I made the entire cake with AP flour.

These ingredients make a decent 8” cake , and can feed a dinner party easily. You can add some rum glaze to this to spice it up, or have it as it is.

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Ingredients

1 C AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp finely powdered dry ginger
1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 C honey
1/2 C yogurt
1/3 C thick cream
A pinch salt
1/2 C dried cranberries

Instructions

Butter a 8” round cake tin or line it with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 185C.
Sift all the dry ingredients together.
Mix all the wet ingredients together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in it. Gently fold and then fold in the dried cranberries.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 mins, or till the tester comes out clean.

Dec 12, 2011

Spaghetti with roasted tomato and aubergines…

 

I know its no news to whoever reads this blog that I love pasta. And pasta is dancing in my mind’s eye all the time. In its spaghetti form, in its fusilli form and as Lasagne. (Yeah, Penne is not a personal favourite). What makes or breaks the pasta is its sauce. The freshness of the ingredients, the right balance of the herbs in the sauce and the method of making the sauce, that determines the taste of the pasta.

While searching through my blog for some red-sauce based pasta, I found this recipe in which I blend all the ingredients after they are cooked. That looked like the best way to make my own sauce back then, but on giving more thought, I came up with this one. Puree the tomatoes separately. And then adding them to the onion-garlic mixture with herbs. Trust me, this one tastes so much better, and you can feel all the veggies.

Also serving the pasta with mozzarella chunks was something I read on a site, and thought was a cool idea. If you love Mozzarella but think that its stringy texture will interfere with the texture of the pasta, sprinkle the chunks after your pasta is done.

I added aubergines to this to have another flavour in the sauce, but you can totally omit them and make yourself a Arrabiata pasta. Typically, you’ll need two ladles of this sauce to make one serving of pasta, for one person.

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Ingredients

(Serves 4-6 people for main course)
Ripe red tomatoes – 1 kg
Aubergines, diced into thin slices – 1/2 kg
Onions, large – Diced – 2-3
Garlic cloves – crushed – 15
Dried basil – 2-3 tbsp
Dried oregano – 2-3 tbsp
Red chilli flakes – 2-3 tbsp
Sea salt – to taste
Olive Oil – 3tbsp

Instructions
Pierce a fork into the tomato, and put it on a high flame directly. The skin of the tomato starts burning, and it gets roasted. Do this for the entire batch of tomatoes, and let them cool.
Once they cool down, peel the skin off and crush them in a mixer/blender.
Heat this liquid till the water evaporates, and you are left with thick tomato puree.

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In a pan, heat the oil, and sauté the onions and garlic. Once they turn baby-pinkish, add the aubergines to this, and sauté till all are cooked. Add the herbs for flavour, and salt to taste.

Now add the tomato puree and boil. Check the salt to taste.

This sauce can be saved or frozen in the refrigerator to be used later.

To make pasta, cook the pasta per the instructions , and toss it with the sauce. Serve hot with Mozzarella cheese chunks.

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The freshness of the tomato will hit you, and before you can recover , the cheese will melt in  your mouth. And then its the savouring of the other herbs and spices in it… Trust me, this recipe will never go wrong.

Dec 9, 2011

An Iranian Dinner, may be? (Part 1)

I fell sick and all, but this has been a good week as far as food is concerned. We’ve had guests for 3 days in a row, and I made different stuff every evening. First it was some basic Arrabiata Pasta which the husband praised as my best ever, and the friend who was visiting was forced to say the same too ;), and then it was something based on Middle-Eastern food. I will be cooking Thai for the last set of people visiting us.
Last time I was visiting Blore, we were invited to visit N at her brand new home. Since her housewarming gift was back in Hyd, and I wanted to pick up something for her, I decided it would be a book. A cookbook. In my opinion, what better gift than a cookbook for a MasterChef!  I saw this Arabian dishes book and immediately picked it up for her. And when I was flipping through the pages of this book, I realized how much I love this book, and how much I’d want a copy for myself. Sitting right there in her massive entertainment area, I booked another copy for myself on Crossword. So by the time I was back home in Hyd, I had the book waiting for me to be picked up in the Mailroom. Since then, everytime I open the book, it has been a Flavour Fest in the kitchen!
What I loved about the Middle-Eastern cooking is the interesting mix of flavours. And the usage of daily ingredients in a different way, or a different dish altogether. Like Yogurt, for example. We’d eat it, drink a diluted form of it, make Kadhi with it, or Raita to be eat with it. These are the same things that the Persians or Armenians would do too, but with a different mix of herbs/spices to this. I loved the idea of Garlic-Yogurt sauce for example, our basic Raita  but with garlic in it, and with Za’atar sprinkled over it. Very interesting.
Another point that has made the Middle-Eastern cuisine a hit in the house is the fact that there are a lot of rice dishes. Being a South Indian vegetarian family, rice plays an important role in our daily khana , and there are a lot of rice dishes in the Persian/Armenian/Mediterranean cuisines. And the fact that the book itself is for vegetarian food only always gives me tonnes of options for every course, should I decide to make this for dinner.
So for this dinner I was planning, I wanted to make a simple cheese pilaf, an Iranian vegetable stew and some yummy garlic-yogurt sauce. In short, as simple as rice, stir-fry and a Raita to with it all. However, I decided to add a little twist to the first two dishes.
Flickr Pics
I decided to flavour the rice before I bake it, and make a tomato based vegetable stew. I used copious amounts of garlic since that is a house-favourite (God save you if you don’t eat garlic and have been invited to dine in our house ;)) and dried dill. Dill happens to be a very famous herb in this cuisine, and I’ve discovered its beautiful flavour and aroma only after adding it to the butter.
I only spent 45 mins in the kitchen to make all these, but the compliments I got for the food… well… I know for sure that this will be cooked over and over again , for the both of us and for the friends visiting us.
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Cheese Pilaf (Serves 3 , with this as main dish)

Ingredients
Basmati Rice – 1.5 Cup, washed
Garlic Cloves – 5-6 , crushed in a mortal pestle
Butter – A dollop or 1 tbsp
Dried Dill – 1 tbsp
Black Pepper – 1 tsp, crushed
Sea Salt – to taste
Boiling water – 3 Cups

Cheddar cheese slices – 4-6
Dried Dill – 1 tbsp
Black Pepper – 1 tsp, crushed
Toasted sesame seeds – 1 tbsp

Instructions
Put a thick bottomed tawa on medium heat, and add the butter to in. Once butter heats up, add the crushed garlic, dried dill and sauté them. Now add the rice to this and mix well enough so that the butter evenly coats the rice. Add the black pepper and salt to this and sauté the rice. Add boiling water and close the pan with the the lid. Cook the rice till the water evaporates, and the rice is separated and dry enough. Let this cool down.
Once the garlic rice cools down, spread half the quantity in a shallow baking dish. Spread the cheese slices on this. Sprinkle some dill and black pepper. Spread the remaining rice and the cheese slices on top of it. Sprinkle again with dill and pepper. Bake this in a pre-heated oven at 185C for 20 mins or till the cheese turns golden brown.
Remove from the oven to set, garnish with the toasted sesame seeds.
Serve hot, with the stew for accompaniment.

An Iranian Dinner, may be? (Part 2)

 

To go with the cheese pilaf, I decided to make a vegetable stew. The recipe that caught my fancy, and suited all the ingredients  with the ones I had at home was the Iranian Vegetable stew. But it uses a white sauce base with flour and I am not a huge fan of anything white with flour in it. So I tweaked the same recipe to be made with red sauce. As my cooked dubbed it, this regular rajma but without the rajma masala, and with Dill in it.

The only flavours you will notice when you take your first spoonful of this stew are the freshness and the tartness of the tomato puree , the crispness of the spinach and the flavour of Dill and garlic.

Iranian Vegetable Stew (with red sauce, serves 3)

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Ingredients
A mix of chickpeas & kidney beans – 1 C, soaked overnight and pressure cooked
Tomato puree – 1 C (I make this at home)
Onion – one medium sized, sliced very thin
Spinach leaves – 1 bunch, chopped coarsely
Garlic cloves – 6-8, crushed in a mortal-pestle
Dried Dill – 2 tbsp
Black pepper – 2 tbsp, crushed
Sea salt – to taste
Red paprika powder – if required
Juice from half lemon – if required
Olive oil – 1 tbsp
Coriander leaves – 1/2 cup, chopped fine

Instructions
Heat the olive oil in a pan, and sauté the onions and garlic in it. Add half the quantity of the dill and black pepper and sauté these together. Add the cooked peas-beans mixture to this and mix.
Now add the tomato puree , spinach leaves, salt and red paprika powder. Cook on medium flame for 10 mins.
Add water if required, to dilute the stew.
Once the stew is cooked, remove from heat.
Stir in lemon juice if the stew requires any more tartness.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with the pilaf.

Garlic Yogurt sauce is another favourite in the house, mostly because of the inclusion of garlic into everyday boring Raita, and the usage of spring onions in it. Not only for soothing the spice in anything Middle-Eastern, you can also use this as a Raita for the regular Parathas and Biryanis.

Garlic Yogurt Sauce

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Ingredients
Fresh Yogurt – 1 C, beaten smooth
Garlic cloves – 4-6 , chopped into very small pieces
Spring onions – a bunch, chopped very small, including the green stalks
Sea Salt – To taste
Za’atar spice – 1 tsp
Toasted sesame seeds – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves – a small bunch, chopped fine

Instructions
Mix the first four ingredients well in a bowl, garnish with the last three ingredients and serve along with pilaf.

Dec 5, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin & Sweet Potato soup

 

I made this soup entirely out of intuition and based on the vegetables I had in the fridge. The idea was to use similar tasting veggies and make something healthy. The minute I saw the diced pumpkins and sweet potatoes, I decided to curry them with traditional Indian curry spices. And since I was making this as part of an Italian themed meal, I added some Italian herbs afterwards and sautéed onions to top it up. At the end of it, it tasted like a medley of Indian curry with some spices, but very tasty. :-)

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Ingredients
Sweet Pumpkin - cleaned, peeled and chopped - 2 Cups
Sweet potato - cleaned, peeled and chopped - 2 cups
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Cumin powder - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric - a pinch

Garlic cloves - 8-10
Red onion - Diced - 1 cup
Spring Onion - cleaned and chopped - 1 cup
Dried Thyme - 1 tbsp
Dried Rosemary - 1 tbsp
Dried Sage - 1 tbsp

Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Sea Salt – To taste

Fresh mint, for garnish

Instructions
In a deep pan, heat one tbsp oil and sauté the pumpkin and sweet potato pieces with all the powders. Let this be on medium heat for 5 mins. Add some water and close the lid of the, and let the vegetables cook.
After 10-15 mins, when both the vegetable pieces are cooked thoroughly, you can either mash them or blend them with a blender to resemble a thick puree.
In another small pan, sauté the onions and garlic with the dried herbs. Let this be on heat till the onions are golden brown.
Add some water to the puree, and get it to a desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Once this soup reaches the boiling point, stir in the sautéed onions. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and serve hot.

Dec 4, 2011

Baileys Irish cream–Homemade!

Yes… I did it! Baileys at home. And it is awesome :-D

Though it is not anywhere near to making your own liquor (like the wine-making experience, which did not turn out great, btw, I still haven’t been able to finish it or serve it to anyone), this is the closest I got to making an awesome drink.

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I obviously did not have access to Irish whiskey, so I had to make do with the Scotch one. I also skipped the chocolate syrup, and added 2 tsps of instant coffee instead.

Recipe CourtesyCupcake Project

Ingredients
1 C (or 200ml) light cream (I used Amul cream)
14 oz (or 400 gm) sweetened condensed milk (1 tin of Milkmaid)
2 C whiskey (I used Blender’s Pride)
2 tbsp instant coffee
2 T Hershey's chocolate syrup (optional)
1 t vanilla
1 t almond extract

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Instructions
Combine all ingredients in a blender and set on high speed for 30 seconds.
Bottle in a tightly sealed container and refrigerate. Shake before using.
Apparently, it stays good for upto 2 months.

Since I did not use any chocolate and it was only coffee, this bottle of Baileys tasted very coffee-ish, and was perfect for after-dinner-drink, with some ice cubes. I also added a little more alcohol than what was in the recipe, it had a distinct musky whiskey-ish flavour too.

So when I had this alongside the original Baileys I had , they both looked and tasted similar. Very similar.

And now, am set. No more Baileys from Duty-free. :-)

However, after seeing the amount of cream and condensed milk that goes into this one, I doubt if I will drink it as often as I thought I would.

Even liquor now adheres to the law – the law which says that –

Thou shalt fall out of love with a dish the minute thou learneth to maketh it.

Update: Though I originally posted this post on Nov 26th, I got some great shots of the Liqueur only y’day. There was no way, I was going to let the pics go waste, and hence reposting with slight changes to the recipe and new pics. :)

Dec 2, 2011

Banana Blueberry Cake

By now, I guess its no secret that bananas are my favourite fruit-to-bake, right? Well… turns out they are indeed my favourite, its a pleasant surprise. I have begun treat it like a comfort bake. Anytime I want to bake something and I can’t think what , I go over to Banana. Muffin, Marble bread or cake . With chocolate chips, milk chocolate or melted chocolate. With cinnamon, vanilla, brandy or rum. I feel I’ve baked them all. And yet I go back to searching for more banana based recipes. I went through all the sites I bookmarked to find this one by The Singing Chef. I wanted to use up the blueberries I got from my US trip, and that leftover small batch of rum-soaked raisins, also the cream and condensed milk from the Bailey’s experiment were in the fridge asking to be used.

And yes, it had to be eggless. So I adapted the recipe to suit the ingredients I had at hand.

So after The Great Kitchen Shopping Escapade I had at Agro Mech over the weekend, I wanted to use my new stuff. Those mini Bundt's and that one big Bundt pan, to be precise. I decided to make a Bundt cake – Banana Blueberry Bundt Cake with rum soaked raisins , it is!

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Recipe CourtesyThe Singing Chef

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
¼ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Raisins (soaked overnight in dark rum)
1/4 cup Blueberries
2 Bananas (overripe), peeled and mashed
3 tbsp Milkmaid/condensed milk
1/3 cup Oil
2 tbsp Yogurt
2 tbsp thick cream

2 tbsp Rum (optional, better if it is the rum from the rum-soaked raisins)

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Instructions
Preheat the oven to 185C and sift the dry ingredients together.
Oil and dust the pan with flour.
Beat together the mashed bananas, cream, yogurt, condensed milk, sugar, and oil.
Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and fold in the raisins.
Gently mix in the rum, if using.
Bake for 45-50 mins or till a skewer comes out clean.

This being my first time baking in a Bundt pan, and me not being sure how to use butter paper for a Bundt pan, I was very worried about the cake coming out clean. Surprisingly, all I had to do was cut through the edges of the pan gently with a knife, invert the pan to a plate and beat the bottom of the pan. And the cake was sitting pretty on the plate. I loved the flavours in this, the rum soaked raisins, the blueberries and the faint taste of bananas. Next time I make this, I am going to add in a few drops of Brandy flavour also. Or increase the rum content. And think of a nice topping/icing for this cake, may be rum-chocolate-based.

You can have slices of this cake for chai. You can also eat it with jam, for breakfast, may be. Or team it with the chocolate peanut butter and eat. I am going to do all of these with this cake. :-)