Category Archives: Recipe Notes

3 Easy steps + 3 Tips for a creamy Blueberry Shrikhand

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Nutella, peanut butter, Dulche de leche, Speculoos, jams, lemon curd, flavoured butters or cheese, when it comes to spreads/dips, the list is indeed long. But I root for Shrikhand. A little dollop spread out on a chapati and rolled up along with a hot cup of tea makes a simple breakfast to fill my day. Shrikhand is basically sweetened hung yoghurt that has flavours added to enhance it. In India, the most popular ones would be Kesar-Pista Shrikhand (Shrikhand with saffron and pistachios) or Amrakhand (Mango Shrikhand).

While yogurt with fruit has been a fad lately, Shrikhand has been a part of the Indian culinary heritage. For breakfast with rotis or for lunch/dinner with Puris, or as an accompaniment – something cool and sweet along with the hot and spicy food, the perfect Yin-yang of Indian meals. Or just a little scoop for dessert.

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On a regular I’m missing home kind of a day, an expat like me, would probably rush to Lulu or Al Adil to get our comfort fixed. I did that once. But unlike in India, here in Dubai, you get the big packs for store bought Shrikhand. And since I’m the only Shrikhand consumer in my household, the pack stays longer in my fridge than it should. The next time I shared the thought of wanting to have some Shrikhand, I received an ultimatum that we won’t be buying it any more because a lot just gets wasted. Seemed right to me, but I had to find my way out. And so I decided to make it at home. That way I could not only make it in a smaller quantity, with the flavours I want, but I could also make it anytime. Win-Win situation right?

The recipe is so simple, that I actually found it funny. I don’t know why I had always thought of it as something so complicated. All you need is a little patience (since you need to strain the yogurt overnight). Here are 3 easy steps for making the Blueberry Shrikhand, followed by 3 tips that will ensure you have a nice deliciously creamy Shrikhand.

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Blueberry Shrikhand

Ingredients:

  • Hung yogurt 160 gms (I used 400 gms of regular yogurt, strained in a muslin cloth for 24 hours in the fridge that yielded around 160 gms of thick hung yogurt – See note)
  • Sifted Icing sugar 55 gms
  • Blueberries 80 gms

Method:

  • Whisk the hung yogurt and the icing sugar together, to get a smooth creamy Shrikhand base. Whisk it gently but firmly, you essentially need a lump free, thick and smooth texture. You can use the hand blender in short bursts. The important thing is not to over beat the yogurt, else it will be too runny.
  • Pulse or puree the blueberries in the mixer. Gently fold the puree in the Shrikhand. Serve chilled. Fruits which are sweet and slightly tart go well.
  • You can add chopped nuts of your choice. Add the nuts only before serving to retain the crunch.
  • You can store this Shrikhand in a clean, airtight jar, refrigerated for up to 7 days.

Note: For preparing the hung yogurt, I referred to this guide which has step by step pictures. I referred to it ONLY for the preparation of the hung yogurt, nothing other than that.

3 Tips for a deliciously creamy Shrikhand

  1. Use regular (non-sour) yogurt. The packaged ones we get in Dubai are anyways not sour. But local Indian dairy shops have really sour yogurt. The mass manufactured and packaged one is less sour so I suggest you use that.
  2. Use sifted icing sugar. This ensures two things – a) That the sugar is lump free, so that you wont have to whisk it much at the risk of making the yogurt runny. b) Icing sugar dissolves quickly compared to other sugars, again ensuring that you don’t have to whisk way too much than required.
  3. Gently fold in the fruit puree till well combined.
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Mawa Cakelets (a tea cake recipe)

Mawa cakelets

It’s a fascinating thing about memories. How even the most insignificant and ordinary part of our daily lives, gets etched on our minds. And all without a trace, till one fine day, something, by mere remote association makes you travel back in time, reminding fondly of the days gone by.

It was late in the evening and I had just finished making Gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding). As I cleaned the kitchen counter, I quickly put away all the leftover ingredients in the fridge – a bit of mawa (milk solids) and some condensed milk. Too tired to even think of anything else, I resigned from my kitchen duties for the day. The following day, I was back in action to prepare our meals. I opened the fridge to get some things out. Another look and I made a mental note to use these leftovers.

Mawa milk solids

Mawa/Khoya/ Milk solids

Leftovers…yes, strangely something like leftovers took me back in time. Grandmom grew up during the hard times. Probably, that’s why it was so very important to not throw away things that could be reused. Something she had learnt, something she taught us as well. Leftover food would get a new avatar the next day so that we would find it interesting enough to eat it again.

I find no shame in being frugal. It’s not like we cannot afford to go and buy a whole lot of stuff to cook whatever we want, whenever we want. It means we should respect the value for things and not be callous about it.

Mawa cakelets

Don’t waste, I told myself, like my grandmom would tell me. But these ingredients would probably only be used for desserts and having made one just the previous night, I wasn’t too keen. What can I use mawa for?! Not that I did not already know, Mawa holds its royal kingship in most Indian desserts. But I wasn’t in a mood of anything really sweet. A little search online and I saw… Mawa cakes! Why didn’t I think of mawa cakes before! As a kid I had eaten plenty of mawa cupcakes. Subtly sweet, with the slightest lingering of cardamom that are perfect for tea time. While most recipes use sugar, I intended to use the leftover condensed milk instead. If you have some leftover condensed milk and want something light, here is the recipe for the Mawa cakelets.

Mawa cakelets

Mawa Cakelets
(The quantities mentioned in this recipe makes around 8-10 regular sized cupcakes)

Ingredients:

Mawa 100 gms
Condensed milk 120 gms
Egg 1 medium
Butter 50 gms

Flour/Maida 160 gms
Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp
Baking powder 1 tsp

Milk 6-7 tbsp

Almonds, slivered for garnish

Method:

  • Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C for 10 mins.
  • In a bowl, take mawa, condensed milk, egg and butter. Whisk till smooth and runny.
  • In another bowl mix the dry ingredients together. Flour, cardamom powder and baking powder.
  • Add half the dry ingredients to the smooth and runny batter and fold in till well combined.
  • Add in the milk and mix well to incorporate. Fold in the remaining flour mix.
  • Add the batter to a lined cake tin, top with slivered almonds and bake for 25-30 mins (time mentioned is for cakelets and for cupcakes, a loaf may take a while longer)
  • To test the doneness, insert a skewer or a clean knife. If it comes out clean, its ready.

Note: The cake, although baked will look white. For a golden hue on top, increase the temperature and bake on top rack with top side heat for 3-5 mins. Condensed milk gives a slightly dense texture like a blondie. Because it is subtly sweet, it may not come through with the first bite itself, but the second bite onwards you will be assured of its sweetness.

Sweet Coconutty Hand-pies

I am now slowly reeling over the indulgent and gluttony-behaviour inducing Christmas celebrations. It has been a good year. When I look back, I am thankful for all the blessings. Crossed many milestones, traveled, made new friends. This year has been close to my heart. I will treasure the memories forever.

I did miss celebrating Christmas back home and with family. But Dubai has given me a new home, new family. And because the year has been so kind, I wanted to make Christmas special and culminate the year on a sweet note. We decided to make all the Christmas sweets at home. Just like the way we do it back in India.

For me it was the first time I made the sweets by myself, with the man being sous chef 😉 And in my attempt to make these treats, I stumbled upon  a lot of tricks and techniques. More on that, I will share with you later.

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For this Christmas, I (or rather we) made and shared goodie boxes with all home-made sweets. We made a mix of modern and traditional christmas sweets. We made Christmas Cake, Marzipan, Tandlache ladoo (red rice ladoos), Date rolls, Shankarpala (or Tukdey), Kaliyo, Gingerbread cookies. And a special fusion item – Sweet Coconuty hand-pies.

I actually wanted to make the traditional Nevries, but like some magical influence, I was drawn towards baking. Well, it was no magic, I just didn’t want to deep-fry the cresent shaped treats and preferred baking instead. Et Voila!

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Sweet Coconuty Hand-pies

Makes approx 8 medium hand-pies that serve well as dessert or snack for high tea.

For the filling:

  • Jaggery grated 2-3 tbsps
  • Fresh Coconut (grated) 1/2 cup
  • Almonds, powdered 1 tbsp
  • Semolina/ Rava 1 tbsp
  • Nigella seeds/ Kalonji 1/2 tbsp
  • Sesame seeds/ Til 1tbsp
  1. In a pan, dry roast the sesame seeds, nigella seeds, semolina, almond powder till fragrant and keep it aside.
  2. In the same pan, dry roast the grated coconut till fragrant and the oil is released a bit. While this is still hot, add the above mix to it. Add the grated jaggery. Use a spoon to stir and ensure the jaggery has melted and combined well with the rest of the mix.
  3. Keep aside to cool.

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For the hand-pie dough:

  • Plain flour/ Maida 200 gms
  • Butter 100 gms, cold and cut into cubes
  • Icing sugar 2 tbsps
  • Egg yolk 1
  • Ice cold water (a few tbsps)
  1. Take the flour and sugar in a bowl, add the cold butter and using your fingers keep cutting through the butter and flour, till the entire flour resembles grainy sand like texture.
  2. Add the yolk and combine. Add a tbsp of cold water at a time, to bring the dough together. Stop, just till the dough comes together. You don’t need a well kneaded smooth dough, just need a lump come together.
  3. Refrigerate it for 30 mins. This will help the butter to remain intact and not melt away while rolling.
  4. After 30 mins, take it out and start rolling it between parchment sheets.
  5. Cut into rectangular shapes and add little bit of the filling ( a tsp maybe).
  6. To seal the edges, dip your finger in water and run through the edges. Fold the hand-pies and using a fork, crinkle them.
  7. Poke a few holes on the top with a fork.
  8. Bake at 175 degrees C for 10-12 mins.
  9. Take it out of the oven and brush with egg wash for a golden hue on top.
  10. Bake again with only top side heat for 5 mins.

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Bottle gourd, clove and yoghurt tea cake

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What would a cake be without the essence that uplifts it? The essence that renders a mellow yet significant depth of flavour. The essence that distinguishes bakes from merely being a lump of sugary/ floury substance. It is no wonder that vanilla forms an integral part of most bakes. Another powerful addition that renders it another dimension is that of spice.

Consider cinnamon, with its heady aroma, the woody sweet flavour and the sublime heat that it provides, makes it a favourite among most bakers. Or cardamom, that blends with bakes equally well to lend it another characteristic flavour profile. Or saffron, that enwraps any dessert with royalty. With such capabilities of making its presence felt even with the almost negligible quantity, the spice addition, I feel remains the unrecognized hero of the baked dish/desserts.

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Recently, I was toying with the idea of using spice for baking. But I had the desire to explore more rather than just going by the universal favourite, cinnamon. I must tell you now, that of all spices, Cloves are my favourite. And aren’t the little dried flower like things a pretty sight as well? Cloves are slightly more pungent compared to cinnamon or cardamom and so I was curious to find out details, from what I could bake using cloves to the different possible flavour combinations. Did you know cloves pair up excellently with bananas and oranges?

I took a few cloves in my hand, inhaled the aroma, popped in my mouth and rolled it around, while doing my research. And that led me to design this recipe. I baked this beautiful tea cake, with bottle gourd (since I had it at hand, and also something I wanted to try baking with) and yoghurt.

This mildly sweet cake, soft and moist, with a gentle hint of spice can be presented as a perfect accompaniment with tea. Below is the recipe for my Bottle gourd, clove and yoghurt tea cake.

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Recipe: Bottle gourd, clove and yoghurt tea cake
Serves 4 (I used a loaf mould – 8″x 4″)

Ingredients:
125 gms plain flour (maida)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp powdered clove
100 gms butter
75 gms castor sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
75 gms plain yoghurt
100 gms bottle gourd (measured after grating)

Method:

1. Peel, de-seed and grate the bottle gourd.
Very very important note: On grating the bottle gourd, it secretes a brown bitter juice that discolours the grated bottle gourd and alters its taste. Ensure you rinse the grated bottle gourd 2-3 times under running water to wash the bitter juices away. Squeeze out any excess water and leave it to drain in a strainer/ colander.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and powdered clove in a bowl and keep it aside.
3. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar till light and creamy.
4. Add the egg and beat to incorporate. Add the vanilla essence and mix again.
5. Add the flour mixture and yoghurt alternately, folding it gently into the batter till incorporated. Starting and ending with flour; F-Y-F-Y-F.
6. Gently fold in the grated bottle gourd and add the batter in a baking mould/container lined with parchment paper. If you do not have parchment paper, you can grease the baking mould with butter and dust some flour on it. This is to avoid the cake from sticking to the container.
7. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 25-30 mins.
8. Once done, allow the cake to cool for 5 min and remove it from the baking mould on a cooling rack. Leaving it in the mould longer will make the cake soggy from the condensed steam.
9. Dust with some icing sugar and powdered clove. Cut and serve.

You might also want to check another modern Indian/fusion recipe: Pasta in spinach sauce

Baking a Potato Bread

Potato Bread

Baking bread requires heart. Baking bread requires muscle. Baking bread teaches you patience. Baking bread teaches you to have faith and surrender to the unknown. And that’s what I learnt by baking bread.

When it comes to baking, I have always lingered around the safer side of cakes and cookies. They never let me down. I did venture out with some advanced patisserie stuff that didn’t go quite right. But the zeal to learn something new still exists and to take it a notch higher in 2015, I wanted to try out breads.

I checked out some recipes I wanted to try from a book that has been resting on my shelf for the last 2 years! *sigh* The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was a birthday present that my friend Manisha had gifted me. Maybe she believed in my baking abilities more than I did. Thank you Manisha 🙂

As a flipped a few pages, again like some unseen universal magnetic force was drawing me towards looking for a simple recipe. Of course the book says ‘Mastering the art of Extraordinary Bread’ and I don’t know why I was even searching for a simple recipe, in the book of extraordinary bread.

So I gave in to a recipe that intrigued me most, because it uses mashed potatoes. Yes, you read that right, potatoes! The book mentions, the potato starch softens the dough giving the bread a pleasing tenderness, and I vouch for it. This was also the first time I used a pre-ferment (Biga).

Biga

Biga

Throughout the entire process I had my doubts, Was the flour enough? Have I added more water? Will the dough rise? But I took a leap of faith and stuck to the recipe (only reducing the quantity by half) keeping my fingers crossed and hoping everything would turn out just right. And boy did I bake some extraordinary bread! And just like that I started believing that baking a good bread at home is possible.

This bread has a hard crust (more like a kadak paav) and is soft and pillowy on the inside. It is perfect for soups and dishes that have some gravy.

Here I have put down the recipe that I used, which is same as mentioned in the book, the only change being that the quantity has been reduced by half and I skipped adding optional ingredients -rosemary and garlic. The below recipe will provide around 10-12 buns.

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Proofing the dough for the Potato Bread

Biga/ Preferment (I made this the previous day and used a part of it to bake the bread. You can store the remaining in the freezer for about 3 months)
Flour 1 ¼ cup
Instant yeast ¼ tsp
Water ½ cup

• Stir the flour and yeast and keep adding water till the dough comes together.
• Sprinkle flour on the counter and knead for 4-6 minutes.
• Lightly coat the dough with oil and let it rest in a bowl at room temperature for 2 hours.
• Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly and place it back in the bowl covering with cling film.
• Store it in the fridge if using it the next day or just wrap it in cling and store in the freezer.

Second proofing after shaping the dough.

Second proofing after shaping the dough.

Potato Bread:
Biga 100 gms
Flour 1 ½ cup
Salt ¾ tsp
Black pepper ¼ tsp
Instant Yeast 20 gms
Mashed Potatoes ½ cup
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Water ½ cup
Flour for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top

• Remove the Biga from the fridge (an hour before you start mixing the dough for the bread) and divide it into small pieces. Let it thaw at room temperature.
• Stir together the flour, salt, pepper, and yeast.
• Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil and water and start kneading the dough till it comes together. On kneading the dough might get a bit sticky, and that’s ok unless its very liquidy sticky then add more flour.
• Sprinkle flour on the counter and start kneading. You might have to keep sprinkling flour on the surface as the dough keeps getting sticky on kneading. But just sprinkle enough so that it avoids sticking but do not add too much of flour. You will have to keep kneading the dough for 10-15 minutes.
• Lightly oil a bowl and keep the dough in it. Cover the bowl with cling film. Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours.
• Remove the dough, knock it a bit. Divide the dough into smaller portions and shape them into balls.
• Place them on a lined baking tray and set aside for 2 hours. Mist the dough and lightly cover with a cloth.
• The dough should double in size.
• Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and bake for 35-40 minutes. Rotate the tray after the first 20 minutes for even baking.
• Once done, allow to cool to room temperature (for atleast 20 minutes). The buns should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
• Tastes best when consumed immediately.

Notes:
• You can use leftover mashed potatoes
• Optional ingredients – add 1 tbsp rosemary and 2 tbsps chopped garlic to the mashed potatoes.
• I stuffed some herbed cheese in a portion of the dough and it tasted just as good. Perfect for a snack in itself.

Cooking Fusion Food – Pasta in Spinach sauce

pasta in spinach sauce

Everyone has a style of cooking. Whether you’ve picked up recipes from your family members or dabbled with disasters learning on your own, each one who cooks does it in their own unique way.

Some rely on recreating dishes they are familiar with while some others are bold enough to think out of the box and come up with some splendid creations. And then there are people like me, heavily influenced with international cook shows/cook books, mapping familiar flavours from local dishes to prepare a different dish, that I refer to as “Fusion Food”.

I hope to share with you some of my Fusion Food ideas. Here’s one – “Pasta in spinach sauce”
Pasta, classic Italian. Need I say more about it? In India, the Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) combination is famous as a dish in itself. The attempt here is not to just put some palak paneer over pasta but to use palak/ spinach as the base for the sauce and to add paneer/cottage cheese and peanuts to give the dish another dimension.

pasta in spinach sauce

Pasta in spinach sauce with cottage cheese and peanuts
(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:
Pasta (penne) 1 1/2 cup
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Spinach chopped 1 cup
Coriander leaves chopped 1 tbsp
Garlic crushed 4 pods
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Pepper 1/4 tsp
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Butter 1/2 tbsp
Plain flour/ maida 1 tsp
Milk 1/2 cup
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Cottage cheese cubes 6-7
Olive oil, Salt & Pepper to taste (to coat & fry the cottage cheese)
Roasted peanuts 1 tbsp

Method:
1. In a pan add olive oil and garlic. When the garlic turns golden add spinach and coriander and saute. Add salt and pepper. When the spinach leaves have wilted and turned dark green (about 3-4 mins), take it off the flame, cool to room temperature and puree this mix.
2. Add butter, flour and milk in another pan and keep stirring. Once the mixture starts to thicken. Take it off the flame. Mix the spinach puree with this white sauce and set aside.
3. Drizzle olive oil on the cottage cheese and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Fry the cottage cheese cubes in a pan till the sides turn golden.
4. Boil the pasta as per instructions on the pack or Al Dente. Drain the pasta and start assembling.
Assembling:
Spread out cooked pasta in a dish, add the spinach sauce over it. Top it with cottage cheese cubes and roasted peanuts.

A nutritious snack – Dates and Oats Laddoos

date and oats ladoos

When it comes to eating, we’re a set of evolved paletes or should I say food connoisseurs. We can nonchalantly boast of our capabilities to distinguish what type of cheese goes in our pizza from what type of cheese goes in our cheesecake, each time emphasizing on flavours, as we try analyzing each meal.

With Masterchefs making a foray in our lives, conscious efforts are put towards mastering cooking techniques & plate presentations. And after doling out a fantastic feast and letting our food bask in its drool-worthy instagrammed spotlight, the question still remains – Sure it’s tasty & looks scrumptious; but is it nutritious?

I think about the days when I was in college. There was a lot of energy even at the end of the day to still go out and conquer the world. But today I find it difficult to even move a chair without grumbling about the aches. Sure you can go ahead and call it signs of aging; but it has also given me the wisdom to understand that while my focus is on good food, I must not completely ignore nutrition.

At different stages in life, our body has different nutritional needs. But are we willing to cater to it or simply choose to sooth our taste buds? While I speak of nutrition, I do not mean following stern or fancy diets. Nor am I suggesting having only home cooked meals as much to my dismay, I know, a lot of nutrition is lost in our faulty cooking practices. I merely wish to draw your attention to having well balanced wholesome meals. I am trying it out myself this month. Because the last thing I want is getting some Vitamin D shots!

Putting in some effort in that direction, today, I decided to make something healthy to snack on. While at work, post lunch around tea time I feel like snacking and I’ve decided to reduce munching on junk as much as I can and instead have something healthy like these Date and Oats Laddoos.

Dates and Oats Laddoo
Recipe source: Saffola Oats (Makes 25-30 ladoos)

Ingredients:
100 gms oats
100 gms poppy seeds (khus khus)
200 gms peanuts (coarsely ground)
200 gms seedless dates
1 tbsp ghee

Method:
1. Dry roast the oats, poppy seeds seperately for 2-3 mins each. Allow it to cool.
2. Mix all the ingredients together and roll into small balls.
3. Store in an airtight container.