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

Discoveries from the food scene in #MyDubai

Mumbai has been home for a very long time. It satiated the food enthusiast in me through countless ways. From being able to try out different cuisines while eating out to experimenting at home (since a lot of stuff is easily available here), foodie events to meeting like minded people who continue to inspire me every single day. In a way it does hurt a bit to leave this place. In a few months from now, I will be moving to Dubai, another place I can call home.
2013-01-31 14.18.16Dubai is a beautiful place. But I was still skeptical. While I was there for a short visit recently, I was curious to see if Dubai would help me sustain my culinary enthusiasm. I knew there would be something to surprise me since I love to explore different cuisine cultures. Dubai with its bustling food scene, left me mesmerized and how!
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Gulfood, Dubai Food Festival, Taste of Dubai are some events that I would love to experience. Frying Pan Adventures conducts food trails in Dubai, I hope to go for one someday or many more. I also got to know about a few UAE Bloggers, it would be nice to connect with them and see my blog someday on that list (wishful thinking) 🙂 And just like Mumbai’s FBAI Salt, Dubai also has an e-magazine by bloggers called FoodeMagdxb. If you are visiting Dubai any time soon, you must visit the Global Village for some amazing middle eastern and turkish desserts.
IMG-20150315-WA0007When it comes to food, here are my favourites:
1) Kunafeh
IMG-20150315-WA0011I call this the godfather of all middle eastern/turkish desserts! I had it fresh out of the oven, still warm and the cheese all melty with a crisp shredded pastry covering soaked in pleasantly sweet syrup to keep it juicy and topped with pistachios. If you have a food bucket list, this goes straight in it.

2) Baklava
baklavaWhen in the middle east, eat Baklava! Although you do get variations of these with different nuts, I prefer mine with just pistachios. If only I could pack tons of it and carry it back home, sigh.

3) Charcoal Chicken
IMG-20150315-WA0008You do find chargrilled chicken at most places in Dubai. I had this at YAM’s a small little joint at AL Hurair, Bur Dubai. Chunky chicken charred on the outside and succulent and juicy on the inside is served alongwith pita, hummus, garlic sauce, salad and fries. After, shawrma, this is #MyDubai comfort food.
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I know there is still a lot left to discover but Dubai has managed to woo the foodie in me. I have vowed to explore Emirati cuisine and I can’t wait to get my hands on some beautifully designed tagine pots. Can’t wait to move to Dubai! For now, I just have to figure out how I’m gonna pack & carry all my baking stuff there.

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.

proofing

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.

The traditional Indian steamer

indian steamer

The internet is doing its job really well, tracking whichever site I visit and then displaying relevant ads about what it thinks might interest me based on my last views. In particular, what I think acts as a spy is Facebook’s re-targeting. Yes, I can opt out having these ads displayed or block them but then I want to stay abreast of the latest trends.

I’ll just take a look, I assure myself, as I click on the ads that transport me to the online shopping wonderland. I gape at the colourful dishes, embossed ceramic pots, silicon moulds and designer storage containers. How I wish I owned these pretty things. I sigh, as my heart wants to own it all. Right at that very moment, my brain intervenes and sends signals to my eyes. As I lower my gaze on the screen and check out the prices, I move back on my chair with disappointment. Now I don’t think the price is unfair, considering all the hard work that goes into creating these things, packaging and shipping. After all, someone’s in the business to make money right? It’s just that at this point I cannot afford it.

It’s not good to focus on what one does not have. Rather one must be content with what one already possesses. So I think to myself that it’s true all these things are eye catching and attractive but why do we not fancy or cherish what we already have. I peep into my kitchen and spot the good ol’ aluminium steamer.

traditional steamer

This steamer belongs to my grandmom, and has faithfully served us regularly ever since it was purchased. From idlis to mootlis (rice dumplings) and patolis (pancakes made with rice flour), my grandmom has used it well to cook lip smacking traditional manglorean fares.

In India, apart from earthen wares, there is a lot of dependency on metals like aluminium, steel and copper as utensils. Step into any Indian kitchen and you will find most of the vessels fit into this category. Although, with online retail picking up, our kitchens are donning a colourful look.

These are the days of fancy steamers, made of silicon, plastic or bamboo. But in comparison, the traditional metal steamers are more robust, economical and available in various sizes. The best part about the indian steamer is that you could use them for creating modern dishes like steaming fish & veggies or dimsums with equal ease as cooking indian dishes like idlis. This versatility, makes it lucrative when positioned against its premium counterparts.

traditional indian steamer

Sometimes, the best things are found at the places we least expect them to be. While online shopping is convenient, you would find some great deals at your neighbourhood shops. Before you give into your desires to spend online, I’d suggest you check out your local steel center first.

P.S: I am not against shopping online, I have purchased things online. Also, there are several things that may not available locally. This post is just meant to draw your attention towards an item, unknown or long forgotten.

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.