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Homemade Yoghurt | How to series | Kitchen Hacks

Well yes, most of you who would see this post first would wonder what happened to me ?? Especially friends in India. Yoghurt is an intrinsic part of every Indian Household. It is something we take for granted here in India. We have all grown up seeing our mothers setting yoghurt every night for probably as long as I can remember !! Then why am I talking about it here ??

Life is so truly a learning…each and every day. Just recently I learned a new and sure shot way of setting curd. Something I had never known. This especially works well when the weather is cold and the curd refuses to set properly.
The chilli does the trick here.

You will need:

Warm milk to set the yoghurt.
Add the starter – 1 tsp of yoghurt. Mix well.
Drop in a whole green chilli.
Cover and set in a warm place like your oven / microwave.

I also cover my yoghurt dish with a thick cotton blanket.

The curd should be set in about 4 hours time, depending on the weather conditions.

Arabian Date and Walnut Cake


Baking a cake is always special and baking it for someone’s birthday is only icing on the cake !! 🙂
It was my uncle’s birthday and I wanted to do a different cake though non icing. This cake is a hands down winner so full of flavour !!


I’m sure you’ll wonder that most of my cakes are baked in the bundt mould. Well, when I’m baking a cake for someone’s birthday the round is common and kinda boring. Bundt makes the cake look really interesting. There is no hard and fast rule for the mould. You can use any shape you like.



Arabian Date and Walnut Cake


Ingredients

1 ¾ cups Plain Flour

125g Butter

1 cup Sugar

2 Eggs

1 cup chopped, stoned Dates

½ cup chopped Walnuts

¾ cup hot strong Coffee

½ tsp Baking Soda (soda bicarbonate)

½ tsp Salt (omit salt if using salted butter)

1 ½ tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Vanilla Essence


Icing Sugar for dusting





Directions

1. Dust a ring mould or a bundt mould.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C for 10 minutes.

3.Pour hot coffee over the dates and walnuts and allow it to cool.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

5. Cream the butter and sugar and then add one egg at a time. Beat well.

6.Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar-egg mixture.

7. Lastly mix in the date and nut mixture and the vanilla essence.

8. Pour into the prepared mould and bake for 50-60 minutes at 180 degree C.

9. Let it cool down. Demould and dust with icing sugar.

10. Serve.


Happy Baking !!

Condiment Series | Capsicum-n- Celery Dip | Dip


I recently did a series of 30 days 30 dips and it was a huge success. I loved it and people, my readers loved it too. This is a dip which was supposed to be a part of that series but it left me in two minds so I skipped it at that time, however after all these dips, this particular dips still remains close to my heart.


Capsicum-n-Celery Dip, this is where it all started. After this there was no stopping me. When I started making my own dips at home for parties a few years back, this was one of the first dips I made. To my surprise then, it was an absolute winner. 
Capsicum in my mind is the only vegetable equivalent to a herb…. as fresh and as fragrant !! It has the ability to add that extra zing to a dish.


This is a simple dip where, I not just use the celery stem, but also the leaves. The celery leaves have a much stronger spicy fragrance. You would need to chop the leaves really fine though. 

Serve this with whatever. It’s a crowd pleaser, the bowls are wiped clean 🙂

Capsicum-n-Celery Dip




Ingredients

1/2 cup Quark or Hung Curd

1/4 cup cold milk

1 small Capsicum, finely chopped

1 clove of Garlic, minced

1 stem and leaves of Celery finely chopped

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Salt to taste

Direction

1. Whisk the quark till absolutely smooth and creamy. Add the milk and whisk some more.

2. Now add the capsicum, garlic and celery. Mix well. Add the salt and pepper. Give it another stir till everything is well blended. If you find the dip a little thick, add a little more cold milk.

3. Transfer in a serving dish and serve with your choice of appetizer.

Happy Dipping !!




Mushroom Tart | Baking


What better way to welcome the monsoons than baking a tart !! Rains have started playing hide-n-seek in Delhi now, and we, the rain parched mortals leave no occasion to celebrate the high and mighty rains. 

While savoury tarts are perfect for cold winter nights, they are great company for the rain on your window sill 🙂

This tart has a surprise element which adds a new dimension to the flavour. A layer of caramelized onions. The slight sweetness from the onions actually enhances the umami flavour of the mushrooms. 
This is now my new go-to veg tart for friends and family. 🙂

Mushroom Tart

Ingredients

For the Pastry

225g All Purpose Flour

100g Butter

1 tsp Powdered Sugar

Ice Cold Water about 1/3 of a cup

For the Filling

5-6 Medium to Large sized Onions (for making caramelized onions)

1/2 cup of White Wine

400 g of Mushrooms

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup of Cream

2 tbsp of Processed Cheese

1 tsp Chilli Flakes

2 Onions 

2 tbsp of Olive Oil
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Black Pepper Powder

Cheese


Directions

For the Pastry

1. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and freeze for about 30 minutes.
2. In a blender jar, put the flour and butter alternatingly.Blitz till you get a bread crumbly texture.
3. Transfer in a large bowl and with your hands, bring the dough together. Use cold water but keep it absolutely minimal. DO NOT OVER KNEAD THE DOUGH !! You have to just bind it together.
4. Wrap in a cling wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.


In the mean time let’s work on the filling.

1. Chop 5-6 onions into slices, take a pan, add some oil, once heated add the onions and set them to caramelise.
2. Now finely chop two more onions.
3. Wash and slice the mushrooms.
4. Keep an eye on those onions being caramelized. You don’t want them to burn.
4. Take another pan, heat the olive oil and add the finely chopped onions. Saute` till they sweat, add the garlic and saute` a little more till the garlicky aroma rises. Now add the sliced mushrooms and saute` till the mushrooms start to sweat. Add the chilli flakes, black pepper and salt. Give it a nice stir.
5. Now add the cheese and cream, give it a good mix and finally finish it off with the white wine. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
6. The mushroom filling should not be too dry but at the same time not too flowey.


Making the Tart Shell

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C.
2. Remove the pastry dough fro mthe refrigerator. 
3. Between two sheets of cling wrap start rolling the pastry dough.
4. Always remember to roll the pastry away from you and always in one direction. This helps in the pastry to not shrink while baking.
5. Carefully lift it, either on your rolling pin or with the cling wrap in which the dough was being rolled. Place it on your tart tin. Make sure you do not pull it. Gently press it down and trim the excess from the sides.
6 .Poke with the fork in a few places, so that it doesn’t puff up while baking.
7. Now cover it with butter paper and place either baking weights or just some beans from your kitchen.
8. Blind bake it for 20-25 minutes.
9. Remove from the oven. Remove the butter paper and the weights or the beans and let it cool down completely.

Assembly

1. Once the tart shell is completely cool, spread an even layer of the caramelized onions. 
2. Now add a layer of the mushrooms. Fill it in, nicely. Place thin strips of cheese on the top and bake at a 180 degree C for about 30 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven and serve hot.


Happy Baking !!

Peach Cobbler | Baking


Summertime is not just about Mangoes and Water Melons, it is also all about stone fruits from cherries, to apricots, to plums and my favourite Peaches 🙂



The juicy sweet fruit is typical of summers and always always remind me of the mountains. So with peaches in abundance at home nothing better than creating a dessert. Peach Cobbler !! Yes finally and that too in my cast iron skillet. Yes I’m showing off !! One look at it, and you’ll agree it is a thing to show off !! Ever since I started blogging and cooking I saw a lot of recipes being cooked in a cast iron skillet. I wanted it forever. A few months back a friend coming from US was kind enough to carry it for me (inspite all the weight of the skillet) all the way from there, but I got a chance to use it only now 🙂




So coming back to the Peach Cobbler, a cobbler is a dish usually consisting of a fruit as a filling with a crumbly topping. It can be baked in a skillet or any oven proof dish. I’ve made my cobbler in my cast iron skillet, you could also use a pyrex. If not baking in a skillet, please see the notes at the end of the recipe.


Ingredients


For the filling:


1 kg Fresh Peaches, Peeled and sliced

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp Cornflour

3/4 cup butter



For the crumble:

1 cup all purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 cup Sugar

1 cup Milk

4-5, 1″ cubes of butter



Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C.

2. Wash and peel the peaches. Slice them. 

3. Sprinkle the sliced peaches with sugar and cornflour and set aside.

4. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and sugar. Whisk well. 

5. Now add milk to the flour-sugar mix.

6. Place the skillet on the flame, and melt the butter in it. Add the sliced peaches. Mix well.

7. Now add the flour-sugar-milk mix to the skillet and stir till well combined. 

8. Now transfer the skillet into the oven. Top with the cubes of butter and let it take for 45 minutes to an hour.

9. Remove from the oven. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.







Note: 
1. If you are not baking in a skillet, just melt the butter in a pan, pour into your baking dish, add the peaches and pour over the flour-milk mix in it and set it to bake.

2. Peach Cobbler can also be made with canned peaches. For those times when you crave a peach cobbler when these beauties are not in season. Though fresh peaches are any day better.

Happy Baking !!

Sundried Tomatoes | How To Series | Kitchen Hacks

Homemade sun dried tomatoes are the best !! And they are so so so easy to make. Not only that, you can also create variations according to your tastes.

So sun dried tomatoes are tomatoes that have lost most of their water content after being dried in the sun for about 4-8 days. After they are dehydrated, they get this very interesting leathery chewy texture with a burst of flavour.

I sundry regular tomatoes as well as cherry tomatoes. They not only add so much flavour and character to pastas but also to salads, especially the cherry sundried tomatoes.
So there are two ways of doing this:

Sun Dried Tomatoes the Natural Way:

1. Chop the tomatoes into wedges or slices.

2. Spread them on a tray.

3. Sprinkle some salt and cover with a muslin cloth.

4. Keep in the sun. Remember to take them inside in the evenings.

5. Repeat this procedure for anything between 4-8 days and your sundried tomatoes are ready.

On the flip side the problems with this method are:

1. Birds can come and ruin the tomatoes.
2. Tomatoes invariable catch fungus.

This works well only when the sun is really really harsh and you live in a place where you get strong direct sunlight for atleast 4 hours a day. With a lot of us living in apartments nowadays, this could get a bit tricky. Plus it is time consuming. If you want you sundried tomatoes for dinner then this is not your method.

Sun Dried Tomatoes in the Oven:

Err….we mean dried tomatoes in the oven or dehydrated tomatoes but doesn’t it so completely lose it’s exoticness instantly the moment we take away sundried. Hence we prepare them in the oven but still call then Sun Dried tomatoes 😀 !!

1. Preheat oven to the lowest temperature setting for 10 minutes, if you use a convection oven, even better.
2. Chop the tomatoes into wedges or slices.
3. Line a baking tray with silver foil, and spread them on it. Sprinkle some salt on them.
4. Place it in the oven in the middle shelf and roast for 3-4 hours.


Now in this process you can do a lot of variations:

– While placing the tomatoes on the baking tray, you could grate some garlic on them, and maybe sprinkle some dried oregano or even tuck in a few sprigs of fresh basil. That is why I said you can create your own variations.


Storing Sun Dried Tomatoes:

You can bottle them with or without olive oil.
Or simply ziplock it and put it in the fridge. You can even freeze them after ziplocking it.
I don’t freeze it because I make small batches, so I only refrigerate it.

Here I have a bottle of sun dried cherry tomatoes.

Happy Drying !!

Lamingtons | Baking


Baking a cake always leaves me smiling !! If I were a doggie I’d be sitting outside the kitchen door waiting for the cake to get done and then wait to get my share !! Yeah that’s exactly how I feel when I bake a cake…. the aroma, a butter cakes creates in my house is sooooo soothing, happy, promising and inviting !! The smell of a comfortable bakery. 

Lamingtons originated in Australia, are cubes or square cakes made with either a sponge or a basic vanilla cake, dipped in chocolate icing and dusted with desiccated coconut. They are quick to make, look amazing and leave you with that happy comfortable contentment.


Lamingtons were the daring bakers challenge last month which I so wanted to participate in but could not because of some other issues going on in my life beyond the blog but I could not get over these beauties so they were high on my to do list and here I go today. I like them ! Now I’m waiting for the verdicts from my dad and KJ !! 

Lamingtons


Ingredients

For the cake:

125 g All purpose flour

75 g Cornflour

1 tsp Baking Powder

2 pinches of Baking Soda

4 eggs

1 cup of Castor Sugar

125g of Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Essence


For the Icing

3 ¼ cups icing sugar

1/3 cocoa powder

1 tbsp butter, melted


½ to ¾ cup Milk




Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Line a square baking dish with parchment.

2. Sift together flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda. Do this atleast 3 times and keep aside.

3. Cream the sugar and butter together.

4. Add eggs one by one into the sugar-butter cream. You need to add eggs one by one to make sure the mixture doesn’t split. Add the vanilla essence

5. Once all eggs are incorporated well, add the flour in about 3 batches. 

6. If the batter looks too thick add about 2 tbsp of milk or else transfer into the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is done.

7. Remove the cake from the cake mould and transfer on a cooling rack. Let it col down completely.

8. Once the cake is completely cool, cut it up into equal sized square pieces. 


To make the icing:

1. Combine icing sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Whisk it well. Add the butter and milk and whisk again. Now put it on a pan of boiling water. Basically we need to create a double boiler here. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl on the top which has the sugar and cocoa mix. While on the pot pan of water, whisk the cocoa – icing sugar mix well, till ingredients are well incorporated and you get a thick saucy consistency.

2. In another bowl put some desiccated coconut.

Assembly:

1. Take the cake squared and first dip it in to the chocolate icing. coast well.

2. Now carefully remove from the icing bowl (you could use a fork to do this) and transfer into the desiccated coconut bowl. Coat well again. Make sure the squares are properly coated with the coconut on all sides. 

3. Put on the rack . Repeat this step with all the squares.

Now place the lamingtons on a plate and refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes. Serve.



Happy Baking !!


Pomegranate Molasses | How To Series | Kitchen Hacks


A lot of times baking and even cooking various dishes, from around the world can be challenging especially in India, because of the lack of convenience of finding certain ingredients off the shelves. Either it is difficult to find them or if you find them then they are way too expensive or difficult to source consistently.  

The flip side to this is that we learn how to create these at home !! Isn’t that what love for cooking does to so many of us !! Honestly if I know my results are exact to what I can buy in the market, I anyday want to make a dish from scratch; so making such ingredients at home is only icing on cake :-). A few examples of such ingredients are Sour Cream, Half-n-Half, Tahini, a Carton of Buttermilk, Pomegranate Molasses, Sun Dried Tomatoes etc which are either not available or way too expensive.



I ran into one such issue when I was making Muhammara, a Turkish Dip. Pomegranate Molasses is a key ingredient to muhammara and I could not find it anywhere in my city, but I could not get my heart off this simple turkish accompaniment….I just had to make it at home…so with a little research I learnt how to make Pomegranate Molasses at home and voila…..it worked. Worked beautifully !! 🙂

So here goes the recipe for Pomegranate Molasses:



Ingredients

1 litre Pomegranate Juice (I used packaged juice. If you are using fresh juice increase the sugar content to 1 cup)
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Directions

1. Pour the pomegranate juice in a pan and set it on high heat. 

2. Add the sugar and keep stirring till the sugar melts.

3. Now add the lemon juice and continue to stir till the juice thickens into an almost jelly like consistency . The moment the juice coats the back of the spoon, turn off the gas. The molasses is ready.Basically that 1 l of juice should reduce to about 350 ml.

4. Let it cool down completely then transfer in a bottle and refrigerate. Use as required. This stays happy in the fridge for many months.


We learn something new everyday !! Cheers !!

Multigrain Bread | Baking


After all the fun I had, doing the 30days30dips Series, I’m back with baking bread.
This bread has been on my to do list for a while. I love making breads and especially the whole wheat and multigrain varieties. I must confess it took me 2-3 times before getting the mix right. Yes. If I make it pure pure multigrain then the bread becomes too heavy and hard and if I add too much flour I was changing the character of the bread.


When I started doing breads I took it up as a challenge on myself to be able to make the real multigrain or the real whole wheat, because I used to see my mother promptly opt for the branded multigrains or whole wheats thinking she was buying better healthier options. However the truth is that store bought commercial bread (i’m not talking about bakery breads here) only contain 10% multigrains or whole wheat flours. The rest is white all purpose flour. While white breads have the best textures and are really really yummy, they may not always be the healthiest. 
Here I’m not trying to preach anyone the benefits of multigrain or whole wheat over white breads, nor am I saying that homemade multigrain is only multigrains and no flour, but if and when you want to eat a multigrain eat the real thing.


For my multigrain recipe, I use a homemade multigrain flour mix. The details of the multigrain flour will be listed out after the bread recipe.

Multigrain Bread


Ingredients

4 cups or 400 gm Multigrain Flour

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup All Purpose Flour

2 tsp Dry Active Yeast

2 tbsp Honey

3 tbsp Milk Powder

4 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tsp Salt

Directions

1. Sieve together the multigrain flour, wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and the milk powder.

2. Activate the yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.

3. Once activated, add to the flour mix and rub it through the flour with your fingers. Keep mixing till you get a bread crumbly texture.

4. Now add a little water and start kneading the dough. Add the olive oil and fo on kneading. This dough requires a little more water compared to other doughs.

5. Once kneaded well, this should take about 10 minutes, keep in a dry clean bowl and cover with cling wrap and keep in a warm place for an hour or till the dough doubles in size.

6. Once the dough doubles in size, punch it down lightly with your fingers and give it a light knead.

7. Shape it into a desired shape, place it on a baking tray and let it rest for another 30 minutes. You can sprinkle either poppy seeds or nigella seeds.

8. In the mean time preheat the oven to 200 C degrees for 10 minutes. Now place a shallow tray with hot water at the bottom of the oven, place the grill in the middle rack over the waterbath and place the trays with the loaves. Bake for 20 minutes till the crust browns golden in colour.

9. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack.

This bread is best served toasted.

Multigrain Flour

2 cup Wholewheat Flour
1 cup Ragi
1 cup Soya Flour
1 cup Kala Chana Flour
1 cup Pearl Millet (Bajra)
1 cup Sorghum (Jowar)
1 cup Oat Flour

Sieve all these flours together and store and use as required.

Happy Baking !!

Condiment Series | Chef Saby creates 2 amazing Dips for us | Smoked Mango Dip and Roasted Watermelon Dip

Day 31



Yes one more to go….surprise !!! I’ve had an awesome series and to mark the end of these wonderful 30 days, my friend Chef Sabyasachi Gorai agreed to create two dips especially for this series. 


Sabyasachi Gorai better known as Chef Saby amongst friends and patrons is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. Not only is he a Chef Extraordinaire` he’s also an amazing human being !! 🙂 

 Had it not been the knife, it would have been the paint brush, for what difference does it make when you are a born artist !! He has many accolades to his credit, including winning a national award for the ‘Best Chef of India’. He was the Director of the Kitchens of restaurants like Olive Qutub, Olive Beach, Ai- The Japanese Restaurant !! He also started the Olive Culinary Academy.


Today Chef Saby is associated with various restaurants like Amreli at the Hotel Diplomat, Soda Bottle Openerwala and Drool Waffles to name a few. He’s a man who believes in giving back to the earth. He believes in indigenous products and makes food as natural as possible. His trip in life is farm to restaurant for cooking with the freshest possible produce. 

I met Chef Saby the other day at Amreli over lunch and he created magic for me in his kitchen !! 
With the season of fresh, refreshing fruits in the air, he created two dips Smoked Mango Dip and Roasted Watermelon dip. I’m sharing both the recipes here:

Smoked Mango Dip


Ingredients

2 ripe Mangoes
2 raw Mangoes
200 ml or 1 cup Coconut Milk
2-3 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 pieces of Star Anise
3 Dried, slightly fried Whole Red Chillies
1/2 tsp Black Salt


Chef at work, creating magic !!


Directions


1. Roast the raw mangoes in a tandoor. (If you do not have a tandoor,  roast them in your oven at the highest temperature).
2. Slice the ripe mangoes, sprinkle some brown sugar, and using a kitchen torch caramelise the sugar and the mangoes. Now scoop out the mangoes both ripe and raw into a bowl.
3. Take a frying pan (if you have a small tadka / tempering pan that would be ideal), pour 1 tbsp oil and heat. Add the cumin seeds and the star anise. Once the spices splutter, pour over the coconut milk.
4. Take a blender, put the both types of mangoes, tempered coconut milk, red chillies and the black salt. Bitz  to a smooth creamy consistency.
5. Transfer in a serving dish and serve. 

This dip beautifully complements Prawns or any other sea foods. Though ofcourse you can have it the way you like !!


__________________________________



Roasted Watermelon Dip



Ingredients

400g of cut Watermelon or say about a quarter of the watermelon, cut into large cubes and seeds removed.

4-5 Green chillies

2 inch piece of Ginger cut into juliennes

200 g Feta Cheese

100 g Hung Curd 

Directions

1. Thread the watermelon cubes and the chillies onto skewers.

2. On a flame grill roast the watermelon along with chillies, keep turning it around and basting it with some olive oil. 

3. Once the watermelon is roasted, remove from fire and let it cool down.

4. Take a blended, put the watermelon pieces, green chiliies, ginger and salt. Blitz to a liquid consistency. 

5. Take a pan, and pour the liquidized watermelon, add 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder and let it cook. We need to reduce it a bit and thicken the consistency.

6. Whisk together the feta and hung curd to a smooth consistency, add the watermelon reduction and mix well. Adjust seasoning if required.

7. Transfer in a serving dish.

This is a very delicately flavoured dip and goes best with crudites or fresh salad. 




Thank you Chef Saby !! It was a wonderful afternoon some amazing food at Amreli and than you so much for taking time out and creating two absolutely wonderful dips especially for my 30days30dips Series !! Cheers !!



Happy Dipping !!