Making Sour Cream at Home | How To Series| Kitchen Hacks

When you love to cook, especially everything from scratch, learning about these small but important things is not only imperative but also gives me a high.

Making Sour Cream at home is just so simple. Just so amazing !! And again costs you one fourth of what you buy from the market.
Homemade Sour Cream stays happy in the refrigerator for a month and it gets thicker and thicker and better and better with time.
Please make sure that both the cream and the buttermilk are at room temperature when you are making sour cream. This is important for best results. If the ingredients are cold, the sour cream will take much longer to thicken or may not thicken properly.
A lot of friends and my readers have been asking how to make sour cream at home. Finally, here it is:

Sour Cream
Ingredients
2 cups or 400 ml Light Cream, at room temperature
2 tbsps cultured Buttermilk, at room temperature
Procedure
1. Place the cream in a medium sized glass bowl.
2. Add the buttermilk and mix well.
3. Cover tightly with cling wrap and keep in a warm place for 24 hours, until thickened to a custard like consistency.I keep it inside my microwave.
4. After 24 hours keep the bowl in the refrigerator for atleast 24 hours before using the sour cream. The sour cream may continue to thicken in the refrigerator.

How To Make Buttermilk 


Take one cup milk at room temperature.
Add 2 tbsp of Vinegar and let it stand for 10 minutes.
Buttermilk is ready. 
Use it for beads, scones, cakes, sour cream etc.

Happy Exploring !!

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.

Condiment Series | Caribbean Coconut Dip | Dip

Day 17


The Caribbean Coconut Dip is an inspiration from the famous Pina Colada, which happens to be one of my favourite cocktails ! A lovely sweet summer flavour, I had actually never imagined it as a dip !!



This is again a simple dip with the native produce of the caribbean – Pineapple and Coconut.
 Incidentally Pina Colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico and legend has many a tale to tell. It is said that in the early 19th century a pirate named Roberto Cofresi, to boost the morale of his crew offered them a drink which contained coconut, pineapple and white rum !! With his death, the pina colada was lost, until later in 1954, Ricardo Gracia, a Caribe Hilton employee claimed to have invented it.



Anyway coming back to this dip, it has a tangy sweetness and can be put together very quickly. Serve with a savoury dish and the sweetness to the dip comes as a refreshing surprise. (One generally doesn’t expect a sweet dip).

My father and KJ could lap it up in case we ran out of desserts at home 😀


Caribbean Coconut Dip



Ingredients


1 cup of Hung curd

1/3 cup of Dessicated Coconut

2 Slices of Canned Pineapple

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsps of the canned pineapple syrup


For garnish

1 tbsp Walnuts coarsely chopped

1 slice of canned pineapple finely chopped



Directions

In a blender, blend together the hung curd, dessicated coconut and the pineapple. 

Add the syrup and the salt.


Transfer in the serving dish. 

Garnish with walnuts and chopped pineapple.

Serving suggestions: With Chicken Nuggets, Cutlets, Kebabs.

Happy Dipping !!

Condiment Series | Egyptian Beetroot Dip | Dip

Day 14


Egyptian Beetroot Dip  – why is this called so, even I don’t know !! 

The recipe shows influences from the middle east and we know for a fact, that the flavours in the cuisines from Egypt and the Middle East are overlapping. This is probably egyptian and not lebanese, because of the use of spices. Egyptians are known to use spices heavily in their food. Usually one finds variants of the similar lebanese dishes in Egypt but with additions of more fragrances and aromas in the form of spices.



This dip is my ‘show-off’ dip’ :D. It is a perfect party enhancer. Make this, serve with crackers or soup -sticks along with the drinks and your party begins….What I like about such dips is that they are delicious, light, guilt free and look absolutely exotic !! Look at that colour…. 



Egyptian Beetroot Dip

Ingredients

2 large Beetroots
4 cloves of Garlic
1/3 cup of plain yoghurt
1 heaped tsp of Cumin seeds
1 tsp of Coriander seeds
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Toasted Pistachios, roughly chopped for garnish



Direction

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Wrap the beetroots in foil and roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes.
2. When the last 10 minutes are left throw in the garlic and let it roast as well. Let the beetroot cool down, then peel the skin off.

3. While the beetroot is roasting, take a small frying pan and dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds, till aroma rises. Remove from the flame and grind to a fine powder.

4. Roughly chop the beetroots, put in the food processor and add all the other ingredients besides the olive oil and pistachios. 

5. Blitz in the processor till well blended and a smooth paste is formed. Transfer in the serving dish, dribble some olive oil and pistachios for garnish.

6. Serve with crackers or any other finger food of your choice.



Condiment Series | The Italian Pesto | Dip\Sauce

Day 11


Pesto  – The Fragrant Italian Sauce !! 

Pesto is one of the earliest sauces / dips I started making. It is my absolute personal favourite and my ‘go to’ sauce everytime I’m in a fix, so when in doubt, use pesto !!
The woody fragrance of pine nuts blending with the sweetness of basil is a marriage made in heaven.


It is a light fresh sauce perfect for summer that can not only be used in pastas, but also salads. It also makes for an interesting dip / topping.
Bless the Italian Nonnas to have invented this !!



‘Pesto’ is a generic term used for anything that is made by pounding and originally was made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan, though today there are various versions of pesto, made with many different ingredients.

While traditionally Pesto does contain Parmesan, I do not add it in my version of the recipe. Since I use so much of Pesto, I always try to do away with cheese wherever I can, though I’d suggest you should add to the recipe, especially if you are making this for the first time.


Pesto



Ingredients

100g Basil leaves 

1/2 cup Pine nuts

5 cloves of garlic.

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (optional. add it if you are making it for the first time.)


4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste





Directions

1. In a food processor, add all ingredients besides the olive oil. Process on low till all ingredients blend in well. 

2. Increase the processor speed to high and dribble oil in a thin stream. 

3. Scrape down the sides of the food processor jar and transfer the pesto in a jar. Use immediately or refrigerate.

felice martellante !


Condiment Series | Mushroom Dip | Dips

Day 9


Mushroom Dip. Serve it hot. Serve it cold. Yeah… serve it the way you like it. It’s an all year dip. I serve this warm-n-fuzzy with nachos or pita on cold wintry evenings and serve it chilled in summers. This also makes for excellent sandwich spreads too (that was my breakfast today !!).


The base in this dip is the white sauce, though one could do the same with sour cream as well. I’ll try to share a sour cream-mushroom dip recipe as well, a little later. For now here goes the recipe:

Mushroom Dip !!




Ingredients

200g Mushrooms (regular white button mushrooms), finely chopped

1 large Onion, finely chopped

4-5 cloves of Garlic, minced

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1/2 tsp of chilli flakes

Salt to taste

Oil for sauteing

For the white sauce

1 tbsp Butter

1 tbsp All purpose white flour

1 cup Milk

Black Pepper

Salt to taste.




Directions

1. Take a pan. Pour oil, saute the garlic till slightly golden. Now add the onions and saute` till translucent.

2. Once the onions are done add the finely chopped mushrooms and saute`.

3. Keep stirring every once in a while till the mushrooms are almost cooked through. This should take about 12-15 minutes on medium to high heat. Now add the salt,  dried oregano and chilli flakes. mix well. Cook for another 2 minutes. By this time the moisture from the mushrooms should have evaporated. If not, saute` a little more till the liquid evaporates.



4. While the mushrooms are cooking, we should prepare the white sauce. Take another pan, add 1 tbsp of butter and half a tsp for oil (so that the butter doesn’t burn).

5. Once the butter melts, add the flour and mix well till butter and flour are well combined. Make sure the flour doesn’t change colour, however once the aroma rises, add half the milk and quickly quickly whisk with a spatula or a balloon whisk , into a smooth paste. Make sure there are no lumps formed.

6. Add the remaining milk and mix well. Check for consistency. It should not be very flowy. It should have saucy consistency. If the sauce coats the back of the spoon, it is ready. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

7. Remove from fire and add the cooked mushrooms.

8. Serve warm. Or if you want to serve cold, let it cool down completely, cover with the cling wrap and refrigerate.

Condiment Series | Piri Piri Hummus | Dip

It almost sounds strange to call Hummus a dip, though technically speaking it is one.
I’ve earlier done a post on hummus which was a basic recipe. Here I’m writing about another variant of the basic, The Piri Piri Hummus. You can let your imagination run wild and experiment with various ingredients and flavours that can be added to hummus.




Hummus is a Middle Eastern dip, now with more and enough added flavours. The perfect accompaniment to Pita. The mild flavour of rosemary and the punch of piri piri is a treat to your taste buds.
This too makes an excellent base for a sandwich or a crostini. It is my favourite dressing for a wrap or an open sandwich. It’s guilt free and superbly delicious ! I have actually completely done away with using butter or mayonnaise in my wraps and sandwiches. Though I will share my home made mayonnaise recipe for those occasional indulgences in my coming posts. 🙂


Piri Piri Hummus

Ingredients

2 cups Boiled Chickpeas
1 tbsp Tahini
Juice of 1 Lemon
3-4 cloves Garlic
6-7 Peri-Peri Red Chillies
1 tsp Dried Rosemary
1/2 Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt to Taste

For Tempering
Olive Oil
Chilli Flakes


Directions

1. In a food processor, add the boiled channas or chickpeas, tahini paste, garlic cloves, lemon juice, piri-piri chillies, rosemary and salt. Blitz.

2. While the processor is running add the olive oil in a thin stream. Blitz till all ingredients are well blended. 

3. Remove from the processor, transfer in a serving bowl.

4. Prepare the tempering by heating the olive oil in a pan. Add the chilli flakes and let then just burn. As soon as they become dark and the aroma rises, temper the hummus. 

5. Garnish with parsley leaves and serve.

Gooey, Sinful, Melt-In-Your-Mouth, Dark Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake !! | Baked Cheesecake

“Chocolate Doesn’t Ask Silly Questions…. Chocolate Understands !!!”




Gooey, Sinful, Melt-in-your-mouth, Dark Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake !! I cannot think of just one adjective to describe this cake. Perfect for a day when you feel all indulgent and chocolatey. I made this recently for a very special kid – one of my favourite nephews 🙂 
My cousin’s older one, who is a foodie at heart, a great kid , hard working, intelligent and good at school. Loves to help his mum in the kitchen… I won’t be surprised he turns out a chef one day 🙂 


While I’ve done many cheesecakes before and many different types of chocolate cakes as well, never ever had I done a Chocolate Cheesecake. Hmmm the best of both the worlds :-))
Yes it’s all indulgent but surely gives me pangs of guilt as well….. you’ll know why 🙂
So hence it’s a special cake strictly for special occasions only.



The Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the Crust:

250g Chocolate Biscuits
100 g Digestive Biscuits
2 tbsps Cocoa Powder
100g Butter at room temperature or melted

For The Filling / Cheesecake

280g Semisweet / Dark Chocolate
230g Cream Cheese

1 ¼  cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
400ml of Cream 
50 ml of strong coffee ( I used nescafe)
4 large eggs

For the Ganache Topping

200ml Cream
150 g Semi Sweet Chocolate
A dollop of butter

Direction:

1. Line a 10 inch spring foam or lose bottom cake mould.

2. Crush the chocolate and digestive biscuits. Mix in butter and cocoa powder. It’s best to whiz it up in a food processor but don’t make it too fine. The consistency should be that of bread crumbs.

3. Spread this mixture evenly in the mould and press it down first with your fingers and then with the back of a plain glass to smoothen it.you can also tilt the mould at a 90 degree angle and press the biscuit mixture onto the sides to create a wall of the same crust. This is very helpful if you are using a large mould . It holds and supports the cheesecake well.
This may read a bit tricky but its not quite. Once you start doing it, you’ll get the hang of it. The butter helps to hold it in place.
While here you can see only small single serves, I had also made a large cheesecake and had created the sides with the crust. When making small quantities or single serves this is not important.  

4. Preheat the oven at 150 degree C. Bake the crust for 5 minutes and let it cool down completely.

5. Return the oven to the preheat mode at 150 degree C, while you work in the filling.

6. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (like me if you do not have a double boiler, take a saucepan with water and put it on the flame, once the water comes to a boil, put the chocolate in a heat proof glass bowl and place it on the saucepan. Make sure the saucepan doesn’t touch the water and melt you chocolate.) Using a balloon whist or a spatula mix it till smooth. Let it cool for 2 minutes.

7. While the chocolate is melting ( keep an eye on it), whisk the cream cheese. Once smooth add sugar. Whisk again till well incorporated. Now add the cream and again whist well. I used the electric hand blender for this. You could whisk in a food processor or use a balloon whisk. 

8. Now add the coffee to the cream cheese mixture and whisk in the melted chocolate to it.

9.  Lastly add the eggs, one at a time and give it another good whisk.

10. Pour it over the crust and put it in the oven to bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes at 150 degree C.

11. Insert and knife in the centre, it its a little moist don’t worry , it’s good. Ideally it should not be completely hard. Let it rest in the oven for 10 minutes. Let it cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator overnight.

12. For the Topping: Prepare the Ganache:

Cut the chocolate into small pieces.
Heat the cream in a pan. When bubbles start appearing around the sides of the pan, add the chocolate and mix well, till well incorporated. Keep stirring so that the ganache becomes smooth. Add the butter, again mix well.
Let it cool down a bit. The consistency should be pourable.
Once cooled pour over the cheesecake.
Let it chill in the refrigerator for one our till the topping sets or till serving time.

Happy Baking !! 🙂 Happy eating !! :-))

Unlike most cheesecakes, this will be dense. It is perfectly normal. The cream and the chocolate make the cake dense and give it it’s gooey texture.
If the top of the cheesecake is not perfectly smooth, it doesn’t matter. The rather uneven top gives it a lovely rustic look.

Serving Suggestions:

1. Dust with powdered sugar.
2. Dust with cocoa powder.
3. Serve with a compote. I plated the cheesecake with my Roasted Strawberry Compote.  The acidity of the compote cuts through the sweetness of the cheesecake striking the right balance.

The Dirty Martini – A neat period parody !!

I’m invited for what I anticipate, will be a high strung socialite evening of some bar book winners with a celebrity chef…..however to my surprise, I’m escorted to a rustic screeching metal door….fit only to be what looked like a backdoor entry…..and oh yes it indeed is. Through the doorway, from the back alley, to the back of the kitchen….with smiling chefs and into a vibrant looking bar with a period setting!! 
So while I’ve recovered from this clandestine entry, I’m accosted by someone no less than the coolest of the Chefs this side of the country – our very own Chef Saby complete with his highly infectious brand of smile who asks us to be served with some tea !! Tea ??? 

And promptly the guy comes out with a kettle and a kullar (earthen tumbler used widely in India to serve tea or hot milk) and pours me a cup !!

Left: Frozen Orange and Water Melon Martinis.                                                                   Right: Mulled Wine in a kullar


To my pleasant surprise the drink is actually Mulled Wine. A first for me…. Mulled wine is essentially red wine infused with spices like cinnamon, star anise and orange peel…..and the party begins…..people start pouring in and in no time the place is full and rocking with Olga our beautiful russian singer with a voice of a nightingale at the piano !!

So here we are at one the latest and most sought after bars of the city……


‘The Dirty Martini” – a 1920s speakeasy inspired bar set in Europe.
at the Olive @ Qutub

The 1920s, an opulent era of prohibition rooted in the US, when cocktails were served in tea cups; and where live bands, silent cinema and floor-shows marked entertainment. An era of molls and gangsters, of flappers and flamboyance; and where bars could be hidden away with a touch of a button in case of any raids.  They were basically illegal bars because manufacturing or trade of alcohol was prohibited and the only way around was bootlegging. These bars usually had a secret back door entry through dirty alleys, tricky doors and basements. Access to which was screened or password controlled. 
A speakeasy brings to mind a smoky bar with blues music, dancing to jazz, aromas of comfort food wafting out from the kitchen and a fun, relaxed celebratory atmosphere. 



The Dirty Martini is beautifully inspired by that era with old classical looking vibrant interiors, a grand piano which makes an essential part of the decor and an exuberant tavern.
Our perfect-as-ever hosts…..Chef Saby and his team had created a delicious menu for this bloggers’ event with a list of some classy, sophisticated, yet dramatic cocktails. 
Amongst them my favourites were the Mulled Wine, The South Side – their signature drink, and the Cherry wood smoked Gin-n-Tonic. Oh and how could I forget the Jasmine infused Martini…. reminded of my ‘after lunch’ green tea….only a little more exciting !! :-))

The Dirty Martini Cocktail Menu is created by the 
Team of celebrity bartender  Zdenek Kastanek.

Clockwise: Big Boss Toast, The Smoking machine for the Smoked Gin-n-tonic, The Cheery wood smoked Gin-n-tonic
The beauty of the drink is that you can actually see the smoke atop the drink in the glass.
It adds another dimension to the good old gin-n-tonic.


Clockwise: Overlooking the bar, crowds at large, South Side – A signature cocktail. Oh I love these cups and saucers !!


Jasmine infused Martinis
Beer served in paper bags….no one should see !!!
The expert bartender at work !!

Besides these intoxicating beauties, as usual the food was delicious with an intelligent mix of finger foods. My favourites being the Shrimp Jammers, Gangster Slider – tenderloin patty with grilled onions, Shebeen Sandwich. Not to forget the Starving Mafia – Slow cooked lamb goulash with country style bread. For someone like me who is extremely fussy with their meats specially lamb this was a hands down winner !! I specially loved the presentation of this dish with the goulash being served again in tea cups !!

Left: Starving Mafia – Slow cooked lamb goulash with country side bread.  Right: Gangster Slider – Tenderloin patty with grilled onions.

To wrap up the evening there was a live dessert counter where a chef was creating The Smoking Cigar – Churros with Chocolate Sauce. Not just another chocolate sauce but a Dirty Martini special, with a mix of hot chocolate and bailey’s.
And last but not the least, Nutty Auntie – Baked apple and walnut tart with maple drizzle.

Chef Saby was kind enough share his signature cocktail – The South Sider’s recipe and also the Sheeban Sandwich.




The South Sider

Bombay sapphire – 50 ml

Lemon juice – 20 ml

Sugar syrup – 15ml

Mint – 6-8 leaf
Glassware – tea cup
Garnish –  mint leaf
Directions:
Shake all the ingredients together in a shaker and fine strain into a cup and garnish with mint 


The Shebeen Sandwich

Ingredients:

80 g Herbed artichokes in oil (1 pc)          
30 g Red Harissa
20 g Apricot Chutney
Feta Paste – 40 g      
1 French Baguette (4 pc)    
12 g Garlic butter     
Curled parsley – a few sprigs                                                 

For Red Harissa : 
500g Chilli paste
1 kg Olive oil 
1 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds 
40 g Lemon juice                  
                                                                                            
For Apricot Chutney:
500g Apricots                       
1 litre Orange juice
5 nos. Star Anise
200g Honey  
                                               
Direction
                                               
For Harissa: 
Pound all the ingredients together and store in the refrigerator                                              
                                               
For Apricot Chutney: 
Boil apricot in orange juice, honey and star anise. Than reduce till the orange reduces to one fourth and apricot is soft enough                                               
                                               
For Assembly:
Toast sliced bread with garlic butter, pipe feta paste on top.

Grill artichoke on other side and toss it finally with red harissa. Arrange it on the bread with apricot chutney.   


Thank you everyone at the Dirty Martini and Chef Saby for having us over 
for a fun-filled evening !! 


Cheers !!