Thursday, 18 August 2011

To New Beginnings and LOTS of more food!

For numerous reasons, FDD has moved homes, taking the kitchen along...! I hope you will continue to enjoy my experiments at our new home:

We are now live, and hope to hear from you soon!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Dinner with Friends!

I was MIA from the blog this past weekend because AK wasn't in town. He wasn't around to make sad, hungry faces and encourage my experiments, or even to take photos. So I made up for it mid-week. On Tuesday, I had a few friends, my brother and a cousin over for dinner. And this is what I put on the table for them (click on their names to be directed to the detailed recipe posts!):

White Chilli

Mexican Rice

Corn & Peppers Salad

Crispy Roasted Potato

And to top it all... Banana & Blueberry Parfait for dessert...

Mexican Accompaniments: Served with White Chili

These are the accompaniments I used with my White Chilli dinner. Unfortunately, I’m very low on photos for this post. (Blaming it on AK’s sprained ankle again)!

Mexican Rice 

For 8 people, I used:
3 cups long grained white rice
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
1 tbsp rice
1 onion, chopped
3 green chillies, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tomatoes

I dunked the tomatoes in boiling hot water for 10 mins so that the skin loosened and I could remove it. Then I chopped them up roughly (slightly chunky-ly).

I washed the rice well, i.e. until the water in which I immersed the rice was clear, and not cloudy.

In a pan (with a lid) I heated the oil. I added the onions and fried till translucent. Then I added the chillies and garlic and fried for another minute.

I added the tomatoes and cooked them on medium heat for about 10 mins. Then I added the salt and spices and roasted till the air was fragrant with the aroma!! (About another 5 mins).

I then added the washed and drained rice. I cooked it, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes on medium heat. The rice took on a lovely golden colour.

I then added the stock & water, stirred and brought it to a boil. At this point, I put on the lid and lowered the heat to minimum. I cooked it for about 6-7 mins, until the rice had absorbed all the liquid. Depending on your stove, the time could vary so keep a close eye on it.

When I saw gaps appearing in the rice and the liquid absorbed, I turned off the stove and allowed it to sit in the steam (without lifting the lid) for another 10 mins. Then I lifted the lid and stirred the rice gently with a fork to separate out the grains.

Then I placed it in a dish, ready to serve!

Corn Salad

I used:
1 cup Frozen Corn
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
Salt, Pepper, Red Chilli Powder
Juice of 1 lemon

I microwaved the corn for about 1 mins and allowed it to cool.

I chopped up the peppers to match the size of the corn kernels...

Mixed them up and added the seasoning. I had a 5 minute salad ready...!!

 Roasted Crispy Potatoes

I used:
6 potatoes
2 tbsp melted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup flour
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper

I scrubbed and washed the potatoes (very well, because they were to be consumed with the peel). Yes I know there are 8 in the pic. While I was chopping them, I decided there were too many and cut out two of them!

I placed the butter and garlic in a microwave safe dish (with a lid). I then cut up the potatoes into wedges (sort of) – each potato into 8 pieces. I added these to the dish and tossed them well to coat with the butter garlic mixture.

I placed the lid on and microwaved the potatoes on high for 5 mins. When done, I lifted the lid and allowed the steam to escape (else the potatoes will become too watery and the dry ingredients will fall short.)

When the potatoes had cooled down considerably, I pre-heated the oven to 200 C. (Top and bottom coils).

I mixed the breadcrumbs, flour and salt in a bowl. I added this mix to the potatoes in parts and tossed to coat.

Then I placed them on a foil lined cookie tray in an even (sort of) layer! I baked these for about 30 mins, or until nice and golden!

Pico De Gallo

This is the simplest of ALL!!

I used:
3 large tomatoes
2 onions
3 green chillies
A WHOLE lot of cilantro/ coriander leaves
Salt & Pepper
Juice of 1 lemon

I chopped up the tomatoes, onions, chillies and coriander finely and placed them in a bowl. I added the salt, pepper and lemon juice. Tossed it, refrigerated for an hour and it was ready to serve!

White Chili: Hearty Chicken Meal

My mom’s favourite western meal is Chili Con Carne with Rice. Well, apart from steak. And spaghetti with meatballs.  And... Anyhow, we grew up on a lot of Chili (for short!). It is a wholesome, rich, fulfilling stew of meat and red (kidney) beans. Recently, I chanced upon a recipe for WHITE Chili on PW’s site. What is that, you might ask?!?!!! It’s the white version of Chili. Duh. But seriously, its a stew of chicken and white beans! I decided I HAD to try it since AK is definitely more of a Chicken than Red Meat person. I obviously modified it to use available ingredients...

Here’s what I used (for 8 people)

2 chicken breasts
1-1/2 cup black eyed peas (lobiya/ raungi/ chawli)
2 tbsp Cornmeal (makki ka atta – which I couldn’t get hold of anywhere because it’s the summer. Fortunately, my life-saver mother had a leftover packet from the winter!!)
1 cup (whole/ full fat) milk
2 onions, chopped
3-4 green chillies, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp roasted cumin (jeera) powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
Salt & pepper
For garnish:
Grated cheese
Sour Cream
Cilantro/ Coriander Leaves
Fried Onions

First, I placed the beans in a pan and covered them with water. I let them soak all day, while I was at work...

By the time I returned, they had swollen and looked like this  - almost triple their size and soft enough to split, if I was to press a bean between 2 fingertips.

I put the 2 chicken breasts in a pressure cooker, added about 8 cups of water along with ½ tsp of salt. I pressure cooked it until I got 1 whistle. Allowed it to cool a little and reserved all the water (chicken stock).

I then shredded the chicken (well my brother did. I should give him credit when due...!)

I heated about 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp oil in the (now washed) pressure cooker and added the chopped onions.

When they were pale and translucent, I added the chopped chillies and minced garlic.

Having stirred it for a minute, I added the drained beans and gave it all a good stir.

I then added the red chilli powder, cumin powder, 1 tsp salt and some fresh ground pepper and gave it a good stir...

Pictures from this part on are sparse. Sorry I was juggling too many things and AK sprained his ankle so couldn’t help with photos of this entire session...

Anyhow, I added 6 cups of the reserved chicken stock, stirred the mixture and put the lid on. I gave it one whistle and turned the heat off to allow it to cool enough that I could handle the cooker.

I let out the steam/ pressure, opened the lid and added the chicken. I cooked it on a slow fire for almost an hour. By this time, I was quite distressed that my white chilli looked red. Result of the red chilli powder...

Anyhow, I then took the cornmeal in a cup...

Added the milk to it and stirred it well to get rid of all the lumps...

I added this mix to the stew and let it cook for another 15 mins. And lo behold. My chilli wasn’t red anymore!!! Well, it wasn’t quite white, but I was happy with it.

To assemble, I poured it in a bowl. Grated some cheese on it. Sprinkled it with lots of cilantro/ coriander. Added a dollop of sour cream. Lastly, sprinkled some of my heaven (read Mom) sent fried onions!!

Note on the Sour Cream: so we don’t really get sour cream easily here. So I used my Mom’s method. I took a few tbsp of cream/ top-of-the-milk in a small dish with a lid. Added a tsp of homemade curd/ yoghurt to it. Mixed it gently, covered and left it in a warm place all day. When I needed it, I whipped it up with a beater for about 2 mins and voila!!

Banana & Blueberry Parfait: Easy Summer Dessert

This is the most amazingly simple, yet pretty, dessert to make. Refreshingly chilled and summary, it depends entirely on the combination of sweet, tart & crunchy! And feel free to substitute the banana-blueberry combination with mangoes, fresh strawberries, peaches or any other fresh fruit that rocks your boat! But it HAS to be fresh fruit. It's not the same otherwise. 

Here’s what it looked like:

The original recipe is from my friend Reva’s  blog...

For 6 portions, I used:
1 pack of Nestle Dahi (400 ml pack of yoghurt/ curd)
1 x 200 gm pack of digestive biscuits
4 tbsp melted butter
100 ml cream
3 tbsp powdered sugar
Grated rind of 1 orange
3 bananas, peeled & sliced
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup orange juice (optional)
¼ cup peach schnapps (optional)

I hung the Dahi in a clean kitchen cloth before I left for work and “un-hung” it 8 hours later. It lost all the water and became thick and creamy... Ignore my ugly pink plastic bowl if you can!

I also powdered the biscuits before work...

And since I didn’t have access to fresh blueberries, I resorted to dried ones which my Mom just brought back from Canada.

I didn’t like the way they looked (kind of like the difference between fresh grapes and raisins) so I soaked them in orange juice and peach schnapps to plump them up a bit.

Well I also added Bacardi, but I wouldn’t recommend it because I didn’t like what happened!

When I was ready to make the dessert in the evening, I grated the rind off one orange...

I beat the hung curd and rind together for a minute, just to combine them well...

I added the cream and the sugar and mixed it just until combined.

Now, to assemble!! Sorry I don’t have more photos of this part, but it’s simple. I got out my new-ish but favourite set of 6 wine glasses and layered everything...

For each glass, I put 1 heaped tbsp of the biscuit mix, then 1 tbsp of the yoghurt mix, then 4-5 slices of bananas and 1 tbsp of the blueberries. Then I repeated it!!  

I chilled the concoction in the fridge until after dinner, but you can chill for as long as you like. Minimum one hour.  And this is what I got.

 Epilogue: I lost one of those glasses even before it had the time to chill. Unfortunately, the glasses were too tall from my fridge rack and we tried stacking them in the door cavity, with tragic results. Broke my heart.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Moist Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

My Masi (maternal aunt) called me on Friday to ask me for the carrot cake recipe I used to use. It reminded me that it has been over a year & a half that I had made it myself. Having been invited for dinner to the home of AK’s colleague, it presented the perfect opportunity to bake this cake and take it for dessert! The original recipe is from an old edition of Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine but I have modified it slightly to my liking.

So here’s what I used:
1-3/4 cup flour
¾ cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 cups grated carrots
185 gm butter, softened
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup milk
1 tbsp honey

I lined a 9x13” cake pan with butter paper and greased it slightly with vegetable oil. Also, I pre-heated the oven to 150 C/ 350 F

Then I sifted the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together, THREE times! I kept this aside till I needed it. 

I grated the rind of the orange. Can you see how finely it gets grated? And the white, bitter pith of the orange remains untouched...? I told you that the Microplane zester changed my life :)

In a mixing bowl, I placed the butter, sugar & rind and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. It’s time to stop when it’s creamy and fluffy. 

I then added the eggs and honey (original recipe calls for golden syrup but my options at home were honey or maple syrup) and mixed it up for another 10-15 secs. 

It’s now time to put the hand mixer away and take up a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. No more beating after this point, just gently folding and mixing.

I added half of each – the carrots, milk & flour mixture. I gently mixed it up with my spatula (in one direction only. I prefer clock-wise!)

I then added the other half of all the above and mixed it up. 

I poured the mix into the prepared pan. As you can see, the batter is pretty thick. I spread it out a little so that it sat evenly in the pan. I popped it in the oven for about 40 mins.

After 40 mins, I tested it with a toothpick which came out clean. I removed it from the oven and allowed it to cool in the pan for about 20 mins. After it had cooled sufficiently, I took it out of the pan (by carefully pulling it out using the longer edges of the butter paper) and placed it on a tray. I allowed it to cool completely before frosting it.

While the cake was cooling, I made the frosting. I used:

1 400 ml tub of yoghurt/ curd/dahi (original recipe calls for a 185 gm pack of cream cheese, which is definitely the better and more authentic option. I just didn’t have the time to run to the specialty store, so I modified)
½ cup softened butter
400 gms icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup chopped pecans (you can use walnuts or no nuts at all)

I hung the curd in a cheesecloth at about 9 in the morning, leaving it be until about 5 pm when I made the frosting.

I placed the butter, sugar & hung curd in a bowl... (Can you see how thick & creamy the curd looks?!?!?)

I whipped them with a hand beater until smooth, creamy and fluffy. 

I added the vanilla essence and gave it a quick mix. Then I retired the mixer and switched to the spatula.

Lastly, I added the pecans, mixed it well and chilled it in the fridge until I was ready to frost!!

Since, for the life of me, I can't find my icing knife, I used my spatula and the butter knife to spread the frosting as evenly as I could on the cake... 

Quick notes about this recipe:
  1. It is better made in winter (specially in India) because the summer carrots aren’t technically natural and lack the colour, juiciness and flavour of winter carrots.
  2. This cake doesn’t rise very much, so I should have used a slightly smaller pan. This came out more like sheet cake. To be honest, it doesn’t make too much of a difference either way. 
  3.  The frosting should ideally be made with real (Philadelphia) cream cheese. The yoghurt gives it the correct texture but there is a slight sourness because of it. That can probably be overpowered with more vanilla. 
  4. I used Icing sugar because the cornflour mixed in it gives it a slight stiffness, but regular powdered sugar works well too.