Archive for December, 2009

Christmas 2009 Menu at the Tharakans


2009
12.31

Christmas is that time of the year when I’m overwhelmed with fond memories of  my Mom’s little kitchen in Bangalore. Back in the 80s, during Christmas, my Mom used to be charged with careless abandon as she cooked, baked and fed an endless number of family and friends. This Christmas, I tried my best to recreate those soulful aromas from my Mom’s kitchen hoping my 3 year old too will stash them away in his book of ‘fond memories’ .

Baingan Masaledar- Eggplant Masala


2009
12.31

This is a ‘must have’ while serving biryani of any form, be it chicken, lamb, shrimp or vegetable. Biryani no doubt, is satisfying by itself. But when accompanied with Baingan Masaledar you enter a whole new world that you never want to leave.
While growing up in Bangalore during Ramzaan and Eid, many of my Dad’s Muslim friends, sent home huge boxes of festival delicacies. Among all the treats that arrived the Lamb Biryani and the Baingan Masala were my favorite. Till date I’ve never tasted anything as delicious as that. The greedy me looked forward to these feasts more eagerly than a fasting devout Muslim waited for the crescent moon at the end of Ramadan. I’ve tried very hard at deriving these recipes from my memories of those days. I’ve come close but not close enough with the Lamb Biryani recipe. The Baingan Masaledar however, if my memory serves me right, is on the dot. Try it and let me know :).

baingan masala


Ingredients

2 lbs eggplant (small round/oval ones, try getting the seedless kind they are perfect for this dish)
1/2 tsp cinnamon clove spice mix
1/2 cup peanuts
2 tsp sesame seeds
4 big tomatoes or 5 – 6 small ones – dice them into small pieces (you could use one can -15 OZ- of tomato sauce instead as well)
1 large onion, chopped finely julienne style
1/2 tsp chili powder( base it on tolerable spice level)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp finely diced garlic
1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder( or 1 tsp whole cumin)
1/4 tsp turmeric
3- 4 whole pepper corns
refined vegetable oil
salt to taste

Directions

  • Cut off only the green stalk of the eggplants letting the green ring on the top remain (this will help hold the individual eggplant together even after it is cooked), make four slits at the bottom keeping the eggplant still intact as a whole.
  • Heat about 2 to 3 tsp of refined oil in a wide flat bottomed pan
  • Place the eggplants in the pan so that every eggplant touches the floor of the pan. Set the flame high for about 3 –4 mins or until one side of the eggplant is caramelized, then turn them over to the other side repeat the procedure. If there isn’t enough space in the pan, do them in batches.
  • Sprinkle a little salt on top of the eggplant after the two sides are caramelized, close the pan and cook in low flame for 4 -5 mins or until the eggplants are almost (not completely) cooked.
  • Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds (each separately)
  • Grind them into a smooth powder together after roasting
  • Heat a table spoon refined oil, add cumin and whole pepper corns and sauté for a minute.
  • Add in the chopped onions, sauté till golden brown
  • Crush ginger and garlic, add to the pan and sauté for another few minutes till the oil comes clear.
  • Add in the tomatoes, the ground mixture, cinnamon clove spice mix, turmeric & chili powder and continue sautéing till the tomatoes form a mush and the oil separates.
  • Add in the almost cooked eggplants and cook for few more minutes till the eggplants are fully cooked, add in hot water if the consistency of the gravy is too thick.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Serve with Indian breads or of course biryani 😉
  • Shrimp Biryani


    2009
    12.31

    Especially while cooking Indian, I cannot get myself to cook shrimp without coconut in some form or the other.  Shrimp and coconut for me, is one of the perfect pairings in food . A little bit of of coconut goes a long way. So, though my Shrimp Biryani recipe calls for a full cup of coconut milk, the calorie conscious could do with half coconut and half 2% milk. The difference would be insignificant. This recipe is mind blowing simple  and very often the top sell at most spreads.

    shrimp biryani

    Shrimps are  tender and delicate and hence do not require long hours and complex procedures for marinating.

    Ingredients
    1 lb medium sized, deveined and shelled shrimp
    1 large  or 2 medium sized onions finely sliced
    4 large tomatoes, diced in chunks
    5- 6 green chilies, slit length wise
    1/2 tsp turmeric powder
    2 tbsp grated ginger
    2 tbsp diced garlic
    1/2 tsp black pepper corns
    1/2 tsp kerala garam masala
    3 cups basmati rice
    pinch of saffron
    refined vegetable oil
    2 tsp sesame oil or ghee (clarified butter)
    2 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
    1 tbsp chopped mint
    1 cup coconut milk
    1/2 tsp red chili powder, alter this based on tolerable spice level
    1 tsp lemon juice
    Salt to taste

    Directions

  • Marinate the shrimp in lemon juice and salt and set aside
  • Soak washed basmati rice with 5 cups of water and set aside for an hour.
  • Sauté 3/4th of the chopped onions in 2 – 3 tbsp of oil  in a wide bottomed  hollow pan  until golden brown; make sure the pan can be fitted with a tight lid that doesn’t let steam escape.
  • Crush the grated ginger and garlic and add them to the pan along with the green chilies and continue to sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes, turmeric powder, garam masala, pepper corns, chopped mint and cilantro and continue to sauté until oil separates.
  • Add salt to taste
  • Add in the shrimp and sauté for 2- 3 minutes and then reduce the flame to low.
  • Add one cup of coconut milk, salt and 2 tbsp of sesame oil or ghee to the rice soaking in water and then set to cook until the water boils and the rice is only  3/4 done.
  • Gather all the shrimp and the masala mixture together and flatten it at he bottom of the pan
  • Dissolve a pinch of saffron in 2 tbsp of milk and add to the boiling rice and mix it.
  • Pour in the boiling rice into the pan making the rice form a layer on top of the masala and has no direct contact to the bottom of the pan.
  • Close the pan tight shut and let it sit on the very low flame for 15 – 20 min or until the rice at the top is done.
  • Remove from the stove and mix in the rice and masala
  • Deep fry the remaining sliced onion and sprinkle on the rice as garnish.
  • Serve with raitha or baingan masaledar.
  • Spinach Mushroom Cheese Folds


    2009
    12.31

    While shopping a day before Thanksgiving at the Asian market, I chanced upon these organically grown, beautiful looking, pearly white and earthy brown Beech Mushrooms or Buna Shimeji. I immediately picked a pack of each because I looove cooking with mushrooms. For me mushrooms are meek and cooperative in any dish. They hold on to their texture and flavour whether sautéed, stir fried or souped. With all the immune boosters and antioxidants mushrooms harbor, delicious eating couldn’t get more healthy.

    So, coming back to my beech mushrooms, I got them during Thanksgiving hoping to stir fry them for the teriyaki cooking I planned during the long weekend. But, like the many things that we plan during holidays the cooking never happened and these 2 packs sat un-noticed for a whole month. Then while rummaging through the fridge just before my Christmas party I noticed these  balls of  pearls sitting fresh and bright as ever. A whole of thirty days and not a bruise or a wrinkle. I at once decided to use them for my spinach folds instead of the baby bellas I normally use. I like to use mushrooms for my folds and puff fillings since they give good body and texture and don’t  feel gooey like the usual spinach and cheese fillings.

    I used bread to wrap the fillings as I had plenty of old bread. You could use puff pastry or pastry shells and instead of frying you could bake them in a pre-heated oven at 400°F for about 20 minutes or until the shells are golden brown.

    spinachfolds

    Ingredients

    10 – 15 slices of buttermilk bread with edges trimmed off
    1/2 cup mascarpone cheese. (You could also use cream cheeses instead, just fluff it up with a little bit of milk)
    10 OZ frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
    2 OZ each of brown and white beech mushrooms ( you can use any mushroom of your choice. the earthy ones suit the recipe better)
    One medium sized onion finely chopped
    2 tsp finely chopped baby dill
    1/2 tsp pepper
    refined oil for frying
    salt to taste

    spinachfolds2

    Directions

  • Sauté the chopped onions in a tsp of oil  in a shallow pan  until golden brown
  • Add in the spinach, mushrooms, baby dill, salt and pepper and continue to sauté until the spinach is cooked.
  • Put of the flame and mix in the cheese.
  • soak each slice of bread very briefly in water and gently squeeze the water out. Place the filling at the center and fold the bread into half and seal the edges.
  • Refrigerate for an hour or two and  when they are set shallow fry them for a minute or two until they turn golden brown on both the sides.
  • Place the fried folds on a paper towel and gently pat dry the excess oil.
  • Serve with hot and sour chili sauce. 
  • Hazel Caramel Chocolate Twist


    2009
    12.31

    This mouth watering cake is very similar to my chocolate cake except that I folded caramel sauce into the batter and stuck in toasted hazelnuts into the frosting. This slight twist made a world of difference to the taste and texture of the cake.

     

    Hazel Caramel Chocolate Twist

     

    Ingredients for the Cake

    13/4 cups of all purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup butter
    1 cup milk
    3 eggs

    It is essential for the butter, milk and eggs to be at room temperature

    13/4 cups sugar
    3/4 cup cocoa powder
    3 heaped tsp baking powder
    5 -6 drops of good vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp of instant coffee powder

    Ingredients for the frosting

    3/4  cup  butter
    2/3 cup Cocoa powder
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1/2 cup milk
    5- 6 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
    1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts

    Ingredients for Caramel Sauce

    1/4 cup of sugar
    2 – 3 drops of vanilla extract
    3 Tbsp butter
    1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

    Directions for the Caramel Sauce

    • Heat sugar on high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan with a few drops of water. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a whisk.

    Never leave the stove while making caramel as it takes just a second to burn up on you!

    • When the sugar turns dark amber in color , put off the flame and add in butter and vanilla extract and continue to whisk.
    • When all the butter is melted, incorporate the cream slowly and continue whisking until the mixture is smooth.
    • Set the sauce aside to cool.

    Directions for the cake

  • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time. Add in the vanilla.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, coffee powder , cocoa powder and salt using a sieve.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time. Don’t over mix it.
  • Fold in the caramel  sauce into the batter.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Spread batter evenly in a greased pan, dusted with flour and bake for 45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Directions for the frosting
    • In a bowl, cream melted butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in cocoa, coffee and vanilla extract. Add in milk a little at a time until you get the right consistency .
    • Spread immediately on cooled cake.
    • Pad with toasted hazelnuts all over.

    Rustic Naked Chocolate


    2009
    12.31
    My best friend V doesn’t do cake in any other form but chocolate. Though she lives thousands of miles away she insisted I bake a chocolate cake for sure. And like I always do for her ;), I complied  and whipped up my Naked chocolate delight in her honor.
    This one is for the God Mother of my son-
    21869_251815892588_6322195_n

    Rustic Naked Chocolate

     

     

    Ingredients for the Cake

    13/4 cups of all purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup butter
    1 cup milk
    3 eggs

    It is essential for the butter, milk and eggs to be at room temperature

    13/4 cups sugar
    3/4 cup cocoa powder
    3  tsp baking powder
    5 -6 drops of good vanilla extract
    1 tsp of instant coffee powder

    Ingredients for the frosting

    3/4  cup  butter
    2/3 cup Cocoa powder
    2 cups powdered sugar
    1/2 cup milk
    5- 6 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp instant coffee powder

    Directions for the cake

    • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time. Add in the vanilla.
    • Sift together flour, baking powder, coffee powder , cocoa powder and salt using a sieve.
    • Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time. Don’t over mix it.
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    • Spread batter evenly in a greased pan, dusted with flour and bake for 45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
    • Allow to cool.
    Directions for the frosting
    • In a bowl, cream melted butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in cocoa, coffee and vanilla extract. Add in milk a little at a time until you get the right consistency .

    Spread immediately on cooled cake.

    Fruit and Nut Cake


    2009
    12.31

    Since I began my baking a full week ahead of Christmas, it gave me plenty of time to  try out a few different kinds of cakes this time around.Of course I ‘had’ to  begin with my mom’s all famous ‘fruit n nut’ cake. Most of the cakes I bake follow the basic cake recipe and just a few additional ingredients give them their own identity.

    Here’s to you ma, blogging my very first recipe of your cake.

    Simple to make, hard to resist, crunchy and munchy cake.

     

    fruit n nut cake

     

    Ingredients

    2 cups of all purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup butter
    2/3 cup milk
    3 eggs

    It is essential for the butter, milk and eggs to be at room temperature

    1 1/4 cup sugar
    2 heaped tsp baking powder
    5-6 drops of good vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp of instant coffee powder (optional)
    1 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
    1/3 cup of raisins
    1/3 cup of cashewnuts
    1/3 cup of mixed candied fruit
    1 tsp orange zest
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    2 – 3 spoons caramelized sugar

    1/2 tsp salt

    Directions

  • Caramelize 2 -3 spoons of sugar. When done, whisk in the milk, cocoa, coffee powder and nutmeg until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temp
  • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, add in the vanilla, and the caramel milk mixture
  • Add in the orange zest
  • Sift together flour, baking powder and salt using a sieve
  • Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time. Don’t over mix it
  • Mix the dry fruits and nuts together and fold into the batter. Keep a little of the dry fruit mixture aside to sprinkle on top (purely for aesthetics).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Spread batter evenly in a greased pan, dusted with flour and bake for 45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool to a warm temp.
  • Serve immediately or wrap in aluminium foil when still warm (prevents drying) to store for later.
  • The above is an exact of my mother’s recipe, I improvised it a little and soaked the raisins overnight in 1/2 cup of rum to give it that extra zing 😉 and called it the ‘rum n raisin’ cake instead 😀


    Tutti Frutti Cake


    2009
    12.31

    cake Got this recipe from my neighbor J, who is an amazing cook herself. She’d made this for my friend L’s birthday and I just couldn’t get enough of it. I improvised it a tad bit and voila the cake is something that really calls for a cry of “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!!!!!”

    Tutti Frutti is essentially candied papaya. It gives a nice bite when folded into the cake. In India you get them as sachets of multicolored fruits in any bakery. In the US however, they were hard to find until, I stumbled upon them in my local Chinese market.  They tasted exactly like the ones in India did, but were chunkier and plain orange in color. The color didn’t matter to me and I just diced the chunks into smaller bits for the cake. So, if you are having trouble finding it, ask your Chinese grocer for candied papaya and I’m sure he would find you some.

    Ingredients
    2 cups of all purpose flour
    1 1/4 cup butter
    2/3 cup milk
    3 eggs

    It is essential for the butter, milk and eggs to be at room temperature

    1 1/4 cup sugar
    2 heaped tsp baking powder
    5- 6 drops of good pineapple extract

    you have to use pineapple and not vanilla to do justice to the cake

    1/2 cup tutti frutti
    1/2 tsp salt

    Directions

  • In a bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at time, add milk mixture and pineapple extract
  • Sift together flour baking powder and  salt using a sieve
  • Stir in the dry ingredients into the wet, a little at a time. Don’t over mix it
  • Fold the tutti frutti into the batter. Keep a little aside to sprinkle on top (purely for aesthetics).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Spread batter evenly in a greased pan, dusted with flour and bake for 45 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool to a warm temp.
  • Serve immediately or wrap it in aluminium foil when still warm (this helps retain the moisture) to store for later
  • Cinnamon Cloves Spice Mix


    2009
    12.30

    This spice mix  is a blend of cinnamon and cloves in 1:1 ratio (by weight). The combination of these two spices give a very unique flavor. Again, this is an intense spice mix and should be used sparingly.

    cloveandcinnamon

     Ingredients
    50 gms cinnamon (patta/dalchini)
    50 gms cloves (gramboo/long)

    Directions

  • Dry roast the spices individually in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron. Make sure the flame is set at medium heat. Keep stirring, be watchful and don’t let spices burn on you.
  • Grind both the spices together into a fine powder.
  • Store in an air tight container.
  • Use sparingly since these are intense spices and can be over powering.

    kgmp30

  • Tomato Onion Raita


    2009
    12.30

    This amazingly simple salad is refreshingly soothing on a hot summer day. My husband in a big lover of yogurt and this salad is something that he would pour on top of anything and everything if he had a choice. Though I don’t recommend that :), I think it tastes splendid plain by itself and goes very well with  with any spicy dish, like Biryanis, Pulaos, Indian breads etc. When paired with any dish, the slightly sour yogurt with luscious tomatoes and crunchy sweet onion chunks, though subdues the over effects of the spices, surprisingly forms a new intense flavor in the process.

    Tomato Onion Raita

    Ingredients

    3 tomatoes, diced into small chunks
    1 red onion, finely diced
    1 green chilies, diced julienne style (optional)
    3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
    2 cups yogurt
    salt to taste

    Directions

  • Mix tomatoes, onions, cilantro, green chilies, yogurt together and add salt to taste. You have your raita in a jiffy.

    Now wasn’t that easy?!