Thursday, 30 June 2011

For me and my child!!

If you are a mother, you can attest to the fact that children love jelly!

The colourful, wonderfully tasty dessert is a big treat that almost every toddler dream of. And why shouldnt they be doing that -  jelly has all the features a kid generally loves to have in a food. Its soft, cold, fascinating, wibbly wobbly and above all sweeeeetttt!!!

Now that we all know how our kids love the sugary stuff, why not spice up their favourite flavour with a little fruit which will not only make it interesting but a lot healthier as well? Because as a parent, you are always worried about your childs eating habits and because you dont always feel like bargaining, cajoling and pleading, you also attimes try to sneak few healthy ingredients in their diet.This is exacty what Ive done yesterday.

I made some vanilla custard, added fresh blueberries into it and decorated the cups with colourful jelly and my son was so excited to see the round berries winking through the transparent jelly wall that he finished up the entire dessert without making any fuss.

The recipe is not only great for the kids, but the addition of  fresh berries makes it a light and delicious dessert for the grown ups as well.

Jelly Berry Custard


vanilla custard (I used the ready-made powder)
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 tbs chopped almonds (optional)
200ml whipped ceam
1 packet jelly crystals (I used raspberry flavour)

For decorating the glasses, youll need

1 tsp honey / a slice of fresh lemon
coloured sugar / deocarting pearls

Take some granulated sugar or decorating pearls in a plate.

Run and rub the lemon slice around the rim of each icecream cup. Tip: I didnt have fresh lemon at home, so used honey as alternative. Dip a tissue paper in honey and rub it around the rim. Press the rim into the pearls or sugar.

Now, prepare two cups of custard according to the instructions (usually given at the back of the packet). Make sure, its thick enough to set like a pudding. Cover with cling film and place aside to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, whip the fresh cream. Tip: Put the beaters and bowl in the refrigerator for five minutes. The cream should also be very cold prior to beating.

Once the mixture has cooled but not fully set, fold the fresh berries, chopped almonds as well as the whipped cream into it.

Tranfer into serving bowls and place a few berries on top. Tip: It is important to do that at this step otherwise the berries wont stay at their place later. Place in the refrigerator and allow the custard to set.

Now take one cup of hot boiling water and tranfer the entire content of the ready-made jelly packet into it. Cook until all crystals have dissolved. Tip: Dont hesitate to use a strainer incase you find some stubborn granules that refuse to incorporate into the water.

Now pour a cup of cold water into this and allow to cool at room temperature. The moment you feel that the mixture has started to set, pour over the prepared custard. Place in the refrigerator for several hours.

Enjoy the sweet moments with your little one!!!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Butterflies in the stomach

All of us have experienced this phenomenon at some point or another in our lifetime. What the sensational tummy flutters have to do with the butterflies is one of the questions none of us wouldve probably bothered to think about but just imagine for a second, what if butterflies do somehow manage to land in our stomach? How would it feel??

I can tell you the answer: it feels fantastic! Dont feel disgusted to the thought, I have no intentions of making you eat the beautiful colourful creatures. I myself love to see them flying around freely, adding joy and fascination to the nature. Its basically the Italian word "Farfalle" which brought me to this idea.

Farfalla (lit. butterfly) is a famous type of pasta (also known as bow-tie pasta in several countries) and can be found almost everywhere in the world. Combined with bright-coloured vegetables, its wing-like shape does make you think of having butterflies on the plate.

Meat and Pasta Salad


1/4 kg boneless mutton (boiled)
2 cups farfalle
1 medium red/orange bell pepper, cut in long julienne strips
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp crushed pepper
2 tbs mustard paste
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs tomato ketchup
1 tbs honey
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp worcestarshire sauce

1 tbs crushed garlic
2 tsp oil
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs fresh thyme (or any other herb of your choice)
salt and pepper
6 - 8 cherry tomatoes
1 apple (incase you wish to serve the salad cold)

Boil pasta in salted water until almost done. Also, boil the meat (I used pressure cooker for saving time).

Mix honey, tomato paste, tomato ketchup, mustard paste, salt, lemon juice and worcestarshire sauce in a small bowl. Tip: Be careful with the salt as worcestarshire sauce combined with honey is already very salty. Add in the boiled mutton.

Heat oil in a pan and fry garlic in it for a few seconds. Add the mutton mixture and fry for a minute on high flame. Add bell pepper and fry while stirring continuously.

Now add the boiled pasta; season with crushed black pepper, salt, lemon juice and thyme. Gently toss everything together and add the cherry tomato halves - just seconds before turning off the heat.

Transfer the salad into a serving plate.

Serve immediately or place in the refrigerator for atleast 2 hours for a summer variant. Add slices of one apple and put in the freezer half an hour prior serving.

And forget not to share the sensation caused in the tummy:)

Monday, 27 June 2011

On the vegetarian side of life

Finding an exotic meatless centrepiece to please the vegetarian guests and make them feel like they too are getting something really special on the platter is usually a challenge to many of the passionate meat eaters. I am personally not a fan of meat replacement dishes but do admit, at the same time, that vegetarian food can also be very delicious and satisfying provided you prepare and serve it with the same passion and enthusiasm that you put in any other food of your own choice.

Todays recipe is not only ideal as a vegetarian main course but also has all the potential of becoming a favourite snack or sandwich/pita filling amongst the meat-lovers. The dish has its origins mainly in the Middle East but has meanwhile become one of the favourite street foods all around the globe. Yes, I am talking about the incredible Falafels!!!!

Its a family recipe handed down from my great mom-in-law who left us forever two years ago but I assume, she must have learned it from the locals during her stay in Kuwait years ago.  

Falafel with Layered Salad and Tahini Sauce


2 cups dried chickpeas
1 cup chopped green corriander
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 chopped medium sized onion
salt and crushed black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 chopped green chili
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbs dry corriander powder
4 tbs regular breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp baking soda

Oil for deep frying

Wash and soak the chickpeas in water and let soak for atleast 24 hours. They will triple in size. Drain away the water and wash them once again. Tip: please DO NOT use canned or boiled chickpeas. They have too much water and preservatives that we dont need here.

Transfer the beans to a food processor and chop until you get a fine crumbly texture.

Take corrainder, parsley, garlic cloves, onion and green chili and chop roughly.

Chop these together in a blender or food processor. Tip: you may use your meat grinder and mince the beans as well as other ingredients through it.

Mix all the ingredients together and add in salt, peppers, corriander and cumin powder. Also add breadcrumbs and mix well. Tip: you can also freeze the mixture at this stage for later use. Just add in the baking soda half an hour prior to frying.

Shape into round balls or ovals using two spoons or a falafel maker. You can also do this easily with your hands. Heat the oil for deep frying and set the heat to medium. Fry the falafels in it until browned and crispy from outside. Take out on a kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.

Serve hot with tahini sauce and fresh salad. People in Middle East might not like the way Ive served Falafels down in the picture but this is to show how your style of presenting a food can elevate simple nosh to a sublime level.

For the salad:
Slice a small onion, some fresh green cabbage or salad leaves of your choice. Also cut carrots and bell pepper as well as a small tomato into julienne strips and layer the vegetables on top of each other in a clear glass. Season with salt and crushed black pepper. And pour some tahini sauce on top and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve the cold salad with crispy warm falafels.

Tahini - Yoghurt Sauce


1/2 cup yoghurt
2 tbs tahini paste
salt, pepper
fresh parsely to garnish
Tip: (Incase youre using a sweet yoghurt, add few drops of lemon juice to it)

Mix all the ingredients and make a paste. Your dip/sauce is ready!

Whether as filling in pitas or sandwiches, as tea snack, main course served with fresh salad and warm bread or an addition to an iftar menu, Falafels are a great sensation to the taste-buds!!!!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Eggs on Sunday!!

Weekends are the only less-chaotic mornings in our small nest when we have enough time to sit together and indulge ourselves in the culinary wonders. Whether its just a plain croissant with a nice cup of coffee or a full English breakfast comprising eggs, baked beans, sausages, toasted bread and my favourite cup of Lipton tea, a lavished calorie-rich halwa poori with channa and achari aaloo or a pile of fluffy pancakes with lots and lots of butter and syrup - the Weekend Breakfast at ours is usually pretty grandiose and given the proper time and attention it deserves.

Let me, however, make a confession today: the first thing that usually comes into my mind, when talking about breakfast, is always an egg. And although my husband and son both are not very fond of the healthy protein suppliers, my mind is always flooded by ideas and recipes containing eggs and they have to be on the table in any form. I believe, egg is an incredible ingredient with admirable potential to make every food taste or look great. You can not only use it as a main component for making omelettes but also as supporting and binding agent in cakes and pancakes; it can serve as great taste-enhancer in french toasts or an exquisit eye-catcher for decorating curries and halwas - eggs are a blessing we should really appreciate!!

Todays recipe is the latest effort Ive made to convince my family on how eggs can elevate the taste of a meal from ordinary to extraordinary. And according to my husband, this surely is an addition to our list of favourite  breakfasts on the weekend.

Steamed Omelette


3 large eggs
1 medium chopped onion
1 small chopped tomato
3 tbs chopped mashrooms
1/2 chopped green chili
3 tbs chopped corriander
salt and white pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp milk

Line three ramekins / heavy duty cups as in for cup a cake with cling film. (I tried using both cling film as well as aluminium foil to compare the results and would highly recommend the first one).

Chop the onions, mashrooms, tomato, green chili and corriander.

Beat eggs in a bowl and add in milk and season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Add in the chopped vegetables.

Pour into the prepared ramekins.

Ive made the eggs in a fish steamer/poacher by filling the bottom with half glass of water and placing the ramekins on the removale rack. Covered it with the lid until the eggs were done. Incase you dont have a poacher, preheat the oven at 190C. Pour some boiling water in the baking tray, just enough to cover the ramekins and bake the eggs until cooked.

Carefully remove the cling film and enjoy with cheese, sausages, toast and fresh salad. These are absolutely delicious and much lighter than the usual omelette than we normally eat.


Friday, 17 June 2011

Baking marathon

I seem to be having a baking phase these days...Three different cakes, cookies and tarts for a high tea last week and now two birthday cakes on the weekend  -  and then I am mad at myself for having my blog-about queue folder a bit overcrowded.

Well, I am not sure yet whether Ill be able to share all the recipe during the next days or will be saving a few for later but since I have already uploaded few pictures from the high tea (it was not served on a high table though;), it makes more sense to complete the sequel first. So, get your sweet tooth ready as youll be soon craving tarts with a fruity, creamy filling...

You wont believe what actually brought me to the idea of making these luscious and fruity tartlets. Green lentils!

Ive lately bought about 3 kgs of the small dried beans that my husband has totally refused to eat but you cant expect me to throw them all in the bin. So the first idea my mind concocted was of using them as weight for making tartlets and I am proud to announce that it was certainly no flop. Let me share how to do that:

Deep Fruit Tartlets

Ingredients for the pastry:

200 g plain flour
100 g butter, chopped
1 egg
50 g icing sugar
pinch of salt

For the filling:

1 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tbs plain flour
pinch of salt
2 tbs sugar
few drops of vanilla essence

canned or fresh fruits of your choice
mint and chocolate to garnish

Mix flour, butter, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl using your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can also do this in a food processor.

Now add beaten egg into this and knead gently. Make a ball of the dough, cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for atleast 30 minutes.

Take out the dough from the refrigerator and knead again. Divide into six potions. Roll out on the counter, lightly dusted with flour or between two sheets of butter paper (whatever is easier for you).

Grease 6 small ramekins or your muffin tray and line the base and sides with the dough. Prick some holes with the help of a fork to avoid bubbles. Now place a piece of butter paper/foil on the dough and fill it with beans, pulses or rice. This is to put some weight on the dough to ensure against puffing and will help in holding its shape as well.

Bake in preheated oven at 200°C for about 15 minutes.

Let the tartlets rest for 5 minutes in the oven, then remove from the ramekins while still warm. It is recommended not to eat the rice/lentils that youve used as baking aid. You can, however, save these to reuse for the same purpose. Let the mini tarts cool on a wire and then fill with the custard and fruits.

To make the custard:

Blend all the given ingredients in an electric mixer. Transfer into a heavy based pan and cook on medium heat until thick. Remove from stove, put aside to cool. Tip: Always cover the custard/puddings with a lid or cling film to prevent skin formation on top.

Fill the completely cooled tartlets with custard and decorate with fruits of your choice. I had some fresh berries, canned peaches and red berry compote in the refrigerator, brushed them with ready-made glaze (you dont necessarily have to do that as its just for the visual appeal. A quick alternative can, however, be 2 tbs of jelly powder mixed in few teaspoons of water). Garnish with fresh mint leaves or grated chocolate. Tip: Use your fruit and vegetable peeler to grate chocolate!

Mamma mia, I`m so in love with these!!!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A sweet treat!!!

Most people, nowadays, prefer having desserts that are lower in sugary content. I am personally one of them but then there is a friend of mine who has a very interesting philisophy on the sweet course. He believes, dessert is primarily a treat to the sweet tooth, one might like to eat less but when talking about a sweet dish, it should also taste sweet.

Todays share is for sugar-freaks like him as it is made from thick sweetened condensed milk. One can, however, easily adjust the recipe according to individual preferences.
Sweet Blueberry Cheese Cake

Berry Berry Cheese Cake

4 tbs butter
1 cup biscuit crumbs (Marie)
30 g icing sugar (ignore for a less sweeter version)

1 tbs gelatine powder
1 cup sweetened condensed milk (I took only 3/4)
200 g cream cheese (Kiri, Kraft,Philadelphia)
200 ml fresh cream

Melt butter in a pan and add sugar and biscuit crumbs to it. Mix until sugar has almost dissolved.
Layer the bottom of a spring pan /cheese cake pan (lined with cling film) with it and put in the refrigerator to set.
Dissolve gelatine in 1/4 cup boiling water and place aside.
Now pour condensed milk in a sacue pan and bring to a boil.
Add gelatine to it and mix well. Place aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile beat the cream cheese until smooth.
Whip the fresh cream as well. Once the condensed milk mixture has cooled, add the cream cheese into it. 
Also fold the whipped cream. Pour the entire mixture over the prepared biscuit base.
Place in freezer for 45 minutes and then transfer into the refrigerator until firm and set. Carefully remove the cake from the pan.
Tip: Be patient and let the cake set properly (ca. 6-8 hrs)! I couldnt wait long enough because of sudden guests and had to serve earlier than required. But the texture was a lot nicer  and firm the next day. Decorate with fresh berries and sugar pearls.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Stacks of good memories

I dont have much words to type today. Its raining outside and the cup of tea and this delicious stuff on the plate infront of me is making me feel extremely nostalgic for the old college days. Those beautiful carefree days with nothing else to do around except sleeping, eating and hanging out with the best friends.

Todays recipe is dedicated to all the beautiful friends from those days and the happy times we spent together. I still remember us debating over the correct pronunciation and meaning of the dish while making it in my mothers kitchen thirteen years ago and also how we all used to fight over the last piece of it at every one-dish party that we had.

I know, most of you have waited quite long for the recipe. My appologies but had only been ignoring deliberately knowing how overwhelmingly emotional would it be for me to cook that due to the strong and fond memories attached.

Chicken Cheese Stacks


3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup plain flour

1 cup boiled, shredded chicken
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbs fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated cheese (chedder, gouda, emmental or any pizza/gratin cheese)

For the sauce:
1 chopped onion (small)
1 tbs oil
2 tbs butter
2 tbs plain flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cream (for lighter version, you may take chicken stock)
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cheese

Mix half cup cheese with chicken, add salt, pepper and chopped parsley and place aside.

Also, prepare the white sauce by heating oil and butter in a sauce pan. Add chopped onions and fry until translucent. Add flour and mix until bubbly. Take off from heat and add milk. Stir continuously to avoid any lumps.

Put the pan back on to the stove, keep stirring. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat and put aside. Add half cup cheese into it once the mixture has cooled a bit.

Pour milk in a blender and add eggs, salt and flour into it. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Heat and grease a (small size, I doubled the quantity for the one you see in the pictures) non-stick skillet and start making crepes ( very thin pancakes) out of the bater. Pour some liquid in the hot pan and twirl it so that the bater can spread evenly. Once it starts to set, immediately slip it over with the help of a spatula, fork or even your finger tips and cook further for a few seconds on the other side.

We dont want to overcook the crepes. Once it is set and a bit firm, tranfer onto the baking tray lined with aluminium foil and a sheet of butter paper (to avoid foil sticking to the bottom of the crepes).

Spread the white cheese sauce and some chicken mixture over the crepe. While you´re doing this, your second crepe should be in the pan  to cook. Yes, you have to be a bit quick here as everything has to be done parallel. But its not difficult as it sounds. Once the second crepe is done, place it on the first one covered with sauce and chicken. Repeat the procedure until no more bater for crepes is left in the jug. Finish the stacking process with a final layer of crepe on the top.

Cover with aluminium foil and seal the sides.

Bake in the preheated oven (200C) for 15 min. You may prepare the stacks ahead of time and bake right before you want to serve. Ideal for serving as main course with potatoes in red sauce or as high tea snacks.