Friday, 28 October 2011

Food and fun!!

Pretty much everyone I know is aware of my love for playing with food and recipes. I do like adding variety and getting creative with the ingredients, and a little increase or replacement of herbs and spices doesnt bother me much but I am certainly not a cooking guru by any means. Its just that my love for good food has taught me how to have fun in the kitchen and that is the primary reason behind my fondness for giving new interpretations to the classic recipes:)

A few months ago, I found a great recipe for Focaccia in the Cook’s Bible and have been playing with it ever since. Keeping the basic dough foundation of flour, yeast and water stay the same, Ive tried making it with various toppings and seasonings and have come up with great results each time.






Tomato-Rosemary Focaccia

Ingredients:

500 g flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (Ive used 1 tsp dried leaves)
6 tbs + 1 tsp olive oil
300 ml luke warm water
6 sun dried tomatoes
1 tbs unsweetened condensed milk ( The original recipe calls for water and oil only but I prefer brushing with milk)
1 tsp sea salt (optional)


Take flour and salt in a bowl. Add in the dry yeast as well as the herbs.





Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil. Mix it quickly with a wooden spoon.




Start adding water and keep mixing roughly with the wooden spoon.






Dust the kitchen counter with some plain flour and transfer the dough onto it. Knead for about 2 minutes. The dough will have a sticky consistency but this is how you want it.






Make a round ball out of it and tranfer into a big bowl. With a knife, make a cut in the centre of the dough, cover and put aside in a warm place until double in size (approx. 2 hours).


 


Grease a baking tray. Transfer the dough once again onto a floured surface and punch it down using your fist. This will help removing the air bubbles. Knead for about a minute.




Spread on the greased tray using your hands. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and allow to rise again (approx. 1 hr).






Preheat the oven at 240C. Cut the tomatoes in strips. Mix 1 tbs oil with the milk, brush the dough with this mixture. Dip in your fingertips in the leftover mixture and dimple the flattened dough.







Arrange the sun dried tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with salt (optional).

Reduce oven temperature to 220C and bake the focaccia for 20 min or until golden brown on top.




Allow to cool on a kitchen wire for 5 min and serve.






Focaccia is a tasty, very easy to make bread and tastes great as a snack (check my previous post for ideas). You can also serve it as a side to any meal.


Monday, 24 October 2011

Inspirations...

When I first embarked on this blogging journey, I had no idea where this hobby would be taking me to and that how time-consuming it would turn out to be one day. All I wanted to do was to share my kitchen adventures and cooking creations with my friends -  the idea was to catalogue all the favourite recipes that I cook for friends and family at one place in order to make them accessible to us all for later use. However, in all honesty, I was not at all prepared for the way what this sharing activity would flourish into one day.

Blogging is no longer just a recipe-sharing-platform to me. It has become more of a passion that seems to follow me wherever I go or do. Whether I am washing or cleaning, shopping, watching TV, dining out with friends, talking on phone, playing with my little one - there is hardly a time during the day when I dont find myself thinking about new flavour combinations and dishes, new unique ways to visually present them or extraordinary arrangements, accessoires and angles to capture them best. Blogging surely is time-consuming but its at the same time a very creative and interesting activity to engage in. Its just like letting your creative side out of you, passing on your inspirations to other people and hence encouraging them to do the same.

Anyways, enough of the boring talk. Check out what I have to share with you today:



 


Stuffed Tomato Hearts

Ingredients:

Mini grape tomatoes / cherry tomatoes (oval shaped)
2 tbs cream cheese (Philadelphea)
1 sweet smoked paprika (from the jar)
Salt and pepper
Mini mozarella balls
1/2 tsp mixed italian herbs
Wooden skewers
Freshly baked focaccia (see recipe)


Chop the smoked paprika, mix in cream cheese and season with salt, pepper and pinch of mixed italian herbs.






Wash the grape tomatoes and pat dry. Take one tomato and using a sharp knife, make a diagonal cut as illustrated in the picture below, cutting away about 1/3 of the tomato. Tip: You´ll be needing two mini oval tomatoes to make one heart but with a little practice, you might be able to make out of one big normal sized tomato.









With a small spoon, deseed the tomatoes. Fill them with cream cheese paste and join two (roughly same-sized) to make a heart.






Tip: Incase some filling leaks out, clean it with a kitchen towel.

Take the mozarella balls and roll them in the italian spices. Arrange the tomato hearts and balls on the skewers. Tip: Ive used green seedless grapes to add more colour. You can also take any oval shaped fruit or vegetable for the purpose.







Serve with remaining cream cheese dip, balsamic venigar and freshly baked focaccia or any other bread of your choice.







Love is not only in the air, its now on your plate as well :) Have a glorious, love-filled day everyone!!!!!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

When every leaf is a flower...

I still remember myself rhapsodising about my love for Spring on this blog only a few months back, but now that the Autumn is upon us, I am feeling equally excited about it.

And why shouldnt I be feeling so? To me, Autumn means family, love and memories.  There is actually so much to rejoice about in Autumn. With numerous birthdays in the family, our wedding anniversary coming up in a week and many other events, the season actually means a collection of cosy gatherings, rich feasting and beautiful memories at ours and I love enjoing every moment of it. From crunchiness of leaves beneath the shoes, picking of chestnuts with my son on our way to the nearby grocery store to cooking up colourful and comfort foods in the kitchen, and watching TV in the evenings with a warm blanket wrapped around -  everything gives a very homely, sincere and comfy feeling.

I know, most of you must be expecting to see some pumpkin, squash or apple recipe now but since I really wanted to use up my summer leftovers from the freezer before taking a complete start to the new season, thought it would be nice to make something out of those that would also fit the new category. Here is the birthday cake I made for my husband on the weekend - a blend of both summer as well as winter flavours with a crisp autumn-y decor...









Ice Cream Log Cake - A Mosaic of all Seasons

Ingredients:

Sponge Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream
Chocolate Ganache
Cornflakes, Cocoa powder and Icing sugar to decorate
3 sheets of parchament


Prepare the ganache first by heating and then mixing 450 g of heavy cream into 375 g chopped dark chocolate. Add 3 tbs of butter, stir, wait for 10 minutes, cover with a wrap, set in the refrigerator and allow to cool. Tip: Check this post for help but dont forget to adjust the quantities and no need to whip it as well. Just place in the refrigerator for a few hours until a thick yet spreadable consistency is achieved.

Make a sponge cake in a rectangular baking tray. I used my regular oven tray, i.e. about 17 x 14 inches (43 x 36 cm) and baked for only 10-12 minutes . Once the sponge is ready, take out from the oven. Allow to rest in the tray for 5 minutes and then carefully remove the parchament by turning upside down onto another sheet first and then transfer again on a third sheet having the upper side on top again.






Make a roll of the used parchament and place it on the cake and start folding the cake making a swiss roll.







Set aside to cool completely.

Take out the ice cream from the freezer and allow to soften a bit. This will help in spreading a neat layer without having mess with the cake crumbs etc.







Roll up the sponge keeping the paper outside. Cover the roll with the parchament and put in the freezer for an hour.





Take out the cake and coat with the prepared chocolate ganache.
Draw lines with a fork to give wood effects. Sprinkle with icing sugar, decorate with marzipan mushrooms, cornflakes etc. Tip: Make sure to put the left over cake in the freezer and take out again ca. 20 min prior to serving (depending on the weather).







Happy birthday to my crazy, wonderful, loving hubster!! You are simply the best darling and your son and I love you very very much. Wishing you a great and blessed year ahead with everything around you love the most :)





Monday, 10 October 2011

Here it is...

I have received atleast a dozen requests for a good doughnut recipe during the last few months and it actually had been on my to-blog-about list for quite some time but its just that I usually never post a recipe just for the sake of making a post. I feel like I would be letting you all down by recommending something I myself am not satisfied with. Since I couldnt find any hint in my collection of authentic and reliable recipes, a little research had to be done before publishing it here.

There are thousands of dougnut recipes available online. So, I tried many of them - those with eggs, with butter, with yeast, even those with baking powder and oil, deep as well as shallow fried. And after experimenting and testing many different recipes, here is the one that really came up to the level where I couldnt help saying, "This is the one I had been looking for!!".







Soft and Fluffy Doughnuts

Ideas adapted from:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/53790333/Soft-Melt-in-the-Mouth-Doughnuts
http://www.strapya-world.com/index.php?main_page=popup_image&pID=33055
http://www.juste1kif.com/






Ingredients:

1 cup warm (not hot) milk
5 tsp powdered yeast
2 tbs melted butter
2  1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup + 1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
few drops of vanilla essence
1/2 cup warm boiled mashed potatoes (key ingredient)





Microwave butter and milk for a few seconds. Tip: Dont bring it to boil, it should only be warm and not hot. Add 1 tsp sugar and sprinkle yeast on top. Place aside for 5 minutes until frothy.




In a seperate bowl, take two cups of sifted flour.




Add sugar and salt.




Also add mashed potatoes and combine well using a hand whisk.




Add vanilla essence into the yeast mixture, mix and pour into the flour bowl. Itll be a bit sticky, add in rest of the flour and knead gently on the kitchen counter dusted with extra flour. Tip: Dont add too much flour; a softer dough yields lighter and much fluffier doughnuts.








Roll out the dough with a rolling pin (approx. half inch thick). Cut out circles using a doughnut cutter. Tip: I normally use a glass to cut out doughnuts and lid of my olive oil bottle for making holes in the centre.





Let the doughnuts rest aside for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil for deep frying. Tip: Oil should neither be too hot to burn the doughnuts from outside nor cold to make them hard. Tip: You can always test the temperature on scraps of dough.

Fry the doughnuts (not more than 4 at a time) until golden on one side. Turn the side and continue frying until equally golden. Take out on a kitchen towel and allow to cool.





Prepare the glaze. Ive used a dark chocolate and a red vanilla glaze for decorating mine. You can also find different icing recipes of your choice on the internet.
Tip: Mickey -shaped dougnut cutters are available at stores for baking supplies etc. I, however, have made these by frying the plain round doughnuts, the round dough balls that we cut out from the centre (flattened them with hands before throwing into the hot oil)  and fixed them with a sphagetti to make ears.






Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients:
(For half cup glaze)

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon caramel syrup
Few drops of vanilla essence






Melt the ingredients together over low heat, stirring often. Coat the dougnuts with the hot glaze.

Vanilla Glaze:

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon caramel syrup
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons milk
Drops of vanilla essence
Red food colour










Stir the ingredients together until a smooth paste is achieved. Add the food colour and mix. Tip: You may add more sugar or milk to adjust the consistency. Decorate!!






The recipe is so easy that any novice can make. So, dont wait for too long like I usually do. Try the recipe and share your joy with others as well. Tip: Store in an air tight container incase you wish to save some for later!!




Thursday, 6 October 2011

Food is for all senses!!

"We eat more with our eyes than our stomachs!". Thats actually very true for me as I am quite a visual person when it comes to food and recipes. You just can´t convince me a dish tastes good if it´s not pleasing my eyes. There are exceptional incidents, ofcourse, but most of the times, its the presentation or the picture of a food that makes it interesting for me.

Have you ever noticed that this is actually the very first thing most of us usually do on having some food served infront of us, i.e. an intenional or unintentional yet close look at what and how it has been presented. The first look at the plate leaves impressions on our minds, which automatically make us think of what we are going to experience in a while - a delicious affair with the served stuff or a culinary prank. Its the presentation and the plating technique that makes the impression.

Good food does not only taste good; it should also smell good but before anything it has to LOOK good. If you have spent hours of your valuable time standing in the kitchen, you should not feel shy to invest a few more minutes in presentating it in the best possible way and serving the dish in the most appetising manner.

A sponatneous applause is the least your hard work deserves!!!






Kokri Kebabs served with Pilaf Rice

 (my version)


Ingredients:

400 g minced meat (beef/mutton)
1 medium sized chopped onion
1 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup powdered cashews
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt
1 tbs poppy seeds
1 tsp mixed spices (see under mixed spice rice)
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
1 chopped green chili
1 tbs raw papaya paste
2 tbs oil
2 tbs bread crumbs
3 tbs chopped corriander
butter for basting
sesame seeds for garnishing


Take minced  meat in a bowl.




Add all the ingredients except for butter and sesame seeds. Mix well.




Set aside for 10 minutes and mix again. Take handfuls of the mixture and wrap around a wooden cooking spoon with round handle or a round stick (making the shape of a sausage). Smooth the outer surface with your hands. Tip: apply some oil/water on your hands to avoid stickiness.





Place in the  preheated oven (180C) for 10-15 minutes. Turn over. Baste with butter and sprinkle sesame seeds on each of the kebabs. Bake further for 5 minutes.


Pilaf rice

Ingredients:

3 cups bouillon
250 g lamb
4 cloves of garlic
salt, pepper

1 1/2 cups basmati rice (washed and saoked in water for 30 min)
1 sliced onion
1 tbs chopped garlic
1 tbs + 1tsp mixed spices
2 green cardamoms
3 medium sized carrots (julienned)
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup almond flakes
3 tbs cooking oil
1tbs + 2tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp yellow food colour


Take 5-6 cups of water, salt, pepper, one teaspoon of mixed spices, cloves of garlic and the meat in a pressure cooker and cook for about 10 minutes or until the meat is completely done. Take out 3 cups of bouillon for making rice. Seperate the meat from bones and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil alongwith the green cardamoms. Note: you may like to season it a bit with salt and pepper.

In a frying pan, take 2 tsps olive oil and fry the carrots in it.





Add the almonds as well as the raisins. Fry for a few minutes.





Place aside till further use.

In a large pan, fry the sliced onion in hot oil until golden brown. Add in the garlic paste. Fry for another minute.





Add the bouillon, more salt, pepper, mixed spices. Bring to a boil, then add the soaked, drained basmati rice. Cook on high-medium until rice has soaked in the entire bouillon and is almost done.Tip: To determine when it has reached that stage that you require, remove a few grains from the pot and press between your thumb and forefinger. The rice should mostly mash but will have a firm whitish core.

Divide rice into two portions and mix the food colour into one. Spread the coloured rice onto the bottom of the pan.




Spread half tablespoonmixed spices as well as half of the carrot stuff over it. Again repeat the procedure with the remaining rice, half of the meat, spices and carrots etc.
Tip: Do reserve some carrots/raisins for the garnishing purpose as well.





Immediately after this, cover the pan with a tight lid and place on very low heat for another 7-10 minutes.

Open the lid, carefully toss the rice. Decorate with the reserved carrots, amonds and meat. This is how I did it:



 

Assemble carrots, rainsins, almonds, meat and rice in a mould. Press a bit with the back of a spoon. Invert on a serving dish.







Serve warm with kebabs and mint-walnut chutney.