Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Roasted Peaches With Crushed Almond Praline

The seasons are changing. That's what the fruit stall is telling me. The mangoes have, except for a few langras and chausas, more or less left the market. And so have the cherries. The apples and pears have started making an appearance and even a few chikoos. And of course, there's also the last of the plums and peaches.
 
To be precise, more of the plums, the peaches have hardly made their mark this season. Since they come all the way from up north, you rarely find good ones. They are either all yellow on the outside with none of that beautiful peachy blush that one expects from them or they are absolutely lacking in taste. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, we picked up a few, only to have them lie around in the fruit basket with no one willing to eat them.
 

You then do the next best thing to make the fruit more palatable. You roast them! In this case with some cinnamon and brown sugar but you could also use honey, vanilla or even some orange juice. Normally, I would have served them with some vanilla ice-cream and be done with it. But I had seen this idea of crushed almond praline in the 'What Katie Ate' book that she serves with roasted peaches that sent me down that road.
 
The almond praline is easy to make. All you have to do is caramelise some sugar and then pour it over the roasted almonds. Once it sets, break it up into shards and then for this dessert, crush them into a crumble. Although the darker you caramelise the sugar, the more bitter it will be, so use your discretion on how bitter you would like it.
 
 
Roasting the peaches softens them down as they get cooked in their own juices and the sugar takes the edge of the tartness. The cold vanilla ice-cream contrasts beautifully with the warm, roasted peaches. And just when you think, it would all get a bit too sweet, the bitter, caramel flavour of the praline counters that as well as giving some much appreciated textural crunch.
 
However, I am left wondering if I should have added some kind of orange or lemon juice while roasting the peaches. That would have resulted in some sort of syrup which would be ideal to pour over the ice-cream.
 
 
Let's be clear .. this is not so much a dessert to wow the guests as more of a way to finish off the not-so-ideal fruit that is simply lying around. Having said that, since there is such little work to be done, it is a delightful, unfussy dessert for an informal week night dinner.
 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sheer Khurma - Indian Vermicelli Pudding

You don't need to be a Muslim to appreciate the faith that defines the month of Ramzan. Because like every other religion, it is only faith that can make one exercise the restraint and self control that a month of fasting demands of one's body, mind and soul. For any one with questions on Ramzan, I would like to direct you to my friend, Sawsan's post on the topic. Because as she beautifully puts it, "The true beauty of any religion is when you see the why behind the must."
 
 
And, you don't need to be Muslim to enjoy Sheer Khurma on Eid!! We, Indians, are always ready for a celebration and the good food that it brings with it.  So, at some point in life, a neighbour, co-worker or friend would have definitely introduced you to a bowl of this beautiful dessert on Eid and like everyone else, you would have been hooked ever since.
 
 
Sheer khurma is the traditional dessert prepared for Eid. Sheer is Persian for milk and Khurma is Persian for dates. Offered to the family in the morning after Eid prayers and to guests throughout the day, this is a vermicelli pudding cooked in milk along with dates, dried fruits and nuts. 
 
Every family has their own recipe which will invariably have its own special touches that will make it unique to any other bowl of sheer khurma that you might have tasted. The recipe I follow today is a simple one and much lighter and less richer than traditional recipes.
 
 
But, that does not take away from the pudding in a way. It was as delightful as ever. The vermicelli provides its own unique texture and the nuts and dried fruits, each bring their individual character to the flavour profile. Bringing it together is the delicately scented milk that has been infused with cardamom and rose. This is a dessert fit for any celebration!
 
 
Eid Mubarak! Wishing you health, happiness, love and in these uncertain times, may peace be upon all!!
 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Affogato With Pistachio, Orange and Vanilla Cantuccini : 'TWD : Baking With Julia'

I'll admit.. I have a weakness for exotic sounding recipes, or should I paraphrase that as recipes that sound exotic to my Indian sensibilities. The more unusual sounding the recipe name, the more likely it is that I'll have a go at it. From rugelach to Finnish Pulla to cucidati, the book, 'Baking with Julia' has a fair share of them. One of the reasons, I guess that I keep coming back to the group despite my long absences. 
 
So, this Tuesday, I am having a go at the exotic sounding cantuccini! But, turns out that I have already made something similar. Cantuccini are Italian biscotti by another name. If anyone knows why the different names, do let me know. I suspect it has something to do with regional variations.
 
 
A while back, from the same book, I had made some dark chocolate and roasted almond biscotti. Crunchy, dry, crackly and not too sweet, I have been a fan of these Italian cookies ever since and not much convincing was needed to make them again.
 
While this recipe calls for almonds, having already used them earlier, I turned to the Middle East for inspiration. I went with the classic combination of pistachios and orange zest to flavour these cookies.
 
 
Because there is no butter or fat used in these cookies, they bake, as the recipe states, into 'a formidable state of crunchiness'. This makes them perfect for some dipping action. That's why their traditional accompaniment is vin santo but a cup of espresso or tea would do too.
 
But, since we are in the mood for something new today, I decided to serve them with affogato. Affogato is one of the simplest desserts ever created. In Italian, affogato means drowned. So, you take a scoop or two of vanilla ice-cream and drown it in a shot of hot espresso. And, me being me, I added a shot of coffee liqueur for good measure.
 
 
Where do I start? The cantuccini were superlative with a winning flavour profile. The orange zest was refreshing and the pistachios provided a much welcome nutty texture and flavour. The affogato, for all its simplicity, is one remarkable dessert. The hot espresso melts into the vanilla ice cream and then with a dash of the coffee liqueur, you are looking at a one-shot coffee ice-cream without all the work that goes into it.
 
Mix these two Italian components, the cantuccini and the affogato, and its a delightful marriage of flavours. The orange complements the coffee and the dry, crackly texture is perfect for dipping into the melted ice-cream.
 

Next time you call your friends over, ditch the coffee and serve them affogato with some cantuccini instead. Although, I must warn you that you mix gossip and cantuccini at your own peril. You won't notice how many you've had as you make your way through that bowl of ice-cream and the latest round of 'who would've thought..' gossip. Trust me.. I speak from experience!
 


Friday, 18 July 2014

Indian Style Lamb Burgers With Herbed Yoghurt

Increasingly I have come to believe that for most people, food is about the familiar. Once in a while, we lean on our adventurous side and try out a new cuisine and flavours or get dazzled by the showmanship of molecular gastronomy. But, we come back to flavours that we are familiar with. It is comforting and unpretentious when one is faced with flavours one is familiar with.
 
Like the flavours in these lamb burgers!
 
 
I came across these burgers in Anjum Anand's 'Indian Food Made Easy'. She takes a regular lamb burger and spices it up with Indian flavours. So, you have ginger, garlic, coriander, green chillies, cumin powder and garam masala. And instead of a mayonnaise that would seem off key with the Indian flavours, we have a herbed yoghurt.


And the final flavour profile won't just appeal to the Indian palate but to anyone who enjoys the effortless ease with which spices can make food sing. This is not about spices that are overpowering and drench your senses with heat. This is about spices that subtly enhance the complexity of flavours while keeping it simple at the same time.
 
 
Yoghurt is a soothing complement to Indian spices. And the herbed yoghurt is perfect with these lamb burgers. The mint is a refreshing addition that helps cool the palate and counter any lingering heat from the chillies.
 


This is a beautiful rendition of a burger with Indian spices that comes highly recommended. Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Black Forest Gâteau

Some classics should never be touched. There is a reason why they are known as classics and messing with them is a never a good idea. But, there are a few retro classics whose time has passed and they could do with a makeover. For me, the one retro classic that I never took to, is Black Forest Cake.



Through much of my childhood, the choice for a birthday cake was either a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting or a black forest cake. For me, the black forest cake was never an option. There was just nothing appealing about layers of chocolate cake dunked in sugar syrup with a tinned cherry and cream filling and then slathered all over with an overly sweet buttercream frosting with a few measly chocolate shavings on top. Oh, and let's not forget those cream rosettes on top with the mandatory bright red canned cherry on each rosette. No, there was no way I could ever be convinced about a black forest cake!
 
And then, I saw the Hairy Bikers travel across Germany and make a black forest cake that looked like nothing like the black forest cake of my childhood. And that set me off on a Google hunt for a modern makeover to this 70s retro classic.
 
 
I decided to put to use the fresh cherries that are now in season and the bottle of cherry liqueur from last year. For the cherry filling, I used a combination of fresh, pitted cherries, cherry liqueur and organic cherry conserve. The layers were a regular chocolate sponge but instead of soaking them with a simple sugar syrup, I used cherry liqueur.
 
Am not a fan of whipped cream so that was kept to a minimum but you can be more generous if its to your taste. And there is no way, I was going to cover the whole cake with a cream frosting. Instead, I only covered the top with a chocolate fudge frosting. I left the sides unadorned so that one could see the layers!!
 
 
And what a difference a few tweaks can make! The first thought that will come to you is how 'fresh' this black forest cake tastes compared to its previous avatars. The cherry filling is sweet with a slight tartness that is rounded off with the cherry liqueur that is not overpowering in the least. Instead, the liqueur provides a certain finesse to the flavour profile. The sponge cakes cannot be faulted and that chocolate fudge frosting is much more suited to this modern makeover.
 
It got an all round thumbs up, across the age groups, from 10 to 60. This cake is best had on the day you make it. The freshness of it is what makes it so light on the palate and once cut, I doubt there's be any left overs.. we didn't have any!
 
 
So, today is the Finals and let this cake be a clue to which team I'll be supporting. The man who wears the No.10 jersey for Argentina is a very compelling player but football is a team sport and for me, Germany is the better team!! Hope you had a beautiful weekend!
 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Pakoras - Vegetable Fritters

Petrichor, yes, that's the word! That's the word to describe that beautiful, heady, scent of the first rain, when the rain drops hit the parched, dry earth. It is the scent we wait for all Summer. It is the scent of relief. It is the scent of rejuvenation. For me, it is the scent that encapsulates the magic of the Monsoons!
 
There will be time later to complain about the leaky roofs, the clogged drains, the broken roads, the flooded lanes, the smelly clothes and the smellier people. But, not now. Now is about the romance of the first rains!
 

And what do we Indians love to have during the rains?? Pakoras and steaming chai, of course!! Make them at home or have them at a dhaba, they are inextricably linked with the rains.
 
For this batch, I have used onions but the ingenious Indian home cook uses a variety of vegetables. Think spinach, corn, potatoes, cauliflower or even brinjal. There's something about these deep fried, spicy pakoras when eaten and then washed down with a cup of steaming chai or a glass of chilled beer, that awakens the senses and simply, heightens the magic!
 
What about you.. do you love the rains?? or hate 'em?
 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Fig, Hazelnut and Dark Chocolate No-Churn Ice-Cream

Anybody know what happened to the rains?? And no, I am not talking about the insipid sprinkles that we saw sometime in the beginning of the month. I am talking about the all-encompassing, intemperate, unbridled, imprudent monsoons that should have come by now! I hate to sound like the English and talk about the weather but the thought of the impending monsoons was the only thing that got me through the miserable, soul sucking Summer. So, again, anybody know what happened to the rains??
 


Anyhow, between the late night football matches and the incessant complaining about the heat, I found myself a gem of a chocolate ice-cream recipe to get me through the days. You know those no-churn ice creams which I have tried with fresh fruit pulp.. well.. this time I added dark chocolate. And for added measure, some hazelnuts and figs dunked in coffee liqueur!!
 
And whoa.. I think I hit the jackpot! This was the darkest, creamiest, luscious, rich, intensely chocolaty chocolate ice-cream made without an ice-cream maker!  Imagine melding chocolate ice-cream with chocolate truffle with chocolate mousse, this ice-cream is that end product. The hazelnuts and boozy figs are a brilliant addition to this chocolate ecstasy blowout! Both pair brilliantly with the chocolate. The hazelnuts provide some textural crunch and the boozy figs.. well.. need no justification!
 
 
This is a soft serve ice-cream. Being quite rich and intense in flavour means a small scoop goes a long way. A tiny drizzle of the coffee liqueur on top ... happy days!!!
 
But, I'm still asking...anybody know what happened to the rains??

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...