Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A CHRISTMAS SPREAD - MEDIA MENTION

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It was just before I left for India this time that I saw an email in my inbox from Grihalakshmi, a fortnighty magazine from Kerala. They asked me if I was willing to do a Christmas menu spread for their magazine. Initially, I was not very sure if I would be able to do it because from the day I would land in India, a week long journey was planned already. Since the team was very flexible with their dates, I accepted the offer and the rest is history,as you see it. The shoot happened in our home, in Kannur and it was a fun filled, labour intensive one yet worth every drop of sweat shed!
This was published on 15 December 2014 but,since we were travelling I couldn't update you all earlier. It's better late than never, right?
Menu:
Rich Hot Chocolate
American Buttermilk Pancakes
Bell Pepper Tempura with Chili Garlic Sauce
Easy Quiche
Cheesy Cauliflower & Sweet Corn Mini Pie
Grilled Chicken & Pasta Salad
Mango Fizz
Mocha Truffles

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A CAKE FOR A BABY SHOWER - 4

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Honey is my soul sister. We were aware of each other's existence, thanks to our food blogs! We were friends on Facebook and that was pretty much what we knew about each other. On a rainy afternoon in June 2013,while Ian was fast asleep, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed,and a particular photograph caught my attention. It was a black and white photograph of rain and the building in the picture looked very familiar. That's when I read the caption which Honey wrote...rain watching in Minneapolis.

I  messaged her immediately,asking if she was free the next day, to meet up for coffee. Things took a turn and we met as a family for Brunch the next day, in one of my most favourite cafe's in Downtown Minneapolis,a few blocks away from our Condo.Ian was just 10 months old then and I must say, he really liked Honey.I am very glad that the feeling is mutual!
The rest is history and a very good one at that! We lived 4 blocks away from each other for a few months,till they moved to their own sweet home, 'Kilikoodu' which means Nest in Malayalam.
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When it was time for me to bake a cake for her Baby Shower, the only theme I could think about was a 'Kilikoodu'. It was a surprise shower and I was really hoping that they wouldn't bump into any of the other guests that we had invited. Luckily, everything went really smooth! It was a tall 6 inch Funfetti cake that I baked from scratch with a tinted Vanilla Buttercream. It was a good one, if I may say so myself.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BARBIE DOLL CAKE FOR A BIRTHDAY

Barbie Doll Cake
Iwas a huge Barbie doll fan while growing up and I still have all of them intact with me. Now when I look back, I really don't know what caused that fascination in me. Even today, there are so many little girls who are fond of Barbie dolls and one such girl is celebrating her Birthday today. When her Mother asked me if I could bake a Barbie cake,my heart leaped with joy! I wouldn't give up a chance on recreating that fascination I had when I was a little girl. I really hope little V enjoys this cake I baked for her. From an old gen Barbie fan to a new gen Barbie fan.

Monday, December 29, 2014

BAKLAVA

Baklava
There was a time when I pretty much hated everything that had dry fruits or nuts in it. I would never eat a Cadbury Fruit & Nut and always wondered how people loved a Christmas fruit cake! Things didn't change much with regards to dry fruits until a few years ago when I first ate a Baklava. It was during my Masters when a friend of mine visited Dubai and brought some goodies for us. It was good. Things changed when I moved to Minneapolis post wedding. We found a good Mediterranean cafe in our little city which sold exceptionally good Baklava. Pistachio and Walnut. They were sold in tiny squares which made it even more special. Talk about portion control!
Baklava
We are in Kannur right now. It's our second trip this year. So, the last time when we came here, which was in March, I made a batch of Baklava and brought it to Kannur, for Amma. She fell in love with it when she tasted it back in Minneapolis. I really wish Phyllo dough was easy to source here. I have read a couple of recipes online where they have used packaged Samosa sheets. I haven't tried it myself,so cannot really comment on how the outcome would be.
Baklava
Baklava

A long time back,I made an Apple Strudel for the Daring Bakers monthly challenge. That dough was super easy to put together and bakes up very well in the oven. I am guessing,maybe that could be used instead of phyllo. The Apple Strudel dough had to be rolled super duper thin,like a phyllo dough,so it might work. I took this recipe from this popular website,a site I rarely visit though. No regrets. It turned out to be really good. Making a Baklava can be intimidating to some, but, it really is simple if you follow the directions the first time you make it. Once you are happy with what you made, then, the next time onwards, you can adjust the recipe to your taste. Atleast, that's what I do. That way, I will know if it's my mistake or not if the dish doesn't turn out the way I expected it to be.
BAKLAVA
Baklava Makes about 2 -3 dozen

Ingredients:
One 16 ounce package phyllo dough,thawed
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 cup unsalted butter,melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Method:Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 X 13 inch baking tray with tall sides.
Syrup: Boil water and sugar until the sugar is melted. Add honey and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla. Let it cool,while you assemble the baklava.

Toss the chopped nuts with cinnamon. Trim the phyllo dough, if need be, to fit the baking tray.Cover the phyllo dough with a damp cloth,if you are slow at working with it,because it will dry out otherwise.Place two sheets of phyllo in the pan and brush with butter. Repeat till you have 8 layers of phyllo sheets.Top it with 3 tablespoons of nuts. Top the nut mixture with two sheets of phyllo,butter it and then layer it again with nuts. Repeat till you have 8 sheets left.
Butter every second sheet of phyllo,just like how you did in the beginning.Butter the topmost sheet too. Cut them into desired shapes all the way through, using a very sharp knife. Bake for 50-55 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crisp.
Immediately,pour the cooled syrup slowly evenly over the Baklava and let the whole thing cool completely. Serve as needed. Do not cover the Baklava tightly. It will get soggy.

This was a total hit among my family. Also, I realised that it's one of the simplest complicated looking thing to make! Every bite was crisp on the top and it gets succulent as you go deep into the layers.It was simply delicious!

As you might have noticed, I've been very irregular here. Holidays are meant to be spent with family right? I try to stay away from all sorts of distractions but, I couldn't leave without wishing you all a Happy New Year! I sincerely hope you had a fabulous Christmas, just like how we did! So,see you all next year then!
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

THE CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA


CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Does this humble,yet hugely popular curry need an introduction? This is like the voice of India.Whichever restaurant you go to here, this is on their menu for sure! I even like the way it sounds.This was never a curry we had at home while growing up. A good Butter Chicken would appear once in a while on the dinner table when Amma was in a mood for a change. But,never a Chicken Tikka Masala.

I like all curries with a thick smooth sauce made with onions and tomatoes. And to go with that, I'd love some Garlic Naan,with some butter slathered over it.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
I made this curry a month or two back and this post was in my drafts for the longest time. I don't know why,but,everytime I saw it, I did not feel like posting it here.I am trying my best to stop procrastinating things these days because,once I do that,it never gets done later on. It's a bit difficult at times but,when I am done with it,it feels awesome! There are days when I don't feel like doing anything, but,just sit and watch some movies or catch up on some idiotic reality shows.
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
Back to the curry.This is really an awesome one! Once you make it,you will feel like a kitchen goddess. Trust me, you will! Your kitchen will smell amazing while it's cooking and your tastebuds will feel pampered when you taste it! None of Mr. Raghavan Iyer's recipes, that I've tried so far, have failed to impress.It's not just me. It's been impressing a lot of our friends too! I paired it with a simple Peas Pulao, that I love making with some red onions, cumin & cilantro. It would pair well with just steamed Basmati rice too! This curry is bursting with flavours and you will wonder why you didn't make it earlier!

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
CHICKEN TIKKA MASALAServes 4-6

Ingredients:
You will need some bamboo skewers

For the marinade:
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons ginger paste
2 tablespoons garlic paste
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons coriander seeds,ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds,ground
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 pound boneless,skinless chicken breasts,cut lengthwise into 1 inch wide strips

For the sauce:
2 tablespoon ghee
1 small red onion,coarsely chopped
1 small red bell pepper,seeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Method:Soak the bamboo skewers in water for an hour.
Whisk all the ingredients given under the marinade,stir in the chicken and toss thoroughly. Refrigerate covered, for atleast 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

When you are ready to cook the chicken,make the sauce: Heat the ghee in a small saucepan* over medium -high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, almonds and raisins, and cook, stirring frequently,until the vegetables soften and then acquire honey -brown patches,10-12 minutes.Stir in the tomatoes and scrape the bottom to deglaze it.Pour this chunky sauce into the blender and add the cream,salt,cayenne and garam masala. Puree,scraping the jar as needed,to make a thick,nutty-gritty sauce.Pour the sauce into a medium size saucepan and simmer it over low heat while you grill the chicken.

Grill or broil (on the shelf closest to the heating element) the chicken for 6-8 minutes,turning occassionally,until they juices run clear.Slide the chicken off the skewers into the sauce.Stir to coat well and serve garnished with cilantro!

*Forcing the vegetables into a small pan allows them to sweat a little,creating moisture that prevents burning.

This curry is a bomb! That's all that I have to say :) We enjoyed it to the last bite. The sauce will thicken up as it cools,so feel free to adjust the consistency with some cream,if need be.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS

PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS
Potstickers. Can I have a plate of Potstickers? Cheta, Dumplings? These are our usual requests when we eat out. I am a die hard fan of potstickers and I can live on it for the rest of my life. Ian is another one. The minute the server comes by,he would say,'Cheta,Dumplings?'. He doesn't know the difference between a Potsticker & a Dumpling,so prefers to call them Dumplings. A Potsticker is first pan fried on it's flat side and then steam cooked in either chicken broth or water. Whereas a Dumpling is cooked by steaming alone. Simple,right?
PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS
We used to buy Pork & Vegetable Potstickers from Trader Joes, Whole Foods etc all this while. Everytime we buy it, I make a mental note to try my hand at it soon. It never happened until we ate some Momos at our local Indian restaurant. Momos are a Tibetian / Nepali version of Dumplings. I've made them many years ago when I was in Kannur and they were my favourite things to eat out in Bangalore.We would go to the Taste Of Tibet on Brigade Road and order so many plates of Momos because we could never get enough of it!
PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS
When I researched about the kinds of fillings,I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them were the same. Some used different sauces to flavour the pork while some stuck to the basics. I preferred sticking to the basic recipe because I knew the ones we've been eating so far didn't taste like it had a blend of sauces. I was right. These potstickers proved to be the best!This recipe called for 64 Wonton wrappers but,if you are using Potsticker wrappers,which is thicker than the Wonton wrappers,you will have to buy an extra packet. There are only 48 Potsticker wrappers in one packet.
PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS
This is such an easy thing to make and must be made ahead of time,if you are planning.They are best when frozen,just like how it is when we buy. When I tried cooking them as soon as I made it, it became a bit too soft. I mean,it was good but,it was not the way I had wanted.You need to lay them on a cookie sheet and leave it in the freezer till they are frozen,rock solid. After that, transfer them to a ziptop bag and leave it in the freezer till needed. This works as the best appetizer when you have some visitors at the last minute or,in my case,when me and Ian need something to munch on during tea time.
PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS
PORK & SHRIMP POTSTICKERS Makes 64

Ingredients:
2 cups green / napa cabbage,chopped very fine
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound shrimp,cleaned and finely chopped
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine /sherry
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
64 Potsticker / Wonton wrappers

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chicken stock / water

Dipping sauce:
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
a small slice of ginger

Method: In a large bowl,toss the cabbage with salt and set aside for 20 mins. Transfer the cabbage to a cheesecloth and squeeze out all the water. You will be amazed to see the amount that will ooze out. Make sure you squeeze the daylights out of it ;)

Mix together all the ingredients from cabbage through garlic,well. You can refrigerate the mixture,covered,at this point,for upto 6 hours. When you are ready,put one teaspoon filling on each wrapper,shape and seal with some water brushed on the edges of the wrapper. You can use a cornstarch slurry too,if you'd like it that way. Place all the shaped dumplings on a cookie sheet and freeze till rock hard. Transfer to a ziptop bag and freeze until needed.

How to cook: In a large saute pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. When it is hot, add the dumplings,flat side down and let it get golden brown on that side,1-2 minutes.Then,lower the heat to medium, add the chicken broth,cover the pan and let it cook for 3-5 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

For the dipping sauce: Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve alongside potstickers.
This was seriously, out of this world good! If you have the patience,make a bigger batch and stash it away in the freezer and you can thank yourself,later,when you enjoy them! Ian was sleeping when I made these and when he woke up and saw them,he went crazy for it! I have made another batch already and they are sitting very pretty in the freezer :) You should try it too!


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