Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Soapy twists and squeaky turns

A few months ago, in a fit of creativeness, I ordered a block of ‘melt and pour’ soap. Soapy Twists is a company that makes and sells in India and the glycerine M&P soap arrived promptly by post. Sadly, the creative dust got buried under the carpet of work and routine.

But yesterday, I visited K, where our friends farm organically, live sustainably and save thousands of paddy seeds in beautiful mud pots. So this week, making soap is my small contribution to sustainablity – I was inspired to melt and pour!
M&P is also known as the lazy way to making soap. The ‘real’ way would be the Hot or Cold Process, which combines a base with a fat in the process of saponification. Some faint bell rings in memories from chemistry classes in high school. Not that I made the connections between classroom science and the multinational FMCG companies making profits peddling smaller and ‘cheaper’ bars of soap. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to know fantastic groups in South India, local women’s groups, who make handmade soap with coconut oil. I still swear by them, but M&P is proving to be a fun supplement!

Today I chose oatmeal-honey and mint-aloe vera from the garden. Not having rubbing alocohol or silicone moulds wasn’t too much of an obstacle. I reused Amul buttermilk cartons, 200 ml tetrapacks, with a little tape over the hole for the straw. Here are the results!

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Mercy’s Moist Mochalate Cake

Last week at G’s farewell dinner, I was put in charge of making his favourite chocolate cake. Since I had spent most of the day worrying about value added and works contract and goods and services and other such taxes, and how they would affect my project here, I decided to play it safe and go with an easy, never-fail recipe.  From the scribbles at the back of her well used recipe book, here’s Mercy’s Moist Mochalate Cake.

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups flour (atta works well too)

2  cups sugar (this is not a recipe for the faint hearted!)

3/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 big pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

1 cup oil

1 cup hot black coffee

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence (which as usual I didn’t have)

Mix the dry ingredients together well. Add the wet ingredients, eggs last, and mix well till smooth. The batter is thin and runny. Bake at 180 degrees C for 20-30 minutes. It rises a bit so use 2 cake tins if needed.

Ice with cream cheese frosting. Or my Indian version with hung curd and powdered sugar.

Easy Peasy. I iced only one of the two cakes and tried to save the second for A and the kids from K high school. But no such luck. It all disappeared too quickly, so I made another quick batch later! Stay well     G, drive safe and come back soon!

Tangled up in…Orange

For the last couple of weeks, our Sunday organic farmers market green has been brightened up with splashes of orange pumpkins. So it’s been pumpkin cake, pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pasta and even pumpkin spice latte!   We’ve been completely tangled up in orange (apologies to Jokerman and his prize)

My current favourite is an easy recipe from natashaskitchen. A’s mom has a very similar recipe with more egg and less oil. Either way you can’t go wrong. The cake is moist, sweet and pumpkin-y. The spices smell heavenly, taste divine. And since getting cream cheese or butter takes an extra herculean effort, a simple powered sugar dusting tops it off perfectly. So, Mr Tambourine man, play a song for me, I’m not sleepy and I’m eating pumpkin cake…

Mix dry ingredients :

2 cups atta

1and1/2 cups sugar or powdered jaggery

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp powdered spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg are my favourites)

A pinch of salt

Mix wet ingredients :

3 eggs

3/4 cup oil

1/4 cup curd or buttermilk

2 cups of pumpkin purée

Mix well. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Fold together gently, do not over mix.

Bake at 180 C for 30 mins or till the top is golden amber and a knife inserted into the middle comes out cleanly.

Ice with cream cheese frosting or dust lightly with powdered sugar.

Comfort food

Last week, N was sick, so I promised to make caramel custard. In my family, this is what you eat when you are sick. The ultimate comfort food – sweet, soft, silky smooth and soothing! It comes in a variety of guises – flan or creme brûlée with its crunchy caramel, steamed or baked, vanilla flavoured or coconut milk, fancy restaurant dessert or homemade comfort food!

My earliest memories of caramel custard are from my grandmother’s kitchen. The smell of burnt sugar wafting through the house, the big battered pressure cooker she used as a steamer, the beating of eggs and milk, the rattling of the bowl as it danced inside the steamer. My mom and aunt’s all make it too, my grandfather’s favourite! All the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen – sugar, milk, eggs – so let’s get cracking!

Ingredients :

4 or 5 tablespoons of sugar to caramelise

3 eggs (medium size)

3 more tablespoons of sugar

500 ml or half a litre of warm (not hot) milk

1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla essence (which I didn’t have so I used grated nutmeg instead)

A large steamer with a tight lid and a smaller bowl that will hold all the ingredients and fit inside the steamer bowl

Put 4-5 tablespoons of sugar in the smaller bowl and melt on a low heat. I used a few drops of water at the start to make sure I didn’t burn the caramel. Caramelise till deep golden amber (not carbon black!). Take off the heat and swirl the caramel around the bowl to coat the base and sides. Set aside.

Beat 3 eggs till frothy and fluffy. Add the remaining sugar, vanilla essence or grated nutmeg, and warm milk. Mix well. Strain this mixture into the caramel coated bowl, to get rid of any undissolved bits of egg or sugar. Fill the steamer with water and turn on the heat. Place the small bowl into the steamer and close the lid. My steamer bowl lid happened to be glass so it was fun to be able to watch what was going on inside! Once the water is at a rolling boil and you can hear the little bowl rattling and dancing inside, turn the heat onto simmer or very low, and let it steam for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it to cook in the residual steam for an additional 5 minutes. Open the steamer lid and use a toothpick or butter knife to stab the custard and see if it’s cooked. If it comes out clean, the custard is perfectly done. Don’t over cook it or it’ll lose its silky consistency and get grainy. Let it cool to room temperature and pop in the fridge to chill, ideally overnight.

Once it’s cold, slide a butter knife around the edges of the bowl to loosen it up. Cover the bowl with a deep plate and flip it over, gently but quickly. Release the bowl and voila, there’s a beautiful golden topped custard staring up at you from a little lake of molten caramel! Comfort food at its best, guaranteed to cheer up any sick patient! N was lucky to get a couple of helpings though, as we gobbled up the rest!

Caramel Squares

The holiday season is one of cheer n greeting, and also of much eating! In vellore, both A and T independently made caramel squares for me! A calls them ‘millionaire’s bars’ (because they’re SO rich). T uses the Spanish ‘dulce de leche’ for the sweet, golden layer of caramel. So I was inspired to make some caramel squares (which is what I call them, having ordered more than my fair share in Glasgow’s coffee shops with U!). Buying ingredients in BC can sometimes be challenging. But the Amul shop uncle (who sells wholesale only, and will insist on you buying 20 to 50 of anything he sells) managed to provide 50% of the stuff – the elusive butter and condensed milk! The rest was easier to get. There are numerous recipes and videos to choose from online. But very few with ingredients from India. So here goes :

The Ingredients, which are all available in India

 
1. One pack of biscuits, preferably Britannia Nice Time, for the yummy coconut n sugar (150g). You could go for a more authentic shortbread base, but I love the coconutty twist that ‘nice’ biscuits bring

2. One pack of Amul Butter (100g)

3. One tin of Amul Condensed Milk or Mithai Mate (400g)

4. One Dairy Milk chocolate bar (150g)

5. A pinch of salt

6. Two heaped tablespoons of sugar

Biscuit Base: Crush the biscuits into powder, either by whacking them with a rolling pin or giving them a whir in the mixie. Line your flat bowl with butter paper and tip the biscuit powder in. Cut half of the butter (save the other half for the caramel) into small cubes and mix into the powdered biscuit until it is a moist, sand like consistency. Press down firmly and evenly around the bowl. Store in the fridge till the caramel is ready.

Dulce de leche: empty the condensed milk into a heavy bottomed pan. Add the remaining half of the butter, a little salt and the two tablespoons of sugar. Cook on a low -medium heat, stirring constantly to make sure the bottom does not burn. Cook for 10-20 mins, depending on how oozy or thick you want your caramel. I got a twix-like consistency, but with a much lighter colour. Pour into the base. Leave in the fridge to set for atleast an hour. There are many ways to make the dulce de leche including boiling and pressure cooking the tin. But directly on the stove seems the quickest option!

And finally the chocolate topping. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Which is simply – in a bowl, which fits snugly into the top of another bowl below, filled with boiling water. Once the chocolate is all melted, pour and smoothen out on top of the caramel layer! I put it back in the fridge to set. But that made it hard to cut, even with a warm knife. So after that you could just leave it out

And voila! There’s your caramel square. Ok mine is more of a caramel rectangle and to have one big piece  would be a tad overindulgent. Cut up into small squares and wave your magic wand. They disappear really quick!!

Wild Mango Magic

Next time you grumble about the heat, humidity and horridness of summer – stop and look at the mangoes! All the woes of summer disappear as the sweet mango juice goes dripping down your chin. I wouldnt miss it for the world (and my sympathies to those who cant or dont have a mango season!)

This year, we have had a fantastic season. And thankfully, mangoes still are a seasonal fruit – like spargel/ asparagus, in Europe. We’ve had a mix of hybird mangos from Kalahandi, mangoes from our garden, and of course, mangoes from the villages and forests around Bissamcuttack. The adivasi village streets are paved with gold this season. Whole populations disappear into the forest before sunrise to collect mangoes – the small, wild, sweetest kind. That doesnt make it’s way into markets beyond the block or tehsil headquarters. This season, I was blessed with wild mangoes.

Preserving this sweetness is vital of course. ‘Manga Thera’ finds its place in most communities on the sub-continent. Here, in south Odisha, it’s called Ambo Soda and modern innovations are creeping in – like drying the pulp on plastic mats or plastic sacks. The rest of the process is essentially the same – squeezing and pounding the sweetness out of the mangoes into a pulpy juice, slathering it out to dry, once dry, pouring on a new layer of fresh pulp and so on till the sun has turned the pulp into a solid mass of gold.

Here are some pictures from J village, where we tried our hands at pulping with a split bamboo stick and tin can.

This season I finally learned how to make sweet mango curry. The tree behind our house has been dropping mangoes for nearly a month now and yesterday we ate the last batch from this tree. Many blessings on those who planted it, and indeed on all those who plant and tend mango trees.

The Sweet Mango Curry Recipe (easy version by D didi):

1. Wash and peel ripe ‘chusne’ mangos (little mangos that you have to suck the juice out of and not the fancy hybrid kind that only lend themselves to slicing up). Atleast 2 mangoes per head

mango curry2. Chop a couple of onions, 3-5 cloves of garlic and a few red chillies (depending on how spicy you want it. The spicey-ness compliments the sweetness of the mangoes!)

mango curry 23. Heat your pan/ kadai/ wok and pour in a tablespoon of oil (coconut, sunflower, sesame. Mustard if youre feeling brave. Any oil will do the trick). Add a teaspoon of mustard or jeera seeds into the hot oil and enjoy the sizzle and splatter.  A few curry leaves too if you have them fresh from the garden.

4. Add in the chopped ingredients of step 2 and fry well. Sprinkle in some salt (to taste. We cook a hypertensive diet, so not much gets added. Fortunately, salt can be added in later as well!). The mangoes are already golden, but a dash of tumeric/ manjal/ haldi powder really brings out the sunshiny yellow.

mango curry35. When the onions are brown and tender, add the mangoes. Wash out the bowl with a little splash of water and pour that in, so you don’t waste any of the mango juice. Don’t add too much water now because a lot of liquid comes of out the mango anyway!

mango curry56. Turn down the heat, cover and leave on simmer for 7-10 minutes. Soon the mangoes will be cooking in a bubbling golden gravy of thick mango juices. Now add a little more water if you like lots of gravy. Serve with hot white rice.mango curry7So quick, try it before the mango season ends this year! Or since patience is a virtue, you could wait for the mango season to roll round again next year. Either ways, here’s to Mango Magic – may you stay sweet and seasonal!

Brownies and (p)bumpkins

Last week T made brownies. We somehow mixed up the quantities  of flour and sugar. So they turned out super sweet. Not at all a problem in this household fortunately. We had to ration some out for M, who was away, before they were all gobbled up by the troops. pumpkin brownies

But only country bumpkins could have got things so mixed up. To make up for our country bumpkin-ness, T and A bought pumpkin flowers from the market. These beautiful yellow blooms with long stalks looked just right for plonking into a tall glass vase. But D Didi pounced on them and in no time we were eating pumpkin flower pakodas!! I really enjoyed the sweet, delicate flavour, hidden in a spicy batter. Banana flower I’ve cooked and eaten often but pumpkin flower was a first. Take a look at some pics and next time someone’s feeling blue – don’t say it with flowers – try cooking them!

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