Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Jackfruit Fiasco

Jackfruit (kathaal) is an interesting vegetable. It grows like leeches on a tree and has a tough; prickly skin. Even peeling the vegetable is a task. You need to oil your knife and hands and hack away until the whitish flesh is unearthed. I actually like the texture of jackfruit; its similar to meat, and if you make it properly it can be quite delicious. My family in Bengal cooks this vegetable quite often; but because I'm a spoiled brat there, I've never seen how they cook it.

I was on the way back from work when I decided to stop at the Dilli Darwaza Sabji Mandi (vegetable market); and pick up some supplies. I got some lovely tomatoes, onions and potatoes; when my eyes fell on the jackfruit. My friend Palak urged me into picking some up, but I was still skeptical. I had never cooked the vegetable before! She re-assured me by telling me how simple it was and that she would come home to help and direct. I fell head-first into the trap and went home with a smile on my face and a bag of jackfruit in my hands.

Jackfruit is NOT easy to cook! Palak did NOT come to help! I chopped the vegetable into inch sized cubes and removed the seeds and the sticky gunk around the seeds. I had been told to fry/boil the vegetable till it is soft and cooked through. I did both. I then chopped up a huge amount of onions, garlic and tomatoes. I fried the onions and garlic in some mustard oil and added the tomatoes. I then continued to make the masala in the regular way; adding red chili powder, coriander and cumin powder and whatever masalas I could see in the kitchen cabinet. Cooking the masala till a little oil had released. I then mixed the cooked jackfruit into the masala, added some water, and waited to see what would happen. After about five minutes; I decided it was time to taste, certain that it would be absolutely amazing. I dipped my spoon into the kadhai (wok) and popped a piece into my mouth. The very thought of that moment brings tears to my eyes. It was bitter! Horribly so! I don't think I have eaten anything so bitter in a terribly long time. Cursing under my breath I called my paternal grandmother; she laughed when I told her what had happened. Said that you always have to taste the jackfruit after boiling it to make sure it isn't bitter. Why oh why didn't I know that?!

Moral of the story - call Sudha Ma when in doubt!

Although this round of jackfruit was such a disaster; I am definitely going to try it again. Maybe next year, or in 2020. Either way, I shall keep you updated!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cheesy Garlic Bread

The old city in Ahmedabad is a true treasure box. The 'Teen Darwaza' market is fabulous. Think of a product, and you will find it there. From incredibly useful things to the most random things too!

I have wanted to bake my own bread for years now. Unfortunately; I've never managed to find yeast in any of the kirana stores or supermarkets even. Predictably; I managed to come across some dry yeast in the city at a place called Bhagwati Stores. Experimentation was bound to start!

Bread is suspiciously easy to make; as with doughnuts, you just require plenty of patience, and a wee bit of muscle. This is a basic bread recipe, and you can tweak it to your tastes. Additions of sun-dried tomatoes, preserved meat or even slices of onion could be interesting! The advantage of making your own bread is that you can do whatever you want with it.

Ingredients -
  • 500g Flour
  • 250g Atta
  • 2 1/4tsp Dry Yeast
  • 2tsp Sugar
  • 1 1/2tsp Salt
  • 450ml warm Water
  • 200g Cheese, grated
  • 4tbsp minced Garlic
  • 60g Butter
Pour 150ml of the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. You will know that it is ready to use once the mixture looks slightly frothy.

Mix the flours, sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Rub 40g butter into the flour mixture till it is slightly crumbly. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture; add enough water to bring the dough together. It should be slightly sticky.

Sprinkle some flour on your platform or workspace, and tip the dough onto it. Knead the dough till it is smooth and elastic. This will probably take anywhere between 10-15 minutes. Place the dough in a large bowl (lightly greased), and cover with cling film. Leave the dough to rise till it's double in size in a dark, warm place. This could take anywhere between 2-3 hours.

Once the dough has doubled; tip it onto your platform and punch out the air. Knead it for a couple of minutes and allow it to rest for a further ten minutes before you start to form your bread. Flatten the dough out into a rough rectangle about 3/4 inch thick. Smear the remaining butter on the dough, and evenly sprinkle it with the grated cheese and minced garlic. Roll the dough into a log. You can now push and pull the dough till you have the desired size and shape. I just pressed both ends till it was rather nice and stout. Place your rolled dough onto a lined baking tray and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow it to rise till double in a dark, warm place. This should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 170C and bake for 35-40 minutes. The easiest way to check if its ready is to tap the bottom of the loaf. If it makes a hollow sound then it is ready! Let the bread cool for a couple of minutes; slice and enjoy!

Chewy Fudgey Cookies

Cookies are oh so comforting! The fact that they're incredibly easy to make, gives them even more appeal. Crisp and crunchy on the outside; with an incredibly fudgey, gooey texture on the inside. If you love chocolate; you will love these.

The discovery of these cookies happened last night. After having a satisfying meal of a juicy mutton burger
(recipe coming soon); we wanted something sweet to eat. Considering that it was already past midnight; it also had to be fast and easy to make. That's when these cookies came to the rescue!

Ingredients -
  • 1 Egg, cold
  • 150g Chocolate, melted
  • 200g Chocolate, chopped into small pieces/chocolate chips
  • 130g Flour
  • 110g Sugar, granulated
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 125g Butter
  • 1/4tsp Salt
Beat the butter and sugar together till the mixture becomes pale and fluffy. While continuously whisking, pour in the melted chocolate; and then the egg. Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder till you have a thick, creamy batter. Fold in the chocolate bits/chips.

Preheat your oven to 170C. Line a baking tray with some foil or parchment paper (you could also just grease the tray with butter and then dust it with flour). Scoop out large mounds of the cookie dough and place on the tray; at least 3 inches apart. These cookies spread to 3-4 times their size while baking. Bake in the oven for about 15-16 minutes. Let them cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray and then let them cool completely on your wire rack. They are amazing when they are warm; and just as yummy the next morning!

Note - you may think that the cookies are still raw after 15 minutes; trust me, they are not. They should still be incredibly soft on the surface but the base should be slightly set. They will harden as they cool. If you bake them for too long then they are going to lose the fudgeyness!


Monday, 15 April 2013

Doughnuts (donuts)

Doughnuts are delicious morsels of fried dough. They are crisp and crunchy on the outside; and amazingly soft on the inside. Traditionally doughnuts are formed into a ring; but you can make them in whichever shape you like! You can fill them with cream or fruit preserves; or glaze them with chocolate; or even just roll them in sugar and cinnamon. What I'm getting at is - doughnuts are versatile! This simple recipe can be tweaked according to your tastes; whatever they may be! The dough is made with dry yeast, and then left to rise till double. You then punch out the air; shape your fried goodness, and leave to double again. The only thing you need with this recipe is patience; everything else is easy peasy!

This recipe has been requested by my friend, Krishna :)

Ingredients -
  • 300g Flour
  • 4-5tbsp Sugar
  • 1/2tsp Salt
  • 50g Butter
  • 1 1/2tsp dry Yeast
  • 1 Egg
  • 120ml warm Milk
  • Oil, for deep frying
Mix the flour and yeast together in a large bowl. Rub the butter into it till the mixture is crumbly and resembles coarse bread crumbs. Mix the sugar and salt through this mixture. Create a well in the middle, and put the warm milk (not too hot or the egg will curdle; not too cold or the yeast won't activate) and egg into it. Bring the mixture together with your hands or a flat spoon/spatula, till you have a slightly sticky dough.

Sprinkle a little flour onto your platform or workspace, and place the dough on it. Knead the dough till it becomes smooth and has a small amount of elasticity in it. This will take about five to seven minutes. Put the dough in a large (lightly greased) bowl; and place in a warm, dark place till it has doubled in size. This will take about 2 hours (depends on the weather and the temperature of wherever you place the dough!).

Once the dough has doubled, punch it a little to remove the air; and roll out to 1cm thickness. Cut it in whichever shapes you want. I used a large glass for the main circle; and a bottle cap for the inner hole. You can use cookie cutters as well. Gather up the left-over dough, and keep rolling and cutting till you have used it all up!

Line a tray with some paper, and place the cut doughnuts on it. Cover the tray with a clean tea-towel and place in a warm, dark place till they have doubled in size.

Heat up your oil in a deep wok. When you put in a small amount of dough it should color immediately and swell up slightly. Fry 2-3 doughnuts at a time; being careful not to overcrowd the wok. The doughnuts will only take about 30-40 seconds a side; remove from the oil when they are golden brown all over. Place on some tissue paper to soak up any excess oil.

You can roll the doughnuts in a mixture of ground cinnamon and icing sugar; or glaze them with some melted chocolate and sprinkles. You can also use a piping bag to 'inject' fruit preserves or whipped cream into them. Enjoy!

Note - I don't know how long these last as they got gobbled up in 15 minutes flat :)



Sunday, 7 April 2013

Cookies!




Ah cookies... What would the world do without them! Come in different shapes and sizes, taste amazing warm and equally so cold, can be chewy and soft or crunchy or even both! Can be iced or coated or just gobbled up straight out of the oven. Can put a smile on absolutely anyone's face!

Cookies have been around since the beginning of recorded baking history, the first signs of them dating back to the 7th century AD in Persia! In the hundreds of years that it has evolved the cookie is now one of the most popular foods in the world.





The cookies shown in the pictures here not only look amazing but taste even better! I can honestly say that the chocolate chip (chunks rather) cookies that Regina makes are by far among the yummiest things I have ever eaten!

If anyone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat would like to place an order for cookies or chocolate please feel free to contact us on reginascookbook@gmail.com.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Holi - the festival of Color!

Holi is a very important festival in India. It is celebrated sometime during March; and essentially brings the onset of summer (Spring is not very prominent in this part of the world). Holi is celebrated for two days, the second day is called Dhuleti. On Holi, a large fire is lit in the evening and various offerings are made to the fire - papad, popcorn, water, dates and so on. On Dhuleti, people play with color and water and there is a lot of fun and frolic involved. There are a number of reasons behind this festival; mythological, ecological and even psychological. With the help of my paternal grandmother Sudha Devi; I've managed to find out and log all the various reasons!

Mythological - the story is set in Ancient India. There was a great, but tyrant king - Hiranyakashyap; who was incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, the power went to his head and he wanted all his courtiers and people to pray to him instead of Lord Vishnu. Ironically; his son, Prahlad; was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu, and simply refused to bend to his fathers wish. He went to the extent of telling Hiranyakashyap's followers that Lord Vishnu was the real God, and not Hiranyakashyap. The kings argument was that when people were hungry or were in need; it was him who they come to; Lord Vishnu couldn't do anything at such times.

Frustrated by his sons behavior, Hiranyakashyap attempted to kill Prahlad innumerable times; but to no avail. Finally; he devised an evil plan with his sister Holika.She had received a boon that she could not be burned. So, the two siblings decided that they would make a large fire and tell Prahlad to sit on Holika's lap right in the center of it. Prahlad agreed as he had complete faith in his lord. The boon did not work for Holika and she burned to death while Prahlad emerged without a scar. This is the reason for burning a fire on the day of Holi.

Ecological - the Holi fire is made out of cow dung and wood. Cow dung is known to be an antiseptic; the smoke caused from the fire kills all the germs and little insects in the atmosphere.

Psychological - the second day of Holi is called Dhuleti. This is the day when everyone plays with powdered color and water. Dhuleti is the day to wash away all the past misunderstandings and problems with your friends and family. It is also to welcome summer with joy. The reason behind playing with bright colors is because there are many emotions in life, and various colors represent those emotions.

In a similar manner, there are various tastes in life, and they represent the various emotions. That's why, one will eat all the different flavors on Holi - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy.

Each family, and each region of India has there own way to combine these flavors into one. My family uses Gudd ka Bhaat and Dahi Vada to represent these flavors.

Gudd ka Bhaat

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup Rice
  • 3/4 cup Jaggery (gudd)
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1tbsp Ghee
  • 2 Cloves (long/laving)
  • 2 Cardamom (elaichi)
Melt the jaggery in the water and keep aside. Heat the ghee slightly and add the cloves and cardamom. Fry the rice in the ghee and spices for about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and allow to cook until the water has all been soaked and you have a sticky rice. Serve hot.

Dahi Vada

Ingredients -
  • 3/4 cup Mung dal
  • 1/4 cup Urad dal (white lentil)
  • 1 1/2 cup Yogurt (dahi)
  • 50 grams Tamarind (imli)
  • 50 grams Jaggery (gudd)
  • 3tbsp red Chili powder
  • 3tbsp Cumin 
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
Wash and soak the two dals for a couple of hours or even over night. Grind to a fine paste with a little bit of water. Form the batter into small balls and fry for a couple of minutes or until the vadas are cooked through. Dip each vada in some water for a couple of minutes and then squeeze out the water by placing a vada between your hands.

Soak the Tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water for a couple of minutes and then strain to get a thick sauce.

Melt the jaggery in a pan with a few table spoons of water, add 1tbsp of chili powder to it.

Roast the cumin seeds till the oils in the spice release, and grind to a fine powder

Strain the yogurt so that it is smooth and creamy without any lumps.

Place the soaked vadas in a shallow bowl. Pour the yogurt on top. Then, pour the tamarind and jaggery sauce over the yogurt. Sprinkle the remaining chili powder and cumin powder. Serve cold.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Fried Potates and Sour Cream

This is one of my favorite meals. One may think that having such amounts of cream could be incredibly heavy, but the tartness from the lemon counters the richness of the cream.

I don't even require anything on the side when I have fried potatoes and sour cream! Although, you could serve it with roast chicken. That's what the family generally does.

Ingredients -
  • 4 medium sized Potatoes
  • 150ml cream, chilled
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 2 Green Chilies, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp finely chopped Spring Onion
  • 1tsp Mixed Herbs (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Oil, for deep frying
The trick to getting potatoes that are crisp on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside is to fry hot potatoes! So, boil and peel the potatoes and slice each one in half. Heat oil in a deep wok, fry the potato halves in batches of three or four; till they are lovely and golden on all sides.

Add the lemon juice to the cream and whisk until the cream forms hard peaks. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Serve the hot potatoes with dollops of the cold cream.