Lattice Jam & Ricotta tart

12 Oct

Its been eons since I have posted. What between shifting homes and countries, life has been one long transit! R’s company decided to move him to Cairo but we ended up being in Dubai courtesy the Egyptian revolution.

It took our stuff 4 months to reach, by which time most of my clothes were musty, and some of my kitchen ware was rusted. I guess that is not too surprising given that the stuff was packed waiting to be shipped for 4 long months during the monsoon.

To cut a long story short, now in Dubai, well settled in, and, back to cooking! Though I seem to derive significantly more pleasure out of baking than cooking. Needless to say, it’s a lot worse for my waistline than cooking is, sigh!

Have people over for dinner tonight, and am baking a jam and ricotta tart.  Should have ideally been stewed fruit, but didn’t have the car, no berries, so decided to make do with jam instead. It didn’t come out too bad!

Shortcrust pastry

300 gms all purpose flour

150 gms butter or margarine cubed

75 gm icing sugar

2 eggs beaten separately

Filling

150 gms ricotta cheese, beaten well and flavoured with 2 tbsp of icing sugar

200-225 gms of good quality pulpy jam either strawberry, raspberry or blueberry

Making the short crust pastry

In the mixer bowl of a food processor, mix the flour and icing sugar. Add the butter cubes and whizz the mix till it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add one beaten egg, give a couple of whizzes, and check the dough. It should be soft to touch, a little, not too much, pliable and not stiff.  Add a lil bit of the second beaten egg, check dough again. You may need to add half an egg more, but very unlikely any more than that. Too much egg will make the dough very loose, it will fall apart and hold the tart together and when you bake, it will crisp to a biscuit! Keep aside the remaining egg, you will needit later for glazing the tart.

(Not posting photos cos the process is the same as making tartlets except that this recipe adds icing sugar cos its a sweet tart).

Remove the dough from the mixer, knead it so that it comes together, cover with cling wrap and leave it in the fridge for 20 mins to rest.

Lining the tart tin

Oil the tart tin well to ensure that the baked tart does not stick to the tin and comes out easily.

Roll the dough out into a circle till its about 2-3 inches larger than the base of the tart.

Drape the rolled dough on a rolling pin and lay it out on the tart base. Push the dough against the wall of the tin and then press the edge to cut off the excess dough so that the rolled dough neatly lines the base of the tart. Roll up the excess pastry and keep it in the fridge till you need it again.

Adding the filling

Take the ricotta cheese, beat it well with a whisk or a fork and add 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and then line the above tart case with an even layer of the sweetened ricotta.

Take the jam in a bowl, beat it with a whisk and then pour it above the ricotta layer, again spreading it evenly.

Making the lattice

Now take out the excess pastry from the fridge and roll it out into a large circle slightly larger than the tart tin. Cut it into thin strips.

Dip your pastry brush in the remaining beaten egg, and, brush the edges of the lined pastry in the tart.

Now lift a strip and lay it across the tart, then pick the next one and lay it at right angles to this one. Similarly keep picking up one strip at a time and keep alternating laying them vertically and horizontally. The edges of the strips will overhang the edge of the tart tin.

Continue to alternate the strips till the entire tart is covered. Then press the edges of the strips against the pastry base to seal the strips into the pastry base. Press your fingers along the edge of the tart tin to cut off the excess pieces of the strips to obtain a perfect lattice.

Baking the tart

Preheat the oven to 180 degree. Brush the top of the lattice tart with the beaten egg.

When the preheat is completed or about 5-6 minutes in a gas oven, place the tart in the centre of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.

When 30-35 minutes are over, take the tart out of the oven, put it in a wire rack and allow it to cool. It will still cook some courtesy its own heat even after you take it out.

When ready to serve, heat it in a micro or keep it in a warm oven 15 mins before serving. Serve with pouring consistency custard!

Important: Its important to use good quality jam. Poor quality or smooth jams ( jams without any visible fruit lumps) tend to melt to liquid while baking and spill out of the tart. The sugar in the melted jam coats the lattice and tends to caramalise making the pastry extremely hard.

Vegetarian version: You can use chilled water instead of the egg while making the shortcrust pastry. For glazing and sealing the strips to the edges of the base, you can use milk.

India’s favourite foods

28 Apr

Was over at a friend’s for a meal when I happened to comment that a vegetable that she had made tasted so different from what I make with essentially the same bunch of ingredients, give take a couple of things. That just set us off on what kind of food you can get in different parts of the country and how different food is from one state to another..

Dinner got over but the conversation stayed with me and I was trying to search for a culinary map of India and I stumbled on this treasure, something that I now have to aspire to🙂

Brownie muffins

19 Apr

That seems like an anachronism right? Brownie muffins? Well we all like brownies and muffins were so much easier to put in D’s school snack box, so I settled for this convinient marriage. Ideally the batter should be poured out in a square / rectangle tin, wait till it cools down and then cut into absolutely decadent, gooey and dense, rich brownies. In fact I suspect, some of that denseness and gooeyness is actually lost when you bake it as a muffin, but these still taste so good, that I am happy to take the liberty!

According to Wikipeadia, the brownie made its first appearnace in 1893 in Chicago, Illinois at an exposition. A chef at the city’s Palmer House Hotel created the brownies, in response to a request for a specific dessert for ladies attending the fair. It had to fulfill two criteria – smaller than a piece of cake and easily eaten from boxed lunches. These first brownies featured an apricot glaze and walnuts, and they are still being made at the hotel according to the original recipe! Little did the lady or the Chef concerned know, that they were creating a confection which will probably go down in history as the ultimate comfort food!

Ingredients

250 grams dark chocolate chopped

250 grams unsalted butter chopped

4 eggs

330 grams caster sugar (or regular sugar ground to a powder)

150 gm plain flour

½ tsp salt

150 grams walnuts (optional)

 Method

In a double boiler, melt the chopped chocolate and unsalted butter. In case you don’t have a double boiler, take 2 pans, one larger than the other. In the smaller one, fill water and heat, on top of that put the larger pan with chocolate and butter and melt them both with the steam.

Once the chocolate and butter have melted, you should get a smooth liquid, with no lumps. Keep aside and let it cool.

In a separate utensil, beat the eggs till fluffy. Then add the sugar till it comes together as a nice thick emulsion like substance.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into this. Mix the salt well with the flour. Add the flour mix to the egg and chocolate mixture and incorporate the flour completely. Always mix in the same direction. if you are adding walnuts (and do add them, they add immense texture and flavour to the muffin),  add them to the batter now.

Pour it into the muffin moulds and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 25 mins.

Leave it in the over for another 15 mins.

Unmould and serve with vanilla icecream and some chocolate sauce!

Bon Appétit!

P.S. Another brownie / almost like brownie recipe that I just absolutely love is the Kladdkaka. Its the Swedish gift to chocoholics  – a cross between a brownie and a lava cake, yum – and D’s Swedish friend’s mother used to make kladdkaka to die for! Pernilla did give me the recipe, but I am still struggling with converting decigrams, deciletres etc…maybe one day, sigh!

Weiner Schnitzel

17 Apr

D (my son) and R have a favourite food for Saturday nights if we are at home or for Friday nights if its a movie night! The dish may well explain our more than generous proportions, well technically should explain their proportions since I am a vegetarian, but thsi is sympathetic expansion, since I am the one doing the cooking :-) 

Weiner schnitzel from Germany, one of his favourites that R devoured on our travels across the Continent, and gorged himself sick on in Austria! No let me correct that, I felt sick at the end of it, R can put away a decent amount of meat when he wants to! While the dish is very popular in Germany, being a staple on all restaurant menus, the origins of the dish actually go back to the 7th century Byzantine Empire.

The story oft told is that the Kaiser Basileios I (867-886AD) preferred his meat covered with sheets / foil of gold. And what he liked soon became popular with the wealthy (sounds familiar?)! But, alas, even for the wealthy, this practice became too taxing on the wallet, so a substitute was settled upon – “yellow gold” (golden fried bread crumbs). Indigestion and gold poisoning might have been a more reasonable explanation but where’s the romance in that eh?

While technically a Weiner Schnitzel is a breaded veal cutlet, German restaurants serve other different versions depending on the meat.

Schweine-Schnitzel A breaded pork cutlet. These are usually made with thin pork loin cutlets (also known as Scaloppini).

Puten-Schnitzel A breaded slice of turkey breast. Lower in fat and a milder taste than the veal and pork schnitzels.

Hänchen-Schnitzel A breaded, boneless, skinless breast of chicken. Lower in fat and a milder taste than the veal and pork schnitzels

The family favourite is the chicken, cos it’s the least harmful (read red meat) of the three and I just can’t seem to get my veal right! Yes R, I am painfully aware that I don’t!!🙂

Ingredients
1 large chicken breast
4 tbsp of plain flour (maida) with 1/4 tsp each  salt and pepper
1 egg beaten along with 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
2 cups of finely crushed fresh bread crumbs
Oil for frying

3 plates

Method
Keep the chicken breast on a chopping board and using a really sharp knife slice it into 3-4 slices. If the slices are thick, pound them with a meat mallet to thin them out. The difference between fried chicken and a chicken schnitzel is essentially the thinness of the meat.

Put the three plates side by side. In one, place the flour, in the second the egg and in the third unseasoned fresh bread crumbs.

Take one sliced breast piece of chicken, dredge it in the flour so that it is completely coated.

Then dip it in the egg wash….

…. and then crumb it. Do not press the bread crumbs too hard. Once coated with crumb, lift the chicken piece and then shake a little to brush off the excess bread crumbs.

Now they are ready to fry! Keep this in the fridge till you are ready to fry. I find that the schnitzels, kept like this in the fridge keep for two days. After that you need to junk them!

Deep fry in oil, till golden brown (the chicken gets cooked anyways cos the slices are really thin.

Serve with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, mashed potatoes and a wedge of lemon!

Bon Appétit!

Mini tart cases

14 Apr

These are one of my favourite snacks to serve, er not to serve by themselves but to serve with all sorts of fillings! I usually make them a day in advance, then prepare the filling on the day of the dinner / lunch and voila an easy snack is done!

Now I know pastry is a huge detrrent, it used to scare the hell out of me, but over the years its become one of the easiest things that I know how to make. I guess what they say is right – practice makes perfect! Well dunno, how perfect the pastry I make is, but its not too bad.

Ingredients

150 gm plain flour (maida)
75 gm butter / margerine
a few tbsp of cold water

Method.

Cut butter into small pieces while still cold and then rub these pieces into the flour till the flour resembles bread crumbs.

Add water and mix till it starts to come together as a dough. Knead it for a minute and then wrap it incling wrap and then leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out a small piece of dough into a round shape and then use a cookie cutter to cut a round circle sligthly larger than the baking mould that you are going to use.

Butter the mould that you are going to use and then line the mould with the circle that you have just cut.

Now put these lined moulds into the fridge for half hour, this ensures that when you bake the pastry does not shrink. Of course the best way to ensure that is to use egg instead of water while kneading the dough but then in India lots of vegetarians don’t have egg even in cakes / pastries etc so I prefer using water.

After 30 minutes, take the moulds out and set them to bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree for 20 minutes. Take out and let them cool. Fill and serve with a filling of your choice!!

Bom Appetit!

Mayonnaise

13 Apr

Ever wondered about the ubiquitus mayonnaise that forms the binder for so many of our sandwich fillings and the base of many salads?

I remember one of the first cook books that was gifted to me was this cookbook from Cal and it had a receipe for homemade mayo! I remember my rather pathetic attempts (actually most of my attempts were pathetic back then)to make it… somehow it never came together the way the commercial one did.. and in those days, very honestly, if I could get it off the shelf, it seemed lunacy to try and recreate it in my kitchen.. didn’t they always tell you at work, dont reinvent the wheel? Then why reinvent the mayo?

However, in my new found “good cook” avataar, I decided to try and make mayo at home.. was googling for a good recipe when I came across rather interesting tid bits about the origins for mayo. So for the moment, the mayo forgotten, here is the history of mayo!

According to Patricia B Mitchell, one of the stories is that mayo was invented in 1756 to commemorate a victory at the start of the Seven Years War, the successful siege of English-held St. Philip’s Castle. Located in Mahón, port city and the capital of Minorca, its loss resulted in the loss of the entire island. French Admiral La Galissoniére and Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis, duc de Richelieu, commanded the siege, after which a sauce was christened “mahonnaise.”

Another story says that in 1756, mayonnaise was invented in France by Duke de Richelieu’s chief. Who knows maybe the above “mahonnaise” sauce debuted at a banquet in honor of Richelieu?

There are other stories that say that it may have been derived from the French word manier: to handle, to feel, to ply; or possibly to stir or blend or perhaps the name came from the old French word for egg yolk, moyen.

The other interesting one is that the sauce was unnamed until after the Battle of Arques in 1589. It was then christened “Mayennaise” in memory of Charles de Lorraine, duc de Mayenne, because he took time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in battle by Henri IV! Now that one I can buy! That sounds completely and perfectly French!

In all that googling for a recipe and history of the mayonnaise have lost my enthu to actually make the mayonnaise😦 maybe tomorrow?

Koraishuti kachori

13 Apr

Am not sure why I am starting to post with a Bengali recipe! I am not one, albiet married to one and now perhaps have imbibed more bengali food than my Bengali husband! I guess probably because I just cooked a Bengali meal for friends last Sunday and its still fresh in my mind, cos even guys / gals who stay away from fried food, happily tucked into it!

Koraishuti is the Bengali word for peas. Dont ask me why is it such a long and complicated name for such a tiny vegetable! Come to think of it, even the Hindi version is short and sweet – mutter! But long definately defines this one dish! Its a painstaking, long process but the end result well worth it!

Koraishuti kachori is essentially puffed, fried flour breads (or kachoris as we call them) that have been stuffed with a peas mixture. These are traditionally served with alu dum and a tomato chutney. 

Peas mixture

500 gms frozen peas thawed (have never made it with fresh ones)

2 green chillies

1 inch ginger chopped into small pieces

2 tsp saunf (fennel seeds)

1 tsp salt

3-4 tbsp of mustard oil

Masala for the peas mixture

2 tejpatta (bay leaves) broken,

2-3 dry red chillies

1/4 tablespoon jeera

¼ tablespoon dhania seeds

4-5 each  dalchini, laung, elaichi

Method

Put all the ingredients in a blender (yup the blender not the mixer part) of your kitchen machine and whizz till it all becomes a fine mash. This sounds a lot easier than it is cos the peas just dont seem to get minced. Add a little water, use the spatula to move the peas around.. it takes about5 minutes to get this done😦

While you are struggling with the peas🙂, put all the ingredients for the masals in a pan and dry roast them. Once roasted cool and powder in a grinder.

Heat the mustard oil in a large pan and when it starts to smoke (till its smoked the mustard oil is raw) add the whole peas mixture to it.

Keep turning the mixture and letting it cook till it starts to dry and then add 2 tbsp of the rosted spices’ powder that you have just made. Wait for 5 minutes, and then while the mixture is still hot, start to roll the mixture into small balls. Remember, if the mixture cools, then the cooked peas mixture doesn’t stick together in a ball and falls apart, so you need to work fast and live with a lil bit of heat.

Roll all the mixture into balls and keep aside to cool. Once cooled these balls can actually be frozen for about 2-3 weeks and used as desired.

The Dough

3 cups of maida (plain flour)

1 pinch of sugar

1/4 tsp of salt

3 tbsp of oil

water

Mix the sugar and salt in the dry maida and then add the oil. Mix till the mixture resembles rough crumbs. Then add as much water as is necessary to make a pliable dough.

Once the dough is ready, tear off a table tennis ball size of dough, roll it into a ball, and then flatten it into a 2-3 inch disc using your fingers. Keep one of the peas mixture ball that you had made earlier inside this disc and then fold it around the ball to enclose it

Once you get a ball of dough with a peas ball inside, flatten the ball into a disc and then roll out the disc into a larger disc, just ensure that while you are rolling you dont press to hard otherwis ethe filling will come out. Roll out to a disc about 4-4.5 inches in diameter.

 

Once these are ready, heat oil in a large open pan and deep fry these. They puff up are delicious to eat with an pottao curry and tomato chutney. in my wisdom, I have forgotten to take a photograph of the final product😦 but that’s for another day!!