Monday, 23 January 2012

Green chilli pickle

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How are you all my lovelies? Has the New Year been fruitful to you? It has been uneventful for me so far and I want to fast forward to spring. Although winter has not been terrible this time (we haven't had to turn on the heaters regularly), I am really looking forward to spring and summer which, at the moment, is so far away. 

The trip home was good fun and 3 weeks went by so so fast and I'm kicking myself for not staying on for some more time. Its strange how a country and its ways just grow on you and you head to the place you called home only to find their ways annoying. I had a couple of epiphanies after I got home. Care to read?
1. I will give up cooking and baking altogether if I move back to India. I care too much about convenience and much less about my passion (if I can call it that) for baking. UK has spoilt me with ready made ingredients, like simple powdered sugar for instance. I hate having to grind sugar (large as rocks btw) and make a mess with the powder. The weather makes it impossible to store maida, baking powder, etc etc at room temp, which means the refrigerator is packed with things and I hate a stuffed refrigerator. I cooked thrice in 3 weeks and hated every moment of it. The 2 cakes I made was a disaster and the butter chicken, my family complained, was too bland like the Brits have it (this, after gloating on my previous post about how I figured out the perfect, traditional chicken tikka masala).
2. I expected people to stand in line at payment counters and like an IDIOT followed it twice or thrice until I realised it was never going to happen. I was jostled around and lost my cool once, after which Ro decided to never come out shopping with me. I realised I was a sucker for anything organised (This, coming from someone who thinks you don't need to organise anything. So you can imagine my shock after I realised this)
3. Zebra crossing is just a pretty design on the road. I got shouted at by a driver because i was trying to cross at a zebra crossing.
4. To prove that I could still handle street food, I went ahead and had all sorts of junk from the road side only to be gently told by my immune system that I couldn't handle it. I was devastated that even milk was creating issues for me :(
5. Movie channels are fab, and I realised I missed watching all the nonsensical mallu movies so much
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6. Rains are still the most awesomest in Kerala. Ah so green and lush and absolutely romantic it is. It poured like mad a couple of days I was there and unlike here when I tell Ro, 'ah I wish I could have hot vada and chai right now' and could do nothing but just wish for it, back home, I exclaimed it out loud and in an hour I actually had steaming hot vada's and chai on my table.
7. That said, I'm absolutely sick of mallu food. Although I'm having rice withdrawals now and am trying hard not to go ballistic on it, it feels great to not have anything mallu for a while.
8. I hate Indian Chinese. Its got nothing Chinese about it except a bucket full of soy sauce. We went to our fav Chinese restaurant the day we landed and it was heavenly. We both decided that getting back to London was so worth it :)
9. I am not the emotional type who misses the parents and broods about it once I'm back (unlike my brother who is still such a baby about it), but I wished for the first time the entire clan lived in the same country at least (not India though). Close enough to drop in whenever we wanted to but far enough to not be visited often. That is more likely to become a reality in the US where half of the clan already is :(
10. Its soothing to know that Ro and myself, we still miss each other when apart (even though we are about 6 yrs into our married life)
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Ok that's enough ranting to make up for not having written in 2 weeks right? Coming to the recipe, this is probably the yummiest chilli pickle I've ever had. My best friends mom, who is also my neighbour and like a mom to me, made this the last time I was in India. I could only bring back very little of it last time and it got over in a jiffy. I got the recipe from her, made it once by quartering the recipe and without the right ingredients and it was not delightful, to say the least. So this time I decided to just bring one whole bottle full, clicked some pics and decided to blog it since its definitely a keeper. There's no cooking involved and its super duper easy to put together. I have this with dosa's and parathas and with just about anything and trust me its divine. I have given the exact measurements, but feel free to halve it for convenience sake.
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Green chillies- 1 kg 
Lemon juice- 50gms
Turmeric powder- 5 gms
Split mustard seeds (kaduku parippu)- 100 gms 
Asafoetida- 2 tsp
Fenugreek powder- 5 gms
Salt- 250 to 300 gms
Gingelly oil (sesame oil)- 1 cup

Wash and pat dry the green chillies, cut into small rounds and transfer to a large bowl.
Add all the ingredients except oil and mix well till the chilli pieces are all more or less evenly coated with the masala.
Slowly pour the gingelly oil on top of the chillies and gently stir it in.
Transfer to clean bottles, seal with a tight lid and leave it to mature for a minimum of 1 week, after which the chillies would be soft and ready to be dug into
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Notes: Go for the mild green chillies if you cant handle the heat. Definitely not the birds eye, but finger chillies should be OK if spice is not too much of an issue. Apparently, the big ones you now get in India are not that spicy any more, so choose that if you have the option  
You can either buy split mustard seeds or make your own by coarsely grinding/ pounding black mustard seeds with a pestle and mortar, but not too fine.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Espresso macarons filled with dark chocolate ganache

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I finally tackled my fear of egg whites- learning to separate them, whipping them to desired consistencies etc- and am very proud. After making the creme brulee I had some egg whites maturing in the refrigerator and I had no clue what to do with them. Well I sort of had a clue, but since my confidence levels were not up to mark, googled for hours deciding what to do with the egg whites.

Nothing interesting came out of the search and so I finally gave into the macaron frenzy that almost every food blogger is now aware of. I was very very sceptical as to how it would turn out and Shab and Finla totally helped me out with the entire thing. To be honest it was Shabs continuous FB status updates about her awesome mac flavours and finding feet that made me even consider making macs (at some point in my blog life), but it happened sooner than I thought.

I know I'm making it sound like an achievement, and trust me it is, when you see the feet (which you obviously know what it is) you feel joy (melo drama to the core, but please humour me). I would have been devastated if my macs hadn't come out decent, because for 1 it is not an easy job, 2, the quantity of ingredients used is not less and 3, its bloody messy. So after all this if my macs hadn't come out well, I would have cried, seriously, I would have screamed and cried and maybe even pulled my hair out.
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I went through the mac bible (as I would like to call it) like a girl studying for the exams, that if someone questioned me what the first line on page 3 was I would say it, even in my sleep. I don't think I have ever been this determined to make something right. I was warned that I would be addicted to making macs again and again and in different flavours, once I got the hang oft it...but I must say, I'm done with the whole mac thing. Its too much of work and I care way too much about feet that I cant handle that pressure again :). But like I have previously mentioned, every food blogger should have tried making a red velvet cake, baked bread and made macarons at least once in their blog life. Now that the macaron bit is out of the way, I have all the time to experiment with bread (I do bake bread, but it's still not perfect) and the red velvet cake (this doesn't count as I made it with a mix).

Word of advice to those trying to make macarons for the first time, read the mac bible mentioned above and Meeta's notes on the same and you should be good to go. If you don't find feet, that's fine too. Just sandwich them anyway and give it to your husband saying its this awesome new dessert that you came up with. Mine would believe it in a second and so I wasn't too concerned about the "omg who will eat these feetless things' part of it. Pics are not that great cos after I was done with the whole episode, it was about 3pm and there was very little light. I was also in no mood to make it presentable, and hence the gloomy pics.
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Recipe adapted from here
Icing sugar- 117 gms
Ground almonds- 60 gms (refer notes)
Espresso powder- 7 gms
Cocoa powder- 15 gms
Egg whites- 60 gms (refer notes)
Granulated sugar- 40 gms

Filling:
Dark chocolate- 100 gms, chopped fine
Double cream- 75 ml
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Get the baking tray with baking paper ready. You would ideally need two trays for this quantity.
In a food processor or grinder pulse the icing sugar, ground almonds, espresso powder and cocoa powder till nice and powdery.
Then sift the mix a couple of times and make sure there are no lumps. The mix may still be not fine as icing sugar, but it should not have any larger chunks or lumps whatsoever.
Using a free standing mixer with whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites till frothy.
Then add the granulated sugar bit by bit, while continuously beating, till soft peaks form. It should hold its beak shape when you lift the whisk up, but shouldn't be too dry and stiff. (Refer the mac bible for explicit guidelines)
Into the almond-sugar mix add the meringue and fold it in using a spatula by starting from the bottom and continuing to the top (again refer the bible), till you get a smooth even mixture.
The batter should fall back in ribbons when you lift the spatula. Also put a spoonful on a plate and if it spreads out on its own, then you are good to go. If it doesn't, then give a couple more folds and it should be fine.
Place the batter into a piping bag with a plain tip, and pipe away, leaving about 2 inches gap between the shells.
Leave aside to dry for half an hour.
Towards the last 10 minutes, pre heat the oven to 140C and once the time is up, place the tray in the middle rack and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. At this point praying to the mac gods for feet would be a great idea (I swear I did this)
Once done, cool on a rack completely before doing the filling.

For the filling, bring the cream to a gentle boil and pour over the chopped chocolate. Keep aside for a few minutes.
Once the entire chocolate has melted, stir gently to mix it all in and get a smooth and silky texture.
Keep aside to cool completely
When ready to assemble, slather on to (or pipe) the macaron shells, sandwich them. EAT
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Notes: The espresso powder I used was really strong, so the coffee flavours were a tad too prevalent. If not a coffee fan, then you might as well replace with instant coffee powder.
The macarons are immensely sweet, so the dark chocolate ganache paired fairly well with the sweetness. Perfect balance, if you ask me.
The almond powder is a pain in the a**. The ones we get here are coarse and so I had to sieve it a couple of times, then pulse it with the other mentioned ingredients and then sieve again a couple of times to get a somewhat fine consistency. 
Use egg whites matured in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days for best results. I brought them to room temperature before using though.
If you have a template it makes matters easy, but as usual the last minute madness made me forget all about it and so i just randomly piped them on to the paper.
YOU NEED PATIENCE to make them :)

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Paneer tikka masala

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...is such a popular dish here in UK, it puts me to shame. I mean at least the ones I have tasted are so goddamn horrible, I have no idea how people eat it assuming its one of the most awesomest Indian dishes to date. I tried it at a restaurant once and it was so sweet and horrible, I don't even want to describe how the store bought ones tasted.

See, when I first came UK 4 years back, for one whole year, we survived on store bought ready meals and such and since the tikka masala's looked popular here, I used to quench my poor Indian palate with those pathetic store bought tikka masala preparations and each time I swore never to buy it again.

It was only recently I made myself a batch of the paneer tikka masala at home and realised it was actually so so so much more different and better than the restaurant/ store bought ones. I'm sure the authentic Indian restaurants will do justice, but I've had terrible bad luck with take always and never again will I buy this.

That said, making it is no easy feat. Its time consuming and messy, not to mention highly unhealthy. But once in a while I guess its ok to indulge (although I notice, this once-in-a-while is becoming a little too often), so go ahead and make this. Its fabulous with parathas and naan.
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Recipe adapted from here and here
For marinade
Paneer- 200- 220 gms (around 2-21/2 cups), cut into cubes
Greek yoghurt- 3 tbsp
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Ginger paste- 1/2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Tandoori masala- 1 tsp (optional)
Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)- 1/2 tsp, crushed
Lime juice- a few splashes
Salt- to taste
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For the sauce
Ginger paste- 1/2 tbsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tbsp
Tomato purée- 1 cup
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1 tsp
Coriander powder- 1 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Kasoori methi- 1 tsp, crushed
Single pouring cream- around 1/4 cup
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Water- 1 cup
Salt- to taste
Coriander leaves- 2 tbsp (optional)
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If the paneer is store bought, then cut them into cubes and pour some hot water over. Keep aside for a couple of minutes and then drain to get soft, clean paneer.
Marinate the paneer with all the ingredients under the 'to marinate' section and keep aside for 1/2 an hour.
When ready to use, preheat the oven to about 200C.
Line a baking tray with aluminium foil and layer the paneer on it.
Bake for about 5 minutes on each side and then turn the grill mode and broil on high for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, to get a charred effect.
Remove from the tray and keep aside.
In a large saucepan heat the oil and add the ginger and garlic paste. Cover to avoid spluttering all over the place.
Add the tomato puree and cook, stirring in between, for about 5 minutes
In goes the chilli powder and coriander powder, stir it in a cook further, till you start noticing the oil separate.
Add half the water, stir and bring to a gentle boil.
Reduce heat and add the sugar and kasoori methi. Stir it in and cook for a couple of minutes
Finally slide in the paneer tikka and garam masala and stir to cover the paneer pieces with all the gravy.
Add about 1/2 cup more of water, stir well and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. Check for salt, add if required.
Just before taking it off the flame, reduce heat and stir in the cream.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.
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Notes: Replace paneer with chicken, voila..chicken tikka masala :)
I am thinking, there are so many ways of making this, but this clicked for us and we loved it