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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Rich Orange Cake

I had shared an Orange cake recipe when I started the blog some 4 years ago. It was good, but not orange enough. I don't remember making it again in the subsequent years, even though I made it quite a few times that year. This year, again, I looked for an orange cake recipe, and found another one.


This one results in a richer and more denser texture and a deep orange flavor. I dusted the orange cake with icing sugar, but an orange glaze will elevate the cake to newer heights. I also find this cake a bit less sweet, so I might increase the sugar content, specially if I am not going to dust with icing sugar or pour some orange glaze over it.

This recipe yeilds batter a bit more than the normal 7 - 8 inch round cake tin, therefore I used it to make a few cupcakes. The height of the cupcake depends on the amount of batter, mine were low as I poured less in the cupcakes.


I might try making it with milk or some other juice instead of range juice. 4 - 5 oranges yield 1 cup orange juice. 1 orange yields around 1 tsp of powdered dried orange zest.

Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp orange zest

Method

Preheat oven to 350F / 180C. In a bowl, beat oil and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Add flour into the egg mixture and mix well. Add the orange juice and fold it in. Beat for a minute or so after the orange juice is incorporated in the batter, otherwise orange juice tends to make a mess.

Pour in a greased baking pan and bake for 40 - 45 minutes. Cupcakes take less time to bake. Check after 30 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar or pour orange glaze and serve warm.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Russian Salad and some Mayo Magic

Russian salad is such a forgiving and versatile recipe. It can take all kinds of crispy veggies , some fruits, even a few kinds of dry fruits mixed in with some mayonnaise and always tastes awesome.

When I make Russian salad, I put any combination of cabbage, potato, carrot, cucumber, peas, apple, mango, grapes, chickpeas, raisins, almonds and/or walnuts. Cabbage is a must for me, rest of the ingredients change with season. You can pineapple if you like, it will add some more crunch. I sometimes add a tablespoon or two of cream at the end, but that's optional. 

I prefer raw veggies, except potatoes and peas, which I always boil; but carrots and cabbage can also be boiled for a couple of minutes to make them slightly softer. I prefer to boil cabbage when it is slightly bitter; boiling reduces the bitterness. 

Mayonnaise is the component that can make or break the Russian salad. I always make mayonnaise at home. I used to make mayo in the blender and it took around 20 minutes to make it. Then I saw the method used by Matt Preston in Master Chef. It uses an immersion blender and takes just 2 minutes to emulsify the egg and oil, and at most 5 minutes to get a rich, creamy mayonnaise. I will be describing both the methods, but if you ask me, I will be following Matt Preston's method in future. 

Matt Preston used grapeseed oil and some mustard in mayonnaise. I used soyabean oil which is used for daily cooking in my home. It works.



Recipe

Mayonnaise

Ingredients

1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
Juice of lemon or 1 tbsp vinegar  (lemon tastes better)
3/4 cup or more oil

Traditional Method 

Place the egg in the blender. Add the salt, black pepper, sugar, lemon juice. Blend until the egg is frothy. Start adding oil drop by drop with the blender still running. When you have added around half the oil, the egg and oil will begin to emulsify. Start adding oil in a thin stream until the mayonnaise thickens to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning. Refrigerate until you need to use it. 

This whole method can be done using the electric beaters too. 

Matt Preston Method

Put the egg in jar. Take care not to break the yolk. Add the salt, pepper, sugar, lemon juice and oil, taking care not to break the yolk. Place the immersion blender such that the yolk is under the blade. Keeping the immersion blender in its position, turn it on and see magic. The mayonnaise immediately emulsifies. Move the blender up to incorporate the oil. Pure , rich and creamy mayonnaise is ready. Refrigerate unitl you need to use it.

Assembling the salad

Combine all the veggies, fruits and/or dry fruits in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise. Combine and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Roasted Chillies

No one in my home is a fan of eating raw green chillies. Me and mom sometimes do clean up one to eat with daal chawal, but that is pretty rare. We love pickles to go with vegetable dishes and daals. We are not fan of putting green chillies in food too, because as soon as my dad and brother see that green chilli, they started feeling the heat of the chilli, even though it might be there just for garnish purposes.

Therefore, there are times when there are quite a few chillies in our refrigerator and we are at a loss about what to do with them. I have made Hyderabadi style green chilli (which was my second post on this blog, ah how the times fly), but they rot after some while. I needed to find something else to do with those chillies.

Then I landed upon the David Lebovitz's Roasted Pepper recipe. Somehow it clicked. The idea of a beautiful smoked pepper, drizzled with olive oil was too appealing. Since mom cannot take any pickles these days, because her doctor forbade her to eat anything sour or tangy, she needed something to replace them. I made these for her.


See that pretty plate with a golden border. It dates bake to my mom's marriage. It was part of her jahaiz ka dinner set and still looks fabulous. 

The best part about this recipe is that you can make as many or as few chillies you like. I made only three (after making a test batch with only one). David Lebovitz used red and yellow chillies. I had only green ones and hence used them.

Chillies are roasted in a pan, but you can try roasting  directly on fire. You can also roast them on a grill on coals while making a barbecue dinner. The chillies are soft and mushy after being roasted, but hold there shape well. 


Recipe

Ingredients

Green Chillies, as required
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
Olive oil, as required

Method

Heat a heavy based frying pan. Place chillies on the pan. Let the chillies roast at medium low heat until the skin is charred. Turn over and repeat the process. Cook chillies on all sides.

Remove chillies and place hot in an airtight box. Close the box. The steam build up in the box will loosen the charred skin from the chillies. 

When chillies are cold, make a slit lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Remove the charred skin. It might require a little effort, but usually it will just slide off.  Give the chillies a quick dip in cold water to remove any left over seeds if you like; I didn't do this.

Place chillies in a bowl in a single layer. Sprinkle a little salt and black pepper over the chillies. Drizzle chillies with olive oil. Serve with rice or vegetables. Store in refrigerator. 

You can roast chillies and store them for up to a week in the refrigerator, and sprinkle the salt and pepper , and drizzle oil when required. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

French Chocolate Macarons

Macarons are pretty, haina? I have always wanted to make macarons. I tried some yesterday. Macarons look so delicate and elegant that I thought it would be very hard to make them.

Macarons are very technical. Making macarons involves whipping up egg whites to the right stiffness, removing any clumps from the dry ingredients, then folding the dry ingredients with a very light hand and achieving the right consistency of the batter.




A good macaron has beautiful feet, and is crunchy on the outside. Macarons aren't just cooked, but are actually dehydrated to form a beautiful cookie.

There are some guidlelines to follow when making macarons. The macarons, after piping on the parchment paper, need to be rested for some time. I made some immediately after piping and some after resting, it didn't make too much of a difference. I used egg whites at room temperature, from eggs which I had separated a day before.

For filling I used a French buttercream recipe, only because I had 2 egg yolks left over from the macaron recipe. More on that after the recipe :)

Macarons should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight box. One of the reasons is the filling tends to melt at room temperature.

I used the macaron recipe by David Lebovitz. I also pulverized the almonds to make almond flour. I used the filling recipe from Macaron Fetish by Kim H Lim - Chodkowski. Kim made a coffee flavored buttercream, I used it to make a chocolate flavored one. I also twice the amounts listed in the recipe, because I had 2 free egg yolks.

For the first time, macarons turned out pretty good. some of them even stood on their pretty little feet as macarons are supposed to do. I will definitely be trying other variations of this amazing classic recipe. 




Recipe

Ingredients

Macarons

1 cup powdered sugar (not icing sugar)
1/2 cup almond flour (or 50 gm of almonds ground to a thin powder)
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large egg whites
5 tbsp granulated sugar


Filling

1 egg yolk
3 tbsp (40 gm) butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp water

Method

Macarons

Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C.

Blend together powdered sugar, almond flour and cocoa powder to remove any lumps. Beat egg whites . When soft peaks begin to form, add 5 tbsp of sugar in small amounts, and beat the egg whites until stiff. (I prefer to grind these 5 tbsp of sugar too).

Fold in the dry ingredients with alight hand. A good rule of thumb is 50 strokes and nothing more than that. These should be enough to combine all the ingredients together without over beating the mixture. 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pipe 1inch rounds of batter, with 1 inch distance between them. Tap the cookie sheet a few times on the counter. Bake for 15 - 18 minutes. A cooked macaron will have feet, and will slide off easily from the parchment paper. That said, keep in mind that the macarons keep cooking even after removed from the oven.

Remove from oven and let them cool down. Store cooled and unfilled macaron shells in an airtight container. If consuming the same day, put the filling on one shell and cover with another shell. Store filled macarons in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will last for 4 - 5 days in the refrigerator.

Filling

Combine the sugar in a saucepan. Allow it to boil to 230 F. Start beating egg tolks while the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches around 250 F. This is the softball stage, which can be identified by putting a drop of syrup in cold water and it turns into a soft ball. Pour the syrup in the yolk by dripping it on the side of the bowl. This helps cook the egg yolk. Beat for further 5 minutes. The mixture should form a ribbon that dissolves in 30 seconds when the beater is lifted out of it.

When the mixture has cooled down, start beating in the butter which is at room temperature. Beat in and incorporate 1 tbsp of butter at one. When all butter is incorporated, and the cream look sshiny anf fluffy, add around 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to make a chocolate flavored filling. 



Tips

1. Do not pulverize almonds too much as they release their oil, thus changing the consistency of whatever they will be used in.

2. To make powdered sugar, grind some of the regular sugar in a grinder. Then measure 1 cup out of it. Measuring before grinding changes the amount of sugar , hence it is necessary to first grind the sugar to a powder and then measure it.


Observations

1. I think 350F / 175C was too high, so I reduced the heat to around 160C. The second batch came out much better than the first one. In the first one the bottoms browned too quickly, imparting a slightly burnt taste, while the second batch cooked at a lower temperature came out better cooked and better shaped.

2. Resting the macarons had a little impact, so if you are in a hurry or think that you will forget the macarons on the counter top, you can bake them immediately after piping and taping the cookie sheet.


Problems

French butter cream is tough. I did all kinds of mistakes with the recipe. I didn't beat egg yolks properly before adding sugar syrup because the instruction weren't really clear. 

I didn't have a candy thermometer and messed up the sugar syrup. Then I thought that the yolks didn't cook properly; therefore cooked the whole sugar syrup and yolk mixture over a water bath while constantly beating with an electric beater. 

Most probably I didn't cool it enough before adding the butter, and got a buttercream soup instead of a silky buttercream frosting. I put it in the freezer for a while and then beat the frosting, it did somewhat look like frosting, but there was every chance it would melt again as soon as it came back to room temperature. 

To top it all, I used some salted butter, which doesn;t affect other frosting recipes much but made this one taste way too salty. I added some icing sugar to thicken up the frosting and also make it taste less sweet. 

The result was a good tasting filling for macarons, but it not only melted when I started piping, but the butter also started to separate from the filling. 

After all the problems I learnt not to use salted butter in French buttercream recipe, and not to add powdered sugar to a cooked frosting. It messes up big time. I piped it after hardening it up in the refrigerator and put macaron in the refrigerator too as soon as the were assembled.

It was ok because it was a test batch , but I think I will stick to good old ganache or tried and tested American buttercream when doing a batch for guests or clients.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Homemade Pasta with White Sauce

I always was under the impression that making Pasta at home required a lot of effort. It goes way back to my childhood, when I first read a recipe for making pasta, and decided it was too much work for me. And that it would take a long time.

Then came Master Chef, and I saw people making beautiful pasta and then the whole dish with handmade pasta in an hour or so. But they were using machines to roll out the dough and cut pasta. How would I do that at home?

Yesterday, I decided to check some recipes to make pasta and reached Jamie Oliver's pasta recipe and it wasn't too hard. Actually it would be hard for my childhood self, but it is pretty easy for me now. I scaled the recipe down for a trial and it turned out pretty good. Back when Cable operators in Pakistan used to put up BBC Food, Jamie Oliver's show was my favorite for his easy to make recipes.

This recipe yields a pretty resilient pasta. It does not start to disintegrate if slightly over cooked, opposed to the store bought ones. The store bought pasts starts to dissolve and break if it is cooked beyond the time written on the pack.

Home made pasta is tastier than the packaged ones. And wholesome too. The amount of recipe I used, resulted in enough pasta for one to two persons. It was slightly thicker than I would like, but it is all a matter of rolling out the dough, so you can get a thinner noodle too.

I used my fondant cutter to cut equal width pasta. You can use a sharp knife as well. Please forgive the poor quality picture, as the pasta was made and photographed at night, hence the yellow tint.


Recipe

Ingredients

100 gm flour
1 egg

Method

Put flour in a dish. Make a well and break the egg in the well. Whisk the egg in the well. Then slowly drawing in flour start mixing the two together. Make sure that there are no lumps.

When all flour is incorporated in the eggs, knead well. I like to pick the dough and bang it on a hard surface. Knead until the dough is soft and elastic. Make ball and wrap with cling wrap. Set aside to rest for at least half an hour.

Sprinkle flour on the rolling surface. Start rolling the dough with a rolling pin. Try to roll it in an elongated shape. When rolled out to a thickness of around 3 - 4 mm, leave for a couple of minutes. Then start rolling again. Move the dough while rolling so that it does not stick to the rolling surface.

If the dough sticks to the rolling pin or surface, lightly dust with flour. Roll out the dough until you can see your hand when placed underneath the dough. It does not have to be paper thin. Just thin enough to your liking. Cut pasta as you like.

Pick up a few strands of pasta and make a nest. Set aside. If the pasts is cut into very thin strips, hang on the back of a chair to dry.

At this point, pasta can be completely dried to store. Otherwise, allow it to dry for 10 - 15 minutes. Then cook. Freshly made and cooked pasta is heavenly.

Boil some water with a little salt and oil. Add the pasta and boil for 5 minutes. Taste to see if it is aldente. Cook more if it doesn't seem done enough. Drain the water and cool down by pouring some cool water over pasta.

Put the pasta in a bowl. Pour white sauce and mix. Serve pasta hot in a wide platter.

White Sauce

I make white sauce by eye-balling the quantities. Melt a little bit of butter in a pan on low heat, sprinkle almost an equal quantity of flour. Sprinkle a little a more. cook the two to make a roux. Add some milk and whisk to make a thick paste. Add milk in small quantities and cook it before adding more milk. Keep a check on the consistency. Stop adding milk when the desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper. Add some white pepper if you like. I also added a cheddar slice to make it creamy and cheesy. Add the pasta and serve hot.

If you want a bayleaf infused white sauce, follow the recipe from Creamed Spinach.

Happy Cooking!!!



Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pan seared peaches

Peaches are sweet and tangy, and those who know me, also know that I usually don't understand or like tangy fruit.So unless a peach is rip and sweet, I prefer not to eat it. Peaches need to be cooked or served with something sweet that over powers the tang, some might find this wasting the succulent peaches, but that's how I am. I love sweet things.

I have previously seen a lot of grilled peach recipes, with those beautiful grill sears but never ventured into making those. I don't have a grill pan, and it didn't seem worth of investment if I would make only grilled peaches, once a year (read the statement in one word: Procrastination , haha).


Then I came upon a pan seared peaches recipe, and I didn't have any reason to not make them. And, boy, I am so glad I made it. Peached cooked for acouple of minutes in the pan do not lose their natural sweetness, just become a little bit soft, and the brown sugar caramelizes and complements the tangy taste of the peaches.

It is also a healthy snack when you are alone and do not want to cook up a batch of other snacks resulting in 6 extra servings and throwing you off of your diet plan). These peaches are good on their own, with yogurt or, best of all, with icecream. You can also sprinkle some icing sugar to add some extra sweetness.

The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon each of brown sugar and honey. I eye-balled the amounts, and could have used more than the required amount. I also don't like the taste of cooked honey. Maybe it is because of the honey type, but next time I would try this without honey.


Recipe

Ingredients

2 peaches, peeled and halved
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
Pistachios, for garnish

Method

Boil the pistachios for 5 - 10 minutes. Peel and slice the pistachios into slivers. Set aside.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Place the peaches in the frying pan. Sprinkle some brown sugar over the peaches and turn them over.

Let the peaches cook and release some juice, for around 2 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar on the peaches and turn over. Cook this side for around 2 minutes too. Drizzle some honey over the peaches and turn over again. Let the sugar and honey caramelize a bit.

Bubbles will form around the peaches in the pan as the sugar cooks. Remove the peaches, garnish with pitachios and serve warm with yogurt or ice cream. Happy cooking!!!


Friday, August 8, 2014

Chocolate Mug cake

I know I have previously denounced mug cakes, and I found they lacked flavor. I retract my statement as I have fallen in love with this very recipe of a mug cake. It was an experiment again. My friend came over and I had just one and a half to prepare something and get ready for her. I reached home from work and came up with a quick menu including this mug cake. There wasn't enough time to bake a proper cake, therefore I made this one on a whim. And oh boy, I am so glad that I did it.


This mug cake was soft, rich and had ooey gooey chocolate beneath it. This cake is supposed to be served warm. I served it at room temperature, which meant that some of the gooey-ness cooked with the heat trapped in the mug by the time I served it. I also recommend serving with some chocolate sauce, which will enhance the flavors and the decadence.


The recipe calls for optional chocolate chips. I don't think they are optional as the richness comes from chocolate chips. Also I didn't use chocolate chips, I just chopped a block of chocolate and just added it. It would be somewhere around 75 gms of chocolate. I always grind the sugar I use, but that's up to you. I also used slightly heaped tbsp of cocoa powder.


The recipe is adapted from Spoon University. The recipe is intended for 1 large mug. I used 2 smaller ones and am pleased with the outcome. You can share it if you like, not that I'll judge you if you had it all alone. It is that good :D.


Recipe

Ingredients

4 tbsp flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp milk
Dash vanilla
3 tbsp chocolate chips

Method

Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir to combine. Add all the wet ingredients. Use an egg beater to combine the wet and dry ingredients thoroughly. Make sure there aren't any lumps in the batter. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into one large mug or bowl or 2 medium mugs/bowls.

Microwave for 2 minutes at full power. The cake will come out looking slightly wet on the sides. It is ok, as it will keep on cooking with the heat trapped inside. Serve warm with chocolate sauce or icecream. Happy baking!!!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pita Bread

Last of all on my Greek Lunch was pita bread, that helped bind the lunch together. Being a Pakistani family, we need some form of flatbread or roti with our food. Any menu lacking flatbread or roti is not fulfilling enough. Traditional roti made on a tawa does not pair well with Greek menu, hence the pita bread.


In the recent years, Pita bread has become quite a fad. When I was working as a QAE at a software house, we learnt of a place that made and delivered gyros. Gyros are typically meat sandwiches made with pita bread. That was my first proper introduction to this simple yet delicious bread. Then shawarmas propped up al over the place, again made with a version of pita bread. These days, along with sandwiches and burgers, there are wraps found at fast food outlets, which mostly are made with pita bread.


Pita bread isn't hard to make. It has very basic dough, something like a pizza dough. To make flavored pita breads, you can add oregano, onion seeds, green coriander or other herbs/ spices. Pita bread can be frozen after the initial baking, and re baked to heat and cook. It can be cooked over stove top or baked in the oven. It can be eaten like a roti, used as a wrap, or cut and baked crisp to serve with Hummus.

Recipe

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add olive oil and mix it in flour. Add water in small additions and mix in flour. As soon as the dough comes together, start kneading, adding water only if necessary. Knead the dough until elastic and supple.

Coat a large bowl with olive oil. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the oil coated bowl. Turn the dough around to coat with olive oil. Set aside in a warm place to rise, around 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down the dough. Make 8 - 12 balls and cover with a damp cloth. Rest for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ 425 F. Roll out the balls into 1/8" or 1/4" thick. Rest covered for 10 minutes. Bake for 3 - 5 minutes in the oven. Bake longer if you want browned pita bread. Spray a little water on pita bread before baking to result in a very soft pita bread.

This can be done on stove top as well. Place a pita bread disc on well heated and light greased girdle. Turn over the pita bread as soon as it changes color slightly. Cook for a couple of minutes, pressing the pita bread with a kitchen towel. Turn over and repeat the same process for a couple of minutes.

Store pita bread covered with a tea towel to keep warm and soft, as pita bread tends to dry out quickly when exposed to air. Cooked pita bread can be frozen as well. Happy baking!!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Hummus

Hello again. Back yet again after a long break. I haven't been cooking much for a while. But I have tried a couple of cake/ cookie in a mug recipes. Frankly I am not much fond of these microwaved cakes or cookies. They lack flavor. It might be a good quick fix for the sweet tooth, but I would prefer the traditional oven baked cakes and cookies any day. They are worth the extra effort.

In other news, I have been to a session on "The Image of the Female journalist" hosted at the Residence of US Consul General. This is something I would be discussing in more detail on my personal blog.


Back to my Greek lunch, the dip in the picture is Hummus, which is a traditional Mediterranean dip and works well with crunchy vegetables and pita bread. It also can be added to sandwiches for creating a greater depth of flavor and texture and to keep the sandwich healthy. Hummus is part of many wrap recipes. O my lunch table, Hummus was served with carrots and cucumber. And anyone could make a quick wrap with pita bread, the Greek baked Chicken and Hummus. Doesn't it look so refreshing and vibrant?


The main ingredient in hummus besides the chickpeas is tahini paste. Tahina is a sesame seed paste, which has a distinct nutty flavor. The tahina is offset with lemon juice that adds some acidity to the dip. Hummus can be blended as smooth as you like. so if you like it a bit chunky, blend less; if you like it smooth and creamy, blend all the chickpeas. As usual, since I don't like the over powering taste from garlic, i use a lot less than the recipe asks for.


Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups chickpeas, boiled and drained
1/3 cup tahini paste
Juice of 1-2 lemons
2 - 3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste
Red chili powder, to taste
Olive oil, for garnish (use extra virgin olive oil)

Method

Put the chickpeas, tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend the chickpeas. Add water if it is hard to process the chickpeas. Add water in small quantities so as not to make the hummus very runny. Add enough to blend easily yet maintain a thick mayonnaise like consistency. 

When blended to desire, pour the hummus in a jar or bowl. Drizzle some olive oil over the hummus. Garnish with coriander leaves if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. Happy cooking !!!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Greek Tomato Pie

Suddenly I am finding myself too busy to post my whole Mediterranean lunch series quickly. Mediterranean food is absolutely tasty, colorful and inviting. Most of these recipes call for the most basic spices, easily available in the market. They aren't too hot nor to bland. The salt is usually the star and flavor enhancer while other spices like black pepper and oregano lift the flavor profile of the food to higher levels.


Greek Tomato Pie  is kind of a Mediterranean pizza but in a pie crust. This pie is very light, since the main ingredient are ripe, fresh and juicy tomatoes. It is orginaly made with tofu. I made it with Soft Cottage Cheese, since I didn't have tofu and it is not easily available in my part of the city. Cottage Cheese is a substitute for tofu because of its creamy texture. You can add black or green olives to add crunch and flavor to this pie. I made it with tomatoes and green coriander only.

Cottage cheese does not melt like Mozzarella or Cheddar cheese. It just gets warm and slightly browned. When you eat the pie, you will feel it has become creamier. It offsets the tanginess of tomatoes beautifully. The crunch from the pie, the slightly soft tomatoes, the creamy cottage cheese with a healthy sprinkling of green coriander is just what one would want on a summer afternoon. 

I used the basic pie crust recipe from How to Build a Better Pie: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Flaky Crusts, Toppers, and the Things in Between. This is an amazing book that teaches everything about pies. I might do a review of the book on my blog.

It is necessary to have the butter and water cold for this recipe. And never use salted butter as we are adding salt to the mix. This pie crust is enough for one 9 inch open pie.


Recipe

Ingredients

Pie crust
1 cup and 3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
112 gm unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp iced water

Filling
5 - 6 medium tomatoes, ripe but firm ones
1/4 cup green coriander
1 cup soft cottage cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Method

Pie crust

Put flour, salt and sugar in a wide bowl and mix with hands. Cut cold butter into cubes. Scatter over the flour. Incorporate the butter into dry ingredients by pinching each piece. Do not break butter beyond this. Quickly incorporate all the butter into flour, with light hands so that warmth from the hands does not melt too much butter.

Sprinkle the 1/4 cup cold iced water (without ice) on the sides of the flour. Incorporate the water with a fork. Add the rest of the 2 tbsp water , if the dough does not come together. DO not knead the dough , just gather and squeeze it and it should not fall apart. Shape the dough in form of a disc, plastic wrap it and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and upto 3 days.

Remove pie dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the work surface with flour and place the dough on the flour after removing the plastic wrap. Hold the dough, barely touching it and give it a full turn in the flour. Give the dough a few whacks with the rolling pin. Then start rolling.

Roll once up and down and the give the dough a quarter degree turn. Do not flip over the dough. Keep doing so until the dough is big enough for a 9 inch pie plate. Fold the crust over the rolling pic and lay it down in the pie plate. Adjust the crust in the pie plate.

For this pie, the crust has to half baked before hand. Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F. Prick the crust with a fork. Line the crust with a foil so as not to expose the crust to direct heat and put baking beads or prewashed tamarind and date seeds in the foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 180C/375F and bake for another 10 minutes for a partially baked pie crust. The pie crust will look slightly raw. This is called blind baking.

Remove the crust from the oven, let it cool to touch and then assemble the pie.

Assembling and baking

Preheat the oven to 180 C/375 F.

Cut tomatoes into long stripes , removing the seeds. Layer the tomatoes in concentric circles in the pre-baked crust. Sprinkle some salt and black pepper. Sprinkle green coriander and the cottage cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle some olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pie is golden and tomatoes are soft. Serve warm. Happy baking!!!



Sunday, April 20, 2014

Greek Baked Chicken


I like planning the whole lunch and making things that pair well. Last time I did a whole lunch planned around Roast Beef. This time I picked the Mediterranean theme and made everything Mediterranean. So our lunch table was decorated with Greek Baked Chicken, Greek Tomato Pie, Pita Bread and Hummus. The meal ended with Egyptian Basbosa , which is a Mediterranean semolina pudding,  as dessert. (Will be updating recipes soon updated).


Mediterranean food is light and refreshing and there is much use of olive oil, which in turn makes the recipe healthy as well. While the lunch is usually low calorie, the desserts make up for it and are laden with sugar, and thus they are very high calorie. The lunch should suffice, but all of us have a sweet tooth and cannot fathom a meal without a dessert, hence my plan had to include a Mediterranean dessert as well.


Greek Baked chicken is cooked in yogurt, not cooked , rather baked. I used slightly more yogurt than the recipe called for. Also, after baking until chicken was tender, there was a lot of water leftover, so I reduced it on stovetop and then put the chicken again in the oven, this time with the griller on to give it those tell tale brown spots of being baked. Chicken is a difficult ingredient to bake as it dries out if over baked, therefore you have to keep an eye on it while baking.


Recipe

Ingredients

500 gms chicken pieces
1/2 cup yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup green coriander, finley chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp oregano powder
1 tsp garlic paste

Method

Put all ingredients except chicken in a bowl. Mix thoroughly and add the chicken. Mix to coat. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate, for at least 1 hour. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease an oven and fireproof dish. Metal works fie, but glass makes a dish that can be presented right out of the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until chicken is done. If there is water in the dish, reduce on stovetop. Then grill in the oven for 5 minutes.

Serve warm with pita bread. Happy baking!!!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rolled French Toast

First of all, I have made slight changes to how I edit my pictures. I have started adding the name and I kind of like the professional feel it adds to the image. I hope readers like it too.

French toasts have been an integral part of my life. Mom used to make these for us on Sunday mornings as a weekend treat. I remember a fun incident from my childhood. Mom was ill with high fever and could not go in the kitchen to make some snacks for me and my brother. Baba, my dad, offered to make us French toast. He painstakingly made these delights after confirming each step with mom, but he missed a patch on the toast uncooked. I feel sorry for him now when I remember that both me and my brother rewarded him with a "ammi ziada acha banati hain" (mom makes it better) sentiment.

Anyways, I was surfing Pinterest , and found a pin showing many rolled French toast ideas. One f them involved fruit and Nutella. Since, it is hard to go wrong with chocolate, I decided to give it a try. I did not have Nutella, but some other chocolate hazelnut spread. These rolled delights have banana rolled in them.



Recipe

Ingredients

5 - 6 slices white bread
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
4 tbsp sugar
Nutella (or any other chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 banana, sliced
Butter or ghee for frying

Method

Dissolve sugar in milk. Beat the egg and beat in the milk. Set aside

Take bread slices and thin them using a rolling pin. 

Spread 1 tbsp of Nutella on the thinned slices. Place slices of banana along the edge nearest to you. You will need 4 - 5 banana slices.

Start rolling the bread slice from the end where bananas where bananas are places. Roll and set aside. 

Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a frying pan. Dip the rolled bread slices in the egg mixture and place in the frying pan. Allow the toast to cook and brown on one side on medium high heat. Turn over and cook. Cook similarly on all sides. Remove from the frying pan and serve warm. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cucumber with yogurt

And here is the last part of the roast beef lunch. This is typically the dahi ka raita we are so used to having with our biryanis and pulaos. The only difference is that I removed some water from the yogurt and made the raita a bit thick, thus naming it yogurt cucumber sauce.


For some of the readers residing outside Pakistan, you would have  Greek yogurt available. For those in Pakistan, it is not much of a big deal and is very easy to replicate in desi-land. (Psssst, residing abroad people, you can follow the next step too, to make the recipe pocket friendlier than it already is).

Take some plain yogurt (we in desi-land get our yogurt from the yogurt shops found easily in every corner of the city). Take a piece of cheese cloth. Wet it and wring out the water. Beat the yogurt to make it smooth. Pour the yogurt over the cloth. Bring the corners together and tie the cloth. Place on a strainer and put the strainer in a bowl such that there is lots of space below it to catch the water. Leave in the refrigerator for an hour or two. 

If you are impatient like me, press the yogurt in the cloth to remove water, until the yogurt of desired consistency is left. If you let water drip out itself, you can use the leftover water in cakes or pancakes. If you press out the water, I'd rather not use it in anything, because after all it sounds gross. 

The yogurt in the cloth would be thick like Greek yogurt. You can use it in the recipe mentioned.



Recipe

Ingredients

500 gm yogurt (remove water as mentioned above)
1 - 2 cucumbers, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp green coriander, chopped finely
1 tsp dried mint leaves, rubed into a powder
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Method

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill thoroughly before serving. Simple and easy. Happy cooking!!! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Creamed Spinach

The desi way to prepare spinach is to boil it for a long time, drain it, mash a bit and then use it in any recipe you want. Mostly Spinach is cooked with mutton (palak gosht) in desi-land or sometimes with potatoes (aloo palak). Some people also cook it with cottage cheese (palak paneer). Creamd Spinach was my first try on making something from steamed spinach.


I served creamed spinach with Roast Beef. The spinach is steamed and then mixed in a bay leaf infused white sauce. Frankly, spinach leaves didn't taste bitter, even though they weren't boiled for hours. I make white sauce regularly, but this is the first time I infused it with bay leaf. The recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater's recipe.

Spinach needs to be washed thoroughly to remove the dirt. Since spinach grows near the ground, the leaves carry a lot of dirt. It takes time for the leaves to be clean, so you have to wash the spinach patiently.


I used half the quantity of the spinach mentioned in the recipe. I also just eye balled the ingredient quantities for white sauce. Creamed spinach is supposed to be served hot, but I served it slightly warm, mostly because it was ready before other ingredients. A thin skin had formed on top, but a little stirring got rid of it. 

Creamed spinach is a classic dish served with steaks (which was my original plan, but had to be tweaked midway during the cooking). A mouthful of meat accompanied with creamed spinach is an indulgence like none else.


Recipe

Ingredients

500 gm spinach
300 ml milk
1 small onion, roughly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
50 gm butter
50 gm flour
50 ml cream
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
A pinch nutmeg powder

Method

Remove stems from spinach leaves and wash thoroughly in a colander. Put in a large stainless steel pot. Add 2 tbsp water. Put the pot on low heat. Cover the pot and let the spinach cook slowly. In around five minutes the spinach will be limp and bright green. Remove from heat and  put in a colander to cool and drain.

Heat the milk with onion, bay leaf and cloves. Just before boiling, remove from heat and leave to infuse. Infse for at least 1 hour.

Melt butter on low heat. Add the flour and mix to make a thin paste. Slowly whisk in the milk. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens. Stir in the cream and mix. Add salt and pepper.

Squeeze the spinach leaves to remove excess water. If needed put the leaves on a paper towel to remove water. Chop the leaves roughly and add to the white sauce. sprinkle the nutmeg and mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve warm.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Continuing from the other day, next on the table were garlic roasted potatoes. Potatoes are a very versatile food, that complement almost every dish in the world. When you are out of ideas for cooking, there is always something that can be done with potatoes.


In this recipe, potatoes are baked in the oven. I used a very small quantity of garlic, as I do not like the garlic flavor to be overwhelming. When these potatoes were done, there was just a slight hint of garlic. If you like you can increase the quantity of garlic according to your taste. The potatoes can be cut in form of slices, fingers or just halved or quartered. Quartered ones are easier to pick with a fork (if you are using one).


Recipe

Ingredients

750 gm potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic paste (I used just 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 200C / 425F. Put potatoes in a bowl. Add all ingredients except green coriander. Toss potatoes around until thoroughly coated with oil and spices. Place potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 45 min to 1 hr.

Turn over the all the potatoes at least twice during baking. It will ensure that potatoes are equally browned on all sides. After 40 min, check potatoes for doneness by inserting a skewer of fork. Remove from oven when potatoes are cooked through and browned to desire.

Sprinkle green coriander before serving. Serve hot as a side with Roast Beef , or serve as a snack with a mayonnaise or sour cream dip.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Roast Beef

One day I planned on making steaks in lunch. I had cut some beef (from sacrifice during Eid-ul-Azha) after researching what a steak cut should look like. It was waiting for the right weather, and the right marinade to be turned into succulent steaks. Then I planned the sides: Garlic Roasted Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Cucumber with Yougurt. (Will be posting the recipes soon - all updated)


I researched again, looking for steak recipes. Most recipes included only salt and pepper, but what good is mere salt and pepper when you are trying something the first time, right? So some more search and I found a Moroccan marinade, tweaked a bit to suit my taste and used it to marinate the meat.

Then next part was to look for methods to cook steaks on stove top or oven, and found many methods where steaks were seared on stove top on high heat in a pan and then finished cooking in the oven, again on high heat. Everything was right upto this point, but - there is always a but - when the steaks were pulled out of the oven, the meat was cooked but hard.



Now, most bloggers said that if meat was cooked in oven for long time duration, it would become rubbery and hard. So the meat went into the cooker, cooked for around 10 minutes, to cook the meat soft. And those well planned steaks became something like roasted beef. I would have put them again in the oven, but lunch was getting late, and we had to make do without the another round in the oven for a couple of minutes.

If I try this recipe next time, I would cook the meat first in the cooker, and then pop it in the oven to add a glaze to it, and eat genuine roast beef. Steaks, most probably, are not my cup of tea.


Recipe

Ingredients

3 tbsp olive oile
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic paste
Salt, to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
500 gms boneless beef

Method

Put all the ingredients and meat in a bowl. Coat the marinade thoroughly on meat. All the meat to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Heat some oil in a pressure cooker. Put the meat and the marinade. Cook meat over, stirring until it changes color on all sides. Add some water and close the cooker. Allow the meat to cook for 10 minutes after cooker starts whistling. Open the cooker and check if the meat is tender. If it isn't cook for another 5 minutes.

When meat is cooked, reduce all the water. Meanwhile preheat the oven at 200 C/ 400F. Grease an oven proof dish. Place the cooked meat in the dish and pop in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until the meat startes to brown on the edges.

Serve hot with lemon slices and the sides mentioned above.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Thukpa

Isn't Thukpa a cute name? The first time I read the name, I wanted to try it just for the sake of making such an exotic sounding dish. Thukpa comes from Tibet and is a soup. Even though winters are now officially over in this part of the world, still soups are a good companion in the breezy evenings or for the unfortunate people falling ill due to changing weather.


This soup is spicy, but the spices can be adjusted according to taste. This is a very versatile kind of soup, where you can add or remove ingredients and it will still taste delicious. The spices are tantalizing, reminding of all the things good and sunny. And the best part is, none of the ingredients are alien to our desi taste buds. 

I always use less garlic than specified in the recipe (or sometimes no garlic at all) as I don't prefer the overpowering taste of garlic. I also used chicken cubes instead of using authentic chicken stock, because that is the easy way, but real chicken stock always tastes better. I have a description of how to make chicken stock in the recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup.


Recipe

Ingredients

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
Green chillies, to taste
1 small onion chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 cup cabbage, chopped
Salt, to taste
Red chilli powder, to taste
3 cups chicken stock
Green coriander, chopped
150 gm noodles (I used shell macaroni)
2 eggs

Method

Boil noodles/ macaroni as per packet directions and set aside. 

Beat eggs with salt and black pepper and make an omelet. Cut the omelet into thin strips. Set aside.

De-seed green chillies and cut into thin slices. In a pressure cooker, heat oil. Add garlic and green chillies, cook for 30 seconds. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the tomatoes and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Add salt and red chilli powder (if desired). Cook until aromatic. Add the chicken stock. Close cooker and cook for 1 minute after the first whistle. Open the cooker and taste the soup. Adjust seasoning as desired. Add the green coriander to the soup.

Take a bowl. Place the noodles in the bowl. Pour soup over the noodles and garish with omelet strips. If desired, sprinkle some chopped green coriander on top. Serve hot.

Note: I added partially boiled carrots to the soup to add a little crunch. You can add boiled chicken, carrots and other veggies to make this soup heartier. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

The other day I was going through my recipe collection, and I noticed I mostly note down cakes and the likes. I have so few savory dishes written down, that if I had the responsibility to feed my family on a daily basis, all they would eat would be cakes, brownies and cookies with an occasional rice or chicken dish. This is an indicator that I should diversify my interests. Did I just say diversify? That's my two years of business school talking ;)

With all good intentions to broaden my baking and cooking horizon, I have peanut butter cookies on the cards today. Who says no to warm cookies with a cup of coffee or tea? Even  more better are peanut butter cookies, with the nuttiness of peanut butter, crunchiness of the sugar and chewiness of the cookie. There is just something so homely about baking cookies. The aroma that fills the home, the cookies that look so inviting, everything is so comforting.

To make these cookies more interesting, I would love to make Nutella sandwiches with these cookies as chocolate and peanut butter compliment each other well.

The recipe I tried is adapted from Betty Crocker, one of the most influential fictional characters.


Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Method

Mix sugars, peanut butter, butter, and egg in a bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in the peanut butter mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 375F. Make cookies and place on a baking sheet. Make a criss cross pattern with a fork dipped into icing sugar.

Bake for 9 - 10 minutes or until underside is golden. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place the cookies on wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight jar.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Roasted Tomato Soup

Today is the day for tomatoes. Here comes a recipe for roasted tomato soup. I know it is a bit late, and winters are leaving, but there is still time to enjoy soup at least a couple of times. At my house, different variations of tomato soup are made frequently in winters. It is easy to make and does not take much time to cook.

Croutons add texture to soup. I make my croutons with regular white bread. Cut the bread into cubes, brush with olive oil on both sides, sprinkle a salt. You can sprinkle some black pepper as well, but I don't like it much. Bake the croutons in the oven at 180 C. I make mine in the electric toaster. Croutons made from tomato bread would also compliment the soup, only you don't need to sprinkle salt on it as it is already savory. 


The recipe calls for chicken stock. I usually use chicken cubes because they are easy and I do not have to make chicken stock. If you use chicken cubes, don't add salt during cooking. Adjust salt after the soups is completely cooked as chicken cubes already have adequate quantity of salt.That said, soups made with authentic chicken stock have a richer taste. 

You can make chicken stock by tossing chicken wings, necks, other pieces which are more bone and less meat, an onion cut in quarters, a couple of carrot tops, a bay leaf, some peppercorn, a small piece of ginger in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5 - 6 hours. Strain the stock. It would be around 3 cups of stock. 


I found this recipe in local fashion magazine. I reduced the amount of garlic cloves as I don't like the garlic over powering other flavors. 


Recipe

Ingredients

2 lbs tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves
3/4 tsp salt (not needed if using chicken cubes)
1 tsp black pepper
4 cups chicken stock (or 4 cups of water and 2 chicken cubes)
Salt & pepper, to season

Method

Preheat the oven to 230 C/ 450 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Toss tomatoes, onion and garlic on the sheet. Sprinkle a little salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place tomatoes cut side up and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The skins would become slightly charred.

Blend the roasted tomato, onion and garlic with some chicken stock. Pour it into the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the desired consistency is reached.

Serve hot with bread croutons.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tomato Bread

A couple of years ago, my brother brought some baked good home, something new to try. It was square like a cake. It was soft like a cake. It looked like a cake. A bite of the stuff revealed an amazing taste. It was light and savory, and slightly reddish in color. It was not a cake but a bread. It was tomato bread.


I wanted to make that bread myself. Occasionally, I would search, but leave it and forget about it. Yesterday, I saw too many tomatoes in the kitchen and once again searched for a tomato bread recipe. I found one, which I thought would yield something like that bread I had tasted.


This is my first attempt at making this kind of bread as previously I have tried pita bread and pizza only. The resulting bread is delicious. It has a different texture than the one I had mind. It was a bit dense. The crust of the bread turned out to be harder than I expected, but I think it can be attributed to the fact that I added some extra flour because I thought the dough was too sticky (first try, remember? ).


My mom suggested to add a little red chilli powder to the dough next time, which will give this savory bread a tasteful pop. This bread tastes good with butter or cheese, though I would prefer cottage cheese or cream cheese with a toasted slice of tomato bread. Finally, the recipe called for a mix of Italian herbs, which I desified and used coriander only. I made half the recipe only.


I kneaded my bread by hand, even though the recipe calls for it to be kneaded with an electric mixer and the dough hook attachment. The recipe is adapted from Daring Gourmet.




Recipe

Ingredients

2 cups tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 tbsp honey
3 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 green coriander, finely chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil. Place the tomatoes and drizzle with 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Roast tomatoes in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the skins collapse and brown lightly. Remove and puree the tomatoes.

In a bowl combine warm water, honey, instant yeast, and remaining 1 tbsp olive oil.

In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. Make a well in the middle. Pour tomato puree, water mixture and corriander and mix with a wooden spoon. Then attach the dough hook to the electric mixer and mix the dough for 8 minutes. By this time the dough will be slightly sticky. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour (not too much as it will disturb the ratio of the ingredients).

Gather the dough into a ball. Lightly oil a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl. Lightly coat the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, around  hour or so.

Spread the dough into an 8 inch rectangle. Starting at one end and make a roll from the dough, making sure the layers stick together. Pinch the seam.Place the dough, seem side down, in a greased bread pan. Loosley cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again until doubled in size, for around 30 minutes.

While the dough rises, preheat the oven at 180 C/ 350 F. Boil 2 cups of water and pour in a baking dish. Place the water on the bottom rack. Place bread on the rack just above the water.If there isn't enough space, place two small heat proof bowls of water in the oven on both sides of the bread pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top has browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Serve with butter, cheese or make a sandwich. It can be served hot out of the oven, or sliced,toasted and served later.