Friday, December 30, 2011

Jam and Fruit Tart

We bid the year 2011 a good bye today....a year that had brought mixed fortunes for many of us. While we rejoiced on occasions of weddings and welcoming new lives, we also were saddened by loss of near and dear ones. Such memories that the year leaves behind will stay etched for a long time.
This year also brought eight 'dare to experiment' bloggers together in a group. In April, Madhuri put the idea forth and we were themes and 'out of the usual' ideas were experimented in our kitchens and shared in posts on bases of monthly themes. We skipped November and Mridhubashini put forward a very colourful theme for the eighth round, which also will welcome the new season in 2012.
Colourful??? very...for she chose to give us all each a colour from the VIBGYOR and White so we cook a rainbow of dishes. Few of us decided that we might make three dishes and my last two posts were in line with the theme for I got to make RED.

I baked this simple fruit tart with a jam centre for the dessert...bidding farewell 2011 with a sweet that isn't all too sweet but just right to enjoy.

My jam was home made adapted from my very respectable author S.Meenakshi ammal and the tart base was an adaption from LG microwave oven cook book.

I chose to make one tart, more like a pie base and fill with the jam, then decorate with red plums. I did not have a good pie dish too, hence I baked in a normal round tin, folding the edges inwards in a plait. The plum slices sat exactly on those folds and covered all the bad patches :)

Recipe for the jam:

350 grams ripe yet firm tomatoes
200ml level cup sugar (you can reduce the sugar to 175 ml, if you want the jam less sweet)
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (the recipe says cardamom, I preferred cinnamon)
1 tablespoon lime juice

Wash the tomatoes and drop them in hot water. Place the utensil on a high flame and cook for a good five minutes.
Drain the water, allow the tomatoes to cool and peel the skin off.
Blend the tomatoes in a puree. Wash the blender jar and add the little water to the puree.
Take the puree in a heavy bottom bowl. Keeping the fire medium, cook the tomato puree until it has thicken and falls off the spoon when dropped in thick chunks.
Add the sugar, cinnamon powder and the juice of lime.
The sugar will melt and later cook and thicken the syrup.
Cook until a thick jam is formed.
This can be stored in clean jars for about a week at moderate temperatures and in the refrigerator for a week longer. There are no preservatives in the recipe and the earlier it is consumed the better.

For the tart:
1 cup all purpose flour (240 ml level)/ 120 grams
60 grams cold, diced butter
2 tablespoons/ 30 grams castor sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Few drops vanilla essence
Few tablespoons ice cold water ( I needed 3 tablespoons)

For filling and decorating:
About 75 grams/ 1/4 cup tomato jam
2 red plums cut in 8 wedges

Pre heat the oven to 230 degrees Centigrade.
Sift the flour and baking powder and add the sugar to the sifted flour.
Take this in a bowl, add the vanilla essence and rub in the butter with nimble fingers. (you may choose to do it in the processor or use a dinner knife to cut in; I lost my cutting blade attached to the processor in one of the many moves, and for this small quantity the fingers were sufficient)
When the butter and flour are incorporated in a bread crumb texture, add ice cold water little at a time and form a slightly stiff dough, again handle the dough gently.
Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover with a cling film. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Roll the dough out in a 1/4" thick base, rolling gently between two sheets of baking paper or plastic.
Butter the pie plate or tin generously and dust with some flour.
Transfer the rolled out dough on to the plate.
Leaving about half an inch wide circumference spread the jam on the surface evenly.
Fold in the edges and seal the jam at the edges. The middle portion has to be left open.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Allow to cool well and shift the tart to wire racks to cool completely.
Transfer to a serving dish and place sliced fruit wedges to decorate the tart.

Now hop on to the fabulous recipes my freespirit blogger mates Anupama, Deepti, Dhivya, Madhuri, Mridhubashini, Nagalakshmi and Siri have posted to complete the rainbow. Be warned that they are sure to bowl you over.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Filled and Grilled Red Peppers

Having tempted you with a starter course let me add to my Free spirit bloggers' Rainbow/ VIBGYOR theme Red assigned to me by Mridhubashini, this rice dish for the main course.
We love bell peppers and will mostly have them stuffed. The stuffing varies as per mood on that particular day and the availability of ingredients. Sometimes I use up left overs to make some stuffing recipe and use that up. However, this time I must say that I cooked specially for the stuffing, taking care that the recipe also fell in line with my RED theme and used red colour peppers to grill.
The stuffing is rice cooked with spiced channa masala stewed using more tomatoes and carrots to bring out the red colour. I made this recipe for channa masala from my earlier post. That recipe does not list tomatoes. But I have used few tomatoes and 2 carrots to achieve the colour.

For the channa rice:
1 cup Basmati rice
1/4 cup channa (white chick peas)
½ cup coriander leaves washed well and dried over a cloth
3 big red onions
4”piece of ginger
2 teaspoons redchilli powder
2 tablespoons any brand channa/chole masala powder
1 marble size ball of tamarind
2 large tomatoes
2 medium carrots
3 teaspoons powdered jaggery
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cuminseeds
4 green chillis slit lengthwise
2 tablespoons ghee/oil

For the peppers:
(the above rice will be sufficient to fill 5 numbers large bell peppers)
5 red bell peppers
3 tablespoons yoghurt (I had cashew yoghurt and used that)
1 teaspoon kasuri methi
1/8th teaspoon carom seeds
1/2 teaspoon dry mint leaves
1 teaspoon green chilli paste
1 tablespoon coriander leaves
Salt to taste

Soak the chick peas overnight. Drain the water in the morning and pressure cook the peas until they are soft.
Wash the Basmati rice thoroughly and spread on a cloth for few minutes.
Heat two teaspoons ghee in a pan and roast the drained rice. Take care not to break the rice kernels. Transfer the rice to a cooking pan and add two cups of water to the same. Allow it to stand for about 20 minutes.
Next step is to marinade the peppers.
Wash the peppers and pat them dry.
Using a sharp knife, slice a slit on the top until a small portion is still holding in place with the lower part.
Carefully scoop the seeds and membrane out.
Grind rest of the ingredients listed under the peppers in a marinade paste.
Gently coat the insides of the peppers with the marinade and let them stand for about half an hour.
If the peppers do not stand still, slice the bottom evenly so that they do not fall.

While the peppers are marinating, the rice can be prepared.
Steam the carrots until tender. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds and drain. Allow to cool and peel the skin off.
Grind the chopped onions and ginger along with the coriander leaves and the small marble size tamarind.
Grind the tomatoes and carrots to a puree.
Heat a generous tablespoon of ghee in a heavy pan.
Add cumin seeds and the green chillis. Saute' and add the ginger onion paste. Cook over a low flame until the fat separates. Now add the tomato and carrot puree, salt, the rest of the spice powders, jaggery and the cooked peas. Boil and simmer until the gravy is very thick.
Place the rice bowl on heat and bring the water to a boil. Close with a lid and lower the flame.
When the rice is half cooked, add the channa masala and cook further until they blend well and the rice is soft yet grains can be separated.
Pre - heat the grill. I set my microwave to grill 1.
Gently fill the marinated peppers with the rice. Close the tops. I did not seal them, just flapped the top back in place.
Place them in a baking dish. I used my bread trays to stand the peppers in.
Grill for about 7 minutes. The peppers will be well roasted and the skin might start peeling and in some places they may also char a bit.
Remove from grill and transfer to serving dishes.
Serve hot decorated with salad leaves and favoured vegetables.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

White and kidney beans falafels and spicy hot vandikkaran chutney

There are times that you want to try something different from the usual fare and the dish is a hit with guests. Year after year, for navrathri, we make sundal recipes. I do that too; but at times I add something extra to make it more interesting, like making a chat style or adding some crisp to the regular sundals and such. However, this year while shopping for the legumes I chanced to add to my grocery the white haricot beans. They looked quite tempting and when I soaked for the sundal they soaked quickly too. I had, without thinking, soaked a bit too much that I had to reserve some for later use.
On the day I invited ladies from our compound, I decided to make use of the soaked beans. I soaked some red kidney beans/ rajma that day and made use of both beans in one dish - falafels. I made the very easy and hot 'vandikkaran chutney' variation using the locally grown fresh chillis and tomatoes. Both the falafels and chutney paired very well.
This time on the all eight of us, free spirit bloggers have made one round of dishing out various themes and for this month Mridhubashini chose a very colourful theme for the festival season. I have been asked to cook 'RED' dishes for the Rainbow. I opted to do one each of starters, main course and a dessert for the theme, as with other mates. Thus the three posts in succession will feature my "free spirit's rainbow red'.

Ingredients for Falafel:

1/2 cup white haricot beans
1/2 cup red kidney beans
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste
Cooking oil for deep frying

For the Chutney:
5 medium red tomatoes
1 small marble size tamarind
6 medium size and very hot red chillis
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons oil
(the regular vandikkaran chutney is a smooth blend of just salt, tamarind and dry red chillis. I tweaked a bit as I had those fresh chillis and wanted to use them)

For falafels:
Wash the legumes clean and soak them in water for about 8 hours/ overnight.
Drain the water well and pulse to a coarse dough in the blender.
Add the red chilli powder, tumeric powder, cumin seeds and the salt.
Heat cooking oil in a pan and when the oil reaches optimum heat, make small balls of the dough, flatten slightly in your palms and slide them in the oil as many as would fit in.
Deep fry well on both the sides and remove the crisply fried falafels with a slotted ladle.
Place them on absorbent tissues before transferring to a serving dish.

For the chutney:
Wash and pat the chillis and tomatoes clean and dry.
Soak the tamarind in very little water, enough to soften it up for grinding.
Chop the chillis and tomatoes in very tiny pieces.
Heat oil in a pan and toss the chillis for a few minutes.
Remove from the pan and keep aside.
In the same pan toss the chopped tomatoes until they are cooked to a pulp.
Cool the tomatoes to room temperature.
Transfer the tomatoes, soaked tamarind, saute'ed chillis and salt to the jar of a blender. Grind to a very smooth paste adding sufficient water.
Once done transfer to a serving bowl. Clean the jar with a little quantity of water and extract the adhering paste. Add this to the chutney.
This chutney is not usually tempered or garnished. But if you feel like it you may do so too.

Serve the falafels accompanied with the chutney and enjoy!
Don't thhey both have a very lovely RED?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Breakfast stop spots for Black and White Wednesdays

Some refreshing coffee and small bites at a nice, chic cafe in the Union Station, Kansas City, MO were all we needed after waking up at unearthly hours, to catch a train to St. Louis.

Having visited Lawrence, we decided to make the trip to St. Louis to visit a fellow blogger friend and her family. Needless to say, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time with them. With Sahana monopolising Raja's attention completely, Shoba had some time on her hands for me! We returned home, with lots of great memories and loads of photographs!! Thank you so much, Shoba, for having us over for a brilliant time, with you, Shrini, your mom and the two beautiful girls!

After term closed for Niki, we made a trip to Denver and Boulder. We had the opportunity to meet Namita and Manoj. With tasty Sadhya, an enriching conversation covering a wide gamut of topics, and their two adorable children, we had a blast of an evening at their home.

With a long trip to Boston, and NJ/NYC coming up over the next week, we are looking forward to meeting family and more friends!

The two pictures above are being sent to Susan's Black and White Wednesdays.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Parangikkai badam kheer

Did I not tell you that my sister comes up with some fun ideas when it comes to food? She tries to add variety to everyday cooking and most times those dishes are simple to make and a small change here, an addition there makes it taste very different.
Just before Navrathri, a friend of mine left with me one whole small pumpkin before she left on a holiday. I knew that my husband is not very fond of the vegetable. Hence I saved it for an occasion to have guests, so I can finish the vegetable in one go. I planned to make a kootu; however, I was discussing my menu for a weekend lunch party with my sister and she thought I was making a long list that is going to fill my refrigerator with left overs. Both of us cut the list short enough to make the menu appear elaborate at the same time we could minimize work in the kitchen as well as left overs. That is when she suggested I make this kheer.
I was game for experiment though I warned my husband that I am trying this and he is free not to partake if he felt so.
I was in for a pleasant surprise for not just my guests, but my husband too liked it quite a lot. I had added enough almonds fearing that the taste of the vegetable will be overpowering. Surprisingly it did not; in fact, both had blended well and only upon my suggestion that people realized that it was not just badam kheer but had a vegetable base to the same.

1 cup cubed pumpkin
1/4 cup ground almond powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 litre whole milk, boiled and cooled to room temperature

For garnish:
Few strands of saffron
Chopped cashews dry roasted
Chopped pistachios
Cardamom powder

Place pumpkin cubes in a bowl, add 100 millilitres milk and pressure cook until the pumpkin is well cooked.
Allow the pumpkin to cool.
Add some warm water or milk to the ground almonds.
Take both the cooked pumpkin and the soaked almond powder in the jar of the blender and puree to a very smooth liquid adding sufficient milk.
Transfer to a heavy bottom cooking utensil and top up with the rest of the milk.
Place on a very low heat and stirring continuously, allow to cook until the raw taste subsides.
Coating the rim of the utensil with a thin coat of ghee will prevent the boiling milk from spilling over. (a new tip I learnt from a guest who watched me boiling milk for coffee)
Add the sugar and cook until the sugar blends well and the kheer thickens a bit.
Allow to cool, refrigerate and serve chilled topped with the garnish of nuts, saffron and cardamom powder. You may also add almond essence if necessary.
If the kheer is very thick and a drinking consistency is desired, add sufficient milk.

There will be no unwanted hint or taste of raw vegetable and even without essence it will taste good.
I have made it the second time without almonds too. Then I left the puree a bit coarse too. It tasted good.
This is best enjoyed chilled.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Jeeraga rasam ready mix powder

There are quite a few Indian dishes that can be made in preserves and stored. Lately the trend of ready to eat meals has caught up and I see so many varieties of food in small cartons stocked up in the local Indian store aisles. Though I might like to keep some of them handy for a lazy day, I am also apprehensive as they use lot more oil than we normally would and sometimes preservatives.

So when I have to travel and my husband has to cook for himself, I prepare a few stuff at home and he makes a quick meal using these almost ready to eat mixes. For want of time he prefers to keep these stuff to make his job easier.
Not only me, but my sister's mother-in-law who travels every alternate year to stay with her other son prepares much more stuff for my sister before she leaves. It is easy for my sister to manage home alongside her work with some stored quick meal options readily available.

The jeeraga rasam is a quick idea rasam as it does not need the dhal to be pressure cooked. Making the jeeraga rasam fresh at home? Follow this recipe. However, if you think you would like to store some powder and mix it in a quick rasam, try the following.

My aunt (sister's mother-in-law), powders only the dhal, chillis, salt , cumin and other condiments. Her powder requires to prepare the tamarind extract fresh. But I have taken it a step further. I have powdered the mix along with tamarind and hence it is just 'mix with water, bring it to a boil and add tempering and you are ready to serve' recipe.

150 grams (1X 175 ml cup) thoor dhal
60 grams (2/3rds of the 175 ml cup) cumin seeds
10 to 12 dry red chillis (they weighed less than 5 grams)
2 tablespoons sea salt ( I use salt crystals; if you want to use table salt, adjust accordingly)
50 grams (1/2 of the 175 ml cup loosely packed) tamarind
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons asafoetida powder

Dry roast the dhal until just about warm. transfer to a flat dish and allow to cool.
Dry roast red chillis until they are brittle and then add to the same the cumin seeds. Toss them around for about two minutes. Transfer to the same dish as the dhal.
Likewise, dry roast the asafoetida powder, salt and the turmeric powder just a little bit.
Clean the tamarind and tear it in pieces. If possible dry the tamrind in hot sun or dry roast gently on a low flame. This exercise is to ensure that the tamarind is dry enough and the powder is uniform without clogging in lumps and removing the moisture.
Take the dhal and condiments in the dry spice blender and pulse. Add to this the tamarind and grind to a fine to slightly coarse powder.
Cool and store in airtight containers.

To make the rasam, mix a 2 table spoons of this powder in two and half cup hot water.
Pour the mixed solution in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring off and on to avoid formation of lumps as the dhal cooks.

Switch the heat off soon as the rasam foams.
Heat a teaspoon ghee in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle add the curry leaves and transfer the tempering to the prepared rasam.
Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves if you have them on hand.

This rasam will be rare in density and can be had as soup also.
Enjoy with steamed hot rice and any vegetable of choice.
This powder and some other ready mix powders have been stocked now in my pantry for my husband as he will fend for himself for about twenty days when he leaves ahead of me from our holiday in the US of America.
We will be leaving shortly and spend most part of December with my daughter.
See you all when I get back to routine in January 2012!