Saturday, February 28, 2015

Teas again for Black and white Wednesdays 158

Time and again I profess my tea addiction. I stock up on varieties of teas. While I like, black, green and white teas all the same, my husband likes his black with milk added, flavoured with ginger or the typical Indian masala chai.
This box of three blends of Orange Pekoe teas was brought by a friend who travels from Europe to Togo, on business, often enough to keep my supplies refreshed.

This picture of my special teas is to be sent to Black and White Wednesdays 158, this fortnight being hosted by Shri @ Tiffin Carrier Antic/ques. The idea of  Black and White Wednesdays for food related photographs was initially conceived by Susan @ The Well Seasoned Cook and is now continued and presently being administered at Cinzia's Cindystar blog.

Most times I prefer black tea with a hint of lemon in it, though I do not add sugar, honey sometimes gives my tea the best taste.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sheermal - We Knead to Bake 22

Sheermal was the bread that members of the We Knead to Bake - Bread Baking Group had tried in November last year. I would have joined them too. Some unforeseen plans developed that I travelled home and skipped this bread then. Now that I am back to my routine, I am hoping to work on all the breads that I had missed baking along with Aparna and others.
Sheermal is a slightly sweet,  flavoured with saffron, flat bread that possibly was introduced to India by the Persian invaders.The word 'sheer' indicates milk in the Persian language, and this naan like bread, is traditionally famous in the Muslim neighbourhoods of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It is slightly rich in texture, differently made at different regions of India.
They are normally eaten as it is, with tea, or for breakfast.They can also be servered as part of a meal with mutton curry called Nehari or spicy kebabs.Sheermals can be had with qorma as side too.
We attempted the sheermal that uses yeast and not baking powder for our bread. The kewra water added to the dough gives a unique flavour. It is an acquired taste, thus it may be substituted by rose water too, or without any flavour. Incorporating ghee in stages into the dough, kneading it well until very soft makes one superior sheermal. The hall mark of good sheermal is the glaze from the ghee that is brushed on top of it soon after it has been baked. while egg gives it a great texture, you might do without too.
The sheermal is traditionally made in the Tandoor, we just baked them in our ovens.

Sheermal- Saffron flavoured Flatbread

Makes 4 sheermals of 4" diameter each.

2 &1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg lightly beaten (or up the milk/ water by 1/4 cup to substitute)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup luke warm water
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup milk (or more as required while kneading)
1 teaspoon kewra essence(screw pine extract) or rose water (optional)
Few strands of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk
Melted butter or ghee for brushing

Add the yeast to the luke warm water and sugar. set aside for 10 minutes for the yeast to proof.
Kneading can be done by hand or using a processor. Add flour and salt in a bowl. Whisk to mix well.
Add the yeast mixture and egg/ the extra liquid that you are using to substitute for the egg. Mix them well.
Add ghee in two lots and to achieve a crumbly texture of the dough.
Finally add the milk as needed and finally the kewra essence and knead to a very soft, elastic dough that is slightly sticky. Remember a well kneaded dough is essential for the sheermals to turn out well.
Transfer the dough ball to an oiled bowl, turning it to coat well all over, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Allow the dough to double in volume. this may take from an hour to an hour and a half.
remove the cover and knead again. shape into a ball and lightly brush ghee all over and allow another raise for 15 to 20 minutes.
Divide the rested dough into 4 equal portions.
Keep ready the milk- saffron mix and a baking tray that has been lightly greased or parchment lined.
Pat one portion of the dough with hands to a circular bread which is 4"in diameter and 1/8th of an inch thick.

Transfer the patted sheermal to the baking tray and dock out small pores using a fork on the surface.
Brush all over, generously with the saffron infused milk.
Repeat the same for the rest of the dough.
Bake them in a pre-heated 180 degrees C oven for 10 to 15 minutes, taking care not to over bake them.
Soon as they are out of the oven brush melted butter/ ghee all over the surface while they are warm.

Serve warm. i served them with Dum aloo  Banarasi recipe from Tarla Dalal cookbook Swadisht Subziyan.
There are links to posts by others here in Aparna's post, all just a click away. please do check them out.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chundo - Grated Mango Preserve

This time again, the old mango tree in my backyard,looks promising of a good number of mangoes. The tree is quite old and during the last season, it bore so many fruits that almost all of them fell off the tree unripe, some very tiny others big yet diseased. Thus, we did not get to taste any of them as fruits, but were able to drop a few tiny, sour tasting ones in brine and pickle those.
Mangoes do not totally go off season in Togo. The tree in my home starts season sometime around January through March- April. This year too, I have already plucked few huge mangoes. They are raw and very slightly sour.They are ideal to make raw mango rice, some pickle and such. Chundo has been in my mind for a long time to be tried. I am, however, apprehensive that such dishes will meet resistance from my husband. Hence the idea was one I was contemplating on.
I met Rushina, author of "A pinch of this and a handful of that",  and one who has put together a cook studio,"A Perfect Bite", at the IFB Meet last August. She generously gifted me, an authentic Gujarati cookbook titled Dadimano Varso. It is a treasure trove of Palanpuri, Jain Cuisine. Neatly categorized and all recipes given in both languages, English and Gujarati, this book is a quick reckoner to some exotic dishes. I have been making dhals and theplas, shaak and khadhis from this book. Those dishes were very welcome in my home. So I decided to venture a little further and be adventurous. The mangoes and the recipes in the book got me to pick on the Chundo.
Chundo is a sweet - sour and lightly spiced preserve with grated mangoes that is matured in the heat of the sun. You may opt to do the same on stove top too; also the grated mango can be replaced by cubed chunks that render an altogether different texture.
I chose to make the grated one and this is an adaption of the recipe from the book. I did not go by weight or volume given in there.
Chundo - Grated Mango Sweet-Sour and Spiced Preserve
(Adapted fully from Dadimano Varso)
Yield: About 250 ml cupful of preserve.

2 cups of raw mango grated
2 heaped cups of sugar
Salt to taste
1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder

The spices:
1/4 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon redchillis crushed to a coarse powder ( the book asks for Kashmiri chilli powder; I had on hand the Byadagi variety chillis only. I crushed them and two regular dry red chillis together.)
2 pinches asafoetida powder

Wash the mangoes, pat them dry.
Remove the skin and grate them until near the stone within.
Take the grated mango in a large bowl, add the turmeric powder and salt. Allow about 30 minutes for the mangoes to absorb the salt.
Add the sugar and mix well. cover and keep aside.

Keep stirring the mixture at regular intervals so the sugar dissolves in the juice of the mangoes and blends well.
Keep cover for a day and overnight.
Next morning give the mixture a thorough stir and cover the mouth of the bowl with a cloth that is wrapped tightly around the edge.
Place this in the sun through the day. By evening, bring the bowl inside and stir the mangoes again.
Repeat this process for the next seven or eight days. By then the sugar would have thickened and the mangoes translucent.
After a week in direct sunlight, bring the bowl inside and while the preserve is still warm from the sun, add the crushed spices. Give a brisk stir, cover and keep aside.
Place the wrapped bowl in the sun for a further two days. Let the flavours from added spices blend well in direct sunlight.
Once ready, transfer to a clean, sterile bottle/ jar and use.

If sugar does seem less, you may add powdered sugar to the preserve in one of the days in between, during the week when it is curing.
This preserve stays well for a year.
The chundo makes a great accompaniment for theplas.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sprouts and Vegetable Salad with Nuts

Over the past week I have been making one pot meals for lunch and salads to go with. Salads are often included in my menu though my husband is not particularly interested. I am wary of the leaves though. I have not taken to the raw taste of lettuce and such, so I opt to exclude them. On a visit to the market, I picked up a small pack of cherry tomatoes, green grapes and tender ginger. Most times I snack on sprouts for my mid morning snack, thus, I have on hand one thing or another.
This is a simple salad with no fancy dressing but loaded with nutrition. A simple lime juice and ground ginger was all I needed to take the taste one notch higher.

Sprouts and Vegetable Salad with Nuts
Serves two people

1/2 cup sprouted green gram
12-15 cherry tomatoes
20 green grapes
1 carrot
A table spoon each of walnuts, goji berries, slivered almonds and pistachios
1&1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ginger paste

Slice the carrot as desired, cut into two the cherry tomatoes and green grapes.
If the grapes are seedless variety use them as is, otherwise remove the seeds.
Toss the sprouts, above vegetables and all the nuts in a serving bowl.
Add salt, ground ginger and the lime juice.
A quick salad is ready to be served

Monday, February 16, 2015

We Knead to Bake 25 - Black Forest Buns

Through the last year and the year the year before that, I have been baking along with the We Knead to Bake bread baking group. But my attention to the baking along suffers long intervals. Just as I am catching up with other members who have baked almost all the breads, I have a set back and I race again to catch up. This time I am four behind, having taken a break since November. I had intended to bake all the four of those and post in the order of the group, which again became a task that I did not adhere to. This month's bread caught my husband's attention when Aparna posted it and he printed it out for me. He fancied the black forest cake crumble in the buns and insisted that i try it out soonest, other breads could wait. Thus, here i am posting the bread for February 2015.
Aparna wanted to have this recipe for this month in line with the Valentine's Day. I have no idea how this day is different from other days as love can be shared and expressed any day. However, it was a good idea to bake a special kind of bread, for the other half.
I kept reading the recipe and putting it off for another day. with the Cricket World Cup matches starting, I was sure I may never get around to doing anything constructive over these two months. However, team India gave us a reason to celebrate defeating their arch rivals Pakistan in the opening match. It was a good start having not won a match for over few months. While we can enjoy great friendship with our neighbours, Pakistan, when it comes to cricket, we are rivals and fans tend to treat this rivalry very seriously. Thus, it is a joy to watch your team beat their opponents.I thought it would be good to bake a cake,celebrating the victory and a cake that will go into the buns that my husband was looking forward to. I baked the eggless cake adding cocoa to the batter and baked the chocolate sponge cake.The left overs of this cake was crumbled and added to the buns.
I hope to bake the three other breads soon too and shall be posting even though they do not appear in the order of baking as in the group. bear with me if there be too many breads following one another.
Black forest buns use chocolate cake and cherry compote. The cherry compote could be flavoured with a little amount of kirsch - the cherry brandy if you like them for flavour.
While egg adds to the texture to the dough and hence buns, I did not find them different even if I omitted the egg. I had cherry jam on hand, but you could always opt for the strawberry jam.
The kneading, rolling out the dough and the shaping are all similar to the cinnamon rolls. Adding toasted and chopped nuts or mini chocolate chips is also an option.

Black Forest Buns

Makes 12 buns

For the Dough:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
50 grams butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature (I have substituted the egg with 1/4 cup more water)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3 to 31/4 cup all purpose flour

For the filling:
3/4 cup cherry compote/ jam or strawberry jam
21/2 to 3 cups crumbled chocolate sponge cake

For Drizzling:
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate (not used in my buns)

Prepare the chocolate cake adding 20 grams of cocoa powder to this recipe posted earlier in this blog.
You may make any chocolate sponge cake recipe with or omitting eggs.

The dough:
Pour milk and water in a pan and heat it until hot but not boiling. Take off the heat and drop in the butter. Stir and melt the butter in this hot liquid. Add the sugar and dissolve it. Allow the mixture to become lukewarm. Hot liquid will kill the yeast and also curdle the egg if using one.
Transfer the liquid to the kneading bowl. Add the yeast and mix it in. If you are adding egg, add it to the mixture now and whisk together.I added some extra water to the mixture at this point.
Add one cup of the flour to the above and mix. Then add the salt and the rest of the flour and knead well to obtain a soft, elastic dough that is not sticky. Add flour to adjust the consistency of the dough, but do not add too much.
When done, roll the dough and place it a lightly oil coated bowl, turning it in the oil to thinly coat over the dough. cover loosely and keep aside allowing it to double in volume. This may take about an hour to an hour and a half.
Meanwhile crumble the cake and keep the jam ready.

Shaping the buns:
Remove the risen dough and transfer to a flat working surface.
Roll the dough into a rectangle 18"by 12".
Spread the jam over the surface leaving just about 1/2 an inch towards the edges.
Sprinkle the crumbled cake on the jam.

Roll the dough as snugly as possible away from you along the length of the rectangle. This will be like the Swiss roll with the jam, cake and dough contained within.
Pinch to seal well, if needed dampen the edge to ensure that it seals.
Using a sharp knife or the dough scraper into 1&1/2 inch rolls.
Arrange these rolls on paper moulds or making collars around them in a pan, leaving just enough space. If they are too spaced out, the dough might rise in the wider angle while we need it to rise in height.
Make sure that the roll has been done as tightly as possible because these buns swell quite a bit
Cover and leave aside for an hour until almost double.

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Bake the buns for about 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool them on wire racks.
if you choose to drizzle the chocolate, do it after the buns are completely cooled.
Like every other bread, these are best enjoyed fresh. However, keeping them for an extra day does not alter the taste and texture.
I have halved the above recipe to make six buns, though I had one extra bun as I may have cut the rolls smaller. I baked them in a 10" round cake tin.They swelled enough to fill the tin. placing the collars helps as otherwise they tend to stick to each other on the sides, making them pull-apart buns.

For more of these buns please visit Aparna's post and find at the bottom links to other members' buns.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Amrakhand - Mango Flavoured Shrikhand

I had been away from active blogging for some time now. It was a medical emergency that I was in India and having recouped my health well, I am home and to routine. I thought I shall start this new beginning with a sweet dish.
Shrikhand is a popular dessert in the western states of India. It is made of just two main ingredients namely hung curd and sugar. It could be flavoured with saffron and cardamom. It was not introduced to me, who had not travelled far from South Indian states, until my late teens. We were visiting our uncle in Bombay and he bought us shrikhand and few other mithai from a popular shop near where they lived. Today I do not recall taking to the taste, much, despite being fond of sweetened curds. Many years down, we picked up a branded pack of shrikhand flavoured with cardamom, which is when possibly I acquired the taste.
There are versions that a fruit pulp is blended into the curd cheese and sugar added to it. My dish today is the amrakhand which hung yoghurt is blended with mango pulp.
During the season, my fruit vendor offered me two large, juicy and sweet mangoes. I made the sorbet with part of the pulp, mousse and this shrikhand. There was enough for the two of us to last three or four days in mango mania.

I have used in this recipe, some condensed milk. In the warm weather, my home set yoghurt tends to get a bit sour. Using condensed milk is optional. You may place the yoghurt in a strainer with a bowl underneath it and leave it in the refrigerator to drip. You may need to increase the quantity of sugar and adjust according to how sweet your mango is.

Amrakhand - Mango Flavoured Shrikhand
Makes about 750 grams /6-8 servings

2 litres of home set/ store bought, thick, natural yoghurt
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar powdered very fine
1 cup mango pulp blended very smooth

Few strands of saffron mixed in a tablespoon of warm milk
2 pods of cardamom powdered

Chopped pistachio nuts
Chopped almonds
Few pieces of cubed mango

Pour the yoghurt into a cheese cloth. Gently turn the cloth to allow the whey to drip. Place the bundle in a strainer, over a bowl and allow the whey to collect in the bowl.
You may choose to hang the bundle from a height and collect the whey in a bowl placed underneath.
Place the bowl and strainer with the yoghurt in the refrigerator for a few hours until all the whey has drained.
Remove the curd from the cheese cloth into a large bowl.
Puree the mango to a very smooth blend. Add the sugar to the pulped mango.
Add to the curd cheese, condensed milk and blend with a whisk.
Put in the saffron and cardamom and give another whisk.
Gently add the mango and blend until desired consistency and colour is achieved. I used up the entire pulp and my amrakhand was not very thick. This shrikhand was a smooth blended fruit and yoghurt mix.

While serving, garnish with chopped nuts and cubed mangoes.
Serve chilled.
When mangoes are not in season also, if you are able to purchase canned mango pulp, you might enjoy the amrakhand.