Monthly Archives: April 2011

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It’s that time of the month again. The Daring Bakers’ challenge time. I joined the Daring Baker (here on referred as DB) gang in February. I could not complete my first DB challenge. For the March challenge I posted late (all DB members have to post their version of the challenge recipe on the 27th of every month irrespective of when they complete the challenge).  So for the April DB challenge, I really had to get it right and that too on time. Luckily I was at my parents house and not traveling so I got the time to complete the challenge.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

You do not get maple syrup where my parents stay and places in India where you do get it, it is pretty expensive. Luckily, my mom had a bottle of maple syrup which she grudgingly allowed me to use, else I would have had to sit this one out too. I did have a lot of ingredient and other technical issues though because of which things I would have liked to make as containers I couldn’t. It was fun nonetheless.

Since I am still learning my way with gelatin, I did experience some problem with the cooking of the mousse and thought it wouldn’t set but the next day when I checked it had set. I made three different types of mousses to go with the different containers I planned. I divided the mousse into three parts and added flavorings accordingly. To one part I added garam masala, the other I left plain and to the third I added instant espresso powder.

I have made sugar bowls (for my homemade coconut ice cream) and bread tartlets (with caramelized onion fillings) in the past which would have made excellent pairings with the maple mousse (though would suggest you to make some changes in your maple syrup if you using the sugar bowls- it would just become too sweet). But since we were not supposed to use anything from previous posts I came up with the following four containers for this creamy, sweet maple mousse.

One, I made with cucumber and carrots, that I boiled and placed on a plate and microwaved between paper towels with a weight on top (to absorb the water that the vegetables have naturally) . The result was this paper-thin vegetable bowls- which were beautiful (The idea for this came from something I read about vegetable papyrus sometime back). I think they are a very easy and attractive way to dress up any appetizer/dessert. The crispiness of the vegetables contrasted well with the delicateness of the mousse. Also, since I read that the mousse will be very sweet (I did reduce the amount of sugar called for), to pair it with the paper thin vegetable bowls I added a heaping teaspoon of garam masala. I think the taste was great!  You could glaze the bowls at time of serving with some maple syrup to give a nice flavour to the bowls.

One could come up with several variations of these bowls. Even orange rind would be a great combo. I wanted to make zucchini paper bowls as well as lotus roots paper bowls since I though they would pair up well with the sweet mousse but finding ingredients where my parents stay was a task. So I stuck to what I had on hand and with the garam masala mousse the cucumber and carrot bowls were great.

My second attempt at edible containers were nest bowls from noodles. I thought the noodles would give an excellent crunchy and salty contrast to the mousse and oh boy I was right. I paired the noodle nest bowls with the espresso mousse. (While photographing I realised that the mousse actually looked like an egg- making it a fabulous addition for an Easter Day spread!). The espresso mousse was divine. Maple and coffee are a wonderful combination.

I wanted to make waffles bowls to pair with the plain maple mousse but since the waffle iron that my mom has, was packed in some trunk in the garage, I was not be able to make them. Also, since I am not a fan of bacon I did not try any bacon bowls- but I am sure those who like bacon would love the mousse with the bacon.

My plain mousse did not set properly, as a result of which I thought of freezing the mixture for my third shot at an edible container. I decided to make some maple mousse filled white chocolate bites. I put a little melted white chocolate in an ice cube tray. Added some mousse and topped with a mix of white chocolate and dark chocolate and froze the mixture. It made delicious bites.

My fourth edible container was a take on fried ice cream- a Fried Maple Mousse. I had some mousse left of each kind. So, I mixed it all up, all the while thinking- what am I doing mixing garam masala plus coffee plus maple syrup- I can’t be thinking straight, can I? Surprisingly, it tasted quite good. And combine this with deep fried goodness- voila! you have a great dessert!

My favorite, purely based on taste, among the four containers was the espresso mousse in the noodle nest bowl. The prettiest, of course, were the paper thin vegetable bowls. My parents and I had a fun time devouring all the versions.

I was blown away by everybody’s creativity for this challenge. Some really awesome and innovative edible containers. The DB group is a talented lot and be sure to check out everybody’s creation on the Daring Bakers’ site.

I am sorry for not having any pictures for the method I used to make each container. It was the first time I was trying each version and was not sure whether I will be able to pull each off. But, I will try to explain it in the best possible way I can.

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A week back, on this day- Tuesday, I started a new thing on the blog- Garam Masala Tuesdays or as someone I know put it GMT (I tell you, these things are not intentional- they just happen :) !). This Tuesday its my second post for Garam Masala Tuesday and even though I have been in no mood of cooking- it has been a 2 1/2 months long break from cooking- but I had to post something today. How can I start something a week back and not live up to the promise!

Since I had to post, and there were no two ways about it, I thought I would make something that would not require too much effort. And, something that I knew V had eaten rarely in the last 2 1/2 months. And something I love quite dearly. So it had to be Dal Makhani.

Dal Makhani is the quintessential Punjabi dish (Punjab is a state in the northern part of India). Dal means lentils and makhani means buttery; so, literally translated dal makhani reads “buttery lentils”. Dal Makhani, butter naan and butter chicken are staple to Punjabi food- the above three and rajma chawal are always top of every Punjabi’s favorite food list.

Dal makhani is a rich, creamy lentil dish that is traditionally cooked on a low simmer for hours in a pureed tomato and butter gravy. Traditionally, the dal was cooked by leaving overnight on burning charcoal. It is also called Maa ki Dal. Though Maa means mother in Hindi,  Maa is also the name given to whole unskinned black lentils and hence the name for the dish.

If you notice, the common thing to most Punjabi dishes is, yes, you guessed it- butter. Ah, butter- utterly butterly delicious butter! Being a north Indian and a hard core Punjabi, now you know the reason behind my affinity to butter and the reason for my tendency to put on weight. Well, tradition is a tough thing to break from and when tradition comes in the form of butter, you know the battle is lost!

There are lot of different versions of this dish but I like this one as its easy and the results are always great. Plus, there is no chopping involved in the recipe I use (that is exactly why I chose to make it today). And requires very little time in the kitchen. It does take 2 hours for the whole preparation but you are not required to be in the kitchen the whole time.  This dish is great even the next day- so feel free to make a day before you plan to serve it. The dish is great both with rice and with Indian flatbreads like chappati/roti or naan.

Note: Some time back I had posted another lentil recipe. It is one of V’s recipe and IT IS GOOOOOD! Do check it out!

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I have been MIA yet again, missed Easter celebrations too (hope y’all had a great Easter day). These disappearing acts are all thanks to traveling but now my close-to-three-months long India vacation is over and hopefully, jet lag permitting I should be more regular with my posts!

After a very, very long plane journey from Kerala to Phoenix, and then a four hour drive to our town, I am finally at home, back to V- back to married life, back to keeping the home clean, doing the dishes, washing clothes (though the excuse of jetlag is keeping me from doing any of that)!

I must say, that V has kept the house pretty pretty clean. Much cleaner than what I would expect from a guy. Barring the kitchen, I think everything has been pretty much under control. I also got home to flowers (I know- awwww…) and wait for it…..a Macbook! V surprised me with a new laptop for me- an anniversary cum valentine cum his bonus gift :)! (Hmmm….I hope this was not his way of showing how happy he was to have me away for such a long time and the gift was a way to thank me for the peace he had while I was away =/)


Either ways I am a happy girl! And this post comes to you from my new Mac! It is so white that I actually washed my hands before using it.  I am still getting used to the changes. A lot of the Windows OS functions do not work on Mac and I need to figure that out. But its a good thing – that would keep me busy for a while. I need something to keep me occupied. Even though it feels great to be back, I miss home. I miss the hustle bustle in India- the oh so many people- crowded streets, markets- it is just so empty in the US! I am eagerly waiting for my Friday coffee morning now- and catching up with my gang of girls after what seems likes ages.

I am still reeling under my India trip hangover. The last few days in Kerala with my parents were great. I have fallen in love with Kerala food. We had the most amazing prawn curry and king prawns at this resort in Kovalam called Uday Samudara. We had our table right at the beach, which was perfect. The beautiful sea breeze and the noise of the waves splashing made a delicious meal even more special.

I also got a chance to go on a Lion Safari. There is a small national park near Neyyar dam in Kerala where the lions are kept in their natural habitat. We saw two lioness’ and one lion up close from our bus. It was pretty exciting! After that we went to a crocodile farm, but it was sad to see the way the crocodiles were kept in cages. I did notice that crocodiles are pretty lazy reptiles. They just lie around half immersed in water and stay still the whole day. What a life!

But the best part of my Kerala trip, besides the ayurvedic massages, was the trip to the Duke Forest Lodge. Its a 130-acre Rubber plantation and is home to various spice trees and plants including cocoa, vanilla, coffee, cardamom, cloves, pepper, nutmeg. Unfortunately, the vanilla blooming season starts in June so I could not get my hand on any vanilla pods, but the manager told us that in June-July the whole estate smells of Vanilla when the green Vanilla flowers turn black. Its a lovely time to visit the estate.

The manager showed us around the estate, giving us small tidbits now and then.

At the lodge they also grow cacao trees- yes, the trees that give us cocoa, the key ingredient for chocolate, chocolate which is something that most of us can not do without. The Cacao fruit pulp is white and if you suck on them they taste like custard apple. The beans along with the pulp are fermented and then dried, where the pulp trickles off, leaving behind the cocoa beans. The cocoa beans are then shipped off where they are processed to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter, nibs and the likes.

The Lodge is perched in a Rubber plantation. They have about 3000 rubber trees and a good rubber tree gives about 2 bowls of latex sap daily. Each bowl sells for about Rs 80 (roughly $1.50), so it is quite a profitable business for the lodge. The Duke Forest Lodge also is a beautiful place to stay if you plan a trip to Kerala. They have 14-day packages where the stay includes yoga, ayurvedic massages and detoxification meals. They have villas with Jacuzzis and of course, you have the added benefit of being surrounded by spices of all kinds.

And if you are in Kerala, you have to visit the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, which is an architectural wonder. There is a dress code there though- the men have to the Kerala Mundu (white Dhoti- piece of white cloth wrapped around the legs), and keep their chest bare.  The women need to be dressed in a sari. Both the dresses are available for hire or to buy near the temple.

Also one should not miss a ride in the backwaters of Allepey-Kovalam, a trip to the tea plantations in Munnar (unfortunately, my Munnar trip did not happen this time) and the Jewish synagogue, the Kathakali performances, the Chinese net in Cochin. And while you are doing all this, do not forget to feast on the local Kerala cuisine- appam and stew, Kerala parantha, prawn curry, fish curry, coconut water- just thinking about it makes my mouth water. As souvenirs pick up spices from the local markets. In Thiruvananthapuram, you could also go to Sarwaa, in Sasthamangalam where handmade products, organic and ayurvedic ware cover a good part of the shop.

There are a lot of other places to cover in Kerala but these are the ones that I have visited and would recommend.

And since you all have been so patient reading while I have been blabbering non stop, I am posting a recipe too. Its been long since I made a 100% flour recipe and god I miss such breads. Of course whole wheat is healthy and it is tasty, no denying that but its nice to have a no wheat just plain ‘ol flour bread. And this one here hits all the right spots!

This is a bread machine recipe but of course it can be made without one. For making a bread without a machine check this post out.

MILK LOAF

makes 750 gms

Ingredients

  • 50 gm butter, softened, diced
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 260 ml liquid milk
  • 400 gms white bread flour
  • 1 tsp yeast

Method

Put ingredients according to your bread maker’s instructions. Set loaf size to 750 gms and use appropriate cycle.

If you do not have a bread maker, you can see this post.