Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving thanks

Lately, it has been feeling as though we're enveloped in the a Tolkienian dark times of the world and I seemed to be forever asking for something. So when a few years ago, my close friend from Sweden decided to do a traditional Thanksgiving, I jumped at the opportunity. It was an opportunity for optimism. Neither she nor I are Americans, but this US holiday was just the thing we needed.
I remember before that meal, when we started giving thanks, I thought there was nothing going right in my life: I had gone through a major operation, a divorce, and was living far away from family, trying to cope with everything. But then, in a moment, my list of good happenings started growing. I had survived. I was in fair health. I had fantastic friends with me. Soon the list got longer and longer. The tradition stuck in my life. I have celebrated Thanksgiving ever since, and it has always given me a fresh perspective on life.

For this year's thanksgiving, I made a cran-goji berry sauce, which if I am to say so myself, turned out finger licking good! The goji berries give a wonderfully sweet fragrance to the sauce, complementing the tartness of the cranberries. The cumin adds a nice smokiness to the sauce.

Cran-goji berry sauce:

1/2 cup cranberries (dried)
1/2 cup goji berries (dried)
3/4 cup orange juice (preferrably with pulp)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tspn cumin powder
2 to 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar (depending on how tart the cranberries are, and how sweet you want the sauce to be)
pinch of salt.

Soak the berries in a bowl of water until they plump back up. (I think you can use fresh cranberries but I decided to go with dried since I had dried goji berries on hand) Add the rest of the ingredients and boil until the berries are soft. The sauce thickens as it cools. And it's even better the next day!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kaiypakya theeyal

This thick aromatic, curry with kaiypakya or bitter gourd reminds me of festivals at my mother's home. Onam after the monsoons and Vishu heralding the spring and new year demands this curry at the feast. So when Sujala asked for my mom's recipe, I went directly to the source for the authentic formula. So here it is, Sujala especially for you with comments from mummy. Thanks, Vaishali for passing on Sujala's request to me.

1 bitter gourd
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilly powder (add more if you like your curry hot, really also depends on how hot the chilly powder is)
tamarind pulp
1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut
4 tspn coriander seeds
1/4 medium onion
curry leaves
mustard seeds.

Chop the bitter gourd into small pieces (Remove seeds if they are mature. If the gourd is too bitter, just rinse it in cold water. If you want to remove all the bitterness, wash in salted water. Try not to, however since most of the nutrients get washed off as well).
Fry the gourd in a little (very little) oil, keep aside.
Boil some water with turmeric, chilly powder, salt. Cook the gourd.
Add tamarind pulp (My comment: I added about a tablespoon but then the pulp was too sour so I added a bit of sugar to cut the sourness)

Meanwhile, roast the coconut, till it gets brown, keep aside. Then roast coriander seeds, keep aside. Then roast the onion, curry leaves. Grind well with a little water.
Add to the bitter gourd. Boil for a few minutes. Turn heat off. The curry should be nice and thick.

In a small kadai, add oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves (Wait for the mustard seeds to splutter before adding the curry leaves).  Pour this seasoning into the curry.
You can also make this curry with pearl onions in a similar fashion.

Enjoy with parboiled rice. (And other Malayali curries.) And ofcourse fried pappadams

Here is a wonderful variation by Sujala Chaudhari. She substituted Arbi (Colocasia, a form of Taro) for bitter gourd. She couldnt upload the picture so I had to put it in the body of the posting.
Here is Sujala's Arbi theeyal. Wonderful substitution, thanks for the suggestion, Sujala!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Contessa's chocolate cake with mandarin hearts

Chocolate cake cravings are uncontrollable. When you want to have it, you got to have it. So today I baked, different because I rarely bake, its very difficult for me to stick to exact quantities.

This is a take on Barefoot Contessa's chocolate cake.

Dry ingredients:
1 and 3/4 cups A.P. flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients:
1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
 2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
four shots espresso

1/2 to 3/4 can preserved mandarin

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter a bundt cake pan, and flour it.

Sift the dry ingredients together, and combine them thoroughly. Combine the wet ingredients and then add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine at low speed. Add the espresso. Pour half the batter into the pan, lay mandarin slices on top and pour the remaining batter. Bake for about 45 min.

Next time I shall add 1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped almonds. The cake batter is a bit thin. But the cake turns out really moist and very chocolatey.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What a fruitcake!

I know that this may bring on guffaws, but fruitcake is serious business. Especially rum-fruit cake. The 'aunties' I know from Kerala would make this a good week before Christmas because they sit so well and they taste better and moister as time goes by. I found several recipes (a wonderful one here) online and finally decided on a combination to make this cake.

Raisins - 1/4 pound
Dates- 1/4 pound
Candied fruits, Orange
and Lemon peel - 1/4 cup
Plum, Cherry, Cranberry,
other dried fruits - 1/4 cup
Gold Rum - 1/4 cup
Cashewnuts(chopped) - 1/2 cup

Chop up the dried fruits, mix the fruits with rum. Keep at room temperature for a day.

    All purpose flour - 1 cup
    Baking powder - 1 tsp
    Cinnamon powder - 1/4 tsp
    Nutmeg powder - 1/4 tsp
    Cloves powder- 1/4 tsp
    Ginger powder - 1/4 tsp

    Butter - 1 stick, softened
   Sugar - 1 cup

Eggs - 3
Salt - 1 tsp
Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, cloves powder and dry ginger powder well. Sieve it if needed. Add fruits, nuts to the flour and mix well.

Whisk the butter and add sugar and whisk well, until it is creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, salt and then the flour mix, mix well. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.  Pour batter into the pan and bake. Cool the cake on a cooling rack, cover the cake with tin foil, refrigerate for about 3-4 days.