Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tamra Davis' Apple Cake a.k.a. The GOOP Cake

Tamra Davis' Apple Cake a.k.a. the GOOP Cake
A while ago, Gwyneth Paltrow (of Oscar worthy performances, Coldplay love and Madonna's BFF fame) launched a blog which I outrightedly pooh-poohed and never checked back on again. Because seriously folks, I really didn't need Gwyneth to tell me how to best launder my $4000 designer duds or whether to wear Givenchy or Hermes for a playdate.

Cut to almost a year later, and a relative of mine asked me if I knew of said blog, to which I harshly retorted my above sentiments. Nevertheless, I still took a peek, and I was surprised to see a fairly interesting set of recipes, surprisingly do-able and without $100 ingredients.
Example being this apple and walnut cake - this comes from Tamra Davis, who I think is some kind of celebrity chef (on closer Google inspection, she's the wife of a former Beastie Boy) and it is so simple to put together, my 5 year old could do it. Which she did, and then I proceeded to eat half the cake in one sitting.

Then I stepped out onto the red carpet for my movie premiere without my pants on.
Which is exactly what Gwynnie must be doing every day. Have a slice on me, Gwyneth dear....
(Pic courtesy :

Tamra Davis Apple Cake a.k.a The GOOP Cake (reproduced entirely from GOOP newsletter "Make" # 26)

1 cup sugar
½ stick or 2 ounces butter, melted
½ cup applesauce
1 egg
1¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2½ cups chopped apples (or two large apples)
¾ to 1 cup chopped walnuts

1.Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.Grease baking dish
3.Mix the sugar, butter, applesauce and egg together with a hand mixer.
4.Whisk the dry ingredients together.
5.Blend the wet and dry ingredients and then add the apples and walnuts.
6.Pour into baking dish and bake for 30 to 50 minutes (depending on your pan and oven temp) or until knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

I am sending this simple little cake to Sugar High Fridays June 2009 event - Fruit and Nut hosted by Mansi of Fun and Food. This is my first participation in an event! Woo hoo!!!!!!

How To...Make Indian Cheese - Paneer

Paneer is an un-aged cheese made by curdling hot milk with some sort of acidic agent. It's a drier version of cottage cheese and a close cousin to queso blanco. The reason I started getting fascinated with paneer is that it is typically the only type of cheese that is used in a lot of Indian recipes, and then I found out that its fairly easy to make at home which can give one a lot of boasting rights.
I make my own cheese.

Pretty impressive. Loser.

However, I do have a lot of conviction to make this at home now, because store bought paneer, usually frozen and chock-full of preservatives and well past their prime, tastes absolutely, well, tasteless. It would be the equivalent of grating chalk into your curry.
Soul Food is a hip blog run by an equally hip and talented and cheery web friend of mine, and her exacting post on how to make your own paneer sealed the deal for me. Do check out her post for some awesome tips on how to flavor the paneer as well. What??! You can flavor the cheese too???
Cardamom paneer.
Sweet paneer.
Chilli paneeerr...
Oooohhhh, my head is spinning.

I'm just documenting the method below with some super cheesy pictures (he he), but it was sourced completely from Soul Food.
1. You need full cream or full fat milk. The less percentage fat in the milk, the less cheese you will be able to strip out. In terms of quantity yielded, I used about a litre of milk, and ended up with a a little less than a cup of paneer. Pour your milk into a heavy based pot or stainless steel utensil.

2. Boil up your milk to a roaring boil.

3. Add your curdling agent and take the milk off the heat. Vinegar is the most preferred based on what I've read, but lemon juice comes in a close second. For 1L of milk, I used 100 ml vinegar.

4. As seen above, the cheese curdles from the milk and separates to form a soft grainy mass and a clear liquid (whey). If the whey is yellowish, add a little more vinegar till the whey becomes a light green color. BE CAREFUL, adding too much vinegar at this point will end up affecting the taste of the cheese!! When everything cools down, drain the cheese using a muslin cloth in a colander.

5. After all the whey has drained, gather up the corners of the muslin cloth, and transfer the cheese to a flat surface (that can get wet). Cover the cheese with more muslin cloth. Place a heavy object on top of the cheese (to flatten and drain out the remaining mositure. When sufficiently dry (a few hours to overnight), cube or crumble the cheese and freeze or use right away.

Shards of Paneer

Monday, June 15, 2009

Malai Kofta - Cheese/Paneer Dumplings in Gravy

Malai Kofta - Paneer/Cheese Dumplings in Gravy

On one of my daily travails around the internet, I discovered Maria's blog which is a delightful collection of recipes and South Asian delicacies. There was an interesting 2-in-1 recipe she had for paneer balls, which could be served up as an appetizer, and then an elegant creamy curry that then utilized said dumplings again. This I had to try, especially since I was giddy from having some freshly made paneer ready to go.

Ooops, Paneer. Gots to have some to make this recipe.

But before you all get your bloomers in a twist and blow off this recipe, the Indian version of cottage cheese is surpisingly easy to make at home - and so now that I have mastered the feat of making my own paneer, I don't recommend using the store bought paneer cubes that you see languishing in Asian grocery store freezers. Unless there is someone (emphasis on the ONE in someone) out there who can prove me otherwise, store bought paneer has always tasted like a subtle mixture of chalk and cardboard. And since I have eaten both earnestly in my heady youth, I can attest to that review strongly.

Step 1 - Paneer Dumplings (adapted from Maria's Menu blog)

1 cup crumbled Paneer (cottage cheese)
2 medium Potatoes (boiled & mashed)
Crushed pepper - 1 heaped tsp
Red Chilli flakes - 1 heaped tsp
Garam masala - 1/2 teaspoon
Cornflour - 1-2 tablespoon
Salt - to taste
Oil - for frying

1. Mix potatoes and paneer together in a bowl. I like to do this when the potatoes are still warm so that the paneer cheese gets to melt slightly
2. Add all the seasonings and salt - adjust to taste.
3. Add cornflour and mix thoroughly - this is to help bind the mixture.
4. Form small balls or patties.
5. Fry lightly in hot oil. I chose not to deep fry, but ended up browning the dumplings a little.

At this stage, you may end up scoffing up the paneer balls as they are tasty little treats in of themsleves. Try them with a chilli sauce or dip.

Step 2. Gravy for the Malai Kofta Curry (reproduced entirely from Marias Menu blog)

2 medium onions - sliced
Tomato puree - made from 2,3 tomatoes
Gingergarlic paste - 1 tablespoon
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 tablespoon
Chilli powder - 1 tablespoon
Garam masala - 2 teaspoon
Cream - 1 cup

1.Cook sliced onions in 2 cups water. Make sure you have the vent fan going, this is going to "smell" a little...
2.Once the onions have cooked (they will look blanched and lighter in color), drain the water completely and grind the onions into a smooth paste.
3.Heat oil in a pan and saute onion paste.
4.After 5 minutes add ginger garlic paste and saute for 2,3 minutes.
5.Add all the spice powders and stir for 5 minutes or until the oil starts forming a layer on top.
6.Add tomato puree and once the puree is mixed well in the gravy add the cream.
7.After 5 minutes, remove from heat. Spread prepared koftas in a plate and pour the gravy over it.

This is best served with a mixed fried rice or Indian bread like Naan or Paratha.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ginger Honey Hoisin Chicken

Ginger Honey Hoisin Chicken
This recipe appeared in our local newspaper's Foodie section which highlighted recent winners in this year's National Chicken Cooking Contest, held at the Culinary Institute of America - San Antonio. This little gem was submitted by Ruth Kendrick from Ogden, Utah and what drew me to trying it out myself was
a) it used thigh meat, I really don't have much passion for chicken breast meat
b) it had ingredients that were all on hand and I didn't have to do the mad dash to the grocery store
c) well, it just darn looked good.

Loved it! I like the sauce that it results in, so its a perfect pairing with white rice or noodles. I served mine up with plain rice stick noodles and blanched broccoli. The kids had seconds. C'mon now - that should be testament enough.

Ginger Scented Honey Hoisin Chicken Thighs - Ruth Kendrick - (as appeared in Houston Chronicle Flavor section)
1 Tbsp cooking oil
8 boneless,skinless chicken thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (I omitted, purely because I forgot)
1/4 cup sliced green onions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
2.Add oil to a skillet big enough to hold allthe chicken. Over medium heat, add chicken and lightly brown on all sides.
3.In a small saucepan, mix soy sauce, honey, hoisin, chicken broth, ginger and pepper. Bring mixture to boil and simmer to reduce sauce (I preferred to have a little sauce to accompany the chicken, so I did not reduce much). Pour sauce over chicken to coat, and add to a baking dish.
4. Bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until internal temperature is > 165 degrees.
5. Stir in sesame seeds and green onions, serve with plain white rice or noodles.
(Because of the variety of sauces used, there wasn't a need to add salt, but add to taste if required...)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Fruit Kuchen

Summer Fruit Kuchen
With grocery stores now brimming with summer produce, it was a no-brainer for me to try this recipe that caught my eye in Woman's Day magazine. A Kuchen is a buttery cake with a crumb topping, usually chock full of fruit, and it hails from Germany, though some Romanians also lay claim to its ancestry.
This cake is super easy to whip up, and it was devoured in my household the day it was made. It was so good, I made it for the better half's birthday, and stuck a candle it. Yes, I'm manipulative.
Lots of butter, but maybe the hint of fruit makes this somewhat healthy? But coming back to reality, I used peach, plum and blueberries as the recipe originally calls for, but this cake would be versatile with almost anything. Apples would be a great substitute.

Summer Fruit Kuchen - Source - Woman's Day Magazine - July 2009
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks softened unsalted butter (3/4 cup)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cup blueberries
1 ripe peach, pitted and cut in wedges
1 ripe plum, pitted and cut in wedges

Crumb Topping:
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

Optional: Confectioners sugar for dusting (I omitted)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 in. square baking pan with non-stick foil (or spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray).
2.Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Beat butter and sugar till smooth.
4. Beat in eggs and vanilla to butter mixture until just combined.
5. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture and milk until blended.
6. Fold in 1/2 of the blueberries into the batter.
7. Pour batter into prepared cake pan.
8. Scatter remaining blueberries onto batter, and arrange plum and peach slices on top.
9. Prepare Topping -
In a small bowl, rub all ingredients for topping with fingers till it resembles clumps and the butter has been distributed evenly.
10.Bake 55 - 60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (The cake will rise slightly during baking).
11. Cool cake, lift out of pan by holding the ends of the foil.
12. Nom, nom, nom :-)