Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pistachio Rouille

So I have ooh'ed and aahh'ed about Chef Marcus Samuelsson before, and this recipe comes from his cookbook "The Soul of A New Cuisine".
Rouille is a garlicky younger cousin of mayonnaise or a tarty sister-in-law of aioli, to be used as a condiment with grilled fish and white meats.

I also read about peoples spectacular failures at homemade attempts at it, since it involved emusifying olive oil into raw egg.

Oooops, wait, did someone say RAW EGG?

So when I saw Samuelsson's recipe had no trace of raw egg in it, and instead, utilized a big happy potato, I was ALL FOR IT.
Potatoes or Po-TAH-toes and I, you see, have NO problems getting along.

And as a sidebar, this is really supposed to be a CONDIMENT. But in our house it translated into full-on Gravy status, knocking the poor little salad into the background, and quite possibly usurping the main dish as well.
Rouille is typically used in Provencal cooking , as a garlicky side note for dishes like bouillabaisse and grilled chicken. It is extremely tart and the garlic will pack a punch, so be warned. A little goes a LONG way, but I loved how it kicks up the dish a notch. And again, kudos for the cheftastic genius in adding pistachios into this dish, which adds another note of elegance.
I'm also seeing a lot of potato being used as a substitute for egg based dishes, and I wonder why. If anyone knows the science behind it, do let me know....
Pistachio Rouille (adapted slightly from Soul of a New Cuisine , Marcus Samuelsson)

2 Tbsp pistachios
4 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 cup EVOO
salt and pepper

1. Toast pistachios till fragrant. Cool.
2. Transfer to blender, add all remaining ingredients except oil, blend on low speed.
3. With blender running add oil in a slow steady stream.
4. Season with salt and pepper.
Use immediately. (I found the rouille didn't keep very well over the next few days, so it's best used fresh, else the oil startes to separate out and the texture changes).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers - Indonesian Ginger Chicken

Here comes a quick and easy recipe from the Barefoot Bloggers this month. Yes, I am trying to get back up to speed on this group after falling off their wagon the last few months! Todd of A Cooking Dad has chosen this recipe for January.

Save for the overnight marination, this dish is a snap to put together. Marinate chicken in a blend of garlic, ginger, soy sauce and honey, and then bake for a yummy treat. The kids should take to this dish because of the sweetness of honey. I personally love ginger and garlic on any type of meat, so this dish was a done deal from the get-go.

I didn't quite follow the quantities in the
original recipe because I used chicken legs/drumsticks as opposed to a whole chicken, so my quantities are reflected below. I also added some crushed red chilli flakes for some heat and added a tablespoon of Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) for kicks!

If there was anything I would do differently the next time, I will puree the ginger and garlic in the soy marinade in a blender to get a more uniform "sauce".

Thanks Tod for a great choice!

Indonesian Ginger Chicken (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp Kecap Manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
10 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
8 chicken legs

1. Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. (Add salt to taste if using reduced sodium soy sauce). Add Kecap Manis and red chilli flakes if using.
2. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce.
3. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
5. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F.
7. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices from the meat run clear and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Indian Cooking Challenge - Moong Dal Halwa (Split Mung Bean Dessert)

The ICC (Indian Cooking Challenge) is the brainchild of Srivalli, and her aim is to get all who are interested to attempt heirloom Indian recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. However with our increasingly modernized lifestyles, some of these recipes are being side-stepped or forgotten, so there in itself is the challenge!

I'm a sucker for Internet food groups as can be seen by my growing blog sidebar (and waistline!). This month's challenge was Moong Dal Halwa, a North Indian specialty dessert or sweet treat made with moong dal (split mung beans), clarified butter, milk and sugar. I found it interesting that this dish is apparently only made in winter months, since it has such a high protein and fat content, it actually helps to keep the body warm!

Challenge - I've never tasted, let alone seen, this dish. But following along with Srivalli's exact recipes, I took to the kitchen.

Moong Dal Halwa (Recipe Version 2 With Milk from from Srivalli, with help from Lata and Simran)

Split (Yellow) Moong Dal - 1 cup
Ghee/Clarified Butter - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 3/4 cups to 1 cup (as per required sweetness)
Milk - 1/2 cup
Cashews/ Raisins roasted in ghee for garnish.


Make sure you get the right dal. I first bought split mung beans WITH skin (green in color) and came home to realize this recipe is made with split mung beans WITHOUT skin (yellow in color). Return to store and get the right dal before beginning =).

1. Dry roast the dal in a dry saucepan over medium heat till the lentils are heated through.
This is a melt-in-your-mouth dessert, you can really taste the richness of the clarified butter/ghee in this dish, I don't think I even used the full amount called for in the recipe. I love the taste of the cashew nuts and raisins with it, I think they are an integral addition, rather than optional. Thanks ICC for letting me in on this challenge!

2. Soak the dal in water overnight.

3. Next morning, grind dal with a little water to a paste. I forgot to take a picture of this.4. Heat a non-stick saucepan, take only 1/2 of the ghee called for and heat it.

5. Add the dal and stir continuously, not allowing lumps to form. This part is very tricky as the dal cooks really fast, irrespective of the ghee. Well they did say tricky, and I obviously got it wrong. My dal turned into a giant lumpy mess. This dessert started looking like the McClump Special.6. Turn heat low and keep stirring even after the dhal becomes thick. No luck for me, still clumpy.
7. Add the rest of the ghee intermittently and cook the dal until aromatic and the ghee starts oozing out. Still no luck...At this point, even the cherubic baby on the ghee jar is strarting to laugh at me. Look at him! he's trying so hard to stifle his grin...

8. Meanwhile mix the sugar with water/ milk in a pan and bring to a boil. Add this slowly to the dal. I thought perhaps this step may redeem me, maybe, oh just maybe the milk would dissolve my lumps?

9. Keep the heat on low at all times and break lumps if formed while adding the sugar and water/ milk mix. Cook until the ghee surfaces or the mixture becomes shiny. Yes! We have shiny!!!10. Garnish with cashews and raisins. OK, this part I could do! * triumphant*

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chocolate Truffle Gateau

You know you are getting old when.....

  • You wake up the morning of your birthday and decide to bake your own cake

  • You pick up a foreign magazine, written in a foreign language (മലയാളം), and decide on the spot. Yes! That one right there. That's the cake you'll make.

  • Never mind the fact that the recipe is also written in said foreign language.

  • But you're too old to let trivial matters like that stop you.

  • It's other facts like not even putting a representative number of candles on your cake that are more worrisome.

  • Four? Four times Four + Four = nah, that didn't work....

  • But at least the candles were hot pink.
This recipe for Chocolate Truffle Cake came from the Chef De Partie at the CG Hearth Experience Hotel Group, Kochi, Kerala. But it wasn't that guests in the Brunton Boatyard Hotel below were strolling around and eating this cake that got me.

Nope, it was pretty much the word Chocolate. (And even after making the cake, I'm still not sure where the Truffle part comes in).....

This cake is a light sponge, doused in a rum-infused sugar syrup and then coated in a silky chocolate cream. Happy Birthday To Me wrapped up all in there. I made this cake in Decemebr for my birthday....

After several text messages to people asking if "jhg%^$^$&" means 6 eggs or 7 eggs, I deciphered the recipe and it turned out pretty good. The kids devoured the icing, but didn't think the sponge underneath was that hot. The husband solidly ate through two-thirds of the cake. Moi, I'm still working off the combined effects of 6 eggs in a cake. Or was it 7? =)
Alas, this recipe was in good ol' Continental measure, so break out yer grams and yer millilitres, because that handy-dandy web conversion tool I had on the side of this blog seems to have gone missing. (R.I.P. Culiverter, though I'm sure there are just a few bazillion other web converting tools out there for your perusal).
Chocolate Truffle Cake (As seen (and meticulously translated via text messaging) in Vanitha magazine. My definition of "meticulous")

Sponge Cake

Flour - 135 grams
Cocoa Powder - 1 heaped Tbsp
Baking Powder - 1/2 tsp
Eggs - 6
Sugar - 200 grams
Hot milk - 5 Tbsp

"Truffle" Cream
Grated Dark Chocolate - 150 grams (I used Baker's SemiSweet Chocolate)
Heavy Cream - 150 grams

Sugar Syrup
Sugar - 100 grams
Water - 250 ml
Lemon juice - a few drops
Rum - 2 Tbsp

1. Preheat oven to 235 degrees Celsius/ 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare Sponge -
3. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder in a bowl.
4. Beat eggs and sugar together in another bowl till creamy.
5. Add hot milk to the egg and sugar mixture whilst beating continuously.
6. Fold in the flour mixture from (3) into the egg-sugar-milk mixture in small increments until just combined
7. Pour batter into a greased cake tin and bake in pre-heated oven for 8 minutes. Yes, people - 8 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick if you don't believe.
8. Prepare Truffle Cream -
9. Put cream and chocolate in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir till chocolate melts.
10. Allow to cool, and refridgerate truffle cream for a minimum of 2 hours.
11. Prepare Sugar Syrup -
12. Heat water and sugar in a pot over medium heat. After the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add lemon juice. If any sediments rise to the top, spoon these off and discard, and add rum.
12. Assemble Cake -
13. My cake did not rise that much, so I got two layers, but depending on your preference, slice the cake into as many layers as you want.
14. Brush the layers (sides and underneath as well) with the sugar syrup.
15. Spread truffle cream between the layers, and place layers back on top of each other.
16. Use the remaining truffle cream (heat if necessary to get a little better spreading consistency) to spread over the top of the cake and sides.

This cake is going over to Dil Se for the event "Show Me Your Cake".

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yellow Bell Pepper and Corn Rice


This quick and easy recipe came from the delightful cookbook "The Soul of a New Cuisine" by Chef Marcus Samuelsson. I have been drooling over this cookbook for the past month and it has earned an esteemed place right on my bedside table.
The cookbook is a well-researched and exotic collection of recipes from different regions of Africa. I was thrilled to see this cookbook in the library as I've always found it hard to find a definitive source of authentic and good recipes from the African continent. I believe the Berber and North African countries have been well represented in the cookbook arena to date, but the Central and Southern African countries have not.

Well, not until I came across this gem! Whilst the collection of recipes and Samuelsson's interpretive take on many regional delicacies is brilliant, it is the beautiful photography of the dishes and this spectacular continent that made me go out and purchase it outright.
 This is a simple accompaniment dish for a spicy meal. Samuelsson literally douses the rice in turmeric, I opted not to as I personally find turmeric to have quite a pungent after-taste when used in great quantities. I was startled but impressed to find the clever addition of golden mango and yellow tomatoes in this dish too, carrying forward the "yellow" theme. I opted not to add them, but should I find them in season, I will definitely be revisiting this dish again!
 Yellow Bell Pepper and Corn Rice (loosely adapted from "The Soul of A New Cuisine")

2 Tbsp oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, mashed with salt
1 heaped tsp turmeric (original recipe uses 1 Tbsp!!)1 tsp cumin powder
1 cup long grain rice
1 small red chili, finely chopped
salt to taste
2 cups yellow corn
2 1/2 cups stock
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cored, diced
1 Tbsp chopped green onion
(Original recipe also included 1 yellow tomato and 1 peeled yellow mango, chopped)

1. Heat oil in large saucepan.
2. Add onion, garlic, turmeric and cumin and saute till onion is translucent.
3. Add rice, chili, bell pepper, corn and ~1/2 tsp salt (or to taste). Stir fry rice, stirring continuously to ensure it does not burn.
4. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover saucepan and let it cook till all liquid is absorbed.
5. If using tomato and mango, fold into rice, adjust salt to taste and remove from heat. Garnish with scallions and serve hot.

This post has been dusted off and is now heading over to Padmajha at Seduce Your Tastebuds for the A.W.E.D African Event April 2010. The A.W.E.D Culinary Journey event was originally created by DK of Chef In You.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bread of the Seraglio (Aysh Al Saraya) - Cuisine of Lebanon

Off we travel to Lebanon, brought to you by the letter "L" and the Walima Middle Eastern Challenge Club. The club decided on the savoury dish Sheesh Barak and the beautiful sounding dessert - Bread of the Seraglio.

Minor problem, they decided on this a MONTH ago, and I am only posting it now, because I am what I am. It also starts with the letter "L"... Any guesses?

I fixed on dessert, because
a) I have an insane sweet tooth.
b) The dish had such a romantic name - Bread of the Seraglio....*sigh*
c) I tell you, I really have an insane sweet tooth. Sheesh Barak will have to wait another day. Sheesh......

But back to the Seraglio, which means harem by the way. Picture yourself in the Alhambra or some other dizzyingly beautiful Moorish palace...
There in the lush gardens,beautiful women lazily strum their musical instruments and are fed spoonfuls of this dessert by cherubic, dancing children.........
Till they tasted the dish churned out by their newbie cook Split Al-Pear, and they wrinkle their pretty noses in horror and run away...
Bread of the Seraglio (Aysh Al Saraya) is a Middle Eastern bread pudding composed of bread cooked in caramel, then layered with ashta and finally doused with pistachios. Heavenly. But how could I make this this go wrong?
I erred with this dish on two counts.
1. Because it specifically said to use stale white bread. And I did NOT. Well, I thought I did, I used good ol' Wonder White Bread which I rarely buy, and left it out for 2 days, only to find it as cheery and fresh as the day I bought it. So I still went and used it. When soaking it in the caramel, it became very mushy. In hindsight, I should have toasted the bread. Strike 1.
I also believe if there is a Nuclear War, there will be two things left on this planet when everything else is wiped out. Wonder Bread and Paris Hilton....
2. I let the sugar caramelize to a deep brown. Deep brown caramel has a slightly acid taste, which is fine in caramel puddings like Caramel Flan where it balances well with the eggs and milk. In this dessert, there are no eggs and milk, so my dessert turned out a little too cloyingly sweet and tart. Strike 2.
All in all, a great dessert despite my slight failure, and I thank the combined duo of Joumana of Taste of Beirut and Arlette of Phoenician Gourmet for coming up with this challenge.
Bread of the Seraglio

1 round loaf white bread, about 8 inches in diameter, 1 day old
9 ounces golden superfine sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
scant 1/2 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cups Lebanese clotted cream or Ashta
2 tablespoons pistachios, ground medium-fine

1. Cut off the bread crusts and reserve the rest of the white bread.
2. Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in a deep frying pan and place over medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring constantly, so that the sugar does not crystallize in places, for about 10-20 minutes or until it is caramelized.
3. Towards the end of the cooking time, measure 7 ounces of water and bring to a boil in a teakettle. When the sugar is caramelized, start adding the hot water gradually without taking the sugar mixture off the heat. Be very careful, because the sugar will start spluttering and you could burn yourself!
4. Pour the boiling syrup all over the bread and transfer the soaked bread to the pan.
5. Place over medium heat and cook pressing the bread with the back of a spoon to mash it and make it soak up the syrup.
6. Slide the bread into a serving dish, spreading it evenly across the dish. Let it cool then cover the bread entirely with ashta.
7.Chill then cover with pistachios right before serving.


How to Make Clotted Cream - Ashta/Qashta

Ashta/Clotted Cream is a sweet, thick cream used frequently in Middle Eastern desserts. It is typically made by a painstaking process of boiling down full cream milk, but I saw this post on Joumana's breathtaking site Taste of Beirut and I had to try her at-home method for making this delightful thick cream because I was set to make the Lebanese dessert Bread of the Seraglio.

I think its use can be expanded to pastries and cakes as well, and I can't wait to try it out. But in the meantime I think I'm just going to dip myself into the bowl above and lie in it for a while. I'm sure Cleopatra would approve...
Homemade Ashta/Clotted Cream
2 cups half-and-half
2 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 heaped tsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp rose water

1. Dice the bread.
2. Heat milk, add cornstarch, sugar and bread pieces whilst stirring.
3. Reduce heat to low, and continue stirring until milk starts to thicken and become lumpy.
4. Remove from heat, add flavourings.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pain de Campagne - French Country Bread

So, of course, I had to choose the old-school, 12 hour process for baking bread. But that is quintessential me, stubborn as an ox in my convictions. This was the bread I had to make if I was ever going to bake bread from scratch.

This was also my first attempt at a step-by-step picture guide...phew...

Pain de Campagne (French Country Bread) (from the novel
Bread Alone with Recipes, by Judith Ryan)

All of poolish (starter/pre-ferment)
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp yeast
5 1/2 cups to 6 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour (I used white wheat flour)
1 Tbsp kosher or sea salt

1. When poolish is ready, it will be bubbly and loose. Scrape it into a bowl and add water and yeast and stir till the poolish is broken up and mixture is frothy.


2. Add flour one cup at a time until dough becomes difficult to stir, then turn out onto a well-floured board.


3. Knead for 10-12 minutes, add flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Add salt and knead further for another 5-7 minutes. Whoever said kneading is therapeutic kneads to have their head checked....This was serious elbow grease people...


4. Dough will be quite sticky, but do not add more flour than absolutely necessary as this can dry out the bread. A moist dough yields a chewy interior.
5. When you press your finger into the dough and it springs back, then you can stop kneading. Hallelujah! You have no idea how many times I was trying that test. Clean out the bowl and oil it. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl, turning it to coat the surface with oil. This prevents a dry crust from forming which can inhibit rising.


6. Cover the bowl with a damp bowl and let the dough rise till doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours. If you press your finger into the dough, and the indentation remains, it's risen enough.


7. Deflate the dough. Ka-POW!! Finally, some emotions come into play. Ermmm, the author said to deflate the dough GENTLY. Oops....


8. Uh oh, looks like Mr.Dough was upset at my Ninja moves.


9. Let the dough "rest" covered with a wet cloth for about 30 minutes.


10. Dust a baking sheet lightly with cornmeal.


11. Cut the dough into two pieces, shape into baguettes and place on the baking sheet floured with cornmeal. Place floured dish towels between and on the sides of the loaves for support. Dust tops with flour, cover with damp towels and proof (let them rise) for 1.5 - 2 hours or until they increase in size about 1 1/2 times. Are you starting to realise that this is the Artisan Bread in ONE Whole Day method?


12. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and boil water in a teakettle. When bread has risen, make diagonal slashes with a serrated knife. I left the shapes as baguettes, or you can shape the dough into circles, overlapping the ends and pinching them together to form a couronne.


13. Adjust oven rack so that it is in the center. Fill a heavy pan with the boiling water from the kettle and place it on the bottom shelf of the oven. *Sigh* I let you into the greasy innards of my oven...


14. Place the bread on the middle shelf and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lower the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when bottom crust is thumped.
15. Turn off oven, prop the door open slightly and let bread sit for 5 more minutes.
16. Remove bread and cool on racks. Resist the urge to cut or break off a chunk until the bread has cooled completely.

Houston...We HAVE HOMEMADE BREAD!!!!!!

One baguette for me and the other off to YeastSpotting!

Don't Be So Poolish

Don't Be So Foolish...would be the nagging mantra playing in my mind. The reason - the Fear of Baking Bread.

Breadaphobia. How could it be? I'm a breadaholic for crying out loud! Give me a slab of hot bread, some butter (marmalade would be nice too, thank you ma'am) and a cuppa tea and I'll be your friend for life. I can subsist on bread alone if given the chance. So why won't I buckle down and make one? No Knead Bread came and went in an Internet uproar. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes was acquired, thumbed through and neatly stored away in my collection, yet I was scared to take the first step....

Well 2010 is here, and my new Years Resolution was to bake bread. By Jove!

When reading the novel Bread Alone, the December choice at This Book Makes Me Cook, I kept coming back to a recipe that the protagonist uses to bake a rustic French loaf as a peace offering for her friend. Talk about coming back. The book went into overdue status at the library and it was a mounting fine that whipped my sorry behind into embarking on this bread making exercise.

The recipe invoked the use of poolish which is a wet sponge starter for making rustic country breads e.g. Pain de Campagne.

But before we get to the nitty gritty...errrmmm....why is it called Poolish? Lore has it that this form of preferment or starter was brought to France, Austria and Beyond by Polish bakers. "Poolish" is an old English term used to refer to anything Polish..ta da. This same type of starter is also called biga by Italian bread makers.

Poolish for Pain De Campagne (from the novel Bread Alone with Recipes, by Judith Ryan)
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour.

1. Dissolve yeast in water, then stir in flour. Beat the batter for about a hundred srokes to develop the gluten.


2. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let it sit for 2 - 8 hours at room temperature. The longer the better. Or let poolish develop refrigerated for up to 12 - 15 hours. Allow refrigerated poolish to come back to room temperature before baking bread.

Now go and check out the step-by-step tutorial for the Pain de Campagne that I made using this poolish.
And just between the two of us, how many times did you giggle when reading the word poolish...?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year and Welcome 2010!

Happy New Year to All of You!!
I hope your 2010 is filled with friends, family and good health.

Now I'm off to bake some bread, my New Years Resolution itself!