Thursday, November 8, 2012

Semolina Cake - Basbousa or Namoura

I hope everyone has had a wonderful Halloween. Halloween passed without much fanfare in our family, but something that has been receiving a lot of attention by my family lately is this semolina and coconut cake. Even though everybody in our family has different preferences when it comes to food in general, this cake was relished by all of us, not once but three times last month. This cake doesn't have a cakey texture but it is very soft, moist and slightly crumbly. It smells heavenly from the rosewater and tastes even better on the second day.  

It goes by many different names and is wildly popular in Greek, Turkey, throughout the Levant and the North African countries, since many of these countries share a common Ottoman heritage. 
The recipe varies a great deal though, some contain eggs while others don't, some include yogurt while others include milk, some made with butter or clarified butter and others with vegetable oil, some with coconut and others without. I made it egg-less and without milk to store it a little longer. A piece of this delectable semolina cake, and perhaps a cup of Moroccan mint tea, is everything you need to be transcended to another world in this autumn cold. 


2 cups (350 g) fine semolina (cream of wheat)
1/2 cup (35 g) unsweetened, desiccated coconut
1/2 cup (100 g) caster sugar
150 g melted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup (200 g) plain Turkish yogurt (10 %)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
20-30 blanched almonds or almond flakes (for garnish)


1 cup water
1 cup (225 g) caster sugar
1 1/2 tbs rose water
3 tsp lemon or lime juice


To blanch the almonds, boil the water until it is hot and bubbly. It will take about 7-8 minutes with the lid on. Place the almonds in a small bowl and pour about half of the hot water over the almonds and put a lid on. Allow the almonds to soak in the hot water for about 10 minutes. Take an almond out and rub it between your fingers. If the skin doesn't come off easily allow the almonds to soak for a little longer. If they come off easily, pour the water out and start blanching all the almonds. Spread the almonds on a dry towel and pat dry and keep them in the towel overnight. I cut the almonds into halves but if you find that difficult, you could use whole almonds or store-bought almond flakes.  
The syrup has to be at room temperature and the cake should be warm when you pour the syrup over the cake, so you have to prepare the syrup before baking the cake. To make the syrup, boil the sugar and the water at medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Then add the lemon juice and remove the scum (if any) that floats to the top. Add the rosewater and boil until the syrup thickens a little (if you stir with a spoon, it will coat the back of the spoon and if you touch it, the syrup will feel a little thick and slimy). Don't let the syrup boil for a long time and thicken up too much though, it means less syrup. It will take about 15 minutes to boil the syrup. Once ready, remove from stove and allow to come to room temperature.  

In a large bowl, mix the semolina and the baking soda. Then add the coconut, sugar and salt and mix well. Add the melted butter and yogurt and mix well with a spoon until well combined and it comes together. With 3/4 cup yogurt it all came together for me but you could add a little bit more if you have difficulty it combining everything. Either way, the batter will be thick and come together, almost like a dough. Lightly butter a 27 cm (about 10 inch) non-removable cake p
an/pie plate before placing parchment paper (so that the paper doesn't move) and then lightly butter the sides and the bottom (if you use a cake pan with removable bottom, there is a risk that the syrup runs down the sides). Spoon in the cake batter and even it out on top with a spoon. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes. Then cut the cake into diamonds or squares (before baking it). Place the blanched almonds or almond flakes in the middle of each diamond/square and gently press them down a little.

Bake the cake at 175 C (350 F) in a preheated oven, in the middle rack for about 20 minutes first. Take the cake out and gently cut it into diamonds/squares again (if you cut the cake when it is fresh out of the oven, it might crumble. This is why it is good to cut it before it is fully baked). Place the cake back into the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until it looks golden and crisp on top. Take the cake out
and spread the syrup slowly and evenly on top of the cake. Allow the cake to soak up the syrup for a couple of hours or overnight and cool down to room temperature. Then cut the cake again when it has cooled down before serving. You can keep the cake refrigerated, and warm it up before serving. You have to warm it up before serving, otherwise it will feel like a brick. I don't warm up the whole cake, only the pieces that are to be served - a few seconds in the microwave is enough. You can keep it refrigerated for up to 1 1/2 weeks.     

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How to make lemon curd?

This was meant to be a "How to make lemon curd" post that left me with some egg whites that I didn't have the heart to throw away. I usually keep the leftovers in the fridge for later use (which never happens anyway). However this time, the egg whites came to good use. The lemon curd, the crushed meringue and some whipped cream made a simple yet satisfying dessert. It's relatively easy to make and I have tried to be as detailed as I can but if there is anything that is not clear, let me know.

For those of you who are not familiar with lemon curd, it is like custard but less sweet with an intense flavour from lemons. It's also sometimes described as lemon-flavoured butter. Whichever way you look at it - it is delicious! The only downside is that they can't be refrigerated for too long (generally upto one week). Feel free to taste and adjust the amount of sugar in the lemon curd. Since I had the lemon curd with meringue, which is very sweet, I made mine very tangy.

(About 6 servings)
Lemon Curd:
3 large egg yolks
50 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 tbs caster sugar (for the lemon syrup)
1/3-2/3 cup caster sugar
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbs lemon zest

3 large egg whites
2/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt or cream of tartar

To assemble:
2/3 cup whipping cream (I used 40 %)
4 tbs icing sugar/confectionar's sugar
1 tsp vanillin sugar/vanilla extract
Fresh fruits or berries (for garnish)

To cook the lemon curd you could use a double boiler or place a glass bowl with 1 inch of water on the stove. Make sure that the bowl on top does not touch the water underneath. I personally prefer not to cook the lemon curd in a double boiler or metal bowls because the lemon reacts with metals (resulting in a strange aftertaste). The best option is to use a heatproof glass bowl to cook the lemon curd in.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place the egg yolks in a heat-proof glass bowl or double boiler. When you separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, make sure that there is no trace of egg yolks in the egg whites (that you need to make the meringue). Place the egg whites in a clean and dry bowl, cover and refrigerate until needed. Cut the butter into small sticks and let it come to room temperature. Mix the lemon juice with the sugar (needed for the lemon syrup) and the lemon zest. Whisk the egg yolks until smooth. While whisking the egg yolks, gradually add the lemon syrup into the egg mixture. Place the glass bowl with the mixture on top of the cooking pot with the water (that should be on a simmer). Keep stirring the mixture until it thickens at very low temperature (on simmer). The lemon curd is not suppose to boil and get bubbly. If the water underneath is too hot, the lemon curd can start curdling and that's why it is cooked over simmering water that shouldn't touch the bowl on top.

Once the lemon curd has thickened (or reached the consistency of hollandaise), taste and add some more sugar as preferred and then add the butter sticks and stir until the butter has completely melted. Take the bowl away from the stove. Strain the lemon curd to get rid of the lemon zest and any lumps that may have formed. Allow the lemon curd to cool to room temperature first, stir and then transfer the lemon curd into a clean and dry jar. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled. Generally, you can keep the lemon curd refrigerated for upto one week.

To make the meringue, take the egg whites out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 150 C (about 300 F). Please don't use a bowl that is too wide to whisk the egg whites. Start whisking the egg whites with a handmixer at low to medium speed until foamy and bubbly. At this stage you can add the salt or cream of tartar. Continue to whisk and then add the sugar gradually when the meringue is at the pre-soft peak stage to make sure the sugar gets fully dissolved and now you can start whisking at medium speed. Soft peaks mean peaks that curl downwards when you remove the whisk from the mixture. The peaks that appear at the soft peak stage are still soft and not firm (unlike stiff peaks that remain stiff and straight when you remove the whisk).

Once you have added the sugar you will notice that the mixture gets really glossy, white and dense as you whisk. You have to stop whisking from time to time to check what stage you are at. It is only when you remove the whisk from the meringue mixture, you will be able to see what kind of peaks are formed. Once you have reached the stiff peak stage, you can stop whisking. At this stage the peaks should be stiff and somewhat, if not completely, straight when you remove the whisk. You will also notice that, the meringue mixture is so firm that even if you turn the bowl upside down, the mixture wont move. Take some of the mixture and rub between your fingers and check if the sugar has been completely dissolved.

Line an oven sheet with parchment paper. It's also a good idea to take some of the mixture that is left on the whisk and place them on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper to prevent the paper from sliding. Carefully spoon 12 cookies (or so) out of the meringue using two tablespoons onto the parchment paper. Don't try to flatten the meringue as you do this. Handle it gently. The meringue can sometimes deflate in the oven, if not handled gently. Once the oven is hot, lower the temperature to 90-100 C (about 200-210 F) and place the meringue in the center rack of the oven and allow it to bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Halfway through, open the oven and rotate the oven sheet so that all of them are evenly baked. Turn off the oven and let the meringue rest in the oven for some 4-5 hours or so, or overnight. Store them at room temperature in a clean and dry container.

The lemon curd and the meringue is best done a day ahead or at least 4-5 hours ahead of serving because the lemon curd has to be chilled and the meringue has to rest once it has been baked. To assemble the dessert, whip the cream with confectionar's sugar and vanilla extract/vanillin sugar until stiff peaks, ahead before serving and keep it covered and refrigerated until needed. Assemble the dessert in 6 wine glasses, by first placing whipped cream at the bottom of the serving glass. Even out the layer of whipping cream around the edges, so that the lemon curd doesn't sink through the holes to the bottom. Spoon in a small layer of lemon curd over it. Crush the meringue cookies and spread on top of the lemon curd (this will turn out a little messy). Repeat the process until you have lemon curd on the topmost layer (I noticed that it was difficult to make the lemon curd "stay" there. I would probably skip this step next time). Alternatively, you could also place the cream in a piping bag and pipe it out on top and keep it as the topmost layer. Garnish with fruits and/or berries, I served mine with physalis/ground cherries. For more variation, you could also layer with some crumbled pound cake and/or fruits, you could layer pound cake between the cream and the lemon curd. Serve immediately and cold!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mango, pineapple and watermelon salsa

I have always struggled with eating salads and fresh vegetables and lately I have also noticed that my fruit intake has slowed down considerably and this despite the availability of fresh produce this summer. These days, whatever fruits and berries I have, usually come in the form of apple pie, raspberry crumble bars, blueberry muffins... well, you get the picture. So in an attempt to increase my vitamin intake, I made this salsa.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Happy Father's Day to everyone! It feels great to be back blogging after a some break. Thank you and a big hug to everyone who checked on me during my absence. Even though I made this really delicious butterscotch ice cream from smittenkitchen a couple of days ago, I have been in two minds about whether to post it here. Photographing ice cream is more difficult than I thought it would be. I put the ice cream outside to defrost and when I came back, the ice cream looked like soup. I hope you can look beyond that, because the butterscotch/caramel flavour is simply out of this world. This ice cream is very rich in flavour. If you love butterscotch/caramel, you've got to try this recipe.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lentil Fritters - Masala Vadai

I believe everyone had a wonderful  Mother's Day. I wanted to post a recipe that I will always associate with my mother today and one that I know she loves too - vadai. Being a diabetic, she rarely indulges in sweetmeat and is more of a snack person. She also happens to be a vegetarian and a very picky eater but one thing she will never be able to resist is deep-fried goodness like these crispy lentil fritters (paruppu vadai) or masala vadai.

This vadai goes by many different names but is often sold as masala vadai at restaurants, probably because the word masala conjures such pleasant images to people. I tried to make these once before, in my early days of cooking, but unfortunately that attempt went bonkers and the vadai fell apart while frying. I did the mistake of not grinding the batter properly. Anyway, I have finished mourning that mishap and have been wanting to give this another try. This time the masala vadai turned out really well and I was told it tasted great too.

We don't normally add garlic to this but I was inspired to try these with garlic after seeing a recipe on Rak's Kitchen for the same. I do add ground garlic to falafel and pakoda and since the garlic adds an immense depth of flavour, especially to fried food, it got me curious. Those of you who do not wish to use garlic could substitute the garlic with a pinch of asafoetida (hing). The green chilies are optional and could be added if you prefer your masala vadai to be really hot.

1 cup yellow lentils (chana dal)
1 onion
1/2-1 tsp fennel seeds (or powder)
1 1/2 tsp red chili powder
2-3 green chilies (optional)
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs curry leaves
3/4 to 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
Oil for frying

Rinse and wash the lentils in water 4 times or so until the water becomes clear and then soak the yellow lentils for 4 hours. Finely chop the onion, garlic cloves and the green chilies (if you are adding them). I prefer to cut the curry leaves with a food scissor as well. After 4 hours the lentils should have doubled in size. Drain the lentils. Put away 1/4 of the lentils and grind the remaining with garlic. Alternatively, grind the fennel seeds as well, because they can be a little domineering in flavor as whole. The batter should be ground coarsely with a generous amount of whole lentils. The more whole lentils there are in the vadai, the crunchier the vadai will turn out. So bearing this in mind, don't grind the lentils too much - just enough so as to able to shape them. In a bowl, mix the batter with red chili powder, curry leaves, onion, fennel seeds, salt and green chilies (if you are adding these) and mix/knead well.

Heat the oil needed for frying the vadai. Prepare a plate with tissue or absorbent paper to to drain the excessive oil from the deep-fried vadai and keep aside. Pinch off some batter and shape a small ball out of it and then flatten it out little to resemble a small cookie and carefully place one vadai in the oil. Take care not to splash oil while dropping the vadai into the oil. Also, take care not to drop it from a high altitude so as to avoid splashing hot oil around you. Fry it until it looks crisp on medium heat. Once you have fried the first vadai, taste to check whether the salt level is right. Add some more salt at this stage, if needed, and knead the batter before frying the rest of the vadai. Make sure the oil is really hot when dropping the vadai to get a crispy exterior, then lower the heat to medium so that it gets evenly fried. Serve the vadai warm and crispy with chutney/dip/ketchup or enjoy them just the way they are. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mango curry - Amba maluwa


Amba maluwa is a delicious, sweet, sour and spicy Sri Lankan mango curry. I had this curry for the first time at a restaurant and I couldn't figure out what "vegetable" it was but the taste was out of this world. It was part of a traditonal Sri Lankan meal that consisted of perfectly cooked red rice, some other vegetable and bean curries and pappadom/appalam. Unlike the other vegetable and bean curries that were completely dependent on the seasonings, the mango was bursting with flavours and with each bite it tasted differently. It has ever since been one of my favourite curries.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Egg Thokku - Muttai Thokku

For someone who loves eggs, I just noticed that I have very few recipes that involve eggs (not including cakes and bakes here). So my mission now is to add some more egg recipes and I am going to begin with this easy and pretty fool-proof egg thokku recipe.

Thokku is a thick and sour curry (it probably derives from the word thokkai which means thick). Thokku is either made from sour vegetables/fruits or tamarind paste (or tomatoes) are added to make it sour. The vegetables are cooked along with spices and without adding any water. You stir-fry the vegetables until the water (from the vegetables) has evaporated. The thokku is lastly layered with a few teaspoons of oil before being sealed. The low water content and the acidity prevents it from being spoilt. And you should always use dry spoon and dry hands when serving or opening thokku. This is an effective way to prepare vegetables and make them last a little longer.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Drumstick curry - Murungai kai curry

At my ancestral home, we had a big murungai tree that would blossom after the monsoon season. I never cared much for ours then - my eyes were always set on the mango trees. It was an old and a most stubborn tree that would only blossom periodically. One day, along with some garden work and for whatever reason, we cut down the twigs and branches of that tree. Even though I had never cared much for it, I was saddened to see the state of that beautiful tree. It was only then that I realized its value. I missed the fragrant white flowers that we would inhale. I missed the shadow that we would take refuge in. And most of all, I missed the sight of these green, thin drumsticks that we would desperately try to fetch by jumping up and down with a long stick.    

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pear frangipane tart

I have made this pear tart twice before in the past and both times with canned pears. Since pears are in season now (well, at least here), I decided to make the poached pears from scratch this time. It went well, if I may say so myself. I never get a chance to photograph this tart properly when I make this, simply because this tart is so delicious and once it is out of the oven I start to dig in immediately. However this time, I made two pear frangipane tarts, to make sure that I would have something to click. The recipe is modified from Dorie Greenspan's pear tart recipe. The recipe is actually for one tart but I always have some crust leftover that I eventually throw away. This happens every time I make pies and tarts so I doubled the filling instead so that I could make two pear tarts. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Middle Eastern Salad

I am not too fond of salads (unless it's fruit salad) and I'm definitely not proud to say that. I would love to include fresh greens in my diet and I think this recipe is a good start. The only salad that I ever enjoyed was this Middle Eastern salad that a Syrian friend of mine prepared for me a couple of years ago. She explained to me that the salad was of Lebanese origin. However, the name of that dish did not stick to my mind as the dish did. I initially did not want to eat it, but took some only to taste, and to my surprise I ended up liking that salad so much so that I took some home with me. It was very flavourful and she served this salad with something that looked like a pizza (a delicious oven-baked flatbread with a filling on top) and dolmas, that means stuffed and cooked vine leaves.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mocha cake - Mockaruta

This cake is one of my childhood favorites. Mockaruta a delightful chocolate cake with a pretty sweet mocha frosting. It goes by many names in Scandinavia. In Sweden, it is often addressed as mockaruta or chokladruta (literally meaning mocha square or chocolate square) because it is baked in rectangular baking pans and then cut into squares, like brownies. I used to order this at every single cafe I visited in my school days. But those cafe visits were very expensive for me back then and I had look up other alternatives. Even though I was under the impression that this cake was difficult to make at home I gave it a shot. It turned out wonderful the second time and there was no stopping me every since from making this. 

150 g butter
2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanillin sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs cocoa powder
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk

75 g butter
2 tbs cold coffee (1-2 tsp espresso coffee powder + 2 tbs hot water)
1 tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp vanillin sugar (optional)
3/4-1 cup icing sugar/confectioner's sugar

Desiccated coconut or sprinkles (optional)
Strawberries (optional)

Melt the butter at below medium heat. Put aside and allow to cool down. Lightly butter either a 7*9 inch square baking pan or a 9 inch round baking pan. Place a parchment paper at the bottom and butter the parchment paper lightly. Prepare the dry ingredients by mixing flour, vanillin sugar, baking powder and cocoa powder and sift twice. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the butter and mix until well blended. First, drizzle half of the milk into the egg mixture. Then sift half of the dry ingredients in there and fold with a spoon. Then drizzle the remaining milk and then the dry ingredients. Fold until well-blended.

Spoon in the cake batter into the baking pan and put the cake in the oven. Bake the cake in a preheated oven at 200 C (about 400 F) in the bottom third rack for about 25 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to cool down and meanwhile, go ahead and prepare the mocha frosting.

To make the frosting, add the coffee powder in a small cup and then pour 2 tbs of warm water and mix. Put aside. Melt the butter at low heat. Once the butter has melted, sift the cocoa powder and then drizzle the coffee. Whisk until well blended. Measure up the icing sugar and sift it in the same bowl, add the vanilla sugar and mix. Cook at low heat for about 2-3 minutes while continuously whisking until it is completely free of any lumps. Once the frosting looks smooth, take it away from the stove. Let it cool for sometime (but not completely) before spreading it on the cake. Drizzle it on top of the cake and spread it evenly. Sprinkle some desiccated coconut or sprinkles on top, if desired. Allow the frosting to stiffen completely before cutting into slices. I prefer to keep this cake in an airtight container at room temperature but you can also store them in the fridge.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Boondi Laddu

I thought I would celebrate my completing six months of food blogging by reposting the boondi laddu recipe. Boondi laddu is my all-time favourite sweet. This recipe was one of my earliest posts and the previous picture made no justice to this delectable sweet, which is why I'm reposting this recipe with new pictures.    

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oven-baked potatoes - Klyftpotatis

It's been eerily quiet in here for a while so I decided to post this simple potato recipe that I made today. It's one of my favourite vegetables and one of the few vegetables that you can never go wrong with. They taste delicious whether deep-fried, baked, roasted, mashed, curried or made into soup. They are not only a comfort food to many, potatoes are also a staple in many countries. Here in Sweden, one of the popular ways to prepare potatoes is by cutting them into 6-8 pieces and baking or roasting them, usually with the skin, with herbs and spices. This way of preparing the potatoes is called klyftpotatis in Swedish. You can season klyftpotatis with endless herbs. I have used a classic Swedish combination, dill and potatoes. You could replace dill with thyme or rosemary.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Browned Butter Brownies

Have you guys heard of these browned butter brownies before? I hadn't. I only recently found out there was such a brownie when I was searching the web for alternative brownie recipes and landed on Bon Appetite's website. This recipe is from last year's February issue (yeah, I know I'm really late). I don't quite like the bitterness from unsweetened dark chocolate and was looking high and low for alternative brownie recipes. After perusing many brownie recipes I found this recipe for browned butter brownies. These are made of cocoa powder and the browned butter gives these a nutty, chewy and toffee-like flavour as opposed to the regular smooth, fudge-like brownies. The raving reviews it received from, seemingly everyone who had tried them, piqued my interest. Naturally, I wanted to try this sensational recipe and find out for myself whether these brownies are all that good as they were made out to be.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Coconut chutney - Thaalicha sambal

This is a simple recipe on coconut chutney or thaalicha sambal as we call it. Coconut chutney is a staple in many households but there are some variations in how people prepare it. It is often served as a side-dish to dosai and/or idli. When I prepare this, I always add some more tamarind paste than my mother does, because I love the tanginess from the tamarind. This chutney is typically prepared with freshly grated coconut kernel but since there is a scarcity of coconuts here, we generally prepare this with desiccated coconut. There is not much difference in the preparation between these two, except that the desiccated coconut has to be soaked in hot water for a while to soften up. I am reposting this recipe because I had posted it without any pictures earlier.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mushroom and mozzarella lasagna

Basically, I have a weakness for baked cheese and dishes that are generously sprinkled with cheese on top like pizza, lasagna, potato gratins, cheese macaroni etc. Lasagna has remained a firm favourite with me since school-going days. It is one of those scrumptious one-dish meals that can be made both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. For me, nurturing my loved ones is my foremost way of displaying love. On a day such as Valentine's Day, I want to treat my family to something special and in my mind, lasagna is that perfect meal to be served on an occasion like this. I also wanted to make this a vegetarian fare with mushroom and mozzarella.
To assemble the lasagna you need bechamel sauce, ragu sauce and lasagna noodles. I followed Ancy's recipe and steps on everything except to make the ragu sauce. Ragu sauce is the meat sauce and I opted to make a vegetarian mushroom sauce instead. The lasagna turned out creamy and delicious. Making lasagna is less time-consuming than most would think. If you like lasagna, don't be afraid to give it a try. Thank you, Ancy, for the delicious recipe and the clear instructions. You can click here to visit her space and view her recipe. I also want to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day! I hope everyone has an enjoyable day today.

Ragu sauce:
5 tomatoes
200 g mushrooms
1 cup water
4 tsp tomato purée
4-5 garlic cloves
4 tsp olive oil
1 tbs dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tsp sugar

Bechamel sauce:
50 g salted butter
4 tbs all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk (500 ml)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg

For assembly:
Lasagna noodles (as required)
20 g salted butter
150-200 g mozzarella cheese

To make the sauce, begin by cutting the tomatoes. Finely chop the garlic. Slice the mushroom and put aside. Mix the tomatoes and garlic in a mixer, before cooking them. In a large pan, add oil, the tomatoes, water and tomato puree. Mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and cook on medium to below medium heat, until the mushrooms are soft. The sauce should not be too thick (the water will be absorbed by the lasagna noodles when placed in the oven). Put aside this while preparing the bechamel sauce.

To make the bechamel sauce, heat the butter on below medium heat. Once it has melted, turn the heat to medium heat. Sieve the flour into butter, while stirring so that it doesn't get burnt on the bottom. Continue to stir for another 8 minutes or so until the sauce has turned light golden brown. Then add the milk, little by little, while stirring. You need to continue to stir for another 10 or so until the sauce has thickened. Half way into this process, season the sauce with salt and pepper. Take the sauce away from the stove but don't stop stirring. I stirred for another 5 minutes to steam off the heat (as it was still very hot) so that the cream didn't get burnt on the bottom.

I used lasagna sheets/noodles that don't require pre-cooking. If you have bought lasagna noodles that need to be precooked, please follow the instructions given and pre-cook them accordingly. To assemble the lasagna, use half of the butter to brush the bottom and the sides of a baking or oven-safe dish. Add some bechamel sauce and even it out on the bottom. Arrange one layer of the lasagna sheets, with the edges overlapping. Spoon the ragu sauce over the noddles and spread it evenly on it. Then spoon in some bechamel sauce and repeat the process. I repeated the process until my ragu sauce was finished. Spare some bechamel sauce to place on the topmost lasagna sheet. Grate or slice the mozzarella cheese and spread it over the bechamel sauce. Dollop the remaining butter on top. Bake the lasagna in the bottom third of a preheated oven at 175 C (350 F) for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool down to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zucchini curry

I know I should include more vegetables in my diet and every once in a while I try to explore potential ways to cook and eat certain vegetables that I otherwise would not touch with the proverbial 10 foot pole. Zucchini, cucumber and squash are vegetables that I never eat, fresh or otherwise. But having seen so many delish looking cucumber/squash/zucchini recipes on other blogs inspired me to give this a try. So while grocery shopping, I picked up a zucchini and made curry out of it. I have already made this curry three times now.

1 zucchini (250 g)
1 onion
2-3 green chilis
2 garlic cloves
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cups water
2 tbs coconut cream
Lemon juice to taste
Salt to taste
1 spring of curry leaves

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Butter cookies

Last week, I bought some piping bags to make butter cookies. I have been looking forward to making these piped butter cookies for a long time. I have always adored cookies. As children, we loved cookies so much so that we refused to eat proper breakfasts and would instead feast on cookies first thing in the morning. Though we have outgrown that habit, I still have a soft corner for cookies. So while baking these I wanted to recreate a childhood favourite, assorted cookies. I love the idea of assorted cookies and therefore went ahead making cookies with different flavours using the same cookie dough.

This is Betty Saw's uncomplicated piped butter cookie recipe from her book Cookies Galore. I have twisted the recipe from thereon by adding various flavours. The flavours that I used were ginger, coconut, nuts & nougat and vanilla. I wanted to get really well-defined flavours - so if it is coconut, I want it to taste coconut. Even though it was time-consuming, it was a lot of fun making them and most importantly, they were completely worth it. This is my first time piping out cookies, and I made sure to experiment as much as possible. It was like being a child again. I can guarantee that these butter cookies will fetch you accolades from all corners. :)

270 g all-purpose flour
240 g unsalted butter
100 g icing sugar/confectionar's sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar/vanillin sugar
1 inch fresh ginger
1/3 cup desiccated coconut flakes
3 tbs chopped almonds (or hazelnuts)
25-30 g melted nougat (or chocolate)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Dodol - Dhodal

Many of you must be wondering what is dodol? Dodol or dhodal is a rich, jelly-like sweetmeat of Malay origins that has not gained due recognition around the world. It is very popular in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Goa and of course in South East Asia. The main ingredients used to make dodol are also very typical of the above mentioned areas such as fresh coconut milkred/brown or black rice flour and jaggery or palm sugar. In South East Asia, where the dodol originates from, pandan leaves and glutinous rice, are traditionally also added in addition to the aforementioned ingredients. In the Goan dodol, millets (ragi) are sometimes used. In Sri Lankan dodol, red rice (naatu arisi) is used and in the commercially sold dodols nuts and dried fruits are also frequently added to please the masses. I have also eaten some homemade dodols with mung beans. In this post, I am going to demonstrate how my family makes dodol.

Back home, we make dhodal, as we call it, the good ol' way. My aunts only make dhodal with the best of coconuts available. They say for the ultimate taste you need sethal thengai meaning ripe, flawless coconuts and only the first and finest portion of the coconut milk is squeezed and added initially in the dhodal-making process. The red rice is sent to the mill to be grinded and then carefully sieved at home, rejecting any grains found. The rice flour is then mixed with the second portion of the coconut milk. Adding the rice flour directly into the boiling coconut milk might result in lumps, so therefore the rice flour is first mixed with the second portion of the coconut milk and made into a smooth, fine paste before adding to the thick, boiling coconut gravy. We use black jaggery that we call sakkarai, which is dark brown in colour, that together with the red rice flour gives the dhodal a rich, deep-brown look.

Making dhodal is a grand affair but also a time-consuming and back-breaking process, and quite unlike any other sweet I have seen being made. Everyone in our family takes turns stirring in the big iron pots over the scorching wooden fire, that leaves them exhausted with their arms aching. The dhodal must be stirred non-stop for hours on end with a wooden paddle. If the dhodal gets burnt on the bottom, the dhodal will taste and smell burnt, and this happens faster than anyone would think, if it is not stirred constantly and properly. The dhodal will shrink in volume and become thicker and glossier as the hours pass by. Pure, golden coconut oil will start to be released from the dhodal when it reaches the final stage. The more coconut oil is released and separated from the dhodal, the longer the dhodal will last in storage but most people who make dodol never make it to the final stage. The dodol is often taken away from the stove when it has thickened "reasonably" and even if you reach the final stage, separating too much oil will also result in a dry dodol so you have to take strike a balance here.

Having often watched my aunts make the glorious dodol, triggered the desire to make this on my own at home some day. I had been waiting to make this with mixed feelings. Despite the fact that making dodol here means I have to make it with store-bought coconut milk and not fresh coconut milk and even though my mother pooh-poohed the idea of making dodol with store-bought coconut cream, I still remained adamant on trying this for my parents 30th wedding anniversary. The rice flour I prepared at home. Since I used only 1 cup of rice flour, making the dodol took me only 2 hours. The amount of jaggery may sound a lot to you but please keep in mind that black jaggery is not as sweet as refined sugar. It was still sweet, but moderately so. I dare say, the dodol turned out exactly as how I remember the dodol my aunts made were, both in texture and taste, and that is what I had aspired to. I was very pleased with this experiment, so much so that I didn't mind my sore arm for the next couple of days.
3 cups coconut cream (minimum 70 % coconut)
4 cups water
1 cup fine unroasted red rice flour
400 g black jaggery or palm sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fish buns

This is one of our father's trademark dishes that we were crazy about as children. We loved devouring this with just about anything. These days, I use this as a filling to buns (that I prepare the same way I do pizza dough). It is the ultimate comfort food for me. If you like mackerel you are going to love this. These buns are really soft and tasty and can be refrigerated and warmed up whenever you want them but as with most bread/buns, they taste best when they are fresh out of the oven.  

25 g compressed yeast
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup fingerwarm water (37 C or 99 F)
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 tsp salt

250 g canned mackerel (in tomato sauce)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 eggs (put aside some for the egg wash)
1/2 tsp cumin (or cumin powder)
1/2 tbs curry powder (adjust)
Salt to taste
1-2 sprigs curry leaves (optional)

To make the dough, heat the water to 37 C (or 99 F). Crumble the yeast in a large bowl and add the lukewarm water and stir with a spoon or your hand till yeast has dissolved completely. Add oil and salt. Stir. Add the flour. First mix with a wooden spoon untill it comes together and then and knead and work the dough for about 10 minutes with your hands. Let it rest covered in a bowl for 35-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the fish filling. Cut the onion finely. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the cumin, onion and the curry leaves and saute until the onion is golden brown. Add the mackerel and the tomato sauce, the curry powder and salt. With spatula, mix and scramble any large chunks of mackerels. Whisk the eggs (but put aside some of the egg mixture for the egg wash) with some salt. Shove the mackerel to one corner of the pan and add the beaten egg little by little and scramble it in the same pan that you are preparing the mackerel. Saute the mackerel filling until most of the water has evaporated. Take it away from the stove and allow to cool.

Once the dough has rested, lightly knead it again. Divide the dough into small balls and roll out the balls on a floured surface. Place some of the fish filling in the middle and fold/tuck it as seen in the picture below. Make sure it is properly folded. Turn the tucked side down and place the fish buns on an oven sheet, preferably with parchment paper. Once you have folded all the buns, give them an egg wash. Bake the buns in a preheated oven at 200 C (about 400 F) in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Take them out and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve them once they have cooled down to room temperature. Keep the buns refrigerated, if you are not going to consume them in one or two days and heat them up in the microwave before serving.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Crostata di Marmellata - Raspberry Crostata

The last year ended and the new year started on a good note for me with cute awards galore from plenty of blogging buddies. I had no idea blogging would entail all this when I started to blog. Last week I was really thrilled and happy to know that Sudha of Wit, wok & wisdom had passed on the Triple cute awards and the Cherry on Top award to me. Thank you very much for the awards, Sudha. I'm posting a sweet recipe here to celebrate the sweet surprise.

I recall first hearing the word crostata when I was watching one of the Australian "Masterchef" episodes. Though it lingered on my mind, it wasn't until much later that I looked up the word on the Internet. I searched and found, to my sweet surprise, that crostata is a sweet, Italian tart. I *heart* pies and tarts. So this was bookmarked to try sometime in the future and now finally I have the reason and the energy to make this sweet tart.
Obviously, there are many different types of crostatas. The one I have made is called a crostata di marmellata, which is a jam crostata. Since I have a buckload of lovely Croatian raspberries lying in the deep-freezer, I naturally decided to make a crostata with raspberry filling. Traditionally, a crostata is made panless like a large cookie, resembling a galette, but since I did not want to take any risks, I made my crostata in a 9" cake plate.

The most difficult part of making a completely new dish is always finding a recipe that you wholeheartedly want to follow. This search was made really easy for me because the standard crust used to make a crostata, is called pasta frolla. The recipe for this is pretty much standard. Pasta frolla is a very versatile, sweet crust that is not only used to make crostatas but also pies, cookies, holiday cutouts, Dulce de Leche Crumb Bars, and Sicilian Twists. The recipe for the pasta frolla I found here and it has been modified. The baking powder is optional, and is added to make the crust lighter. As I understand, in traditional recipes deriving from Artusi, you don't add any baking powder. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Masala Chai - Masala Tea

Sometime back, when I was grocery shopping with my mother, she was looking at the ginger-flavoured Lipton tea packages. She typically only drinks green tea, apart from the regular tea. I spontaneously asked her why she wanted to buy ginger tea when she could make it at home? She then placed back the ginger tea. I suddenly felt awful for having dissuaded her and said "No, no. You buy it if you want to", to which she replied "No, it's better to make fresh ginger tea at home after all".  


I am actually the only one in my family who doesn't drink tea at all. Well, I do but only once in a blue moon and when I do, I always opt for flavoured teas like strawberry tea, blueberry tea or so. The idea of drinking a cuppa of warm tea is rather inviting when you have a runny nose in this harsh winter cold. So I decided to give it a shot. In addition to the ginger, I also added other spices and made a masala chai or spiced (masala) tea. I gulped down two cups of masala tea with a baguette for breakfast and quite enjoyed it. 

1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp black tea powder
2 cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 clove
1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1 1/2 tbs honey or sugar (adjust)

Chop fresh ginger finely. Lightly crush the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon with a mortar and pestle. Add all the spices and the tea powder in a cooking pan and boil with water. Then add the honey and the milk and allow to boil for another minute, while stirring. You can use sugar instead of honey, if desired. Remove the cooking pan away from the stove and strain the tea with a tea strainer. Pour the tea into mugs or cups and serve the tea warm!