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.