Monday, May 30, 2016

Croquetas de Jamon


Croquetas de Jamon, is a classic tapa available at most bars across Spain. It can be served as a tapa, part of a meal with a salad on the side, and it loved by all. The beauty of it, is that you can fill it with just about anything— use your left over roasted chicken, or heck another way to use leftover Thanksgiving Turkey, chopped hard-boiled eggs, finely minced shrimp or squid, chopped chorizo, mushroom, cheese, or a combination of these. 

The real beauty of these lie in the delicate richness of the bechamel sauce combined with the flavors of your favorite filling. Make it a day ahead, to give the mixture enough time to harden in the refrigerator or freezer. It will then be easier to handle.

After spending two months in Spain, the kids loved Croquetas. It has never been my favorite Spanish tapa, but every time we are out for dinner, it is ordered— and everyone I know simply loves them!

Apparently, the Croquetas at the restaurant Embarcadero in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain are the best ever. So you can imagine my excitement when I found the recipe online.

While we were in Las Palmas (Spain), my aunt gave me a good supply of homemade frozen Chicken Croquetas, which was the best thing to have for quick last minute kid dinners with some corn and veggies on the side, or when friends stopped by.
Back in New York, our freezer is stocked back up with Croquetas de Jamon, and the kids are still loving it!

Recipe courtesy: Restorante Embarcadero  

Ingredients
125 grams / 9 tablespoons butter
1 liter / 4 cups whole milk
125 grams / scant 1 cup onion, minced
200 grams jamon Iberico, minced (or finely minced mushrooms, left over roasted chicken, or a filling of your choice)
125 grams / 1 cup all-purpose flour
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

4 eggs, beaten 
2 cups all-purpose flour
200 grams / 4 cups bread crumbs
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot on medium heat.
  2. In a saucepan warm the milk.
  3. Once the butter has melted, add the onion. Mix and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the jamon, mix. Season with salt and white pepper.
  5. Add the flour, and keep mixing, until very well incorporated. 
  6. Add the milk, little by little, to ensure that the flour dissolves well. It will be a thick consistency. 
  7. Transfer it to a glass baking dish, flatten it out. Let it cool, transfer to the freezer. Let it cool until it is frozen hard enough to work with. Cut into rectangular shapes, about 2-inch x 1-inch. 
  8. Lightly coat in flour, then dip in the egg, generously coat with bread crumbs. At this point you can freeze it again. Or bring it back to room temperature and then deep fry. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Apple Clatoufis


Clafoutis is a French dish that is sort of a cross between a flan and a pancake. Similar to a flan, clafoutis is a very easy dessert that always impresses. It’s hearty enough even to serve for breakfast. It is traditionally made with black cherries but also sometimes with berries, prunes, or other fruits. My girlfriend Mumtaz and I did a French Bistro cooking class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, and when we learnt and ate this dessert, I loved how simple it was to prepare, lovely rustic looking dessert, warm and delicious.

Since we served this to kids tonight, I skipped adding the liquor. It was still divine, and served with Talenti's Sea Salt Caramel ice cream took it way over the top. 

Inspired by Julia Child, recipe courtesy Brooklyn Kitchen
Serves 8

Ingredients
Pancake Batter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour

Apples
4 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick (about 3 cups apples) (I used Granny Smith)
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup calvados, dark rum, or cognac
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup sugar
Garnish
Confectioner’s sugar for garnish
Ice cream of your choice, for serving (I used Talenti Sea Salt Caramel ice cream, it is simply divine!)

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Pancake batter: Combine the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, and flour in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Cover and place in the fridge to set for at least 10 minutes and up to 24 hours.
  3. Apples: Meanwhile, prepare the apples. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the apples until lightly browned. Remove from heat, pour over the liquor, cinnamon, and 1/3 cup sugar, and let stand up to 30 minutes to absorb flavor.
  4. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish and pour the apples into the base with their liquid. Do ahead.
  5. Bring the batter to room temperature. Pour the batter over the top.
  6. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake about 50 minutes. It is done when it a knife inserted to the center comes out clean and the top is light brown.
  7. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar and serve with ice cream.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Changri Tarkari (Bengali Shrimp Curry)

My five-year old son absolutely loves 'Gambas al Ajillo', a Spanish shrimp dish, where the shrimp is cooked in abundant olive oil, with a generous amount of thinly sliced garlic, some dried red chilies, and parsley. We do too. So every time I buy shrimp, we eat 'Gambas al Ajillo'.
But today I craved a Shrimp Curry. Aditya Bals cookbook, Chakh Le India had this recipe which looked delicious— exactly what I wanted— spicy and tangy. 
A chat with my dear Chef Bengali friend Meera, had me sharing her Panch Poran, or Bengali five-spice mixture, and hence a delicious dinner on the table. Meera said that some desire a deeper, more reddish color. That can be achieved by 'bhunaoing' it for longer (steps no. 3 & 4), however, we were happy with this deep-turmeric color.

4 servings

Ingredients
1 lb medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)

Marinade
1 tablespoon oil (preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

The Curry Base
1 tablespoon oil ((preferably mustard, if not, vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon Bengali five-spice mix (equal quantities of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and fennel seeds)
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, split
3 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely minced
3 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tomato, sliced very thin
Salt, to taste
2 cups water, hot

Garnish
Juice of 1/2 lime
3–4 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Method
  1. Marinate the shrimp. Set aside. Prep the other ingredients.
  2. In a large flat-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry the shrimps, on both sides, until almost cooked through. Remove on a plate. 
  3. In the same pot, heat another tablespoon of oil. Fry the whole spices until fragrant, be careful not to burn, about 30 seconds— 1 minute. Add the onions, salt to taste, and mix well. The salt will help the onions cook faster by letting its water out. Brown the onions, by using the ‘bhuno’* method.
  4. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the powdered spices, and let it cook until the oil separates. This is a clear indicator that the spices have cooked and released its natural oils. Continue to ‘bhuno’ for 5 more minutes, to get a deeper color.
  5. Add the tomatoes, and once the oil separates, pour in the hot water. Stir the curry a few times, till the oil surfaces again and the curry is perfectly cooked. 
  6. Immerse the shrimp along with all their resting juices into the simmering curry. Stir the shrimp gently and poach them to a juicy tenderness for 6–8 minutes. Simmer the curry uncovered to reduce it a little.
  7. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice, which will amazingly lift the whole curry perfectly. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over white Basmati rice.
Bhuno

This is a fundamental cooking technique used in Indian cuisine. Spices, herbs, and aromatics are sautéed over high heat, till they are toasted and intensely aromatic. A little liquid is then added to deglaze the pan and blend the ingredients well. Once most of the liquid evaporates, the process is repeated, till the aromatic spice base is homogenous and the oil rises to the top, signifying that the masala is properly cooked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño


A visit to Nobu in New York or Kabuki in Madrid, always called for us enjoying a perfect modern sashimi, with a delicate play of taste and texture. This Yellowtail Sashimi is inspired by just that. A fine balance of acid-sodium-heat. Thin slices of yellowtail, brushed in garlic, topped with the chili-lime-soy sauce, garnished with the fresh citrus cilantro and crunchy heaty jalapeño.
   
Ingredients
2.5 ounces sushi-grade yellowtail
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pureed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon red chili powder
6 very thin slices of jalapeño (less than ¼ of 1 jalapeño)
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Method

  1. Slice yellowtail in six thin slices. This is easiest when the fish is very cold or even slightly frozen — pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes if you’re having trouble).
  2. Spread garlic puree over a small plate, set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine lemon, soy, chili oil, and red chili powder. Set aside.
  4. Dip each slice of yellowtail in the garlic and arrange on serving plate. Don’t try to use all the garlic — there should just be a slight coating on each piece of fish.
  5. Top each slice of fish with a slice of jalapeño. Do ahead. Chill if not serving immediately.
  6. Pour lime-chili-soy sauce over fish, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Chicken Keema, Indian Takeout

It always makes me uncontrollably happy when a kid is open to trying new foods. Even more when they enjoy it! Benjamin, my sons friend, tried chicken curry in our home once, and has ever since been asking his mom for it. Warmed my heart, so today when I made a big pot of Chicken Keema (ground chicken) I saved some for Benjamin to take home for lunch, on this cold and snowy day. His sweet dimpled smile was the icing on the cake for me. 

We grew up on eating all forms of Keemas, or ground meat— Lamb Keema, Turkey Keema, Chicken Keema, and more. The entire process takes an hour, but it makes for a one-pot dinner (well, almost one pot, not counting the rice or naan accompaniment). 

Serves 4 
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamons, crushed

2 large white or red onions, minced 

Chicken Marinade
1 pound ground chicken (preferably dark meat)
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
Sliced green chilies, to taste (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Red chili powder, to taste (optional)

4 large tomatoes, cut in half / pureed in a blender
Salt, to taste

Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Method
  1. In a medium sized pot, or a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamon pods. Let it cook for 20 seconds, until fragrant. Immediately add the minced onions, and a teaspoon of salt. (The salt helps the onions sweat and brown faster). Brown the onions for 45 minutes or so— Every few minutes, stir the onions, and scrape the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add a tablespoon of water if the browned bits do not come off, mix the onions and let them continue to brown. A deep reddish-brown color is desired, not a burnt black-brown color. The browning process is the most important process in achieving the depth of flavor and color, give it the love and time it deserves. The more browned bits you scrape up, the better it is. 
  2. While the onions brown, marinate the chicken in the ginger-garlic paste, green chilies, and dried spices.
  3. Once the onions have browned, add the chicken in its marinade. Mix well with the onions and let it cook for 3–4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and a quarter cup of water. Cover and let it cook for 3 whistles if using a pressure cooker, or 15–20 minutes if using a regular pot. Remove the lid, pull the tomato skins off and smash the tomatoes and the chicken until the tomatoes are well broken up.
  4. Taste for salt and season accordingly. Serve with naan or Basmati rice.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Chindian Chili Flounder

Growing up in Mumbai, in the '80's, you went out to eat one of the following cuisines: Indian, Continental (all things European clubbed together), or Chinese. And all Chinese restaurants served mainstream food, targeted to the Indian palette— Chindian, or an Indo-Chinese cuisine. And it is absolutely delicious! Ingredients such as chilis were always used, onions were regular onions and not always spring onions, and cilantro was always abundant. Fried rice was always made with the long-grained Indian Basmati rice, and not the shorter-grained Asian Jasmine rice. It was simply delicious.

A commonality between Indian and Chinese foods is that it is often eaten with rice, and a sauce or gravy is needed to soak up the rice with. This is a great example of a dish to serve with rice! 

So, when Saira Malhotra had a class cooking some Chindian (also known as Indo-Chinese) foods, I was the first to sign up! She made Chili Paneer, Chili Shrimp, and Panfried Noodles with a Celery Sauce. This Chili Flounder is inspired from her Chili Paneer recipe. 

Ingredients
Paneer Marinade
2 cups cubed flounder (or any firm fish) / paneer / tofu / chicken / shrimp
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (preferably freshly ground paste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 tablespoon kecap manis
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Sauté ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
1 large red onion (or spring onions)
3/4 teaspoon black peppers
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
4 green chilis, chopped chunky (try and buy a variety for color)
1/2 teaspoon white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped chunky
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped chunky

Sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons corn flour + 1/4 cup water (make a smooth paste)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Marinade the fish. Set aside for 15 minutes. 
  2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
  3. Heat a large wok over high heat, swirl 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Lay the fish out on the wok, and let it cook for 1 minute untouched (this will help give it a good sear). Then gently stir fry it for another 30 seconds, until almost cooked through, but not entirely. Remove from the wok onto a plate. Set aside.
  4. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the hot wok. Sauté the onions, black pepper, chili flakes on high, for one minute. Return the fish to the wok, gently stir fry it, trying not to break the fish pieces. Add the sauce ingredients and allow it to thicken. Serve immediately.
Add some Sweet Corn Chicken Soup to your Chindian repertoire! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kadai Paneer

My first year of college was in the United States, far away from Bombay, where I grew up. As exciting as the experience of leaving home, discovering a new country and culture while studying art, was, I was terribly home sick. The walk to the Indian grocery store was long, so I would stock my pantry up with all the spices and my freezer up with as much as I could carry back home— especially paneer. Paneer is a fresh cheese, made in India, made by curdling heated milk and yogurt, with the help of an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. Once the fats of the dairy seperates, it is strained through a cheese cloth and left to set. It can be eaten plain, but is mostly cooked in different gravies or spices. Today it is easily available, even at Whole Foods. 

Kadai is the name of the pot in which the paneer is cooked in. It is similar to a wok, a deep round bottomed pan. Traditionally the kadai is made of cast iron, but I used my stainless steel Al Clad pot. 

One of the first, and most frequent paneer dishes I made in college, was Kadai Paneer— only because the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I owned then had an easy recipe. Years later I broadened my paneer cooking skills and didn't make Kadai Paneer as often. But last night, that's all I craved. The kids went to bed, and I cooked this for dinner— filled with spices and heat. 

Tone down the heat level if that doesn't appeal to you, but do not skimp on the rest of the aromatics— such as the ginger and garlic, coriander seeds or even the dried fenukgreek (kasuri methi). 

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
7–8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/5-inch piece of ginger, half crushed, and half julienned
5–6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted
5–6 Kashmiri red chilies
1 large green pepper, julienned
1–2 green chilies, chopped (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste
250 grams paneer, cubed
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoons crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Method
  1. In a kadai or round bottomed pan, heat the oil. Add the crushed garlic and ginger. Sauté until the raw smell disappears.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes. Sauté till the tomatoes and oil separate, and the tomato thickens.
  3. In a mortar, pound the coriander seeds and red chili peppers to a powder. Add this to the tomato mixture.
  4. Add the green pepper and chopped green chillies, and cook for another 5–7 minutes.
  5. Follow by adding salt and garam masala powder. Mix these with the rest of the tomato mixture until well incorporated.
  6. Add the paneer in the masala and cook for 2–3 minutes. 
  7. Lastly, add the kasuri methi, julienned ginger, and cilantro leaves. Sauté for another 2–3 minutes. Serve hot. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups


I woke up this morning craving Chicken Sung, or Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups. A perfect and filling dinner, without the carbs. Flavor packed, with a kick! 

Grace Young, in her book, Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, says: There are countless versions of this elegant stir-fry, a favorite served at Chinese banquets. Interestingly, the original was made with minced squab. Over time the recipe has ‘modernized’ and now duck, chicken, and pork are often used in place of the squab. The dish is about the enjoyment of the ingredients playing off one another; every bite should burst of contrasting textures and flavors. All of the ingredients, from the mushrooms, to the chicken, have a slightly different level of sweetness and texture, each punctuated by the heat of fresh chili.

Serves 4 as part of a multi course meal. 

Ingredients
8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms

8 ounces ground chicken
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic 
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chili, with seeds
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

16 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
Hoisin sauce


  1. In a medium shallow bowl soak the mushrooms in 3/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid for stocks. Cut off the stems and chop the mushrooms to make about 1/2 cup.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the chicken, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of the rice wine, cornstarch, and sugar. Stir to combine. Stir in the sesame oil.
  3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok over high heat until a beat of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, carefully add the chicken, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the chicken begin to sear. Then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry the chicken, breaking it up, until slightly pink, about 30 seconds. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil into the wok. Add the garlic and chili and stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute or until well combined. Add the scallions, sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine, and stir-fry for 30 seconds or until the scallions are bright green. 
  5. Return the chicken with any juices that have accumulated to the wok and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through. 
  6. Serve with the lettuce leaves: have diners put 2 or 3 tablespoons of the filling in a lettuce leaf, fold the leaf over, and eat like a taco. Some cooks serve the cups with a small dollop of hoisin sauce.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Classic Pound Cake


A classic dense, yet soft, pound cake is one I've always loved. I remember my mother would bake it for us, and it would be fresh and warm when we got home from school. And then the bakery across the street baked an excellent pound cake, which she would buy for us instead. Dédé Wilson, the author of this recipe, says that this freezes well too. Double wrap it in plastic wrap, put it in a zip lock, squeeze the air out, and freeze it. I have some in my freezer, and will pull a slice out tomorrow and spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on it for breakfast. Decadent and delicious!

When it comes to baking I'm a stickler about measurements, temperatures, and also equipment. Read the entire recipe first, then read it again to make sure that you didn't miss anything out, and then follow the recipe when you bake it. There is nothing worse than starting the mixing process when you realize that you missed a step or an ingredient is too cold and it's ruining your batter. 

One of the most important steps in this recipe is creaming the butter. The recipe asks for the butter to be creamed for about 2 minutes, and that is about right, but if you look at it, and it isn't creamed or fluffy enough, then give it another minute or so. Similarly for when you add the sugar, beat it more if it isn't fluffy enough. 
After the creaming stage, don't over beat anything. In fact, stop when you think that maybe it needs one last beat. The last phase will ask you to fold in the flour, at which you can make sure that it is all incorporated. Gently and lovingly, fold in the flour, to ensure that all the lightness to the batter that has been created with the creaming isn't lost. 

Recipe courtesy: Dédé Wilson
Yield: Serves 10

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups (173g) sifted bleached cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (266g) superfine sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Preparation 

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C). Coat an 8-by-4-inch (20-by-10cm) metal loaf pan with nonstick baking spray (the kind with the fat and flour, such as Baker’s Joy). Line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper that extends up and out of the narrow sides of the pan; coat the paper as well.
  2. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. 
  3. Whisk the eggs together in a large measuring cup, or whisk in a bowl and transfer to a pitcher with a spout, set aside. 
  4. Beat the butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. 
  5. Gradually add the sugar, 1/4 cup (50g) at a time (you can do this by eye) and beat on high speed until the mixture has lightened and is very fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Do not rush this step. The mixture should be room temperature at this point. Turn off the mixer and touch the mixture to check. Keep beating if it is cool to the touch. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. Add the eggs about 1 tablespoon at a time (you can do this by eye), beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl occasionally. Once all the eggs are added, beat the mixture for about 30 seconds to make sure it is thoroughly combined. It should be smooth and satiny. If it looks curdled or separated in any way, the mixture is still too cold. Let it sit to warm up a bit and beat again, looking for the visual cues described above.
  7. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the batter (removing the bowl from the stand mixer, if using), and fold in gently with a large silicone spatula. Stop when a few streaks of flour remain, then add the next batch of flour mixture and continue until all has been added. Make sure all the flour mixture has been incorporated into the batter to create a thick and smooth homogenous batter. Scrape the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a small offset spatula.
  8. Bake until a wooden toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted into the cake just tests clean when removed, 70 minutes to 80 minutes. The toothpick should look a bit moist and not bone-dry. Halfway through the baking, rotate the pan once front to back. The timing will depend on the temperature of your ingredients when the cake went into the oven. Cool the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then unfold the cake, peel away the parchment, place the cake upright, and cool completely. Store the cake, well wrapped with plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 4 days. Cake texture is best, and it slices most neatly after an overnights rest.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Orange Cardamom Crumb Coffee Cake


 Imagine slicing into a warm and moist cake, with a crusty and spicy crumb topping, sipping your cup of hot coffee (or tea in my case). Life will definitely be good at that moment. Dédé Wilson's recipe is true perfection. Just follow it exactly and you are guaranteed perfection. 
With baking you have to measure precisely, timings and temperatures are important. And use the pan recommended. An 8-inch square pan, with straight upright edges, will work great for this cake. 

Yield: Serves 9 to 12
Recipe Courtesy Dédé Wilson

Ingredients
Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup (169g) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (156g) all-purpose flour

Cake:
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup  (225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1 tablespoon orange zest (if making Orange Cardamon Cake variation)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (227g) sour cream, at room temperature

Method
  1. For the crumb topping: Whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon (or cinnamon and cardamom, if making the Orange Cardamom Cake variation), and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the flour. Create crumbs by squeezing the mixture together with fingers. Set aside.
  2. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325F (165C). Coat an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with nonstick baking spray. 
  3. For the cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla (and the orange zest if making the Orange Cardamom Cake variation). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. The mixture might look curdled, that’s okay.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three batches alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat briefly until smooth. The batter will be thick. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the batter, covering it completely and gently pressing the topping onto the batter.
  6. Bake until a wooden toothpick or bamboo skewer inserted into the cake shows a few moist crumbs when removed, 55 to 65 minutes. The crumb topping will be golden brown and perhaps a bit crusty. Cool the pan on a rack for at least 20 minutes. The cake is ready to serve warm or at room temperature, simply cut into squares. Store the cake well wrapped (still in pan) with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Orange Cardamom Crumb Coffee Cake Variation
Use 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon cardamom for the topping. Add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the batter when you add the vanilla. Make sure it is extra fine in texture and made with a Microplane rasp style zester.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Banana Nutella Cake

I keep reading this recipe in my Alice's TeaCup cookbook and wanting to make it, but then save the ripe bananas to make The Best Ever Banana Bread. This time around, the ripe bananas made their way into this recipe. And am I happy about it! It is a two-layer cake, but I frosted one layer for us at home, and the other layer got frosted and sent to school, to my sons joy and excitement (without the Nutella layer to keep it nut-free)! The recipe below will describe it as a two-layer cake. 

Makes one 8-inch two layer cake
From Alice’s TeaCup

Ingredients
CAKE
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 very ripe bananas

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup / 8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

FILLING
2 cups Nutella

Directions

  1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Have ready two 8-inch round pans
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the dry ingredients
  3. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs and mix until well blended. With the mixer set to low, add a little bit of the flour mixture at a time, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla, mixing just until smooth. 
  4. Use a spatula to gently fold in the bananas. 
  5. Pour the batter evenly between the two cake pans, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the layers aside to cool completely in the pans before frosting the cake.
  6. To make the frosting: Use a mixer to cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy.
  7. Frost each layer with Nutella and stack them. Spread the cream cheese over the top and sides. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Murgh Hariyali (Indian Herbed Chicken)

I woke up this morning craving a delicious spicy Indian chicken, that I would make for myself as opposed to the kids! So my sweet kids got leftovers, and I indulged and cooked for myself. A look through Aditya Bal's cookbook The Chakh Le India Cookbook, and I settled on Murgh Hariyali. Give it your time, labour of love, and it'll reward you. 

A fantastic fresh hara or herby green masala takes this Himachal recipe to another level. A classic example of the rustic pahadi or mountain recipe with succulent chicken in a thick and intensely flavored green gravy, with warm spices, such as the pepper and cloves, come through beautifully with the buttery curd and milk-based gravy. This one is a must! 

Ingredients
1kg chicken, skin-off, bone-on.
1 teaspoon salt

MARINADE
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon medium-hot red chilli powder 
1-2 teaspoons refined oil

THE PAHADI GREEN MASALA
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
4–5 cloves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 hot green chilies
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro, with some of the tender stems
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

THE CURRY BASE
1 tablespoon ghee
2 brown cardamoms
1/2-inch cinnamon stick
1 onion, chopped fine
Salt, to taste
1 cup whisked curd
1/2 cup milk
1 spring onion (white part only) sliced into rings

Method
  1. Cut the chicken in curry-sized pieces and trim. Wash and drain thoroughly. Combine with salt and marinade ingredients. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. 
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and all the masala ingredients, until it exudes their aroma and changes color. Turn off the heat and transfer to a grinder. Add a little water and grind to make a fine vivid green paste. The masala paste should be hot and spicy and smell wonderfully fresh with all the herbs and spring onions. Set aside.
  3. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. 
  4. Heat the ghee in a deep pan. When it’s bubbling hot, add the whole spices and fry for a minute, till colored and aromatic.
  5. Stir in the chopped onion and sauté on medium heat, till soft and lightly colored. Do not brown.
  6. Turn up the heat a little and add the green masala paste to the pan. Fry the paste with the onion and whole spices, till it begins to turn dark green.
  7. Add a little water to cook the masala on high heat, till it’s a rich, deep green and the ghee rises to the surface.
  8. Once the masala is well cooked and amalgamated, add the marinated chicken to the pan. Season well with salt, turn up the heat and fry the chicken in the masala for 10–12 minutes, to give it its lovely, greenish golden color.
  9. Turn the heat down to medium and stir the chicken a few times to mix everything together. Add the whisked curd and fry with the chicken for a few minutes, till the gravy is thick and almost full absorbed.
  10. Next, add the milk and stir everything a couple of times to mix. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pan and gently simmer the chicken, till it’s deliciously tender, almost coming off the bone and the oil has risen to the surface. By now, the gravy will be a rich, deep green in color.
  11. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked and meltingly tender, uncover the pan, turn |Mix in the spring onions and serve hot! 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fennel & Coriander Crusted Tuna Steak with Lemon Aioli


Today I am feeling very accomplished. Not because my lunch was as delicious (& healthy) as it was, but because it took me no more than 15 minutes, from start to finish, to get it on my plate. Fennel and Coriander Crusted Tuna Steak, with Lemon Aioli, with a side of Mixed Green Salad and Pomegrante, served over Quinoa. Granted that the Quinoa was ready (I boil a large batch in chicken broth and eat it through the week), but it was still quite a quick meal to whip up! 

Serves 2 
15 minutes

Ingredients
TUNA
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 6-oz tuna steaks, washed and patted dry
Freshly cracked sae salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

LEMON AOILI
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Method

  1. In a 10-inch skillet, dry roast the fennel and coriander seeds, over medium-high heat, for a minute or two, or until the spice releases its aroma. Remove, let it cool, and grind it in a spice grinder to a coarse texture. Remove on a flat plate. Add the freshly cracked salt and pepper to the spice mixture. Mix.
  2. In the same skillet, heat the oil. While the oil heats, prepare the tuna steak.
  3. Season generously both sides of the steak with the spice rub. Pat it into the tuna for it to stick well. 
  4. Grill tuna until seared outside and rare in the center, about 4 minutes per side.
  5. While the tuna grills, in a small bowl mix the 3 ingredients for the lemon aioli.
  6. Plate the tuna and spoon the lemon aioli over the fish. 
Serve with a tossed salad of your choice and over quinoa or couscous. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cauliflower Soup

It's the Fall, and although it isn't that cold as yet, but it doesn't hurt to start eating comforting soups. The kids love it, and they eat it while I finish up the rest of the dinner. The most satisfying moment tonight was when my 20-month old daughter Shalina finished her bowl, looked up at me, smiled and said "yummy yummy". 
Most soups I make usually start with heating little butter and olive oil, sweating some onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the fat. Add the vegetable of the choice, broth for flavor, and potato for the starch. This is pretty much what I did for the cauliflower, with a few minor changes. And instead of the croutons, I added some almond slivers— the kids loved it too! 

The combination of cauliflower and potatoes add a nice creamy feel to the soup, without adding the calories of heavy cream! 

My new best friend is the pressure cooker. Years were spent afraid of the cooker, afraid that it would blast open into my face, but all I had to do was use it once, and I was hooked. It shaves off so much time from your cooking, and since it steam cooks the food, you can use less of the fat while cooking. 

Serves 4
Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 white onion, minced
2–3 celery stalks, finely sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 sticks thyme (or more if you like it)
1/2 large cauliflower head, about 3/4lb, chopped into 1-inch chunks
4 baby potatoes, skin on, quartered
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Almond slivers, to garnish
Truffle or extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

Method
1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Sauté for a minute or two, add the garlic and thyme. 
2. Follow by adding the cauliflower, potatoes. Give it a mix to coat the vegetables with the onions.
3. Pour in the broth (if using a pressure cooker, then only use 2 cups broth), bring it to a boil and cover and let it simmer on medium-low heat (if using a pressure cooker, let it cook for 3 whistles). 
4. Puree the soup in batches. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with almond slivers and a finishing oil of your choice.