Salad, Jaipur Ishtyle!

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When I’m not cooking, eating, gossiping, reading or weeping through back to back reruns of Grey’s Anatomy… I teach drama.

And one of my favourite assignments is with a school in Jaipur (The Pink City), Rajasthan

I’ve been going there for about 6 years now. What started off as an annual 10 day trip, has now (over the last 2 years) become a week a month thing. And I’m not complaining… unless it’s winter (like now) & I’m freezing my butt off (I really am!)

The kids are great… enthusiastic & bright. And we’ve done lots of fun & interesting theatre work together. Right from Improv & Mime to Storytelling Sessions with Puppets & last year, I worked with about 300 3rd & 4th graders on a big school production of Indian short stories…. Good times!

The people here are warm & vibrant….. color everywhere…

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I don’t shop much when I’m home in Bombay (well ok, not that much), but I have a weakness for silver, & I get my fix here, along with block-print & tie-dyed cotton fabric, & of course… footwear 🙂

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Being in Jaipur is like being on a working holiday. I’m free after 2:30pm, so after lunch & a nap (yes it is absolutely essential to my existence in Jaipur, as I work with nearly 120-150 children a day. I deserve it!!), I take off & absorb the Pink City, take in the sights, the smells & yes, the food!

This time round, however, the cold weather & a bad cough kept me hostel bound my first few days. But Thursday evening it got warmer, so I went for a walk around the old part of the City to buy a stole for my parents’ French friend & catch up with my young cousin Parth. Of course my camera went with me 🙂

         

Winter is on it’s way out, so you there aren’t as many of these thelas  or stalls as you would find November to January. Gajak, Chikki & Rewdi are like brittle, made with Sesame or Peanuts & Jaggery. When I was here in December, almost every corner had Gajak stalls & the rich aroma of gooey Jaggery made you feel all warm & comfy inside.

Peanut Chikki & freshly roasted Groundnuts are found pretty much the year round in Bombay. But here, apparently it is a winter thing.

Dal (Lentil) Kachoris & Pyaaz (Onion) Kachoris are a Jaipur street speciality. These are slightly flattened balls of flour, stuffed with a lentil or an onion & potato filling & deep fried in pure ghee (clarified butter), served with sweet date & tamarind chutney & a spicy coriander & green chillies chutney…. Yum-my!

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Our walk through the streets of the Bapu Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar & Johri Bazaar, ended with Raj Kachori at Laksmi Mishtan Bhandaar (LMB) one of Jaipur’s oldest establishments where you get all sorts of chaat / street food in a restaurant as well as Rajasthani thalis (meals), mithai (sweets) & namkeen (savoury snacks).

      

Rajasthani food is packed with spices, but very rich . I’m trying to eat right (yeah right!) I want to  make something that’s healthy using elements of Jaipur street flavour. I don’t have a kitchen to make this here, so if you do try this out, let me know how it turns out 🙂

So here’s a Salad… Jaipur Ishtyle!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Bean Sprouts (raw)
  • ½ cup Chickpeas (boiled)
  • 1 small boiled Potato (chopped)
  • 1 Spring Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 small Cucumber (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tomato (finely chopped)

Dressing

  • ½ cup (or more if you feel) Thick Yogurt (beaten well)
  • Ground Rock Salt (to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon Amchoor (Dried Mango Powder)
  • 1 tea spoon each of Jeera & Saunf (Cumin& Fennel Seeds, dry roasted & coarsely ground)

To Finish

  • Tamarind Chutney
  • Green Chillies Chutney
  • Coriander
  • Aloo Bhujia (deep fried potato vermicelli)
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Pomegranate Seeds

Method

  1. Whisk the ingredients of the dressing together. Adjust the seasoning.
  2. Pour a generous amount of dressing over the salad, almost covering the vegetables.
  3. Drizzle the chutneys over the dressing & garnish with coriander, aloo bhujia, peanuts & pomegranate seeds.

Enjoy! And tell me how it was 🙂

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A Happy New Year!

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A very, very Happy New Year to all of you from The Odd Hour Kitchen 🙂

It has been so very long since my last post that I forgot my password 😦 Silly me!

I have missed logging on & reading all my friends’ blogs, interacting & connecting with folks I’ve never met but yet who are like kindred spirits bonding over our love & passion for food. I have really missed that!

And I’ve missed writing.

So one of my New Year Resolutions, one which I do not intend on breaking, is to be more regular on my blog (at least more than once in 4 months!)… and to remember my passwords!! Fingers Crossed!!

Well one of the main reasons why I haven’t been blogging is that I have been baking… like a lot! I haven’t felt as centered, at one with myself or simply delighted than when I’m in my Kitchen, mixing, whisking, tasting away! I think I may have found my calling.

I took the plunge & decided to take my passion for food a step further… The Odd Hour Kitchen is now a small home bakery 🙂 So with the apron, I now have on a little entrepreneurial hat. And it is such fun! I get to bake all the time, in my Kitchen with my music and spread love & joy through what I bake! All this without the extra calories (& the guilt that goes with it!) from the earlier days, when I just had to bake & whatever came out of the oven went straight to my hips! To be fair, I did share with the husband (who complained about the increasing inches round his waist!), my parents (who honestly don’t need the extra sugar!) & of course eager friends & family. But now with this new “venture,” my food is helping me connect & reach out to so many more!

It started with the Raksha Bandhan festival in August, the day which, according to Indian tradition, celebrates the bond & love between brothers & sisters. The sister ties an ornamental thread or Raakhi on the wrist of her brother who promises to protect her all their life while she in turn pledges to pray for his well being. The brother has to then gift her something pretty, while the sister gets him something sweet… of course, what would an Indian festival be without any mithai (sweetmeat)! There are loads & loads of Indian Sweets… kaju katlis (diamond shaped bites of heaven made with cashewnuts), laddoos (ball-shaped sweets made with different ingredients like chickpea flour, semolina, coconut & of course sugar & clarified butter), I could go on, & on…

But it’s not uncommon to go with chocolates, cupcakes, cookies either. In fact some of my first experiments in baking were nearly charred brownies for my brothers on Raakhi day!

Now, since I don’t burn my brownies anymore, & I have added a few more goodies to my repertoire, it seemed like a great time to open up my Kitchen to more people on Rakshabandhan! So I updated my Facebook page, sent out emails, Whatsapp messages to friends & family & put out 3 products on my menu… bite-sized versions to go with the Indian mithai theme.

And I got a surprisingly decent response & with that the exhilaration of baking to meet orders & deadlines… very exciting! All charged up then, I participated in a Bake Sale & then opened up for Diwali, the Hindu New Year. So far, I’ve been working from festival to festival & with a fairly fluid menu. Of course if somebody calls me & asks me to bake something for them off the menu, any day of the week… I never pass up the opportunity 😀

I’m hoping to crystallize the menu, get more organized & get myself out there a little better in terms of visibility this new year… & lets see where this goes 🙂 Meanwhile I’m happy to be experimenting, trying out new recipes & baking on request!

So, if you live in Mumbai (or have friends & family that do), & want to indulge your sweet tooth you could call, mail or check out my little online store for comforting goodies.

Here are some of things that I’ve been baking over the past few months.

These CHOCOLATE STREUSEL Cupcakes are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee… not too sweet, with a delicious crunchy chocolate chip topping.

DEVIL’S FOOD CUPCAKES… Rich, Dark, Moist & Mysterious… with a surprise filling in each… Eggless too! For a friend’s dessert night

Light, Melt in Your Mouth… I made these ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIES the first time for a friend’s baby shower

This one’s a Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free CHOCOLATE FUDGE cake… The husband’s childhood buddy & his brother dropped by for dinner & stayed till 5 am! The brother had all these diet restrictions… so this is what I served!

I call these BROOKIES… A Brownie & Cookie Hybrid 🙂 I made these the first time as an experiment on my unsuspecting brothers… it worked! I do them with home made Salted Maple Caramel Sauce & Almonds / Peanut Butter & Snicker Bars / Orange Marmalade

So that in a nutshell is what I have been up to over the past 4 months… with of course a trip or 2 to Jaipur to teach at the school & a visit to Singapore to  see my adorable little babus, my nephews. I do hope to cook more, share more recipes & be around a lot more!

To sign off… Magic, Dreams, Love, the Time to enjoy a good Book, favourite Music or a Quiet Moment alone, the Spirit to give wing to your Creativity, loads of exciting Adventures (inside the kitchen & out!) & of course Joy, Peace & Health…. That’s what I wish for you all this New Year!

Chicken Khichda / Haleem

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It is Eid today… the day that marks the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. For the past 29 – 30 days, devout Muslims the world over do not eat anything from dawn to sunset. However when the sun goes down everyday, at Iftar, the fast is broken.

If you walk through streets around the Bombay Central Station, Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Mahim – There’s such an atmosphere of festivity! The streets are lit up with fairy lights, groups of people milling about, all dressed up & the roads lined with stalls selling everything from bright clothes to jewellery & shoes to… of course… Food! Oh! It’s such a treat! It’s been a while, but I remember for a couple years, going down to Mohammed Ali Road with my friends at least once during Ramzan during Iftar, to, well put it politely, stuff ourselves silly!

You wouldn’t know where to start! Of course, if you were fasting, you would with dates & some fruit from the dried fruit & juice stalls & then move on to the real stuff. But that never applied to us! We went straight for the meat & chicken Kebabs, Tikkas (marinated chunks of Chicken or Lamb grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection over charcoal), Naans (flat bread), Baida Rotis (thin, soft flatbread stuffed with meat, coated with eggs & deep fried), Biryaani (saffron & spice laced rice layered with a flavourful meat or chicken gravy), my favourite Khichda / Haleem! You can’t end the feast without anything sweet… so there are Malpuas (crisp little pancakes deep fried in clarified butter) served with Rabdi (sweet, creamy, thickened milk) or Phirni (a delicate rice pudding flavoured with cardamom) in little clay pots… The feast is surely not for the faint hearted!

For the past 8 – 9 years (maybe more!), we’ve been invited to be part of the Iftar & Eid celebrations at the Khan residence… & that is another experience altogether! Pure gastronomical heaven! The everyday food out there is out of this world… so you can imagine what these special dinners would be like! Nalli, Biryaani, Kebabs, Mutton cooked the Moghlai way, Khichda.. & of course Auntie’s special Sheer Khurma (a special vermicelli pudding)! How our dear friend turned vegetarian & more importantly, remained one, growing up in this household, is something that always baffles me!

Gosh I’m salivating as I write this, & feeling rather sorry for myself as I’m going to miss the festivities, being with my friends (who are more like family) & of course the food at the Eid dinner at the Khans’, for the second year in a row! I’m in my home away from home, Jaipur, working (for a change!) for 2 weeks 😦

I knew I was going to be missing out so, a few days before I left Bombay, I made my favourite Khichda / Haleem for my family! Khichda is a one-dish meal, comfort in a bowl… I love it! And this is my first attempt at making it!

I used these websites as a reference for the recipe – Khana Pakana & Kulsum Mehmood, & followed the tips & suggestions given to me by the lovely elderly Bohri Kaka (uncle) who sold me the ingredients at Crawford Market  (the one stop wholesale bazaar in Bombay for everything!) 🙂

So here it is the recipe for a meal that satisfies the soul, with a special Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Ingredients

Polished Whole Wheat

Mixed Lentils

  • 250 gm Polished Whole Wheat Grains
  • 150 gm Mixed Daals (red, white & yellow lentil & Bengal gram)
  • 450 gm Boneless Chicken Pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Red Chilli Powder (to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Dhania – Jeera / Cumin & Coriander Seed Powder
  • Special Haleem Spice (recommended by the sweet Kaka at the shop)

Spices

  • 2 stick Cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 Cardamom
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Mace
  • a pinch Nutmeg Powder
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter – Lots of it!

To Serve:

  • 3 large Onions (finely sliced & deep fried)
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Special Haleem Spice
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter

Method

  • Soak the wheat overnight (at least 8 – 10 hours) in a large vessel filled with water. Pour in 1-2 teaspoons oil & some salt. (Kaka’s tip: Do not wash the wheat or disturb it while soaking. It affects the cooking process)
  • Soak the lentils for about 2 hours.

Marinated Chicken

  • Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace & cardamom & grind to a fine powder.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, the spice powder from Step 3, nutmeg powder, 2 teaspoon Haleem spice, cumin & coriander powder & mint leaves. Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In a large heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of ghee, add the onions & sauté till the onions turn golden.
  • Add the marinated chicken & stir fry for about 10 minutes. Add more ghee if you need to, don’t be shy!
  • Drain the soaked wheat & lentils & add to the chicken.

Soaked Wheat Grains, Lentils & Marinated Chcken

  • Add enough water to cover the chicken & grains, plus some more & simmer on a low flame.
  • Now this is where patience kicks in! Allow the chicken & grains to cook for 6 – 7 hours, stirring regularly. (I kid you not! That’s how long it took! You could pressure cook the whole thing. But Kaka said the true taste emerges when the Khichda is slowly cooked over a long time. I believe him! It’s totally worth it.)
  • Add more water if it gets too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Once the wheat has softened (around 6 hours later), take the vessel off the flame, remove the chicken pieces & keep aside. Using a hand blender make the wheat & lentil mixture as smooth as possible. Add the chicken back to this thick, porridge-like mixture & place the vessel on a very low flame.

The Khichda Cooking Slowly

  • Add another 2 teaspoons of the Haleem spice & check the seasoning. (I find it easier to taste my way through a dish like this, so at this point if you feel you need to add more salt, chilli or spices, go right ahead!)
  • If possible, leave the vessel on the flame till you are ready to serve.

To Serve

The Condiments – Melted Ghee, Haleem Spice Powder, Mint Leaves, Deep Fried Onions, Lemon Wedges

Ladle the Khichda into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of ghee over it, sprinkle a bit of the Haleem spice, some mint leaves & serve with a wedge of lemon. Then sit back & watch the expressions of your family as they dig into it!

This recipe serves 6

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

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I really need to check my tickets like a million times before I travel next… especially if they’ve been booked by someone else! There I was on Saturday afternoon, all content after my theatre workshop in Jaipur, excited to head back home that evening… when I just happened to glance at my ticket. And guess what… I was booked on the flight home the next day!! Long story short, I got an extra 24 hours in the city, which was great since I had been supremely lazy this trip & hadn’t gone anywhere! So I went shopping (yay!), had a drink & a traditional Rajasthani dinner with my friend (camera played tricks so no pictures :-()… & lazed some more all of Sunday!

But my delayed return home meant that I would not have the time to a bake a birthday cake for my father-in-law before mid-night Sunday… or would I?

While relaxing on Sunday, I caught up on my blog-reading. I was going through one I had just started following Food Made With Love… the name itself got me interested because that’s what I believe in too, spreading love through food! And I hit jackpot! I saw a recipe for a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. I was very intrigued… this was the 2nd time in 2 days that I came across that cake! Seemed like there was some history to it. And there is! I love background stories to everything! I went & asked my best friend, Google, & here’s what I found.

The Brooklyn Blackout Cake is a soft, crumbly, 3 layered chocolate cake (usually Devil’s Food) with a wonderfully deep yet light chocolate custard / pudding filling & frosting, topped with a layer of finely processed cake crumbs. Sigh… I wanted to sink my teeth into that one right then & there!!

The original cake was invented by a New York bakery, Ebinger’s,  which was a Brooklyn institution from 1894 to 1972. During World War II, the Civilian Defense Corps in the U.S., regularly practiced blackout drills. In Brooklyn, which was close to the naval yard, blackouts prevented the battleships which were dispatched from being silhouetted by the bright lights of the borough in the background. So the dark, almost black cake was named after these blackout drills.

This rich, intense cake was somewhat of a staple in New York, the cake that you took as a gift at a dinner party, for birthdays or just as a treat! It was apparently the kind of cake that grandparents tell their grandkids about… “You have no idea what you have missed!” types. Ebinger’s shut shop in 1972. Of course the authentic Brooklyn Blackout Cake recipe was lost with that. Many bakers, bakeries & die-hard Ebinger fans have since tried to recreate this yummy-licious cake. 

The recipe I followed is from Food Made With Love, which was in turn from the Humming Bird Bakery Cookbook. Luckily I had most of the ingredients I needed & my doll of sister-in-law picked up the rest by the time I landed! So I reached home & got down to making the Brooklyn Blackout Cake for my father-in-law’s birthday!

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 100 gm Butter, (softened)
  • 260 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 45 gm Cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 170 gm Plain Flour
  • 160 ml Whole Milk

Chocolate Custard:

  • 250 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 125 gm Cocoa Powder
  • 200 gm Cornflour
  • 85 gm Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To Sprinkle:

A pack of Chocolate Chip Cookies, blitzed in the food processor

Note:

The original recipe called for:

  • Unsalted butter. If you do use this, you need to add a pinch of salt.
  • 500 gm Castor Sugar. I thought I’d start off by adding half the quantity of sugar & taste my way along to see if more was needed. I think 250 gm was enough
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup. I figured that the Maple Syrup enhanced the sweetness & added this rich flavour to the custard.

3 x 20 cm cake tins, base-lined with grease-proof paper

Method:

For the Cake

  1. Cream the butter and sugar  until light & fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time,whisk & mix well ,scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder & bicarbonate of soda (plus salt if using).
  4. Add half the flour, then all the milk, & finish with the remaining flour. Mix well until everything is well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins & smooth over with a palette knife.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven at 170 C for 2o mins (if using 3 x 20 cm tins). 
  7. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Custard:

  1. Put the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder & 600 ml of water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.
  2. Mix in the cornflour with 120 ml of water, then whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan.
  3. Bring back to boil , whisking constantly. This is important else the custard will be lumpy. 
  4. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat & stir in the butter & vanilla extract.
  6. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with clingfilm & chill until very firm.

It looked so pretty & delish even without the crumbs!

Putting it Together

  1. When the cakes are cold, using a serrated knife, slice a thin layer off one of the cakes.
  2. Put this layer into a food processor and process to make fine crumbs.
  3. Put one cake on a cake stand and spread about one-quarter of the chocolate custard over it with a palette knife.
  4. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the custard over it.
  5. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining custard over the top and sides.
  6. Cover with the cake crumbs and chill for about 2 hours.

 Note;
  • I used the wrong sized cake tin (a larger one!) so the cake didn’t rise enough to give me 3 layers + crumbs
  • I sliced 2 layers & instead of cake crumbs, used the cookie crumbs
  • Also since I made 1 large-ish cake, it took longer to bake almost 35 minutes.

I finished frosting just after midnight, so we ended up cutting the cake the next day. It stayed well in the refrigerator & I kept it out for an hour before serving. It was so worth the wait! Soft, gooey & rich, rich chocolate!! And surprisingly light too. This cake is going to be baked pretty often I think!!

This recipe serves 12 people.

PS: I would like to thank Robert Simon for informing me that the Original Ebinger Brooklyn Blackout Cake, was made with Coffee. That, I can imagine, would take the cake to another level! Am definitely going tot add in the coffee the next time I make it 🙂

Baked Chicken

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This has got to be my laziest trip to Jaipur, ever! Apart from my classes everyday & going over to my friend’s for dinner last night, I haven’t done anything! I’m blaming it on the weather… it’s too hot in the afternoon to go anywhere.

Though today this is how it was outside when I got done with lunch… cloudy, breezy & a light drizzle…

And when I woke up from my nap (it’s summer in India… you have to nap right?) it was warm & still all over again!

Anyway, I thought I’d make myself useful & write in a post sharing a recipe for a dish I had cooked over a month ago. As you will notice after reading the ingredients, this was before my diet days!

Ingredients

  • 450 gm Chicken Breast
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 7-8 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • ½ Carrot (chopped)
  • 6 Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 150 gm Corn Kernels (boiled)
  • 1 small head Broccoli (florets)
  • ½ each green, yellow & red Bell Peppers (chopped)
  • 200 ml fresh Cream
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • Fresh Basil (finely chopped)
  • 200 gm Cheese (grated)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Dried Oregano, Celery Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Make diagonal slashes on the chicken & rub in minced garlic, pepper, oregano & celery salt. 
  2. In an oven-safe pan heat a tablespoon of Olive Oil & sear the chicken quickly both sides till brown & keep aside.
  3. In the same pan sauté the onion till soft & pink.
  4. Add the carrot, mushrooms, broccoli & bell peppers & cook for a few minutes.
  5. Place the chicken on the veggies, drizzle olive oil generously, cover pan with foil & roast in the oven for about 35 minutes at 200 C. 
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan & cut into slivers.
  7. To the veggies add cream, milk, basil, corn, salt, pepper, 150 gm cheese.
  8. Cook till the sauce thickens
  9. Pour over the chicken slivers.
  10. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, 50 gm cheese & basil over it & bake for 20 – 25 minutes till the cheese melts & the crumbs turn golden.

Serve hot with a side of mashed potatoes.

This is one of those “comfort” dishes… mild, gentle flavours but rich enough to make you feel all warm & gooey & totally content 🙂

This recipe serves 4 people.

(Almost) Whole Wheat Focaccia with Goan Sausages

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It’s 4 am IST as I start to type this & I’m at the airport waiting to take off to Jaipur, Rajasthan. I was so terrified I would oversleep & miss my flight, that I pretty much didn’t sleep at all! And now I need to make sure I don’t doze off & miss boarding the airplane all together! I hate early morning trips!

It’s been a month since I last visited the Pink City & even as sleepy as I am, I’m pretty excited about going back. A new set of kids to work with, a new workshop, new things to explore & discover! Being a drama teacher really is a fun & exciting job. But a week away, also means time away from my Kitchen & being able to cook! Sometimes it’s a good thing, other times… well, like when I spent a month there in December, I so missed cooking that I nearly put out a  status update on Facebook asking my friends if they had friends in Jaipur who would loan me their kitchen for an afternoon! I was luckier on my last trip when I caught up with an old friend who invited me home for a delicious Bengali style Mutton & her daughter & I baked a cake!

I couldn’t leave home for a week without making something…especially since the past week was chaotic (as usual) & I couldn’t cook anything interesting (or blog-worthy!) since my last post. And once again there was this urgency to bake!  You know how it is!

I haven’t baked bread since I started my diet in March. I’m okay with all the light meals eating right, the salads & healthy desserts, but if there’s one thing that I’ve truly craved & missed is some warm, fresh home-made bread… the soft crumb, the crust, the aroma!

And this Sunday… I gave in! I teamed the bread with another one of my favourites… Goan Sausages!

Goa is a small state on the West Coast of India & a very popular tourist destination. It’s got beaches, the river, churches & quaint architecture. It was a Portuguese colony & you can still see the influence on food, buildings, lifestyle & even the language. I love Goa & if I could, I would go live there tomorrow! Get a small shack on the beach & start a bakery. I’ve had some of my best vacations there, with family & a rocking one with my girl friends! The food here is amazing… a lot of fresh sea food….prawn, lobster, calamari, cooked with spices & coconut, bebinca, a traditional dessert with coconut milk & sugar, pork sorpotel & xacuti, & of course Goan Sausages!

These sausages are a blend of Portuguese sausages with Goan spices &  are packed with flavour… fiery & tangy all at once & go very well with crusty bread. You can’t stop eating them! Luckily my regular cold storage stocks these so even if I can’t be in Goa, I can bring a bit of Goa home & team it up with a bit of Italy 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + extra (for dusting) Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Plain Flour (hence the “almost” in the title!)
  • 10 gm Fresh Yeast
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 5 – 6 tablespoons + extra (for drizzling) Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup Milk + water
  • 1 Egg (beaten)
  • Salt
  • 200-250 gm Goan Sausages

Note: I’ve used milk & egg here because whole wheat tends to make the bread denser & dryer & these bring back the softness & lightness.

Method

  1. Mix the yeast, sugar & a few tablespoons of lukewarm water in a small bowl. Cover & keep aside for about 10 minutes till it gets frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour & salt.
  3. Add the yeast, egg, milk & olive oil to the flour to make a soft , sticky dough. Add more flour or water to get he right texture. A lot of this depends on the weather & humidity in the air.
  4.  Turn the dough onto a floured counter & knead gently till it comes together smooth & elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a large, well oiled bowl, cover it with cling film & leave to rise in a warm & dry place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
  6. While the dough proves, prepare the sausages. Remove the meat from the casing & saute in a non-stick wok, without any oil. Splash some water in the wok. Cover it with a deep plate & pour water into the plate & allow the sausages to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep aside.
  7. After the dough rises, knock it back & knead well.
  8. Pat the dough out to a square shape & place in a very well oiled baking tin.
  9. Cover with cling film & leave to rise for another half hour.
  10. After half hour spread the sausages over the dough, sprinkle olives & generously drizzle olive oil over it. 
  11. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for about 25 minutes.

I’m so glad I gave in to my bread craving! Couldn’t stop eating this fresh, crusty, chewy yet soft bread! And the sausage topping…. Delish!

I stuffed some of the remaining sausages into the leftover dough & made this as a snack to carry with me to Jaipur 🙂

Devil’s (Improv) Cake

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A great thing about Jaipur is that I always land up meeting interesting people & have memorable encounters each time. I don’t think I’ve ever been entirely lonely & friendless in the Pink City in the past 6 years! (Lucky me!)

I’ve watched very corny Bollywood blockbusters at one of Jaipur’s oldest movie theatres with French & British volunteers from school! Spent cold evenings swapping recipes, music & stories with a Russian teacher while her hair-dryer warmed up the room! I’ve joined a large group of American exchange students on the precarious roof tops of 2 storey buildings in Tripoliya Bazaar, watching the Teej Festival procession of camels, elephants, horses & dancers. This one afternoon, I learnt the ghoomar, the traditional Rajasthani dance. My “teacher”, a traditional folk dancer lived with her family in a tiny, tiny unfinished home but had performed the world over.

Teachers like me, who came to the school from Delhi & Bombay every once in a while to teach drama, photography, puppetry, who I met “coz we were sailing in the same boat”, are now good friends. After class or on weekends we’d drive up to the forts or walk around exploring the bazaars or even better grab a beer & kebabs at the street stalls on a chilly winter night! And the best part… it’s always a surprise; I never know who I’m going to meet!

This time round though, I was very excited to catch up with an old, friend whom I was going to meet after nearly 15 years! I last met Reema at her wedding. She has moved to Jaipur now & invited me home for dinner, the day I reached & then again on my last night there! A home cooked meal is always welcome! And when someone offers to cook mutton for you, the Bengali way, you’ve got to love her! And what better way to demonstrate that love by baking for her & her family 🙂

Reema & Amit have 2 gorgeous daughters Arushi & Ayesha, who love chocolate. So I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for Devil’s Food Cake & gave the list of ingredients to Reema, who organized it all. Ask me where you can get gorgeous block print razais (blankets) or the best lassi (a thick, sweet, yogurt based drink) in Jaipur, & I’ll be able to tell you with my eyes shut! But basic groceries… absolutely clueless!

I volunteered to buy the chocolate… very optimistic, I know. Of course, I couldn’t find any dark cooking chocolate… so I improvised*… that’s what theatre people do best, don’t they?

So ingredients in place, our equipment in order, my eager 12 year old assistant, Arushi & I began our Devil’s Improv!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • ½ cup Cocoa Powder
  • ½ cup (packed) dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 9 tablespoons Butter (softened), plus some for greasing
  • ¾ cup fine Powdered Sugar
  • 1½ cups Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs

Frosting

  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons dark Brown Sugar
  • ¾ cup Butter (cubed)
  • *350gm dark Chocolate (chopped)/ 2 cups Chocolate Chips

*My Improv Ingredients

  • 4 Orange Silk Cadbury Chocolate Bars (chopped)
  • 4 Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bars (chopped)

(The grocer gave me very strange looks when I asked for 8 bars of Chocolate!)

  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Instant Coffee Powder

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Method

Frosting

  1. Heat water, brown sugar & butter in a pan over a gentle flame, till it melts.
  2. When the mixture bubbles, take it off the heat & add the chocolate.
  3. Leave it to melt for a bit & then add the coffee powder & orange juice.
  4. Whisk the mixture well till it is smooth & glossy.
  5. Leave the frosting to rest, whisking it every now & then. It will thicken as it cools.

Note:

I had cut down the amount of water since I was going to add the orange juice, but I still found the frosting on the thinner side. It would be a good idea to reduce the amount of water, even if you aren’t adding the juice.

It helps to make the frosting first, as it has enough time to thicken while you make the cake.

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease & dust or line the bottom of 2 8 inch round cake tins (We had just 1, so went with that)
  2. Pour the boiling water into a bowl with the cocoa & sugar. Whisk & set aside.
  3. Get your “sous chef” to cream the butter & powdered sugar together. Peep over her shoulder to see if she’s beating well until pale & fluffy 🙂
  4.  Sift the flour, baking powder & baking soda in another bowl & set aside. (We realised at the time we started that we were out of baking soda so I increased the quantity of the baking powder to about 1¼ teaspoons… it worked!)
  5. Add the orange zest & vanilla essence to the creamed butter & sugar, mixing all the while.
  6. Now add an egg, quickly followed by a large spoon of the flour mixture; continue mixing as you add the 2nd egg & the rest of the dry ingredients.
  7. Finally fold in the cocoa mixture & mix well.
  8. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans (or 1) & bake for about 30 minutes or till a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Set the cake tin on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes & then turn out to cool.

Putting It Together

Carefully slice the cake in half. Set one half on a plate. Spread a generous amount of the frosting on it & set the other half on it. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the frosting.

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Nigella’s Notes

  • The cake can be baked 1 day ahead & assembled before serving. Wrap tightly in cling-film & store in an airtight container. With our weather, it might make sense to refrigerate.
  • Un-iced cakes can be frozen the day they are baked, for about 3 months. Thaw for 3-4 hours at room temperature
  • Iced cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in a cool place or the fridge.Image    Image

The Review

Our Devil’s Improv worked!! The taste of orange was a pleasant surprise for our “audience”. It balanced the otherwise too sweet milk chocolate. And coffee added richness to the flavour. The cake was soft, light & melt-in-your-mouth.

Did I hear “Encore!”? 😉

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This recipe serves 8-10 people