Friday, 9 January 2015

Orange and Dark Chocolate Layer Cake with Dark/White Chocolate Ganache

This is my Christmas special, innovated out of a desperate need to use an entire tray of oranges before they went squishy. The cake is dense,the ganache thin, rich and sticky, and because I detest fruit cakes, there are no raisins or plum or other suchlike disgusting things in the batter. In other words, for a middle-class home, this is a cheap and delicious cake to make: moist, soft, and richly flavoured without being in-you-face.

First, you peel two medium-sized oranges, take off the white fibrous strands within, de-pip the orange, and poach in water with 5 tsp. sugar and 3 tsp. fennel seeds.


Then, when the sugar-water has turned into a reduced, sticky syrup perfumed with citrus and fennel, and the orange is well-poached, take a whisk to it and make a pulp out of the whole thing. Let it cool.

While it cools, melt about a cup of dark cooking chocolate. Most people do it in an improvised double-boiler. I do it by adding a little water to a saucepan, waiting for it to boil, and adding small chunks of the chocolate into it. Once the chocolate is a thick liquid, let it cool.


If the orange is now cool, break two whole eggs into it. Whisk till well-combined. Pour in a cup's worth of sunflower oil.


Combine again. Now gently add the cooled (but not solidified) chocolate. Whisk till it's one thick pulpy brown mix.


Add a cup of flour, 1.5 tsp of baking powder, and if you want, a few drops of vanilla extract/essence. Bake in a preheated oven for about an hour, though check at 45 minutes to see how far the cake's done. I bake my cakes on the middle rack of a small, ancient, table-top oven at 130C, with both bottom and top heaters firing. The time might be different for your oven.


Once the cake is done (a spoon/fork/knife comes out clean), let it cool for some time. In the meanwhile, prep the dark chocolate ganache by heating the same chocolate in a little water, adding a dollop of fresh/heavy cream and orange zest. Blend over a low flame for about a minute or two. Now either you pour the ganache over the whole cake, like so:


Or, slice your cake into two; pour the ganache on top of both slices; put one slice back on the other. The perfect citrusy dark chocolate holiday cake is ready to stuff in faces!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Spicy French Toast with Warm Honey-Spinach Tofu Salad


I've just added the label "salads" to my blog, because ever since moving in my New Roomie M, my diet has begun to include a whole lot of salads. The man lives and dies by his straight-up meat with a salad on the side menus, and has taken it upon himself to convince me of the delights of grilled protein and "interesting" salads.

So are carbs off the kitchen then? Hell no! I shall cling to my rice and bread till my dying day, and no manly muscles will deprive me of my daily ration of flour, sugar and bhaat. So sometimes we compromise by having mashed potatoes at the side of our meat, at other times by coating the bread in protein. This is one such, a perfect summer and autumn lunch of warm garlic-tossed spinach and tofu/paneer salad dressed with honey, eaten sandwiched between slices of french toast. Here's the picturebook.

You know how to make Indian toast, I'm sure. If not, take a peek here. This needs to be made right before eating, so make the salad first.



In a saucepan, heat some sunflower or olive oil. Toss in chopped garlic. Let them fry till golden or brown.


Add cubed tofu/paneer. Toss lightly till they're coated in flavoured oil, and then add the spinach.


Cook the spinach with constant tossing on high. The high temp. prevents the leaves from stewing, and the tossing prevents the paneer from charring. When the spinach have lost their water and reduced, clear a little space in the pan, add a little more oil in it, and slide in the chopped tomato slices.




If you think you'd rather fry them by themselves and then toss them with the rest of the salad, you can do that too.

When a little cool, pour honey over the salad generously. Mix. Serve with freshly-made Indian toast. Eat sandwiched.


Thursday, 12 December 2013

Extra-eggy Moist Pound Cake With Walnut Top Crust

Hello again :-) What can I say, I live a terribly busy life.

No, really. I have SO many new murder mysteries to read.

Anyway. Moving on, winter is finally tweeting outside my window - that's the tropics for you, three weeks of cool breezes if we're lucky - and something about the nip in the air always, always makes me squish bakey things down my gullet.

I lie. Pretty much any season makes me want to squish b. things down my g., but winter actually makes me want to make them. Especially since I'm on something of a budget now, and boy, are pastries expensive.

So here then, is the lovely extra-eggy pound cake, with a top-crust of toasty walnuts, that I baked on a whim day before. It was 12AM, so there are no pictures. Just follow the simple steps below.

1. Separate whites from yolk of two eggs. Two eggs will make it taste extra-eggy, don't worry.

2. Whisk the whites till it becomes sort of peaky and firm. Then add about 100 gms of powdered sugar, and whisk some more. I use a mixing device to do this, because without the aid of electricity, my wrists are useless.

3. Beat the yolks well. Then gently add sunflower or a similarly bland oil - enough to cover the yolks, and then an inch. Whisk it very well with the eggs till the two blend completely. This blend should be of a slightly thick pouring consistency. When you tilt the mixing bowl of jar, it should roll easily to the edge. Not runny, but not a thick, slow vessel-clinging mixture either.

4. To this, add 125 gms of flour, in about three batches. Add a batch, fold it in very well, then add the second, and so on. When all of the flour is whisked in, add quarter teaspoon salt and an even quarter teaspoon baking powder plus a large pinch for rising luck :-)

5. To this very thick and yellow mixture, add three tablespoons of milk. Whisk. Add a third of the meringue. Whisk well. Add another four tablespoons of milk. Whisk. And so on till you've added all the meringue (egg white+sugar mixture) and three batches of milk. Your batter should now be thick and clinging to your spoon, but far smoother and silkier than it was with just the flour, oil and egg. Whisk this for a good five minutes by hand.

6. Keep a stack of dry-roasted and skinned walnuts in a jar. They're very handy for salads and desserts. Take about fifteen of them, chop them into pinch-sized bits, and add them to the batter. Whisk for a final minute, and whisk well.

7. Pour batter into butter-greased cake tin. Bake at 150 C for 30 minutes (or however long it takes for a fork to come out clean), then at 200 C for seven. The 200C baking will give you a lovely caramel-coloured nutty top-crust, while baking at 150 will leave your cake eggy, slightly dense, rich-tasting yet light on the tummy, and an interesting shade of pale yellow.

Serve with tea at four o' clock, and send me a hand-written thank-you note!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Veggie-full Leftover Spicy Noodle Soup

Oh my, look who's back.

I've begun living on my own after ages, which has, naturally, sent my cooking quotient in a tizzy. For the first few days of the new life I lived on salads and quick chicken stir-fries, but then I finally buckled down and split open the rice noodles. (I'm a big fan of noodles.)

The thing is, the evening before, I had ordered something from a local Asian place that sounded delish but turned out to be rather odd. Called Koran grilled chicken, it promised to deliver succulent pieces of chicken grilled with a honey glaze. What arrived at my doorstep in a plastic bowl, however, was slices of roast chicken swimming in dark brown gravy, topped with bean sprouts. Hm.

Anyway, I dipped my bread in it and had my dinner like a good girl, but I saved most of the copious meat and some of the gravy (which wasn't bad, in its own way) for a much-improved dish later. This is that dish, vastly superior, and stuffed full of the two vegetables I had at home -- carrots and beans. (I also had a lot of spinach, laal shaak and some mushrooms, but I'm saving them for other things.)

 First, chop up the carrots and beans into tiny pieces.Then boil them till nearly done. With about two minutes to go, add the noodles. Then drain the lot.

 Simultaneously, in a tablespoon of oil, stir in chopped garlic, green chillies (optional, of course, but very highly recommended) and half an inch of ginger minced in a high-brimmed pan. When aromatic, add the leftover chicken hand-torn or chopped into small pieces, and some of the gravy. Toss on low, adding a little more oil if necessary. When well-tossed, add enough water to give it a thick, soupy consistency and let cook for a minute or so.
 
 Then drop in the just-drained noodles and veggies. Stir well. 

 Add the rest of the leftover gravy, plus a teaspoon of soya sauce, a little salt, and quite a bit of red chilli powder or paste (well, *I* did, anyway). Mix well. You may add a dash of vinegar if you like the tangy, sour flavour.
 
 Finally, when it's done, take it off the flame, add a handful of scallions, and fold in well so the scallions can cook in the heat but still remain crunchy. And just before spooning into plates or bowls, add roughly chopped bokchoy or local cabbage for that extra crunch :-)

Voila! You're fabulously delicious veggie-high spicy noodle soup is good to go!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Baked Prawns in Creamy Garlic Sauce

I've been making a lot of in-and-out dishes lately. That is, dishes that require you to zoom into the kitchen, do some quick stirring, and zap back out. This is One Such. Here's the how-to:

Take ten or twelve shelled and be-headed (and de-tailed, if you like) prawns. Not enormous ones. If they are large, cut them along the vein to make one into two. Wash and clean then, then leave them alone to dry. No marinade! Now, prep the other ingredients thus: mince about six cloves of garlic. Aww, no no, stick to three if that's all you can handle. Chicken. Yes. Anyway. Take six cloves of garlic. Peel and mince them. Now, either make a paste of dry red chilies (with a green thrown in to take the edge off), or, if you're sensible and avoid dry red chilies, just wash and chop about three green chilies (unless, that is, you're all delicate like. In which case you'd best abandon this ship now. It's going to get worse). Finally, chop a couple of shallots/green onions, stalk and all.

So, after you're all prepped, heat a tablespoon of butter in a wok.

Aww, I kid! Sunflower oil will do just fine.

No, really. One tablespoon of butter. In this, when warm and liquid, add the minced garlic. When fragrant, add the chilly paste, or the chopped green chilies. Stir quickly for about a minute. Add the chopped green onions. Just the onion parts, mind. Show some more wristwork. Then, stir in the prawns and if you're flame wasn't already on simmer, do it ASAP or the prawns will harden. After lightly tossing the prawns in the garlicky, warm butter and watching their juices mix with it for a minute or so, add a cup of fresh or heavy cream. If using fresh cream, whisk it lightly before adding to the wok. Stir this well. When it's been folded in well, add the green stalks of the green onion, toss, taste for salt and heat, add chili flakes if you want, and take it off the flame.

NOTE: this sauce can stand the addition of a lot of mild-flavoured cheese, but I'm watching out for my poor ole heart these days, so I skip it. No reason why you should, though :-)

This sauce is ready to eat straight off the wok, with a baked potato on the side or a small bowl of rice. It goes wonderfully well with pasta of most descriptions, too. However, I prefer it best baked. You can either bake it on a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, topped with cheese or breadcrumbs (or both), or you could bake the sauce-mixed-pasta, with a similar topping. I've even had it baked on top of a layer of mashed potatoes. It was divine.

Go on then, try it. And tell me how it was. Utterly delicious, or merely very good? ;-)