Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Basic bakes, the YMCA cake!

Trips down the memory lane are frequent and things that cause these trips are sometimes as simple as a folded piece of paper or a distant sound of a train engine or as in this case, a cake. My Heinemann blog would have already revealed how much I like cakes and how much I want to learn baking, and now I am getting this opportunity to keep small steps into the world of baking. Thanks to my friend!

She did not tell me what we would be baking, but we bought the ingredients. Flour, sugar, vanilla sugar, raisins, sweetened orange peels, sliced and broken almonds, plant margarine and eggs. May be an expert baker can already guess the outcome and the look and the taste, but I couldnt. I was just eager to learn my first cake. And even when it was out from the oven, I did not recognize it until we cut it. Voila!! I was the six year old kid again. When I held the cake in my hands and sank my teeth into the grainy soft nutty mid section of this aromatic piece of nostalgia, I was not in Germany, but I was in YMCA. Wearing white shorts and a white shirt and after an hour long of gymnastic lessons with master Ismail, dad used to take me to the tea shop that stood near the bike parking. A simple tea shop with "Goldspot, the zing thing" scribbled all across and cartons of "Fruti" hanging in the windows and glass canisters filled with biscuits and cakes. They had these cakes and dad always used to buy this for me. One cup of tea. And they used to serve tea in a cup and saucer those days!

Separate the white from the yellow from 8 large eggs. Into the yellows, add 300 g of powdered sugar and whisk well until the sugar dissolves. Beat the egg whites until it is fluffy (until it does not fall down when you invert the bowl) and then fold the whites slowly into the well beaten yellow. Now add in 400 g of flour (Type 405) slowly with constant stirring. The resultant will be a thick batter, not a dough. Now goes in 10g of vanilla sugar for the mild flavor, 100 g raisins, 100 g sweetened orange peels and 100 g of the almonds. Mix well into the batter and then pour this into a nice oven able tray. Pre heat the oven at 200 C for 10 minutes and then bake this at 180 C for 90 minutes. Well, the time of baking depends on the efficiency of your oven. So it is a good idea to check if the cake is done after 60 minutes by driving a knife into the center and if the knife comes out without sticky batter, it is done! Dont worry if the top will become a bit black, you can always scrap it off and restore the baked brownness! Allow it to cool and then serve as slices. This cake can be stored for more than a week!

People who are baking egg less could find an alternative and post it to me ;-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

The love continues, Brinjal: Innovation

Since the last post had a complicated name, I decide to post this without a name! Well, the truth is that I am still trying to name this Brinjal (Aubergine) cuisine. Aubergine is the only vegetable that is always there in my fridge. It is like milk, never runs out. Every market visit will replenish my brinjal stock and I am never bored of eating it! Sometimes it is consecutive days with brinjal since one huge aubergine is too big for me to consume in a single day. Of course this statement is a lie because most of the times, one brinjal is just not enough!
What is a life of a scientist if he does not find something new?! Though the challenges involved in the real time lab are more, I am quite at ease in inventing new food to eat in my part time lab, the kitchen. For almost over a week, I was cooking this dish in my mind with a variety of  combination of spices and finally arrived at two versions out of which I have successfully cooked, sampled and also tested one version. Oh, the second variation will just be sans tomatoes!
Materials and Methods :
Select a good big fleshy aubergine. Make sure it is straight and not twisted into several angles or deeply curved! A good straight aubergine will be easy to bake on the pan for this dish. Two big onions, two juicy tomatoes, green chili to as much hotness as is required, garlic pods, more ginger than the garlic taken, cashew nuts, cloves, cinnamon, anise and cardamom are the sauce makers. Potatoes and carrots will be our second base along with cumin, dhaniya and red chili powder.

Preparation of layer one:
The first layer is the baked aubergine. Cut the aubergine along the length and make thick slices. Thin slices will get over cooked and difficult to handle. Apply little oil on both the sides and put on a hot plate until both the sides are brown and the aubergine gets cooked. Apply salt after it is cooked and keep aside.

Preparation of layer two:
Peel the potatoes and carrots and boil them. Grate them finely after boiled and make into a homogeneous paste. Cooked peas and beans can also be added if one wants more vegetables. In very little hot oil, add the cumin and dhaniya and chili powder and then mix finely with the grated and smashed vegetables. The little oil is only for cooking the spices. Make sure the vegetable paste is mixed well with the spices and salt. Adding more oil will disrupt the nature of the vegetable paste. Exercise a little care while doing this!
Combination of layers:
Spread this vegetable paste over the baked aubergine. Make it also a thick layer, can be as thick as the aubergine is. The easiest way to prepare this will be in individual plates. If you are serving 4 people, then its 4 slices already on 4 plates over which this can be prepared. The handling will be easier. These two layers will serve as base and the sauce can be poured over this.

Cooking the sauce:
This is a time tested sauce. Nothing much to explain here, just the usual. Cook the tomatoes and onions with the garlic, ginger, whole spices (cardamon, cinnamon, anise and cloves), cashews and salt. Transfer to the blender and make a fine paste. Transfer this to the cooking pot and add water to adjust the consistency. A little cheese can be grated into this to make it rich and thick.
Results and discussion: 
Pour the sauce over the layered aubergine and it is now ready to serve! This is by itself a main course but can also be served along with hot white rice. Garnish with cilantro and onions. Too many preparation methods, but then, to create something exotic, it is totally worth doing these.Removing the tomato from the sauce ingredients will lead you to a white sauce which can also be equally delicious!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zakąska Agnieszki !

Ok, first things first. Let us deal with the pronunciation of the dish. ZA-KAUN-SKA. It sounds complicated, but it is not so complicated to make if you are a gifted baker or as in my case, a gifted observer! Yeah, I am playing the part of the student with this dish and it is from the Polish cuisine. Agnieszki in the name of this dish stands for the innovation and the modification introduced by the person cooking, Agnieszka. At this very moment she is cooking it and I am writing this. ( Wednesday, 17.11.2010, 20:00 )

Wash the leeks (2) and discard the hard green part. Cut into round slices the rest of the onion. Peel the celery (1) and cut in into nice 1 inch cubes. Add these together into boiling water and add along one table spoon  of butter, some salt and 2 spoons of sugar. Within few minutes, the room is filled with the magnificent smell of onions and celery. Celery, by far, has the most interesting smell for a vegetable that I have ever come across! Once the celery is 70 % cooked, take it off the heat. Strain the water off and transfer the boiled vegetables to a hot pan with melted butter (1 spoon). Now add two cubes of vegetable stock and cook until the stock is spread over the vegetables. The cubes are actually well concentrated vegetable stock containing vegetables and spices like thyme, rosemary and turmeric and salt. One good idea to substitute this would be to use the readily available Knorr veg clear soup powder (oh yeah, EUREKA!).

Pour nearly 150ml of cooking cream (25-30 % fat, thick) over the prepared vegetables and mix evenly. Now, into a nice glass oven able bowl, spread a layer of French pastry (yet again readily available) so that the pastry lines the base and the sides of the bowl. Prick the bottom with a fork so that the pastry can breathe when in the oven! Transfer the vegetable-cream mixture into this and cover the top with strips of the pastry in random or netted orientations. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius and then put this inside for 40 minutes (@ 180 degrees ). Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Play around with spices if you need to make it hotter! 

Oh, the taste is divine. Leeks and celery and cream with mild spices. The taste will transport you to the nostalgic 1800's of Europe. The ingredients might be tough to procure in India, but I know that people reading this will add their names to the second part for their own modification introduced! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Brinjal lover, Dahi Bhaingan

I welcome myself back to the blog after quite a while! It is becoming like "seasons". One blogging season with lots of posts and then a break and then a surprise post like this one and the season will start again. And what is better than to start again with my favorite Brinjal (kathirikai, aubergine, bhaingan). It is quite a story with me and brinjal, because, during childhood I used to hate this vegetable. Now, I have cravings for brinjal and I love it in every way possible. Cooked, grilled, baked, sambar, rasam, chutney, in pizza, in lasagna or with rice, brinjal is magic! Here is one recipe that I fell in love with and learnt from my friend from Orissa.

Choose a big brinjal, the ones that are usually grilled. Cut into round sliced. Dont make too thin slices, make them juicy. A little less than half a centimeter thickness would be really good. In a plate, mix together some red chili powder, turmeric, salt and oil. Coat both sides of the slices of brinjal well with this mixture and keep aside for a few minutes. In the meanwhile, heat a pan without oil. Place the brinjal slices on the hot pan (or plate) and cook. Turn the slices until both the sides are roasted. The brinjal should be roasted cooked but not smashed. Stack the cooked slices away until the gravy is done.

Heat a little oil in a pan and add panch puran. This is a mixture of five spices, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin, black til seeds and onion seeds. Chopped green chili (4-5), minced ginger, chopped garlic (3-4) and curry leaves follow. Add some cumin and dhaniya powder and some hing. Switch to low heat and add well beaten curd (yogurt) and stir well. Immediately in sometime add the prepared brinjal slices and cook for few minutes on low heat. Control the salt in the yogurt if needed. 

This can be garnished with chopped cilantro and served with hot white rice. Cooking the brinjals in this way will take extra time and gas, but trust me, the effort is totally worth it. It is not spicy, but it can be made hot with the amount of green chili that goes in the yogurt. Keep the red chili powder over the brinjal to minimum because when you are cooking this on the hot plate, it could make the environment in the kitchen uncomfortable!