Monday, 25 April 2016

Devilled Eggs

Devilled Eggs

Nothing says summertime and picnics like devilled eggs.  I’m sure this is a British invention.  Who else would associate chilies with Satan? Even so, they did come up with a fabulous way to deal with eggs, so there will be no sniping at them for the time being.

This recipe is easy, if you don’t include the peeling.  Avoid fresh eggs for this recipe, as the fresher they are, the harder to peel.  Keep them refrigerated for a week or so, and they should be easier to manage. This recipe makes 20 halves, with most people opting for two to three pieces, more if they’re really hungry.  It takes about 45 minutes, longer to chill.  

10 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon dried chilies, crushed or very finely diced fresh Thai chili if you like spice
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely diced, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried dill if you must
¼   cup very finely diced red onion
¼  cup very finely diced sweet red pepper
¼  cup plain yogurt
Salt, pepper, to taste--  1/2 teaspoonful of sugar to taste, maximim 

Dice onion and pepper as finely as possible

½ teaspoon hot paprika to sprinkle on top,
A few sprigs of stemmed chopped parsley leaves sprinkled on top, if you have it.

Place eggs in large pot cold water.  Bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer for 6  minutes. 

Use an egg plate, if you can!
Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and some cold water, or have cold water running at sink.

Remove one egg from hot water and place in ice and cold water till cool enough to handle.  

Peel carefully, slice lengthwise to see if yolk is cooked.  If it is, use a spider to remove all eggs from hot water, slipping into ice and water, or just drain pot of hot water, and place under tap running cold water.

Peeling the eggs is the hardest part of this recipe.   Start from broad end, crack gently and look for the membrane and air pocket.  Slide your thumb onto the slippery shiny white, under the membrane.  Peel by sliding thumb down and under shell and membrane, very carefully, to keep the egg white intact.  

Slice lengthwise.  (If any eggs should break, or get mangled, add broken whites to yolk mix).  
Pop out yolks into large bowl.  
Use real mayonnaise, not any of that weird stuff
meant to save you a few pennies or calories. .

Add onion, red pepper, mayonnaise, dried chillies, and dill. Mix till completely smooth.  Add plain yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, till mixture is smooth and moist. (Use a potato masher or pastry cutter if necessary.) Add salt and pepper to taste.  You may add a little sugar at this point, or a bit more mustard, or chilli, it’s up to you.  I like these spicy, but I do consider guests, especially children.

Place eggs whites onto a serving tray.  Either spoon in the filling or use a  piping bag to fill each egg white with yolk mixture. 

Ha!  I say that so smoothly.  I experimented with a piping bag, and chose a tip that was too narrow.  I gave up and spooned the rest of the yolk into the whites, I'll confess.

Sprinkle hot paprika sparingly over all, it’s just there for the colour.  Garnish with a little of the parsely leaves for extra colour.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  Be careful to keep these well chilled until serving time, and don’t leave them in a warm place for more than an hour.  Hopefully they’ll be gobbled down in a hurry, so everyone will be gloriously happy.   

They're delicious and gorgeous, but do keep them well chilled!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Kefir Mango Lassi

Kefir Mango Lassi
My warm and sunny spot still has no flowers.  This is Canada!

Traditionally a lassi is made with plain yogurt, also known as curd.  But kefir is that much healthier than yogurt.  The pro-biotic qualities are more intense, and they stay in the digestive system longer than those of yogurt.  The taste is somewhat similar, but a bit more like a fresh, very mild cheese.

I’m giving two choices here.  You can buy your kefir, and make this lassi within minutes, or you can make your kefir, which will take overnight. 

Either way, the method is easy.  Whether you go commercial or home-made, you still need to start with a good quality, plain commercial kefir. 

Let’s focus on the mango lassi first!  

This recipe makes 1 large serving or two smaller servings.  You can multiply amounts for more people, up to what your blender can manage.

1 ½ cups plain kefir
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 banana
1 tablespoon jaggery (raw Indian sugar) (optional)
½ capful Kewda water (available in Indian groceries)

Put kefir then frozen mango into blender.  In Canada, frozen mango chunks are relatively inexpensive, saving money and time, though many people prefer to buy an entire crate of mangoes at a certain big box store.  I don’t, because that many mangoes go bad on me before I get a chance to use them, not to mention that mangoes are rather high calories, and eating a crate of mangoes by myself in the time it takes to keep them fresh is a bad idea. 

Fresh mango is sweeter of course, but the banana adds enough sweetness for me.  Another tip is if you have bananas on the cusp of being overly ripe, peel them and put them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  They come in very handy!  You can skip the banana and use the jaggery, or keep the banana and still add the jaggery, as you please. 
Run, don't walk, to get yourself some of this!

Kewda water is my recent discovery.  It tastes sunny and cheerful in a way that reminds me of a yellow and pink toy carousel.  I can’t imagine why.  It evokes pleasant childhood memories, maybe a time at a fair, eating some long forgotten child’s candy.  Trust me, you can't get through your next summer without it!

Add the kewda water and buzz till the lassi is smooth.  Serve in a pretty glass, preferably in a warm spot.  It will cool you down, establish great pro-biotic activity in your belly, quench your thirst and make you very happy.

Now for the kefir directions.  This recipe is my first in my new category, “growing it!”

If I don’t already have kefir starter, I buy a litre of good quality, plain kefir.  I use most of that in, guess what, mango lassis. When I’m down to the last three tablespoons or so, I leave it on the counter for several hours, to wake up the pro-biotics.  

The warmer the room, the quicker the entire process takes, so in my case, I start this process in the evening so it’s done by morning.

3 tablespoons room temperature plain kefir
1 litre (less 3 tablespoons) milk

First, pour the milk into a very clean, wide pot with the lid on.  Turn the heat to medium high, and watch carefully.  As soon as it starts to simmer, remove from heat and take off the lid.  Set aside till it becomes just warm, not hot.  Try a small spoonful on your wrist.  If it’s too hot, it will murder the kefir people. 
You don't have to clean the bottle for the next batch.

Canada is chilly much of the time, so I make a warm area by turning on my oven while the milk is cooling.  It heats up to about 100 F in a few minutes, then I turn it off.  I turn on the oven light to keep a steady temperature in the oven overnight.

If necessary, use a clean funnel to pour the warmish milk into the kefir.  Give it a shake or stir, and cover and place in a warm spot.  I put mine next to the oven light.  If your area is already quite warm, check your kefir after about 5 hours.  If it’s thick, it’s ready to be refrigerated.

Time to refrigerate when it's this thick.
Occasionally, my area is extra warm, and the kefir overdoes itself.  It separates into whey and a very thick, ricotta like cheese substance.  When this happens I tend to panic, but the smell and taste of the thick part reassures me it’s fine.  Just shake it like mad to combine the whey and kefir, best as possible.  

Remember to have lots of fresh milk on hand so that when you’re down to your last three tablespoons of kefir you can start the process all over again.  It is so good that I’m not sure that I’ll be bothering with yogurt ever again!  Fermenting your own kefir will save you much money, and your own is that much healthier!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Spicy Popcorn, Home made!

Spicy Popcorn, Homemade!

You can buy a bag of pre-made popcorn, stuff it into your microwave, and let it pop, but let’s face it. The smell of it isn’t that pleasant, the taste not so great either, and queer chemicals abound.  It’s actually silly easy to make it from scratch with healthy ingredients.  A popcorn popper and a microwave are the only gizmos you need, though I also use a garlic slicer and a cheese grater to speed up the process.

This recipe takes about seven minutes, and makes a good amount of popcorn for four people, or an extravagant amount for two, or an overwhelming amount for one.  If you want to go full vegan, skip the ghee or butter and use just olive oil, but only cook half and add the other half raw, for optimum health benefits.
My garlic slicer makes this a snap!

2 to 3 tablespoons ghee or good quality butter
1 to 3 fresh garlic cloves, sliced almost paper thin
½  or (to taste)teaspoon dried chilies
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
¼ teaspoon salt
1 inch cube Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup best quality olive oil
¼ cup popcorn kernals, or fill machine to its limit

My cheese grater makes this even easier.

In a microwavable container, mix ghee, garlic and chilies.  If you don’t have ghee, use a good quality butter.  Microwave for about one minute.  Add the salt.  It will bubble up a little.  If the garlic is still white, microwave for another 15 seconds, so the garlic is a pale gold.  Any darker would get bitter, but barely gold will make for delicious garlic chips. 
Garlic chips should be barely golden.

While ghee is still very hot, put popcorn into popcorn maker and start machine.  As it’s beginning to pop, add olive oil to the ghee. 

Dribble ghee mixture over popcorn as it arrives in a bowl.  Start sprinkling in grated Parmesan.  
Continue to dribble and sprinkle, and then stuff some popcorn directly into the oil container and stir to get every last molecule of deliciousness back into the popcorn.  Don’t waste a drop of that delicious topping.

Eat right away.  We like this in front of a movie, preferably with a glass or two of nice, red wine.  Lazy weekends are so heavenly.  We sometimes don't even bother with dinner when we're having this.

I use a maniac amount of popcorn to keep the oil levels down, but you shouldn't!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Herbal Lemon Tea from Scratch

Dehydrate your own organic lemons for a beautiful herbal lemon tea.

I love the fragrance of lemons, especially in the winter, when I can't get enough of them.  But a package of Lemon Zinger Teabags has only 20 tea bags, and I knew I could make it better myself.  A small bag of organic lemons later, I have enough to last me for a much longer stretch, and it cost me in the realm of about five dollars, much cheaper than the storebought version.  And so much tastier! It's like drinking a cup of sunshine.

I have the equipment that makes this easy: a mandolin and a food dehydrator.  With this equipment, it takes about twenty minutes to slice and lay out the lemons, and about 24 hours for the dehydration to be complete.  My dehydrator takes only about four lemons at a time, so I had to do this in two batches to get about 60 cups of strong lemon tea.

6 organic lemons

Wash the lemons well.  Because lemons have a bumpy skin, they collect microbes, so give them a very good scrub and rinse.

Patience and time will allow you to slice the lemons with a knife, and you could even dehydrate in the sun, I suppose, but the mandolin allowed me to slice the lemons quickly.  Place the blade to cut slices about 1/8th of an inch thick.

That's about 1/8 inch thick, maybe less.
Working one lemon at a time, be sure to scrape the extra juice into a handy bowl, so nothing is wasted.  The lemon seeds usually slide away from the blade, so plucking them out isn't usually needed.  Discard the seeds.

Place the slices onto each level of the dehydrator.  The lowest levels will be the hottest, so shuffling the trays from time to time is a good idea.  The lemons will burn if left too long, so watch carefully.  I plugged in my dehydrator in the late afternoon, and unplugged it before going to bed.

The next morning I saw that the lemons in the top tray weren't fully dry, so I plugged it back in, and checked the bottom trays and shuffled again.  Already, the bottom trays had darkened lemons, but just enough to caramelize the juices, improving the flavour and colour of the tea.

Just 3 slices will make a lovely cuppa!
For zero bitterness, you can break up the dried slices, keeping the fruit and discarding the peel, but a little bitterness is very healthy, according to Ayurvedic teachings.  I tried the tea both with and without the peels, and prefer the peels.

To make a cup of tea, place 3 small slices into a cup and pour in boiling water.  The tea is steeped once the lemons sink and it smells gorgeous and takes on a pretty colour.  Add a little honey if you like, but the lemons already have their own sugar, so I didn't add sweetener.

Of course you can also add other herbs.  I added a few leaves of home grown mint that I dehydrated in the fall, along with a few dried rose petals and buds.
I got fancy here, adding dried mint and rose petals.

This post begins a new segment to my Indian cooking blog.  Look for a new tab, Big Projects!  

About a year and a half in, I realized that one day I would run out of recipes, and sure enough, I'm still cooking Indian cuisine 300 days out of the year, but I rarely dream up new recipes now.  The new segment will be about long term culinary related projects, such as growing the herbs and vegetables, dehydrating them, fermenting teas, kefirs and vegetables, and so on.

It's very difficult to find a good Holy Basil (Tulsi) tea in these parts, and last year I started the plants from seed, harvested them, dehydrated and made tea that could float you up to heaven.  Alas, I gave away most of the plants in the spring, and my own supply was used up in a few weeks.

A mix of broken lemon, rose petal, bud and mint tea.
I leave for India in the next little while, and will start many more Holy Basil seeds upon returning to Canada.  I intend to grow a lot, realizing how amazing this tea tastes, and how healthy it is for you.  I'll document the process in the new segment, Big Projects,

As far as regular, make it today recipes go, I will continue to create, and I'm sure I'll discover new dishes in India in the next few weeks.  I'll be visiting with at least one of the Bebinka ladies, my Beautiful Granddaughter's paternal grandmother, so who knows what I'll learn?

This jar alone will make about 35 cups of liquid sunshine!  Second batch coming up tonight!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Most Christmassy Christmas Crack Ever!

Most Christmassy Christmas Crack Ever!

My only complaint against that delectable and very easy sweet known as Christmas Crack is that it doesn’t especially taste like Christmas.  Talking about ways to get the Christmas flavours, Beautiful Granddaughter and I hit on the same idea.  We’ve invented Peppermint Christmas Crack.  I do have a recipe for standard Christmas Crack if you'd prefer, but me, I like to flavour things up. 

Because I've also used Graham crackers here, these are slightly more healthy, but you can't go cooking up and serving crack and consider yourself to be a wholesome person, can you?

The molten sugar stage is where you need to exercise caution, so I would advise against children or tipsy types attempting this recipe!

This recipe makes a full cookie sheet worth, and takes about fifteen minutes to prepare, and needs at least an hour to cool in a chilly spot.  First, put your oven up to 350 F.

2 cups raw Organic cane sugar 
Storebought culprits.
1 ¼ cups butter
2 peppermint candy canes (crushed to make about 2 tablespoons)

1 sleeve Graham crackers
1 Dairy Milk Mint Chocolate bar (100 gram)
20 Candycane kisses
1 cup chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon freshly ground peppercorns (optional)

Crush with a pestle, including peppercorns if you like.
First, I stole a couple of peppermint candy canes from the Christmas tree.  I put them in a mortar that already had a bit of ground black pepper in it, and crushed the canes.  You can skip the pepper option if you like.  Set aside.

Combine sugar and butter in a deep pot and put onto medium high.  Stir so sugar doesn’t burn before butter has a chance to melt.  Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with parchment, and place graham crackers evenly spaced over the sheet.

Stir the sugar occasionally, letting the mix melt and then boil for about three minutes.  Sprinkle in half the crushed candy canes and pour evenly over the crackers.  Careful, molten sugar is not your friend unless you pour cautiously and let it cool down before you dream of touching it.

Place in preheated 350 F oven for about ten minutes.  Set your timer to 8 minutes to be on the safe side.

Chop the mint chocolate and candy cane kisses, and have the chocolate chips and crushed peppermint on standby.
I forgot to mention the kisses had to be peeled!

Remove the cookie tray from the oven when everything is bubbling and dark golden.  Put it somewhere stable and safe.  Sprinkle the chopped chocolate , kisses, remaining crushed candy canes, and chocolate chips.  Move fast so you get it done while the sugar is still molten.

Let sit for about two minutes.  Take a spreading knife and smooth and swirl the chocolate and kisses.
Set somewhere to cool.  (To give an idea of how chilly it’s getting around here, the floor of my pantry had these completely chilled in about an hour.  Not bad—molten hot to refrigerator cold in an hour, using no electricity.  Sheesh…) 
Smooth and swirl to get a pretty effect.

Once the chocolate and toffee has solidified, crack it up and serve to the wanton.  
I tossed in some of my Glorified Candied Ginger for serving tonight.