Friday, 3 July 2015

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce with Cardamom Panna Cotta

Hail broke down three stalks of my rhubarb, so of course I had to put them to the best possible use.  We tend to think of rhubarb going with strawberries, but I suddenly had one of those mystic moments, knowing that rose flavours would somehow be magnificent, and it was.

This sauce could go on anything, especially vanilla ice-cream, but I like it on cottage cheese and also on plain yogurt.  I suppose it would make a great topping for pancakes, crepes, or waffles, especially with a little ice-cream or whipping cream draped over.  But for this dessert, I made cardamom panna cotta, which suits the rose flavours very well.  Panna cotta seems exotic and challenging, but it’s a silly easy dessert.  It needs several hours of setting time, but preparation can be just a few minutes.  Mine took maybe twenty, but it can be done under ten.  This recipe serves eight.

Rhubarb and Roses Sauce

3 stalks of rhubarb (store-bought is pinker, but garden grown is fresher!)
Enough water to go halfway up the rhubarb in the pot
1 cup vanilla sugar, or plain if you don’t have it
½ teaspoon rose water

Slice the rhubarb into half inch pieces.  Put into a sauce pan and add enough water to reach half way up to the rhubarb.  Add sugar, and turn on heat to medium high.  Stay nearby and stir occasionally.  If you cook it too long the colour will shift unpleasantly.  I used largely green rhubarb, but after about five minutes of cooking the juice goes distinctly pink.  As soon as each piece of rhubarb is soft, (less than ten minutes) remove a piece and taste for sweetness.  Add more sugar if needed.  Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat, and squish the rhubarb down a bit with a masher, or even a fork.  Stir in the rose water. Inhale the heavenly fragrance.  Set aside then cover and refrigerate.

Cardamom Panna Cotta

1 cup jaggery powder (raw Indian sugar, found in Indian groceries)
2 cups simmering milk (whole tastes best, but don’t go for less than 2%)
2 envelopes gelatine powder (2 tablespoons)
½ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups cold milk
4 pods green cardamom, husked and ground to a powder

You can do this the fancy way, or the easy way.  First the fancy:

I went with the fancier method to get more flavour.
In a large saucepan, spread the jaggery powder.  Turn heat to medium high and let melt.  Scooch it along with a heat proof spatula, till it's melted and starting to darken.  Take it off the heat and add the first 2 cups of milk.  The jaggery will seize and get brittle, but don't worry.  Leave it alone for about ten minutes, then put the heat back on  to medium high and stir while the milk is blending with the jaggery and it's starting to simmer.

Or if you are in a hurry, just mix the first 2 cups of milk and sugar, put on medium high heat till the sugar is dissolved and the milk is starting to simmer.  Then sprinkle the gelatine powder over the milk and give it a minute or two to soften.  

Either way, carefully stir the gelatine in, turning to low heat to be sure the gelatine dissolves.  Stir in the cream.  Remove from heat when the sugar and gelatine is dissolved (less than five minutes).  Stir in the remaining cold milk, cardamom and vanilla.  Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.  

Actual vanilla adds a lot!
I keep whole vanilla beans in a bottle of inexpensive vodka.  I plucked out one, sliced it down the middle, and scraped out the goo, and added that to the mixture.  I put the emptied bean back into the vodka, as the flavour is still good.  You can skip this step if you’d prefer to just add a teaspoon of extract.  Don’t use the fake stuff! 

Strain into individual serving glasses, to make sure no tiny clumps of gelatine make it into anyone’s mouth.  Refrigerate for at least three hours, till they have set and are well chilled.

Just before serving, plop some sauce over each serving.  This dessert is so easy to prepare, and it’s OMG good!  If you are wise, you will have made extra servings to gobble down in the privacy of your bedroom.  If you have left-over sauce, you are luckier still!

Enjoy the extra when you don't have an audience!  It's too good to share.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Another Fancy Chapatti (Onion and Radish)

Onion and Radish Chapatti

We awoke to a crazy wind, bending trees with frantic leaves sailing through the air.  Bravely I went out with my coffee and found the wind was warm.  Almost unheard of in these parts, especially first thing in the morning.  I sat in the sun and recalled the warm breezes of Goa.  That did it. I needed an Indian breakfast.

Luckily I still had some kala channa masala on hand, and as always plain yogurt and Indian pickles.  All I needed was a nice chapatti and I remembered I had lovely radishes in the crisper.  I raced back indoors and started making these, and in less than thirty minutes I had four of these lovelies.

3 radishes, grated
1 piece of red onion, grated to about 2 tablespoons
2 cups whole wheat flour (I live in Alberta and I believe in sourcing local ingredients, hence no Indian atta for me!)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
½ cup or less of warm water
Extra flour for rolling out dough

The reds make the chapatties look pretty too.
Grate the radishes and onions, and place in a medium size bowl.  Add the flour, salt and yogurt.  Using your fingers, stir and gauge the moisture levels in your dough.  Normally I use about 1 cup of water to 2 cups of flour, since this is a dry climate.  But as the onion and radish added moisture, I had to go by feel.  

You want the dough to be on the sticky side.  Not liquid, but definitely not dry.  Once you’ve slowly mixed in water, a bit at a time, knead the dough in the bowl, using just one hand.  It should be pliable, and a bit sticky.  Knead for about five minutes, till you have a smooth elastic feeling ball.
Heat a griddle on medium heat.  Break off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball, or a bit larger.  With extra flour on your hands,  roll in your palms to get a nice round ball.  Put it on your floured rolling surface, flatten it with the palm of your hand, and roll it out to as circular a shape as you can get.  (Mine still look like maps.  Maybe when I’m 80 will I master the perfectly round chapatti.) 

You want it to be very thin.  Peel it off the surface and dust it with flour, and flip it over and dust again.  Keep rolling till it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick.

Place on the griddle and start on your next ball.  Keep a careful eye on the griddle.  When the chapatti changes colour and texture, and starts to puff, flip it over, and press it gently with the back of a spoon to encourage more puffing.  When the puffing commences nicely, flip it again and brush ghee over it.  Now it will puff more.  Flip it once more and brush more ghee onto it.  In a few seconds, take it off the griddle and place it in tin foil.  Cover it and go to work on the next chapatti, until all are done and resting nicely in the tin foil.

If I’d had time to make South Indian coffee, I would have been totally satisfied, but I didn’t want the chapattis to get cold, nor did I want to become frantic with hunger  My coffee recipe doesn't take long, but sometimes I have little patience.. 

Chapatti, plain yogurt, pickles, kala channa masala, all I needed was the good coffee...

Have I mentioned that I’ve renamed our deck ‘Goa’?  For now, while our temps are in the 30s, I can pretend, as long as I don’t look out onto the soccer fields across the street.  Try as I might, I cannot pretend they are the Arabian Sea.  

Looks exactly like Goa, right?  

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Kala Channa Masala

Kala Channa Masala

My life might be easier if I owned a pressure cooker.  But when I read horrifying descriptions of the disasters involved with them, I just plan well ahead.  If you own a pressure cooker, you can make this dish much more quickly than I can manage.

Kala channa isn’t the usual chick pea we see in cans.  It’s a different variety, and I’m told it’s higher in nutrients, especially iron.  Its flavour is a little different than the usual channa, and it’s a bit more heavily textured.  So far, I’ve seen the pea available only in the dried form, but I’m happy to put in the time required for this dish.  Plan to make this two days ahead of eating, if you use a slow cooker.  You don’t need to be chopping and stirring for the entire time; you just need to get started early.  This recipe makes a big pot of channa masala.

4 cups dried kala channa beans
Water to cover and leave lots of room

1 tablespoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black ajwain
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
3 black cardamom pods
Cool roasted spices before buzzing.
5 cloves
1 dried Kashmiri chili
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 large sticks cassia or cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon amchur powder 

2 tablespoons mustard oil
½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
1 large red onion, diced 

3 large fresh tomatoes
8 cloves garlic
2 inches ginger
2 Serrano peppers

1 bunch fresh cilantro
Water for blender
1 teaspoon salt, possibly more
2 tablespoons jaggery powder, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream, or to taste

Two days ahead of serving, soak the kala channa overnight in water.  Be sure to not just cover the channa, but leave another two inches of water for headroom.  These beans will swell up somewhat.  The next morning, drain and rinse.

In a slow cooker, add the channa and lots of water, again, leave at least two inches of headroom, possibly more.  The beans won’t swell much more, but the beans need to be left for 24 hours worth of cooking on ‘high’ heat (a slow cooker isn’t very hot).  You will need a lot of water for this duration of time.  After they’ve cooked for about 24 hours, turn off the heat and let rest till you’re about to cook these up.  I’ve frozen surplus cooked beans before, so I have them ready when I need them.

About three hours before you need to serve these, dry roast your dry whole spices.  In a heavy and large saucepan, place all the spices except the turmeric and amchur.  Put on medium high heat, and jiggle the pan while you’re watching the progress.  A little smoke and nice fragrance is all you need, then brush them into a spice grinder, along with the turmeric and amchur.  No need to buzz just yet.  Set aside to cool. 
Slice this way, then cross ways for fast dicing.

Meanwhile, add the mustard oil to that saucepan.  Turn heat onto medium high, and when oil is hot add extra cumin seed, then mustard seed.  These will splutter and pop a bit, so within moments, add the onion and stir.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook till onion is transparent and partially caramelized. 

While the onion is cooking, toss the tomato, garlic, ginger and peppers into a blender.  Buzz to a smooth liquid.  Set aside.  Buzz the spices to a fine powder, and add to the cooking onion.  You may need to add additional oil so the spices can cook more easily.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  

Have the saucepan lid handy.  Quickly add the buzzed tomato mixture and cover.  Set the blender aside to fill with more water and cilantro for later.  (No use letting those good garlic and chilli flavours get washed away.) 

Cook the tomato and onion mixture till it’s no longer boiling and spitting furiously.  Once it's safe, open the pot and add the cooked channa.  Add more blender water at this point, if needed.  Cook for another hour and a half or so.  Put the fresh cilantro, stems and all, into the blender and add enough water to buzz it into a green liquid.  Add that to the channa.  Add more water if the mix is too thick.

Continue to cook on medium high heat.  In the last half hour of cooking, add salt to taste.  Add jaggery if needed.  (I found my masala tasted quite sharp, so I needed the jaggery.)  Add cream a few minutes before serving.  Adjust for salt, jaggery and cream flavours, then serve with rice or chapattis.  (I served with both!)  

This recipe makes a fabulous main course, when paired with either rice or whole wheat chapattis, and also makes a great side dish to go with butter chicken, kerela and sag paneer

I’m happy to plan ahead, but I wonder, should I bite the bullet and buy myself a pressure cooker? What do you think?  Please drop me a line. 

With butter chicken, kerela, sag paneer and basmati rice.  Chapatties were all eaten by clicking time.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Chocolate Pomegranate Bars

Chocolate Pomegranate Bars

Beautiful Granddaughter dreamed up this recipe.  It’s delicious, simple, and she tossed it together in about twenty minutes (she’s ten years old) and let it chill in the freezer for about two hours.  It made a couple of inch thick bars, about five by seven inches.  We sliced the bars to serve in sensible portions.

Ingredients are simple enough:

Pot boiling water, with an empty pot to be placed above

1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup nutella
½ cup whole milk (could be full fat cream)
Pomegranate seeds (she ran out of patience after about ¼ cup)
Shredded coconut or sparkly sugar

Once the water is boiling, place the empty pot above it, being sure that the top pot doesn’t touch the water.  Add chocolate chips and nutella.  Use a spatula to stir from time to time, till chocolate chips are melted.  Once they smoothly mix, add the milk or cream.  Stir to combine into a smooth mix.

Fold in pomegranate seeds, then pour into moulds.  We happened to have silicone moulds, about three inches by seven inches.  

At this point BG would have liked to have sprinkled shredded coconut on top, but alas, the cupboard was bare.  We did have some fancy, iridescent sugar crystals, so she decorated the chocolate bars with that. Pop into freezer to chill about two hours.

Just before serving, slice with a sharp knife.  The result is ganache like, but studded with tangy morsels of pomegranate.  

These were just the dessert.  For dinner she made us Looee's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.  It is wonderful to have a granddaughter after my own heart…

These slice easily, but don't be too greedy.  They're very rich.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Thai Coconut Chicken with Rice

Thai Coconut Chicken with Rice

A Thai curry has a very different set of flavours than an Indian curry, and it makes a nice change once in a while.  It has a sweeter taste, more fragrant and floral.  I should warn you that the Thai green curry paste is firecracker hot, so if you’re the mild type, add less than what I’ve described, and maybe leave out the Serrano pepper.  

Beside the fabulous flavours, a good reason for making this recipe is the easiness and speed of it.  Your dinner for four can be ready in about forty-five minutes.

Go carefully if you haven't used this before.  It's hot!
The chicken
1 tablespoon coconut oil             
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 stalk lemongrass
1” length of ginger or galangal, sliced into matchsticks
1 lime, juice and zest
1 red onion, sliced into 1” pieces
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon green Thai curry paste
12 chicken thighs, skinned and boned
¼ cup coconut milk powder
10 asparagus stalks, cut into 2” lengths
1 Serrano pepper, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced into 1” pieces
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper  

The Rice
1 ½ cups white rice, basmati or jasmine
3 cups water
½  teaspoon salt (or more if you’re a salt hound)
2 tablespoons coconut milk powder

In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium high.  Add the mustard seed, cinnamon, ginger or galangal and lemongrass. (I will confess I didn’t have lemongrass, but wished I did.  More on what else I wished I had, later.)  

Let cook a few moments, till the mustard seed splutters and turns grey.  Add the onion, and turn to medium.  Cook for about ten minutes, till some of the onion is golden.  Add the mushrooms, and cook till some get a bit golden.  This dish doesn’t need to get dark, so don’t worry too much about caramelizing the onion or mushrooms, just a bit of browning is good for flavour.

Onion pieces can be quite large.
Stir in the curry paste and chicken thighs.  Sprinkle in the lime zest, but set the juice aside for now. Crank the heat up to high, and watch carefully.  Stir the chicken around as it gets a bit golden here and there.  It doesn’t need to get dark, though.  Stir in the coconut milk powder and cover with a tight fitting lid.  Continue to cook on medium low heat till you’re almost ready to serve it.

I like the powder over canned coconut milk because it’s easier to control the liquid.  The chicken and mushrooms will release a fair bit of water.  The coconut powder will make a nice gravy.  If it gets too thick, add a bit of water.  If it gets too thin, add more coconut powder.  This wonderful stuff puts you in charge.  If you added canned coconut milk, you’d lose control and the recipe would get soupy. 

Meanwhile, put on the rice.  Add rice (basmati or jasmine) to a pot with a good lid.  Add water, salt and coconut powder. Put on high heat till it begins to boil, then cover and put on low heat.  Let cook twenty minutes, which is when the chicken will be cooked and tender.

Five minutes of cooking these vegetables will keep them bright.
In the last ten minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus stems. (Not the tips.)  In the last five minutes of cooking time, add the sliced peppers and asparagus tips.  Just before plating, remove from heat and stir some of the lime juice into the chicken and taste.  Add salt, pepper and more lime juice if you like.  Remove the cinnamon and lemongrass. 

If I had Thai basil on hand, I would surely stir in the chopped leaves at the same time as the lime juice, but alas, I didn’t think far enough ahead to acquire it.  If I had organic flower blossoms lying around, I’d embellish this dish with some of those.  If I’d had jasmine rice, I might have used that, but I do love the basmati, so there you go.  This recipe is delicious, even the stripped down version made with the ingredients I happened to have on hand.  Please try it and let me know what you think.

All it needs is an organic orchid flower, right?