Sunday Mornings


I am glad to be back in a routine where Sundays differ from the rest of the week. Sundays do bring so much along with them, high hopes of exercising at 5 a.m., a couple of extra hours for self grooming, maybe some time ( & money) well spent online shopping and a lot of potential action items on my check list which remain unchecked as twilight approaches. I wish I could do it all as planned(sigh)..
Although one thing I have managed to stick to consistently over many Sundays is cook away unhurried, while enjoying the entire process of making breakfast. Moong dal ke Paranthe is what I made for breakfast today, and they turned out to be a simple yet satisfying meal. The recipe is quite straightforward. All you have to do is coarsely grind washed and soaked moong dal with a couple of green chillies and mix it with wheat flour. To the mixture you need to add turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin seeds, a pinch asafoetida, dhaniya powder and some freshly chopped cilantro, salt, oil and just enough water to make a smooth dough. Thats it. Leave the dough covered for about 20 minutes.
Make triangular paranthas and fry them on a skillet with as little oil or butter possible. I am partial to curd so I would say some curd with chilli and jeera powder and salt added to it will make the best accompaniment for these paranthas.

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The recipe is originally from http://www.nishamadhulika.com

A warm Sunday with friends..


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This was just the kind of Sunday I had hoped for in a long long time. Last week, four of us from our gang of girls of eight from college got together for lunch hosted by me. I had begun menu planning a week ahead and snuck in time during lunch hours at office to google recipes for desserts on my phone. Whether I’m making them or simply eating them, I will always have a soft spot for desserts. Eventually I decided to make a simple two- layered chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting. Cakes are meant for celebrations and a chocolate cake was apt since it was a bridal shower for two of my friends who would be married in the next couple of months.

The evening before I went ingredient shopping with mum and began making the cake at 9. The non functional oven wasn’t a deterrent, as my sister had once standardized a protocol for making cakes in the pressure cooker (!).  We finished the baking process by 12 and I was too excited to sleep to taste the finished cake the next day. The next day mum and me began preparing lunch, and it turned out to be a race against time.  By the end of it, we had managed to assemble a delightful Indian meal of sprouted beans salad, spinach-moong dal pakoras, Koftas in tomato-onion gravy, a simple potato sabzi on the side, Yellow Dal Tadka, Peas Pulao, Buttermilk spiked with coriander and  curry leaves and an Eggless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing.

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After a hearty meal and endless gossip we settled comfortably on the sofas only to gossip more. It was time for dessert and though I was bit skeptical at first, the cake turned out to be a winner.

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I was happy to be amongst people I can call my own, warm genuine people – my friends and family who have been there for me and I’m sure will always be there for me. A loud cheer to friendship and all that it brings along – warmth, laughter and true happiness !

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Eggless Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing

Recipe adapted from Divinetaste
 
For the cake

200 gm (1 1/2 cups) plain flour or maida

50 gm (1/4 cup) good quality cocoa powder 2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda/ sodium bicarbonate

1 tin/400gm sweetened condensed milk

150 g butter melted

2 tsp good quality vanilla essence

150 ml milk

For the sugar syrup.

2 parts sugar and 1part water

For the chocolate ganache icing

200 ml cream (I used Amul cream)

160 g cooking chocolate (I used Morde dark compound)

Method
 
For the cake

Grease the  bottom of two 7” round cake tins with butter or one 9” cake tin. Dust it with flour and tap the tin to remove any excess flour.  In a bowl, assemble the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda, mix with a spoon and sieve once to make the mixture uniform. Add in the condensed milk, melted butter, vanilla essence and milk. Beat with an electric hand mixer, whisk or spoon just until the mixture is uniform and smooth and there are no lumps. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for an hour at 150 degree centigrade. For the cooker method, use a cooker which can accomodate a 7” round cake tin. Place a cook top ring at the bottom of the cooker and position the cake tin on it. Close the cooker lid without the pressure and heat it on low flame for 45 minutes- 1 hour. You can easily detect whether the cake is done by the wonderful smell it emanates when its almost done. If  you are not sure, just remove the cooker from the flame and check the centre of the cake with a knife or skewer. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing it in two halves.

For the chocolate ganache

Chop the chocolate in even pieces. Heat the cream and when it starts scalding remove it from the flame and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Wait as the chocolate melts on its own. Begin stirring with a spoon or whisk in small circles till the chocolate has completely melted. Allow it to cool completely.

For the sugar syrup

Heat 1 part water and 2 parts sugar till all the sugar dissolves. You can add a few drops of lemon juice at the end to get a clear syrup.

To assemble the cake

Soak the two cake halves with sugar syrup. Be careful not to make them too soggy. Now cover the top of the lower half of the cake with a generous coat of ganache. Place the upper half of the cake on the lower. Now cover the entire cake with the rest of the ganache. You could use chocolate sprinkles or chocolate curls to decorate the cake. I used a butter knife to make the cloud pattern.

To begin


Change overwhelms me. I thought I had outgrown my childhood inability of dealing with it and left far behind my tendency of moping around whenever I could foresee a possible change in the future. As a young girl I would sit on the sofa and sulk while my parents made plans for rearranging furniture. Now that I think of it, even my decision of continuing my high school education in the same school I had studied for the most part of my life, might also be majorly influenced by the simple comfort I enjoyed in wearing a plain white shirt-grey pleated skirt school uniform. But as years passed, I had not just begun accepting but also seeking change. I had made new friends  in college, worked in a setup where I thought I would never last. I had become more worldly wise,  accepting and leaving behind things and people.

Although this one change took me off guard. A possible reason could be that I had fallen in love. The only reason to be honest.

It was not love at first sight. It never is this way with Mumbai I guess. It is only when you walk with it among the giant swarm of people trying to match their pace on the busy streets of Dadar, or watch over it from your bedroom window on a Diwali night as the skies light up now and then, or listen to it on a monsoon evening , a cup of tea in hand, or feel it breathing in and out of you as you close your eyes and take a whiff of the Arabian sea at Marine drive, do you realize you have been swept off your feet.

Now that I am back to Nagpur, the place where I was born and grew up in, I strangely dont feel at home, not quite yet. Change is inevitable as they say and so was this one. In moments of utter chaos in my brain, when I grope around in darkness to get a hold of  a slice of a delectable piece of memory, I savor it to my hearts content and smile. But then it was also a welcome change that had taken me to Mumbai. I had never before lived on my own, cooked thrice a day, selected curtains for a room, haggled with a vegetable vendor, made friends with people twice my age and so much more I have lost count of. It was a crash course in womanhood and I enjoyed it. This is also the place where I realized that if you work really hard, and give your heart and soul to what you love, noone and nothing can stop you.

My memories of Mumbai are devilishly bittersweet but so is dark chocolate which I have learnt to love and have begun to crave for. Through the ups and downs of my stay in Mumbai I have always had something to look forward to. A few but immensely fond memories of mine were now and then  ‘instagrammed’ – if thats even a word. I am not sure my photography or timing of it does any justice to sum it all up, but its worth a try.                              

                                   The vastness – at Dadar Chowpatty

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Diwali lanterns – Lokhandwala complex AndheriDiwali lanterns at Andheri

                                         An Umbrella rack- Starbucks IMG_20121025_194036                                                  Cupcakes – At homeIMG_20121022_151054

Spot the bollywood starIMG_20130225_221756

More cupcakes- Le 15 patisserieIMG_20120924_190710

Cleanliness score by an artist- Carter RoadIMG_20130108_140248

Trance – Bandra Worli sea link
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Final touches IMG_20130226_001232

Nostalgia – My husband’s Alma mater- IIT Bombay, Powai.
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A Cheesecake class- Le 15 patisserie central kitchenIMG_20130226_000710

Goodies from another awesome class
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With Pooja Dhingra – Owner of Le 15 patisserieIMG_20130225_214430

More treats to be packedIMG_20130226_001004#1

Just another sweaty, crowded day- Crawford
IMG_20130225_235110 An art installation – Phoenix mills, Lower parelIMG_20121110_154109                                            A room with a view

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PeaceIMG_20130226_140541

….And goodbyeIMG_20130108_140519

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Black forest cake


I am timid at tasks, which require me to keep up my energy levels high and constant through out. Baking layer cakes with icings and fillings is one such job, especially when the odds are always against me. What do you do when you have a small and a hot and humid kitchen? Do you extend it to the drawing room and even to your bedroom? I do!  With the baking apparatus and ingredients occupying all possible nooks and corners of the kitchen platform and the floor, the dining table centered in the drawing room becomes the cake assembly station while the bedroom becomes my library with my laptop and cookbooks strewn all over the bed. Of course there are better and saner ways to stay organized, but this is how I go about most things in my life.

I shied away from making my own birthday cake on my last birthday. A girl requires to rest and get pampered on her birthday, doesnt she? But for my husband’s birthday I was all gung-ho about making a cake with a frosting and filling and all that jazz. It could also be because I had a co-baker to keep things going just in case I doze off on the sofa during baking time. My sister and I make a great team when baking. I was mean to her sometime back, or so she says, when I handed out trivial jobs like washing the measuring spoons when she had not a clue about baking. But the tables might just have turned now. We set out to make the traditionally German and the hugely popular celebration cake: The black forest cake.

We started making the cake at around 7 pm in the evening, and thanks to some poor planning by yours truly finally finished it at around 1 pm. The birthday boy meanwhile had become sleepy and the sisters were too tired to dress up and look clean for the cake pictures. So we decided to have a morning celebration instead and stored the cake in the refrigerator overnight. Its good to have dessert first but for a sweet hog like me, I loved it as my first meal of the day. We then packed half of the cake for my husband to take along to his office.

   

The cake hit the bull’s eye on all counts. The cake layers had a soft and delicate crumb held together by the sugar syrup. The whipped cream icing was not cloying sweet. The dark pitted cherries in syrup made it look like an authentic Black forest cake. The chocolate shavings on the sides perfectly concealed my faulty crumb coating and icing maneuvers.  All in all it looked a million bucks for a birthday cake made at home. My first attempt at icing with whipped cream was not that bad either.

Black Forest cake

Adapted from Joy of baking

Ingredients:

For the chocolate genoise:

  • 3 tbsp hot melted butter (I used salted butter)
  • ¼ tsp salt (I omitted it)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) cake flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened or Dutch process cocoa ( I used Hershey’s special dark cocoa)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the whipped cream frosting:

  • 2 1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Tropolite which is a soy based dairy free whipping cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Sugar syrup for soaking the cake:

  • 1/2 cup grain sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • few drops lime juice

For filling and garnishing

  • Half of a 15 oz can of dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup
  • Chocolate shavings

Method:

For the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  • Butter a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl, sift the flour, salt (if using) and cocoa powder.
  • In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and with the help of a hand mixer beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes) (try to make a figure of 8 with the batter. The batter will fall in a ribbon like manner and the figure of 8 should stay on the surface and not disappear immediately. That’s when you know its done!)
  • Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently fold it into the egg batter. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top.
  • Bake for about 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (cake starts to shrink from sides of pan). Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan.

For the whipped cream frosting

In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture just until stiff peaks form.

For the sugar syrup:

Add half a cup of grain sugar in 1 cup of water.in a saucepan. Heat till the sugar melts and the water begins to simmer. Add a few drops of lemon juice to get a clear solution

Chocolate shavings:

Grate your favorite bar of dark chocolate ( 50-70% cocoa).

Assembling the cake:

Using a sharp knife, cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Alternately use the Lorraine Pascal method (as demonstrated on Masterchef Australia ) of using a thread (!) to split cake into layers. My sister did it a great job with it! Turn over the top layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on your serving plate. Brush the cake layer with 1/2 of the sugar syrup. Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise.  Place the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with remaning syrup. Place cut-side down on top of the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Reserve one cup (240 ml) of whipped cream. First crumb coat the cake with the some cream. Place the cake in the fridge for about half an hour.Now spread the rest of the cream on the top and sides with a palette knife. Place reserved cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe rosettes on top of cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate with cherries and shaved chocolate.

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Cheese and parsely scones


If I were a British newly-wed and had to impress my in-laws with my culinary skills , I would make these cheddar cheese and parsley scones without a flinch of an eyebrow. Or maybe some lightly sweetened plain scones with a generous smattering of whipped cream and fresh berries from the garden would surely get me in their good books right away. Thats how I feel about scones ; a great deal of confidence resting on the fact that these have to be one of the easiest and quickest things to bake. Now, I’m not sure whether this very Indian scenario of the bride’s first impression can be extrapolated to the British way of life, I am pretty sure of my inability of early morning cookery prowess to attempt making something which involves more than a couple of steps. These according to me will win a lot of hearts, British or not.

Scones just grew on me. What I have realized from my previous attempt at making scones and also while I made them this time is that they are an equivalent of the quintessential Indian Pohe (a breakfast dish made of beaten flattened rice). I know that  sounds ridiculous – owing to the fact that they are made with ingredients that are poles apart – but yes, when it comes to the attributes of both of them as a breakfast option you would see the similarities. Just like a steamy hot plate of Pohe, these are quick and easy to make and require just a handful of ingredients. They also double up as a tea time snack and can be made ahead.

Scones are a form of quick bread that originated in Scotland. You would be bewildered at the number of scone recipes you would find over the internet since they can be made both the savory and the sweet way. This recipe for scones is from a baking class I attended  and so it wouldn’t be right to post the recipe on this blog. The recipe originally had chives as the herb ingredient (apparently cheddar cheese and chives make the perfect flavor couple), but due to its unavailabity we used dried parsley instead. You can experiment with the cheese and herbs here, but be careful of the salt content, as it varies with the kind of cheese you are using and butter (unsalted or salted). The rich buttery texture, the light savory flavor due to the cheddar and a dash of mustard and the fresh earthy aroma of parsely make it the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Scones are highly versatile when it comes to the ingredients but the technique for making them remains the same.  The butter which goes into the flour should be cold and cut into cubes for easy mixing. If you are using your hand to make the dough, rub the cold butter into the flour till the flour appears like coarse bread crumbs. Whatever liquid your recipe requires, be it milk or cream, make sure it is straight from the fridge. Gently turn the dry and the liquid ingredients in the bowl till they come together in a single mass. Knead it just a few times till it forms a cohesive mass. Do not over knead ! Flatten it into a rough disc and cling wrap it and store it in the refrigerator for atleast half an hour before you roll them out. Roll the dough  into a disc with a thickness of about 2 cm and cut them with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Here are links to some scone recipes from blogs I love

http://www.annies-eats.com/2009/05/14/cheddar-dill-scones/

http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/05/26/strawberry-scones/

http://savorysweetlife.com/2009/06/melt-in-your-mouth-cream-scones-recipe/

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Welcome November!


November, you are going to be a month of mixed emotions. But you are welcome with open arms !

For November is…

*drumroll*

National Blog Posting Month 2012

I hope to write well…

I wish to be punctual…

I know I will be alright…

‘Eat out’ at home : Burger buns from scratch


I like to make things from scratch. And more than anything else I love baking bread. I find bread baking less intimidating than making a dessert or for that matter an Indian dish which I have never attempted before. That is why I was not so disheartened when my attempt at baking burgers buns wasn’t a great success. I kept on looking for recipes over the internet, reading reviews from people who have tried them and also doing my own math about yeast-flour-water proportions and predicting the outcome of the recipes but a lot of them didn’t appeal to me. One fine day as I was flipping through the flipboard app on my phone I chanced upon a blog post which carried a link to the source of the recipe. Ta da ! I had finally found a great recipe for burger buns almost serendipitously ! This recipe comes from King Arthur Flour’s baking community – The Baking Circle and the credit for this recipe goes to Moomie, one of the oldest members of this community.

Beautiful Burger Buns:

Adapted from: King Arthur Flour
Ingredients:
 
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp butter + melted butter for brushing
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup lukewarm water *

Method:

I use my own method of kneading bread by hand. If you own a food processor or a stand mixer follow the original method.

  • Take the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre
  • Even though I use instant yeast I follow the method of activation for dry yeast. Activate the yeast with 2 tsps of granulated sugar (of the 1/4 cup sugar mentioned in the recipe) in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Let it sit for 5 mins undisturbed. When you see frothing on the surface, pour the yeast mixture in the well. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the surface of the yeast and let it continue to froth for another 10 mins.
  • Add the egg and rest of the sugar and some more lukewarm water till the flour comes together into a somewhat dry dough
  • Turn the dough on the work surface and begin kneading. Now sprinkle lukewarm water and continue to knead till you get a soft dough.
  • Now rub the salt in the butter over the work surface and massage this butter bit by bit in the dough as you continue to knead it. The kneading technique takes a bit of practice. Stretch the dough with the fingers of one hand and the base of the palm of the other. Then roll the stretched dough back to form a ball. Continue this kneading action for about 5 minutes. Kneading develops the gluten in the dough which gives it that characteristic bread-y appearance. If the dough tears as you stretch, the dough requires more kneading and more water. You will know the its kneaded to perfection when the dough doesnt tear apart and the surface doesnt look distorted as you stretch.
  • Now roll the dough on the work surface into a smooth ball. Pinch together any crack at the base of the dough. Transfer the dough to a well oiled bowl and cover it with a damp cloth and allow it to prove for 2 hours or till the dough doubles in size
  • Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.
  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
  • Brush the surface with egg wash and sprinkle the dough with seasame seeds or a mixture of seeds your choice. The egg wash gives the buns the characteristic darker crust.
  • Sprinkle some water on the baking tray and bake the buns in the oven for 15-18 minutes. Halfway through baking time, rotate the baking tray and brush melted butter on the surface to get a shiny satiny crust.
  • Once done baking, brush more butter on the surface. Leave them to cool on the tray and cut through them once they are completely cool.

* I required more than 1 cup water for the dough. The amount of water depends upon the weather conditions. So if you feel your dough is still too dry after adding the mentioned amount, keep sprinking more water in your dough till you get a soft sticky dough.

Make a patty of your liking and assemble a mouthwatering fast food chain style burger.

I am submitting this post to YeastSpotting !

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What’s baking?


From left to right

Vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. I simply cannot get over these cupcakes. I made these right away after I took a cupcake class.. Result : Super!

French Toast. Rather my version of Burg’s french toast from the Memoir A homemade life by Molly Wizenberg. Molly is a Seattle based blogger and this is her father’s or as she fondly calls him, Burg’s recipe. I adore her writing. Head over to her blog Orangette to know how awesome she is!

Grissini or Italian for breadsticks. The recipe is from my baking guru, Baking Illustrated. You wont need to buy them from your baker once you know you can make them at home.

Oreo cream cheese truffles. You can’t go wrong with oreo and cream cheese put together. Visit The brown eyed baker to get the recipe.

Tiramisu cake. I made this for a friend’s birthday. Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s BFMHTY. If you are a teetotaler and its your birthday, this party cake is the perfect excuse to get some alcohol in your system.

Eggless chocolate almond brownies. Who said brownies cannot be made without eggs? I made them twice and will be making them the third time for a neighbor who loved them so much that she asked me to teach her how to make them.

Double Chocolate cookies: These are originally Giant Double chocolate cookies from here.  These are gooey, fudgy chocolate cookies and if you happen to be a milk-hater, for a bite into these, you would readily glug down a glass full of milk. I am serious!

Potato cheese buns. Oh man! These are the perfect snack for a fun afternoon with friends.

Stuffed crust pizza. I guarantee you a clean pizza dish. You just cant discard the crusts filled with you favorite melting bubbling cheese.

Cheese and Parsley Scones: My current crush !

Burger buns. I was so excited to make these but had a tough time as the dough was way to soft to be rounded into buns. It literally spread all over the baking tray. Eventually I got fairly good albeit slightly flattened burger buns. I am currently eyeing another promising recipe for the same.

Calzone: Pizza folded differently but equally good. The filling had refried beans, corn, spinach, mozzarella and cheddar cheese and homemade pizza sauce.

Chocolate hazelnut truffles


Wise is the man who knows just when to refill the chocolate stash of his woman’s pantry. Whether the woman has had a massive bake flop, or has realized that she goofed up her shopping spree or worst of all, is PMSing, chocolate works its charm in all of the mentioned scenarios. But if you are a woman who wants to make the most of this chocolate bounty, you ought to make truffles.

All you need is some good quality chocolate (both dark and milk chocolate will do), toasted and chopped hazelnuts (or nuts of your choice), heavy cream and unsweetened cocoa powder. Truffle recipes are usually quite flexible. I have made truffles a couple of times before and never really stuck to the recipe. I had scribbled down this recipe from a blog I dont remember but had duly noted that its originally from “Bittersweet ” by Alice Medrich.

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Chocolate hazelnut truffles

Ingredients:

  • 240 g Bittersweet or dark chocolate : I used 100 g Godiva dark chocolate (85% cocoa) and 140 g Bournville (44% cocoa)
  • Heavy cream: 1 cup
  • Hazelnuts: toasted and chopped and sieved to remove the hazelnut powder : 1/3 cup
  • Unsweetened Cocoa powder to roll the truffles in

Method

Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan till it starts to boil. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. With a whisk gently stir the chocolate bits into the cream. Continue stirring till the chocolate melts completely. Now let it cool for a bit, and then stir in chopped hazelnuts. Line a square baking tin with parchment paper and pour the ganache into it. Keep it in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

When the ganache has hardened,  cut through it with the help of a knife to form uniform sized squares of the desired size. Pick each square and roll it quickly between your palms and toss them in a bowl of sifted cocoa powder. If you find the ganache is melting fast as you roll the truffles , transfer it back to the fridge and let it rest for 20 minutes. Coat them evenly with cocoa powder

As you can see ( refer above picture of imperfections) you can definitely do a much better job of making perfectly round tuffles as I was too lazy to bother refrigerating them as they melted while rolling. In fact if you are like me (impatient and lazy!) dont even bother rolling them. Just pick a ganache sqaure and pop it in your mouth. It tastes equally good if not better.

Notes:

Since I used a mix of  very dark chocolate  and Bournville the resulting ganache was tipping slightly towards the bitter side of the chocolate spectrum. I was perfectly comfortable with the taste but my husband found it to be bitter. The saving grace in this case was the bitter cocoa powder coating the truffles because it tricks the tongue into believing that the chocolate underneath is sweeter than it actually is. If you do not like chocolate with high cocoa content you can always use low cocoa content dark chocolate or even milk chocolate as well..  Better still, if you can lay your hands on Callebaut (53 % cocoa content), you will find the truffles to be perfect: not bitter and not too sweet either:

Though a lot of truffle recipes call for heavy cream, I have used the commonly available Amul cream (25% cream) with good results.

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Baked conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese – spinach stuffing


After a brief hiatus from Italian food I am back and beaming with an exponentially increased love for pasta. And what can be better than homemade pasta! No, I don’t make pasta from scratch. This is the kind of stuff my sister does : from scratch and eggless. That she doesn’t chronicle her kitchen experiments on a public forum say a blog and post pictures from weird angles make her any less of an amazing cook. Thanks to her, we celebrated a marathon ” Chaat festival” last month. (Think dahi samosas, Mumbai ragda patties and the like). Thank you dearest sis for the wonderful time last month.. We miss you !

If you love pasta,  there’s probably a kindergarten going child inside you.  You probably are the kind of person who gets attracted to a dish more for the colours and shapes of the ingredients besides just the “mature’ flavors and aromas. I unleash the infant in me everytime we order pasta while eating out (and also when I order desserts, but thats  another story). So when I came across this recipe for stuffed pasta in the BBC Good Food India March 2012 issue, I was excited because I hadn’t known this shape of pasta before. The recipe was for stuffed pasta shells or conchiglie rigate — rigate refers to the grooves on the pasta which helps to better able to bind the sauce to it. Stuffed pasta takes me back to my dating days when me and fiance licked our plates clean off the last bit of spinach stuffed cannelloni. It was so good, I would  give it full credit for all my pre -marital weight gain and its not at all a regret. :) This recipe called for a zucchini – ricotta stuffing, and even though I had zucchini in my crisper drawer I turned a blind eye to it and  decided to recreate the same spinach-cheese filling from my favorite dish.

The resulting dish was a hit! The only thing I would do differently the next time is to layer the pasta shells over white sauce instead of the tomato sauce. I felt that the tartness of the tomatoes kind of overpowered the subtle flavor of spinach. If you like the flavor pairing, there’s nothing like it ! Its a great dish to entertain your gang of close friends.

Baked Conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese-spinach filling
Barely adapted from : BBC Good Food India Magazine : March’12 issue
 

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Tomatoes: chopped, 6
  • Garlic: 3-4 cloves, crushed
  • Basil leaves- 5-6

For the pasts and filling:

  • Conchiglie pasta- I used 60 shells for 3 servings
  • Spinach- 1 cup chopped
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese – 200 g (I used homemade cottage cheese)
  • Garlic: 2-3 cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp
  • Salt- to taste
  • Pepper- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Mixed italian herbs: 1/2 tsp
  • Pizza cheese- 1/2 cup crated

Method

  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add the crushed garlic, cook for a minute and add chopped tomatoes. Simmer the tomatoes till they soften. With the help of a spatula mash the tomatoes and let the sauce thicken. Remove from flame and stir in 5-6 torn basil leaves.
  • Cook the pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions on the packet. ( Mine said 8 minutes ). Since this pasta has to be baked further, undercooking it is a good idea. I cooked the pasta for 6 minutes.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute. Now add the finely chopped spinach. Cook till the spinach reduces and appears shriveled. Now grate your cottage cheese block into it. Cook for a minute more. Add the pepper and salt to taste. Finally stir in more than half of the shredded pizza cheese and mix.
  • Heat the oven to 190° C . Now in a baking dish,  spoon in the tomato basil sauce. Fill the pasta shells with the ricotta-spinach stuffing. Arrange them in the dish in neat rows. Sprinkle over with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
  • Serve hot with toasted bread slices topped with garlic infused butter.

To make garlic infused butter (for 6 slices of bread) : Melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add in finely chopped garlic (6-7 cloves) and let the garlic pieces infuse into the butter over low heat. Now spoon the mixture uniformly over the surface of brown sandwich bread slices. Sprinkle oregano or Italian herbs. Toast or grill the bread slices in the oven, till they brown.