Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cheese and Ham Herb Bread / Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Can you feel it?? There is a slight nip in the early morning air and at night. Winter's round the corner and you know what that means .. milder temperatures, increased appetites and loads of baking!! After months of erratic baking, I see a busy few months on this blog. Soups, cakes, cookies, stews and warm puddings.. .. I want to make it all this winter!!
But for today, we'll start slowly with a soup. In deference to the pumpkin craze all this month on blog-o-sphere, I decided that my first soup of the season should be a roasted pumpkin soup. If you are looking for a fuss-free recipe that is full of flavour, you turn to Donna Hay.
The pumpkin is roasted along with an onion and a couple of garlic cloves. The best part, there is no peeling and chopping involved. You roast the veggies, just as they are, with a drizzle of oil. Once they are roasted, you simply peel off the skin and blitz it all and then add some chicken stock, milk and a teeny bit of honey. That's all there is to it!! Now, you know why I chose this recipe.
To go along with the soup, I made this bread. The recipe uses no yeast. So, anyone out there who's had a difficult relationship with yeast, this is for you!! It is bread speckled with ham, cheese, mustard and herbs... perfect with a soup.
Except for roasting the veggies that took an hour, making the soup and baking the bread, took a little over an hour. The soup is such a beautiful celebration of the vegetables involved. Roasting them heightens their flavour and brings out their natural sweetness. You balance the flavours and texture with some chicken stock and milk. We were won over!!
Since no yeast is used, the bread has a more denser and tightly packed crumb than usual. But, the flavours are all there and you will taste each and every component...the ham, cheese, herbs, the mustard.. all of it!! And did I mention, it also uses whole wheat flour.
The two dishes are wholesome and complement each other. In fact, keep the bread in mind for any soup you might have in mind. Sounds like just 'soup and bread', but it is a complete meal.
Winter is so gentle out here, that it brings a spring in my step and a smile on my face. What about you.. how's winter looking in your part of the world??

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Handvo - Savoury Spiced Mixed Lentils Cake

They say you can spend an entire lifetime sampling India's vast and diverse cuisine and you still would not have sampled it all. Every state has its own distinctive cuisine, with further subtle nuances within the different regions of each state.
For me, diversity begins at home. My father hails from Gujarat on the west coast and my mother from Odisha on the east coast. Much like the people of the two states, their cuisine could not be more different. Odia food is simple and without too much spices, letting the beautiful produce from the generous land speak for itself. Gujarati food, on the other hand, is more robust in terms of spices and flavour. Since, the land is not as bountiful as that in Odisha, the cuisine has a more lentil-based flavour profile. Each cuisine so unique and yet, so delightful. No wonder then that my sister and I grew up with such adventurous palates!!
We are in the middle of the nine day, Navratri festival, where India worships and celebrates the divine power of its feminine deities. The Gujaratis wait all year for Navratri, where they unleash themselves and their dancing talent on the world. Every night is a night for family, friends and some insanely crazy traditional dancing of 'garba-dandiya'. The enthusiasm and the energy is simply put, heady and infectious.
So, in the spirit of the season, I bring you this savoury lentils cake, straight from the Gujju heartland. The recipe is from Tarla Dalal, a Gujarati herself, who's taken a traditional recipe and adapted it for the modern kitchen.
The recipe might seem a bit lengthy but that is only because you have to soak and ferment the rice and lentils overnight. Once that is done, it hardly takes any time to put it together.
The end result will impress even the purists. The cake sets beautifully with this crispy top, thanks to the tempering that we pour on the batter just before baking. That crispy topping that is flavoured with seeds is addictive. This is a very wholesome cake with enough spice and complexity to tantalise and excite the palate. If you are balking at the thought of the vegetable, rest assured, it is there for volume and texture, you don't really taste it.
Paired with some mint-coriander chutney, it is a meal by itself. Wash it down with some lassi, it doesn't get better!!
I believe Navratri is a timely reminder to society to treat its women with the same respect and devotion we accord our Goddesses. With that sentiment in mind, I wish you all a very Happy Navratri and Dasera.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Sitaphal (Custard Apple) No-Churn Ice Cream

In the food blogging world, October is 'pumpkin' month. Every day, all this month, my inbox will have at least one pumpkin post. But, here's the thing, for all its celebrated status in America, the pumpkin has a more modest, humble status, here in India.
For starters, we get this vegetable all year round and almost always, it's prepared as a savoury dish. So, not for us is the hype that surrounds the pumpkin. For me, even the idea of pumpkin in desserts, is taking its time getting used to!!
But, if October is the month of pumpkins in America, here in India, it is the month of custard apples, or sitaphal as we call it. They are all over the market, right now and here for the shortest time possible.
It falls in the category of fruits, best eaten alone. Savoured at leisure, as you make your way through the fruit, removing the flesh from the seeds, one at a time. It is added to a few milk-based Indian desserts but the one dessert that wins hands-down with my entire family is Sitaphal ice-cream. And none of that artificially flavoured stuff please, but the real stuff, that is ice-cream flavoured with real fruit pulp.
The recipe I turn to does not require an ice-cream maker and it does not even require you to make a custard. It is so fantastically easy and does the job brilliantly. I was introduced to the recipe by my friend Vini, who made a fig and honey version of this ice-cream. Over the summer, I saw versions of this no-churn ice-cream on Aara's blog and then, the domestic goddess herself, Nigella got into the act with a no-churn coffee ice-cream. With fabulous reviews all round, about time, I gave it a go!!
Scroll down and read the recipe and you'll see for yourself, how easy it is!! Don't get too fussy about its consistency, this is along the lines of a soft serve ice-cream. And no, there will be no ice crystals to worry about. The standout point of this ice-cream is that it has none of the artificial taste that is associated with commercial ice-cream. You will taste the fruit in all its honesty.
I have used sitaphal, but feel free to use any soft fruit that's in season for you. I had tried it with mango over the summer and it was much appreciated. Look around the market and the possibilities are endless.
In India, the weather in October, gets hotter before it gets any cooler. Perfect weather for a scoop as you look forward to the upcoming festive season!!
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