Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Highlights of 2014

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”   ~Roald Dahl
With these words, I wish all you beautiful people a magical 2015!! Leaving you with a few highlights of the year gone by..

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Apple Pie

Back in school, when I did not know a spatula from a sieve, the big sister would be the one in the kitchen, rustling up a storm. She said it then and she says it now, "Cooking de-stresses me"! This was pre-Internet days and much before the onslaught of cookery programmes on TV. She would pour over all of my mother's old cookery books, searching for something new to try out. She was the family chef and yours truly was her willing guinea pig.
One of her most prized recipes those days, actually still is, was a simple apple pie. What seems simple now was at the time, special. My palate was very basic and the Indian food scene was very limited. Come to think of it, the only restaurant in Bombay that used to serve apple pie was probably, Gallops at the Racecourse! So, making apple pie at home was very special. And family, friends and anyone and everyone who had her pie, raved about it!

So, the other day when a friend asked me if I had an apple pie recipe up on the blog, I thought I give a shot at recreating the old favourite.
The construct of this recipe is simple. The crust is a short crust pastry dough and the filling is cut apple slices that have been tossed with some sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice.

Pulling it out of the oven, it hit me why this one will always be a family favourite. It is simple and unpretentious baking at its best. The warm, flaky buttery crust will always be a winner and when it encases that beautiful, cinnamon flavoured apple filling that has been zested up with a hit of lemon juice, it is destined to be a classic. Superlatives fall short on what a perfect combination apples and cinnamon are. The way it makes your kitchen smell is an added bonus!  
Earlier on the blog, I had made a French Apple Tart from the 'Baking with Julia' book. But, in that tart, the filling was an apple compote. Out here, the apple slices still have a slight bite to them which I personally much prefer.

Making this recipe took me back years. Every time I would ask my sister to bake me an apple pie, in return she would ask me to do something for her, like clean her room or something equally tormenting. What a bully! In defence of my easy subjugation, there are very few desserts more perfect than a well-made apple pie!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Mulled Wine

Before you know it, Christmas is here! And while we may not celebrate Christmas at home, I do look forward to this time. It ties in perfectly with the end of year holiday mood. And helped along by the weather, it is also  the time when I am more than inclined to work the oven overtime. And yet this year, Christmas has caught me unaware.
So, while I may not have food to share with you today, we can always have a drink together. Keeping the occasion in mind, it is only natural that today's special should be mulled wine!!!
If there is one drink that usually finds itself on most Christmas menus, it is mulled wine and with good reason. Warm wine that has been sweetened and flavoured with spices is perfect for the weather in mind. And helping matters along is the fact that it takes no more than 10 minutes to get it on the table.
In this case, I flavoured the wine with traditional Christmassy flavours, with orange and spices like cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Ten minutes on a gentle flame and you are done. It is a perfect  time to use up that bottle of red wine in the cellar that no one thinks too highly of because this recipe transforms it into a real celebratory drink.
Pour yourself some  mulled wine in a glass, wrap your cold fingers around it, take a deep breath of the beautiful spices in there and then take a sip of this warm, flavoured wine. As it hits the back of your throat, you are warmed up in no time. And if like me, you are feeling a bit under the weather, this is what the doctor prescribed!
Be it a large group at a party or a small cosy gathering at home, this is the drink for the season!
Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas!! May you have a beautiful day that is filled with love, fun and laughter!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Strawberry Apple Crumble

Last weekend, the temperatures finally dipped. And with it came the window of opportunity for all things warm and cosy .. .. and that of course, goes for all things sweet!
And in my dictionary, nothing spells warm and cosy better than a well made fruit crumble!
Strawberries have made their appearance and you know I have a weakness when it comes to cooking with the fruit. But, I added some apples, for no other reason than I had two lying in the fruit basket with no one volunteering to finish them.
But, feel free to use any seasonal, soft fruit of your choice. Think plums, peaches, berries or even pears.
And for the crumble, instead of the traditional all flour topping, I went with a healthier option of oats and whole wheat, with a dash of cinnamon. I figured there are going to be more than enough calories consumed over the next two weeks!
What a rustic and homey dessert this is. As it bakes in the oven, you can smell the vanilla and cinnamon wafting about. The apple and strawberry mix stews into this luscious, red compote with a vanilla accent that threatens to flow over the edges. And it all hides beneath this buttery, toasty, golden brown crumble that is the perfect foil for all that warm, soft fruit. 
This is a beautifully comforting dessert that just seems to warm you all over!
It has been a horrific week. Just as we tried to make sense of the siege in Sydney, we were confronted by the mind-numbing, heart-wrenching images from Peshawar. No matter how hard I try, on this occasion, words fall short.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chicken And Mushroom Pies

Nothing like a spot of rainy weather in the middle of December to get you to pre-heat your oven!! With an empty afternoon ahead of me, I thought I give a shot at making some individual, savoury pies. For someone whose baking sojourns don't last longer than an hour at a stretch, this was beyond ambitious.

The savoury pies I had in mind were to have a chicken and mushroom filling that would be encased in a short crust pastry case and topped off with a puff pastry lid. So, I was putting my hand up to make not one but two pie crusts from scratch. What was I thinking??

Three and half hours later, I have survived to tell my tale and honestly, it wasn't as bad as I thought. The short crust  pastry dough is something I am familiar with and hardly took much time. As for the puff pastry, I went with this  fantastic recipe by Gordon Ramsay for a rough puff pastry. I don't think any home cook should waste their time attempting the classic puff when the rough does the job so admirably. On another ambitious afternoon, I might be tempted to give the all-puff sausage rolls a try!!

As for the filling, it was a straightforward creamy chicken and mushroom filling. The assembly sounds more tedious than it actually is.

I did question, more than once, the wisdom behind attempting two kinds of pastry dough. But, it all gets justified when these pies come out hot from the oven and you cut through all those buttery, flaky, crackly layers of the puff pastry. All that beautiful, buttery crust is then contrasted with that creamy, herby filling. These individual pies pack in quite a bit and with a cup of soup and a side salad, I'd say one pie is enough for one person.

While a bit of unseasonal rain might have inspired these pies, they would make perfect picnic grub. And with the tropical Winter finally making its appearance, time to pack the Picnic baskets...or so I wish!! 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Well, hello December!! I am not sure how you got here so fast but you've arrived with all your trappings! My inbox is filled with Christmas and holiday recipes. My Facebook page is filled with impending travel plans. Every second day is an auspicious day for weddings as per Indian almanac and with it the never ending stream of ceremonies, parties and traffic jams. The migratory flock of NRIs (non-resident Indians) have returned to teach us a thing or two on how to exploit an advantageous exchange rate. Yes, it looks to be a typical December!!

And December is also the month when food blogs throw up some of their finest food posts, keeping the holiday mood in mind. You will also see a surge in cookie recipes as families get ready for the impending family reunions.
And that's how I got the idea to make these florentines. Most florentines that you would have come across are these thin cookies that have nuts and dried fruits, bound together by sugar and butter. But, the recipe I have gone with, is a mini version from my all-time favourite 'Popina Book of Baking'. The recipe bakes them in a mini muffin tin that results in these adorable bite-sized confections.

This recipe by Isidora Popovic, the lady behind the Popina bakery, is a very simple one. The florentines are chewy, surprisingly not too sweet and with each bite you will taste one of the different components. Dipping one side with chocolate helps complete them. And yes, I will acknowledge that I could have been less clumsy with the dipping.

If there ever is a month of late nights, it has to be December. And what better accompaniment to all those late night coffees than these florentines!!!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Herb And Cheese Pull-Apart Bread / Roasted Tomato And Carrot Soup

I am not a big fan of soups and yet this past month, a mug of vegetable soup has been the provider of my daily dose of nutrition. Ideally, nothing beats a bowl of steaming chicken soup when you are sick but I wasn't feeling up to having anything do with meat. So, vegetable soup it's been. Tomato, carrot, spinach, pumpkin, cabbage, cauliflower and any other veggies than you can think of putting in a soup, we've had it in some permutation and combination!!

Since I've been feeling better this week, I've been enthused to hunt around for a good bread recipe to go with soup. At first, I thought of a baguette but then while googling around, I came across a few pull-apart breads and the decision was made.
Pull-apart breads are all about the visual. They look like a sequence of bread slices that have been stitched together into a loaf. Essentially made from a regular bread dough that is rolled out, sprinkled all over with a filling of your choice and then the dough is cut into strips and then again into squares to get the requisite look. It might sound complex but if you follow the pictorial step-by-step link that I have provided ... it's all quite simple!
For this dough, I went with a cheese, garlic and herb filling as these are flavours that would go with most soups. Although for this post, I played it safe with a roasted tomato and carrot soup. There is nothing much with the soup. It just involves roasting all the veggies and then blitzing it all up and you are done.
I am not sure on how to describe the final flavours of the soup, other than to say that roasting the veggies evokes the flavours of the Mediterranean. The natural sweetness of the carrots are the perfect foil for the sour tomatoes. Once roasted, there is not much to add to the soup except for the seasoning.And this bread is the perfect accompaniment to it.
Like I said earlier, a pull-apart bread is all about the visual. The golden crust speckled with herbs and cheese is impressive. The best part of this bread is the contrast between the golden-brown hard crust on the outside and that pillowy soft inside that tastes of garlic, cheese and the herbs. Straight out of the oven with all those heady aromas wafting about, I think you'll find the bread simply irresistible!
The seasons have changed and while much of India is yet to experience it, keep this bread in mind for the Winter ahead. Hope you're having a lovely weekend!!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Spiced Cappuccino Biscotti

It's been a while around here. I wish I had some funky, exciting reason for why I've been missing from this space but instead all I have to say is that I fell sick. It's been a while since I've fallen sick, so when I got hit, I got hit realll bad! Of course, with perfect timing, I fell sick a few days before Diwali and its been a slow and cautious recovery since then. And with that, my Diwali post for which I had grand plans were junked because forget going near the kitchen, I wasn't going near any food! And while this is a bit late in the day, I hope you had a beautiful Diwali with your family and friends!!
And like I said earlier, it's been a slow recovery out here. The food cravings have returned but I have been advised to take it easy. And then, just like that, this week, I have been feeling good enough to want to pre-heat the oven!!
Not wanting to risk the recovery by baking something that would be too heavy or rich, I decided to ease back into things by zeroing in on these biscotti. These are coffee biscotti that have been flavoured with cinnamon and cloves and then, for good measure, some chocolate chips. And what works in their favour is how easy it is to make them.
These biscotti do not really score on their looks but you can't fault them on their flavour. The dominant flavour is that of cloves which is a refreshing change to the usual cinnamon that I tend to lean towards. The coffee got a bit lost but then maybe I should have gone for a stronger brew. And those chocolate chips can only make everything better.
Since, there is no butter, these biscotti are crunchy which means they are perfect for dipping into those steaming cuppas that this season calls for.
I should hopefully be getting back into the groove with the blog over the next few days. In the meanwhile, how have you been?? Hope life's been treating you well!!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Khaman Dhokla - Steamed Savoury Cake

These days, every morning, the area outside the porch of my mother's home is carpeted by these delicate white flowers with orange stems. These fragile flowers belong to the Parijat (Harsingar) trees planted just outside the gate. They bloom as the sun sets, perfume the night air with their fragrance and then as dawn arrives, they fall to the ground. It is magical sight to wake up to. Carefully collected from the ground, they are offered to the Gods. They flower from September to November, just in time for India's festive season, from Ganesh Chaturthi to Navratri to Diwali.

And talking about Navratri, if there is one festival that Gujaratis wait for all year round, it has to be Navratri. As someone who traces half her roots back to Gujarat, I have been privy to the sheer madness that overtakes the community for the nine nights of Navratri. The rest of the country celebrates Navratri too, but the Gujaratis take it to new, and if I might admit, embarrassing heights. You may bemoan the crass commercialism that has crept in and overtaken the festival but you can't take away the excitement and euphoria that fills the air as they dance the night away.
So, I couldn't let Navratri go by and not pay homage to my Gujarati roots. If there is one dish the country associates with Gujarat, it is the dhokla. While the Gujarati and his dhokla has been the topic of many a joke, it is a dish very close to the Gujarati palate and rightly so! 
It is a steamed cake made from gram flour, flavoured with green chillies and ginger and topped with a tempering of mustard and sesame seeds. Like every other Gujarati dish, the heat in the dish is countered with a little bit of sugar. Extremely simple to make and made in under thirty minutes, this is a delightful tea-time snack.
You can taste the spice with a hint of a sugar and it does not overpower the palate. It is steamed and resultant lightness in texture is always a good thing. The tempering on top provides its own flavours and texture that complete the flavours of this dish. Paired with coriander chutney, you discover its charm for yourself!!
Navratri is the celebration of good over evil but, more importantly, it is nine days when we celebrate the power of our Goddesses. I said it last year and I'll say it again, it is one of India's cruel ironies that in a country that worships her Goddesses so fervently, women have to face their biggest challenges on a daily basis.
I invoke the words of the Mahatma who said, "To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, woman is less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman."
With those words, I wish you and yours a very happy Dussera. May we overcome all the evil that befalls our lives and emerge stronger and more prosperous!!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Pomegranate And Saffron Labneh

If you buy a pomegranate,
buy one whose ripeness
has caused it to be cleft open
with a seed-revealing smile.
Its laughter is a blessing,
for through its wide-open mouth
it shows its heart,
like a pearl in the jewel box of spirit.
A laughing pomegranate
brings the whole garden to life.
Whether you are stone or marble,
you will become a jewel
when you reach a human being of heart.

As I told you last week, I was introduced to 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Rumi in Elif Shafak's 'Forty Rules of Love'. Am still in the early pages of the book but I am already getting entranced by his words that keep playing in my mind.
So, when I saw a whole mound of pomegranates at the fruit stall and then these words by Rumi, this post had to be next!
Tis the season of pomegranates right now and it is on my list of fruits that are best eaten alone. I enjoy its many contrasts. It is sweet and tangy at the same time just as it is juicy and crunchy at the same time. And then there's it's colour, that beautiful, luscious, sensual red that stains and changes all it comes in contact with, much like the 'human being of heart' that Rumi writes about.
It deserves a dessert that celebrates its unique personality. I found this beautiful dessert that paired the pomegranate with labneh on a fantastic blog by an ex-chef from Sydney, 'He Needs Food'. Drop by for a visit for gorgeous recipes and even more gorgeous photography.
Labneh is a yoghurt cheese, popular in the Middle East and is essentially yoghurt drained of its whey. Here, it is flavoured with saffron, cinnamon, cardamom and orange zest and then layered with pomegranate arils and juice. The original recipe has orange blossom water which I unfortunately could not find anywhere out here. A pity because that would have accentuated the Middle eastern character of this dessert.
And what a beautiful dessert this is. It will remind Indians of 'shrikhand' and that is what it essentially is. The labneh is light and refreshing on the palate without being cloyingly sweet. You then have the pomegranate that provides a textural and visual contrast that is most welcome. I do wish I had the orange blossom water. It would have mellowed the citrus tone of this dessert which was quite assertive because of the orange zest used.
This dessert is perfect to cleanse and cool the palate after a meal that has been heavy on spices. It is perfect for the all-vegetarian diktat that is now in place at home because of Navratri. And most importantly, it is perfect for the weather we are experiencing right now where the monsoons have retreated but winter is still some time away!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Despite being such a retro classic, I have never gotten round to making a bread pudding. It's just never appealed to me. There are so many better things to make than a pudding made out of stale bread, I have always reasoned. And yet, last week I found myself with these hot cross buns I had baked, getting a bit old. They were delicious but it was one of those rare times, when I couldn't find anyone to share them with. And really, there's only that much hot cross buns one can have, however gorgeous they may have been. So, bread pudding it was going to be!!
Googled around and zeroed in on a Nigella recipe. She takes a traditional bread pudding recipe and jazzes it up with chocolate chip, milk, cream and a good splosh of dark rum. Perfect recipe, I reckoned for the cross buns I had, which were themselves studded with raisins and chocolate chips and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla. My own little touch was the zest of an orange because I just love how an orange refreshes and livens up a dessert.
There is hardly much for you to do for a bread pudding. Maybe, that's why they are so popular. I'll come to how it tasted but can I just say that the kitchen smelled divine!!
Before, you pop the pudding in the oven, you've got to sprinkle some brown sugar all over the top. So, while the pudding bakes, this sugar on top caramelises and forms this golden brown, crispy crust. And underneath that crust is this soft, custardy bread that has soaked up all those beautiful flavours along with those molten chocolate chips. And yes, the orange zest does its job to ensure that all that cream, milk and eggs does not get too rich and heavy on the palate.
It helped that I used the cross buns which already had their own flavour profile that just added bags of flavour. I might have left it in the oven for five minutes more than what was needed. It felt slightly dry and could have done with some vanilla custard or for that matter, ice-cream.
This bread pudding lays no claim to being an on-trend dessert but it endears itself to you with a familiarity that is comforting in a way only a warm pudding can be on a cool night or a rainy day!!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Hot Cross Buns

The other day, I stopped by my local bookstore. Going there after what seemed like ages, I realised how much I miss this whole experience, of which I seem to be doing much lesser these days. I have fallen for the practicality and convenience offered by e-retailers that deliver books right to my doorstep and honestly, I haven't been able to resist their phenomenal discounts either. And yet that day I understood why an hour or two at a bookstore is so precious. You walk around the aisles, peep into the shelves, browse through the books and then pick up one at random. Not because the book is on some bestsellers' list but because maybe the title caught your eye or the author is an old favourite or the book jacket is eye catching or even better, it is the compelling synopsis at the back.
And then there's the personal equation with the bookstore owner who not only gives you your time and space to browse around but every once in a while directs your attention to a book that he thinks might interest you. Not guided by some algorithm based on your browsing history but as someone who has seen your sensibilities mature and your interests develop. Agree??

Talking about things I haven't done in a while, I realised baking bread is one of them. So, I baked a batch of these hot cross buns, studded with raisins and dark chocolate. Traditionally, these buns are baked for Easter and that's when I first tried them this year but never got round to blogging about them. These are adapted from a recipe by the Bake Club's Anneka Manning. It's a simple one that any baker reasonably comfortable with yeast can attempt.
Never judge a book by its cover and don't judge these buns by my clumsy piping of the crosses or for that matter, my not-so-clever idea of squishing them in a round tin that resulted in these slightly misshapen buns. Because the end result is simply delicious, for lack of a better word. The milk, eggs and butter in the dough ensure that the final buns are soft, tasty and have that beautiful golden crust. You can have them slathered with butter but do remember, they are best had warm and plain, straight out of the oven,  when the little chocolate chunks have not yet set and still molten and melting. Ah heaven!!
These are best made for a leisurely weekend morning when you can indulge yourself after a week of muesli-yoghurt breakfasts!!
I am currently reading Elif Shafak's 'Forty Rules of Love', highly recommended by the guy at the book store. What's been occupying your bed side table??

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


".. .. one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called 'petites madeleines,' which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell....No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses..." 

"..And suddenly the memory returns. The taste was that of the little crumb of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before church-time), when I went to say good day to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of real or of lime-flower tea. And once I had recognized the taste of the crumb of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-flowers which my aunt used to give me... ..the whole of Combray and of its surroundings, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, all from my cup of tea. "
And with these evocative words on the power of food to evoke memories in his novel 'In Search of Lost Time', Marcel Proust would ensure that food writers and with time, food bloggers, would mention him every time they encounter a batch of madeleines. And yours truly is no different. I couldn't resist the opportunity to sound literary high brow!

Madeleines are dainty, French tea time cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape which is achieved by using a distinctive madeleine pan to bake them. The literary cliché aside, I have wanted to bake madeleines ever since I started writing this blog but not being able to find the appropriate pan has meant waiting till now. Finally, after two years of searching and a horrendously exorbitant price tag, I found my pan and you get to see my first batch of madeleines.

Madeleines are made using a genoise batter where, as opposed to a traditional sponge cake batter, melted, warm butter is used. This ensures that the madeleines, fresh from the oven, were crisp around the edges and soft, light and buttery on the inside. They are much easier to make than you think and this recipe from 'Joy of Baking' delivers beautifully.  I do wish I had been more generous with the lemon zest. These are elegant and dainty and moreish, and if like me, you bake them in a mini madeleine tin, it is easy to lose count of how many you've had!

Proust had his with tea, I had mine with coffee. And talking about coffee, have a little peek at the coffee mugs and platters I have used in this post. They were a surprise gift in the mail from my favourite lifestyle brand, 'Good Earth'. Eight times out of ten, the props such as the mugs and glasses that I use in my posts are from Good Earth. And these are from their collection titled 'Serendib', one of their most elegant collections, designed by the fabulously talented Pavitra Rajaram. I can't remember ever getting a surprise gift in the mail, let alone something so fabulously beautiful. To say that I was thrilled would be an obvious and gross understatement. Hopefully, these madeleines do them justice!

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Chocolate Caramel Bars

Am not really sure I have an answer for why there's been only one post all this month. I'd like to believe it's the weather, the excessively sticky humidity that holds the promise of rain but hasn't really delivered much of it this month. But then, I have pretty much used up all of my quota of complaining about the weather in the Summer. So, no, I don't why there haven't been any posts.

But, I am going to blame the weather for marring these chocolate caramel bars that I made yesterday. I figured these were perfect to shake off my baking ennui. Fuss free recipe, easy technique, readily available ingredients and basic flavours that you know you can't go wrong with.

And true to form, everything went according to plan. These bars have three layers - it starts off with a layer of shortbread, then a layer of caramel and finally, a layer of chocolate. I made all the layers and then I put them in the fridge to set the final chocolate layer. Once set, I pulled them out to slice them and that's when the difference in temperature spoilt the look of these bars. The high humidity meant that what should have looked like a shiny, glossy layer of chocolate was instead covered with droplets of water. Yup, that's what you are seeing in the photographs.

While it doesn't look great, those little droplets are harmless. They neither affected the chocolate nor did they affect the taste of these bars. Each of these layers consists of simple, basic flavours that on their own are typical and ordinary but combine the three layers together and it's a party for your taste buds! And each of these individual layers is quite rich, so a small piece hits the right notes. It would be ideal when you wanna serve up something sweet to a large group of people. I can't see how anyone can not like them. Give them a shot!

How's August been treating you?? Have you travelled to somewhere new or read an interesting book or seen a new movie?? Tell me!!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Roasted Peaches With Crushed Almond Praline

The seasons are changing. That's what the fruit stall is telling me. The mangoes have, except for a few langras and chausas, more or less left the market. And so have the cherries. The apples and pears have started making an appearance and even a few chikoos. And of course, there's also the last of the plums and peaches.
To be precise, more of the plums, the peaches have hardly made their mark this season. Since they come all the way from up north, you rarely find good ones. They are either all yellow on the outside with none of that beautiful peachy blush that one expects from them or they are absolutely lacking in taste. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, we picked up a few, only to have them lie around in the fruit basket with no one willing to eat them.

You then do the next best thing to make the fruit more palatable. You roast them! In this case with some cinnamon and brown sugar but you could also use honey, vanilla or even some orange juice. Normally, I would have served them with some vanilla ice-cream and be done with it. But I had seen this idea of crushed almond praline in the 'What Katie Ate' book that she serves with roasted peaches that sent me down that road.
The almond praline is easy to make. All you have to do is caramelise some sugar and then pour it over the roasted almonds. Once it sets, break it up into shards and then for this dessert, crush them into a crumble. Although the darker you caramelise the sugar, the more bitter it will be, so use your discretion on how bitter you would like it.

Roasting the peaches softens them down as they get cooked in their own juices and the sugar takes the edge of the tartness. The cold vanilla ice-cream contrasts beautifully with the warm, roasted peaches. And just when you think, it would all get a bit too sweet, the bitter, caramel flavour of the praline counters that as well as giving some much appreciated textural crunch.
However, I am left wondering if I should have added some kind of orange or lemon juice while roasting the peaches. That would have resulted in some sort of syrup which would be ideal to pour over the ice-cream.
Let's be clear .. this is not so much a dessert to wow the guests as more of a way to finish off the not-so-ideal fruit that is simply lying around. Having said that, since there is such little work to be done, it is a delightful, unfussy dessert for an informal week night dinner.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sheer Khurma - Indian Vermicelli Pudding

You don't need to be a Muslim to appreciate the faith that defines the month of Ramzan. Because like every other religion, it is only faith that can make one exercise the restraint and self control that a month of fasting demands of one's body, mind and soul. For any one with questions on Ramzan, I would like to direct you to my friend, Sawsan's post on the topic. Because as she beautifully puts it, "The true beauty of any religion is when you see the why behind the must."
And, you don't need to be Muslim to enjoy Sheer Khurma on Eid!! We, Indians, are always ready for a celebration and the good food that it brings with it.  So, at some point in life, a neighbour, co-worker or friend would have definitely introduced you to a bowl of this beautiful dessert on Eid and like everyone else, you would have been hooked ever since.
Sheer khurma is the traditional dessert prepared for Eid. Sheer is Persian for milk and Khurma is Persian for dates. Offered to the family in the morning after Eid prayers and to guests throughout the day, this is a vermicelli pudding cooked in milk along with dates, dried fruits and nuts. 
Every family has their own recipe which will invariably have its own special touches that will make it unique to any other bowl of sheer khurma that you might have tasted. The recipe I follow today is a simple one and much lighter and less richer than traditional recipes.
But, that does not take away from the pudding in a way. It was as delightful as ever. The vermicelli provides its own unique texture and the nuts and dried fruits, each bring their individual character to the flavour profile. Bringing it together is the delicately scented milk that has been infused with cardamom and rose. This is a dessert fit for any celebration!
Eid Mubarak! Wishing you health, happiness, love and in these uncertain times, may peace be upon all!!
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