World Peace be damned

You’ve heard of the famous world peace cookies? So so many other blogs have talked about? I messed up something as simple as that. Thinking back, I could kick myself for making such simple mistakes. Like using large granules of sugar, and working the dough much when advised not to.

The simple shortbread is one of first cookies I ever made, about 7-8 years back. And even then, I think I used granulated sugar once. Since the cookies had basically just flour, sugar and butter, it tasted awful and floury since the sugar had not blended in well. So many years, and tons of baking later, I made the same mistake again, with the world peace cookies! In my older recipe too, the dough had to be worked with a gentle hand – too much pressure and the cookie would turn out hard instead of sandy. And I promptly kept messing with the dough since the damn thing wouldn’t hold together. And why wasnt it holding together? Because I used 3 tbsp less butter than was asked for. *some more mental kicking*

And to top it all, I used a dark baking sheet. Not that I have a choice here since I dont have anything else. But then the cookie bottom burnt, and became bitter! Half the dough is still sitting mournfully in my refrigetator, and I stubbornly refuse to forgive it and myself for the mess. *sulk*

I have made some other wonderful things this week as gifts for my mum on my weekend visits to my parents’ home. They will find their deserved blogging glory, but till then, world peace be damned!

A Greek and Turkish excuse… and then a Sugar High!

I’ve been away. To Greece and Turkey for nearly three weeks. That’s why no posts…

(Phew! I’m so glad to have a decent excuse this time!)

But I have been on a glorious holiday, and needless to say, the two countries were a foodie’s delight. Say Greece and Turkey, and feta cheese and olive come to my vegetarian mind. But after the holiday, I also dream about apricots, hazlenuts, vine leaves stuffed with rice and cheese pides! I have plenty of stories and nearly a thousand photographs. Its going to need a lot of pruning before I came make all these memories and images blog worthy. But to start off, a small collage of our holiday diet; the stories will follow one day at a time.

feta, olives, and all things nice

Overwhelming, eh? It was. From small town bakeries, cheese shops, olive shops, tiny cups of Turkish coffee,slender cups of apple tea, beautiful ovens, and tooth achingly sweet sweets, every meal yielded up surprises. From the very start I wanted to truck olive oil, cheese and apricots back to India, but had to be content with eating my heart’s fill in these past weeks. But more on these stories later.

Today’s post is about Sugar High Friday – an event I have been eyeing for actually a year now, but never got around to participating. This time the theme is citrus, and I have just the entry for it – Lemon cake! Not very fancy, and not the prettiest cake on the continent either (especially when it stand next to the beauties that get entered for such events)! But as a recipient/ taster once called it – it has an old Parsi aunty kind of feel to it. And that, I take it, is a good thing.

The recipe itself is not new (I got it from here, one of my favourite food blogs), I baked it quite a few times earlier, but for my Kolkata kitchen, its a first. And not having access to many ingredients, I’ve made some substitutions – like using atta (whole wheat flour) in place maida (all purpose). I want to believe that atta made the cake a tad healthier! A note on the lemons too – I used the local gandharaj (king of fragrance) variety. I’ve never used them before, but have read about how fragrant and wonderful these pear-shaped lemons can be. And while I cannot put a finger on it, the tang is definitely different. So try this sometime – its a cake with a nice crumb, just a hint of lemon, and you’ll find yourself coming back for another slice.

lemon cake

Lemon cake (based on recipe from Orangette)

Ingredients for cake:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup dahi/ curd/ yoghurt

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

Ingredients for lemon glaze:

Juice of 1 big lemon or 2 small ones

1 heaped tbsp of powdered sugar

Method:

Line a 9″ round cake pan, I used an elongated pan of almost the same volume. Pre heat your oven to 180C.

Mix the dahi/ yoghurt, sugar and eggs together. Add flour, baking powder, zest and mix till combined. Add the oil and again mix till the batter becomes smooth and the oil is integrated. Pour into pan and bake for 30 mins. An inserted skewer should come out clean.

Mix the sugar and lemon juice and pour over cooled cake. It will soak in leaving a shiny surface. If you prefer the cake well soaked, make double the quantity of glaze.

Enjoy!

I’m Berry Berry Clicked!

Gauri (despairing): “Another Click event? I’m not even through admiring the last one! And I havent posted anything since my last entry. And I’m not even around the next few days…”

(The moaning goes on for a bit.)

Random blog reader (frowning at just photos and no regular recipes on this site): “tsk tsk tsk…. these wannabe food bloggers… clogging up cyberspace… creating a ‘jam’ I tell you.”

Gauri (determined not to let down her blog): “Never mind that I dont have any recipes recently… Even though I’m stuffing myself silly on some gorgeous food these past few days… I ‘will’ post them ‘soon’ :D . So don’t lose heart, dear random blog reader, to tide you till the next recipe appears, I have a lovely picture to enter Click yet again; something ‘berry berry’ red, and ‘berry berry’ enticing…”

Berry Berry Red, Berry Berry Enticing

berry berry red, berry berry enticing

This pic is from a strawberry farm in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. Understandably, we had a berry overload towards the end of our holiday.

Berries in abundance are a delightful site, of course. But the single red, fruit here makes it look all the more enticing, methinks!

A Handvo pot… Clicked

One cool event this. Click. Where you strut your blog’s photos according to a monthly theme.

And this is my entry.

A Handvo pot…

handvo pot clicked

This is an aluminium contraption in which handvo – a Gujju snack – is prepared. The closest I can get to describing the handvo is that it is a savoury cake, chock full of grains and vegetables, spices, some oil, and a bit of soda and buttermilk for leavening. It is topped with sesame and coriander leaves which bake the top to a crisp. The cooking contraption, I think, is somewhat like a chiffon cake/ angel food cake pan – a very deep tube. It sits on a plate filled with damp sand to help conduct the heat better. It also has a hole in the middle, where you can see the flame rising from in the image. This hole helps cook the center of the handvo. What you see above is the handvo batter being setup for cooking.

Coming to the photograph, since this event is about photography, I would have personally preferred to enter this image, which shows metal in all its glory! But the absence of a culinary context prevented me, and I settled for the handvo pot.

Chop Type Sabji

If you havent been to Kolkata, you’ll wonder why I’m talking jibberish. Bhej chop (The veg chop… I’m not trying to be nasty here, but that’s how they say it on the streets!) is a yum type of Kolkata street food. A fried patty/ croquet kind of thing, with potato and a mysterious red interior, is my pick of street food in these bird flu infested times when we must stay away from egg rolls, another Kolkata street classic. But I’m blabbering and diverging here.

Back to the chop. I love the stuff. Growing up in Jamshedpur with ample bengali neighbours, my grandmother – an avid recipe-and-food-exchanger-with-neighbours, learnt to make the bengali ‘bhej’ chop. So come winter, she would prepare this glorious red coloured vegetable mix, shape them into patties, and fry them into delectable chops. I would happily eat the veggie mixture itself, but fried, it got a few degrees closer to heaven.

Seeing beets in the veg market the other day, I decided it was time to venture into chop wonderland myself. With a vague idea of constituents flavours, I decided to try making a veggie preparation inspired by the chop. I cant afford the frying until I lose about 10 kgs or thereabouts in weight, so had to stop with a chop-inspired veggie preparation! But if you’ll take my word for it, it turned out quite a dish.

Bhej Chop Inspired Sabji

Ingredients:

2 cups cubed veggies (beet is the only must, I also added carrots, sweet potato, regular potato, beans, peas)

1 large onion chopped

1 tbsp ginger – garlic paste

Tempering:

1 tbps raw groundnut

1 medium bay leaf

1 tsp whole mustard

1 tsp fennel seeds/ saunf

1/4 tsp hing/ asafoetida

Spices/ flavouring:

1 tbsp gud/ sugar only if you must

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp dhania/ jeera powder (coriander-cumin mixed)

salt to taste

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Method:

Add 1 or 2 tbsp oil in a kadhai/ wok. Add bay leaf and mustard seeds when hot. Once it starts to sputter, add the fennel/ saunf and groundnut. The nuts will also sputter and the whole mixture will be beautifully fragrant. Add the hing/ asafoetida. Add the onion and wait till translucent.

Add the veggies, some water to cook it in, the ginger garlic paste, and salt (to help the veggies cook faster.

Once the veggies are half cooked, add the spices and gud, and cook till your desired degree of softness. We eat our veggies not very spicy, so feel free to add more spices if you like.

Eat with chapatis, rice and dal, or use as sandwich stuffing (its great!).

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I barely remembered to take a pic…

Note: I suppose, if you do want to make the proper chop, add more potatoes, and cook till soft. Shape into patties, roll in bread crumbs, and fry.

I got inspired to post this thanks to the RCI: Bengal event, so that’s where this post is headed.

Sukhdi meets Speculoos

Sukhdi is a Gujju sweet made with ghee (clarified butter), flour and gud (jaggery). Speculoos is a Belgian/ Dutch cookie made with flour, brown sugar, spices and butter. I wanted to make the speculoos I saw here, since we’ve taken eating cookies with tea every morning now. But the closest I can get to dark brown sugar here is gud, which is really only sand coloured. And once I started on the cookie dough, I realised the thing looked increasingly like sukhdi! So inspired by the original recipe, I tweaked it ever so slightly, and here is the sukdhi/ speculoos cookie!

ss-cookie-3.jpg

Sukhdi/ Speculoos cookies

250 gms atta (whole wheat flour)

75 gms butter

150 gms gud/ any other brown sugar you can get*

1 egg

1 tsp ginger powder

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 tsp clove powder

Method:

Mix up all ingredients except the atta/ flour. Start adding the flour in batches until you have a ball of brown dough. Roll out the dough uniformly to 5 mm thickness. Cut into 3cm x 7cm pieces or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Bake cookies in for about12 mins on a well greased pan. They’ll puff up slightly, and get darker. They will be soft when they come out of the oven, but let them cool, and they crisp up.

If you bake them longer, the cookies turn out harder when they cool. You bake them less, for about 10 mins, they make a great soft cookie. Either ways, its a fantastic dip into garam chai!

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cookie slices in the oven

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cookies puffing up and nearly done

 * I’ve made the cookies with Chinese black sugar as well, and they turned out fine.

A ‘chikki’ come back

No no…. I havent abandoned my blog and run away. I’ve just shifted to Kolkata, have time consumingly set up the house (partially to be honest), and since we shifted, the only thing that got done on schedule was our broadband connection. So as of the past few days, I have 24 hour internet!!

However, since the start of this blog, there has occurred a major change in circumstance – my cooking genius mother-in-law (MIL) is now nearly 2000 kilometers in the opposite side of the country. So recipes hence forth, will not be strictly Gujju, will be my own, and definitely more error than trial.

But before, I start off with attempts of my own, a classic from my MIL. She makes the best chikki/ peanut candy/ peanut brittle in the world. A super simple recipe, that requires just right timing and very few ingredients.

The World’s Best Chikki

What you need:

Some coarsely crushed raw peanuts (the more you crush, the thinner your chikki can be rolled out)

Some light coloured jaggery/ gud (its more difficult to gauge done-ness in dark coloured jaggery)

A spoon of ghee/ clarified butter

A buttered surface and a rolling pin

Keep a buttered surface ready on which you can roll the chikki out. Put the ghee in a fairly thick wok (we use an aluminum one, as you can see in the pic). Add a table tennis ball sized piece of jaggery and let it melt. Keep stirring till it darkens (see the pics; it took us about 1 1/2 mins on a medium flame) and some smoke begins to come. It will smell a deep caramel. Add 2 heaped tablespoons of crushed peanuts and mix well (add less peanuts first, the jaggery should coat the peanuts well).

Take the hot mixture out onto the buttered surface. Here I must mention that we use the a scrubbed part of our kitchen floor (yes, it is clean enough to eat off!). Quickly bind the mixture into a ball. If you cant handle the heat you might need mittens or a plastic sheet covering your hands. But I tried it with bare hands, it wasnt too bad. Once the mixture comes together in a ball, again quickly roll it out with a rolling pin. You might need to keep binding the edges that break away as you roll. Try and roll it about 5 mm thick. This must be done before the mixture cools, after which it will not spread. Your chikki is done, and it should be thin, crisp and not chewy.

The process in picture below (the pics are about 5 secs apart, till the rolling out)

chikki-01.jpg

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chikki-07.jpg  chikki-08.jpg

chikki-09.jpg  chikki-10.jpg

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And now the mixture is quickly rolled on a greased surface:

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