Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 - Summing up a Fabulous Year!

I am delighted to write this post today, not just because I eagerly await the dawn of a brand new year, but because it is always a joy when milestones have been achieved. I did not set any targets for this year, nor did I make any resolutions, but as I look back on the year gone by, I think it has truly been a year well spent. I have learnt to cook new things, revived old ties, made new friends and the icing on the cake - brought a new person into this world. 

Almost the whole of this year was consumed by my pregnancy and delivery - while I was expecting that it would take a toll on my blogging, I was quite surprised that it didn't. On the contrary it helped me plan and organize every aspect of my life including blogging so that things moved smoothly even after the arrival of the new baby. I am still counting God's many blessings on me and my family and cannot thank Him enough - for blessing us, for keeping us alive and in good health.

So here's a quick recap of the best of 2012 - it has been so much fun to put this post together. My new year resolution is to try out things that intimidated me till date and to master them and to bring in a lot of variety to this blog.

~ Best of 2012 ~

January

My most favourite party starter - simply because it can be made in advance and frozen and I have made it a zillion times. Although it needs masala to be ground (a little effort is involved), it is worth it and tastes simply yum when served piping hot


February

If you are not calorie conscious, then this cake is the one for you. Simple and buttery goodness - oh! so melt-in-the-mouth! It's the perfect cake when you want to make a basic sponge to entertain those who don't like anything apart from plain vanilla cakes. I have made this a gazillion times on popular demand.


March

An easy appetiser/starter made with fish fillets that you can make in a jiffy. Its a sure shot way to get fussy kids eat to eat some fish as they just can't make out if its chicken or fish! The best part is that it can be grilled, baked or shallow fried. No deep frying!


April

One of Mangalore's most popular beverages - thanks to the abundance of coconut trees. Almost every Mangalorean I know has relished a chilled glass of coconut water at some point of their lives. Here's a recipe to make a perfect welcome drink with a twist.


May

The one and only prawn recipe on my blog has become the most loved recipe by those who have tried & tested it. Full credit goes to my husband Roshan for this beautiful recipe. Easy to make & finger licking good!


June

One of the most loved breakfast options on my menu at home. It's perfect for breakfast on a lazy Sunday, as a snack in your kid's lunch box or something you like to munch along on a journey or a picnic. So simple to make and delicious to eat. Tastes best with multi grain bread.


July

It can't get more simple than this. Dal Khichdi is food for the soul. Eat it when you are happy, sad, bored or ill. Tastes best when eaten freshly made and piping hot, with a dollop of ghee or yogurt. Dead simple as you only need a pressure cooker to do its job. You really can't go wrong with this recipe! 


August: 

Mangalore's take on the Goan Pork Vindaloo, made by Roshan - his own style. Tried, tested and loved by many readers. You can make it with chicken too, just follow the instructions in the recipe and you have a winner on your hands!


September: 

One of Mangalore's dying traditions - making ginger preserve at home. From the time I tasted it I have fallen in love with it. Happy that I was able to achieve the challenge that I set for myself for this year - to make it from scratch. So happy with the results - however, this is seasonal, so bookmark it and make it when fresh (new) ginger is available in the market.


October: 

An unusual recipe that I found in my mum's handwritten book soon became the talk of the town. Such a brilliant way to put pineapple peel (the one that we discard) to good use. Makes a small batch - to be enjoyed with close family!


November: 

A delightful fudge - yummy and nutty all the same. I remember going on a crazy hunt for silver leaves (varq) to be placed on top of the burfi and had a great time clicking the pictures. Since it was my first attempt at making a fudge I was pretty pleased with myself for having made perfect squares that we enjoyed for many days after that!


December

Probably the most popular cake of the season, this recipe was tried & liked by many especially by those who prefer moderately sweet cakes. Again, a beautiful cake that works perfectly as an accompaniment to tea or as a basic cake for a fondant covering - the kind you'd want to make for your parents' anniversary or a formal occasion such as a jubilee, Communion or a Baptism ceremony.



Last but not the least, adding to the above 12 are these two posts that are so close to my heart for many reasons.



Wishing all my readers and blogger friends a wonderful 
New Year 2013!!
May the 365 days waiting for you be filled with health & happiness, wealth & wisdom, peace & prosperity, glee & glow, love & laughter!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Traditional Wedding Style Mutton Polov (Ash Pumpkin & Mutton Curry)

Those of you who are in Mangalore at the moment (residing or holidaying there) must be having at least a wedding or two to attend. The wedding season in Mangalore has officially begun today (post Christmas). This is of course followed by those who religiously observe Advent (the season prior to Christmas in preparation of the birth of Christ) the period during which the Church did not conduct weddings till a few years ago. However, in today's time & age when weddings are planned and prepared months in advance, in view of the 'rush' during the season, bookings are made as quickly as possible. Owing to everyone's convenience (guests who travel from overseas especially), weddings are held during the advent season too. 


Anyway, in today's post I want to throw some light on our Mangalorean Catholic weddings and the fun and food that are such an integral part of it. While I want to write a million things about our weddings, the irony is that I dreaded the weddings when I lived in Mangalore. Now I sorely miss them and would jump at the first opportunity of attending one - no matter how remotely that person is related (or not!) to me! Irrespective of the fact that our Catholic weddings can be such a big bore if you don't know anyone in the crowd or know too many people that you are actually trying to dodge those aunties who ask you a million personal questions - when, when & when - any question they ask you usually begins with 'when'. When are you finishing college? When are you getting married? When are you going to have a baby? I am sure all of you have dealt with at least one such annoying jobless auntie.


Mangalorean Catholic weddings are preceded by a pre-wedding function called as the 'Roce' ceremony. 'Roce' in Konkani refers to the coconut extract - or coconut milk which is supposed to have cleansing properties apart from plenty of cosmetic benefits. Traditionally the bride and groom are 'cleansed' and 'prepared' for the life that follows the marriage ceremony. Basically it is a custom borrowed from the local Hindu cleansing rituals and can be compared to the 'haldi' ceremony that is followed elsewhere in India.

The Roce ceremony is the most fun among the two ceremonies as the gathering is smaller consisting only the close family, neighbours and friends of the bride or the groom. Besides a lot of song and dance that is customary, the food served on the day of the Roce is also traditional - at least one of the items is - the Mutton Polov. Its a typical stew made out of roasted & ground spices, roasted coconut, mutton and ash pumpkin (winter melon).


The earliest Polov preparations were made only with the ash pumpkin (called as kualo in Konkani), some people would add shrimp to it - it was all about the affordability of the host. As the decades passed by Polov and Mutton became constant companions. A traditional 'Roce' meal was served on banana leaves - it included mutton polov served with a large bun made in large ovens fueled by fire wood. Guests were also served traditional kele sukhe (plaintain (raw banana) sukka (side dish made of aromatic spices and roasted coconut) and fodi che lonche (chunky mango pickle). and unpolished (brown) rice of course. Again, the number of meats served to guests depended on how wealthy the host was, so sometimes guests would get to enjoy pork sorpotel (a delicacy made out of pork offal). I have tried to recreate the 'roce' meal (minus the pork sorpotel) below. The bun was made in my own kitchen, so it's not as big as what is served during the Roce.


I have posted an easier mutton polov recipe which is made with stew powder, however this recipe is the more traditional way of making it. 

If you are invited to a Roce function in Mangalore, I really hope you get to eat the mutton polov and bun - it truly is the essence of the lovely ceremony.


Traditional Wedding Style Mutton Polov 
Prep time: 30mins | Cook time:: 15 mins | Serves 3-4

You Need:
  • 500gms mutton or goat meat on the bone
  • 500gms ash pumpkin / ash gourd/ winter melon
For the 'korpo' (toasted coconut & onion mixture)
  • 1/2 of a large coconut (or 1-1/4 cups grated coconut)
  • 1/2 medium size onion sliced
For the masala
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 marble size ball of tamarind
  • 5-6 long red chillies (Byadgi)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 4 flakes of garlic with skin
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin/jeera
  • 1/2 tbsp rice (uncooked)
For the seasoning
  • 1/2 medium sized onion finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil
Method:
1. Cut the mutton into small pieces, wash and drain. Pressure cook it with a little salt & keep aside. Remove the skin & pith (seeds) of the ash pumpkin and cut into cubes.Boil the ash pumpkin with a little salt and 1 cup of water (or enough to cover it) till tender (do not overcook).
2. In a heavy bottomed pan or skillet/tawa roast the coconut & sliced onion ('Korpo') on a very slow flame till the colour changes to light brown (biscuit colour) - this may take 15-18 minutes. Ensure not to burn the coconut. Remove and allow to cool. Next, on the same pan/tawa roast all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' - except the coconut & tamarind  - one by one till you get a nice aroma. Allow them to cool a bit and grind them to a fine powder, then add the unroasted coconut, tamarind and the 'korpo' along with a little water to achieve a fine paste. Reserve the masala water from the grinder.
3. Add the ground masala to the pre-cooked ash pumpkin, add the cooked mutton and its stock (cooking liquor) adjust salt to taste and bring the curry to a boil for a couple of minutes. Add the reserved masala water and additional water if required to adjust the consistency of the gravy. The gravy should be neither too thick nor too thin. After adding the water, continue to simmer for 3-5mins & turn off the flame.
4. In a smaller pan heat the ghee for seasoning and when hot, toss in the sliced onions and fry till golden brown. Add this to the curry and cover the pan immediately.
5. Serve hot with a plain bun or traditional red/brown rice.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cinnamon & Green Tea Punch - Say Cheers!!

Hey guys! I am overjoyed as I write this post. Ruchik Randhap has finally moved to its own domain! Yayy! Yes! It has been a long wait for me - for no particular reason though. Just too many things on my plate the whole of this year but now I finally got my little blog to move to its own home - a dot com address. 
So Ruchik Randhap is now www.ruchikrandhap.com! 

This calls for a bubbly, definitely, but since I am off alcohol for now, I guess we can toast to some lovely cinnamony drink that totally fits into this Christmas season too.


You can call this drink simply Cinnamon Green Tea if you wish, but its a tad too sweet if you prefer sipping on light green tea. I call it a punch because it is best served chilled (absolutely chilled) and in shot glasses AND in tiny quantities as a welcome drink. I have made this a couple of times last year after my dear friend Jenifer offered me some at her place and told me how she made it. I have experimented with my own measurement and I am sure this drink will only evolve. Go ahead and get creative if you wish - but don't go overboard as its always good to play safe with warm spices especially when you are teaming them up with something that has its own strong character - green tea. 


Last year I made this at my brother's place in Dubai and served it to his guests who went crazy over it. My brother too fell in love with it and I thought it must go on this year's Christmas menu. It's the perfect welcome drink at a party. It will leave your guests feeling absolutely refreshed and asking for more (and even wondering what went into this punch). Make sure you don't serve it at room temperature - in which case they will really wonder what you served them (sorry, but it doesn't taste very good at room temp)


Like I always get into the blah blah speech mood and bore you guys, why not prep yourself up for another speech of this season? Well, I am dedicating this post to a whole lot of people for a zillion reasons. First to Jenifer, my dear friend who has taught me a million recipes including this one - thank you Jenny! To May my lovely friend who sent me the lovely card that you see in the background - all the way from Lohr, Germany - thank you and I wish you a wonderful Christmas! I have also borrowed your beautiful cinnamon candle centerpiece idea!


I also raise a toast to the two people who couldn't wait for this post - Laxmimala my oldest friend (ever!) - we've known each other since we were 5! May our friendship that is as old as the hills remain steadfast until the cows come home! And last but not the least, my dear brother Santhosh for being such a great guy - despite having driven me crazy during our childhood, you are & will always remain to be my closest foe (:P), support and buddy and I love you tons!


So now that my speech is over, why don't you make this drink today? If you have leftovers make sure you freeze them in your ice cube mould - its great way to serve a small portion of it anytime you like! Go creative and make popsicles out of it - make sure you don't serve it to kids - green tea has caffeine in it.

It is more of a refreshing drink served at a spa - so pour yourself a drink just in case you plan to soak yourself silly in a nice hot bubbly bath. Warm water, dim lights, great music and this drink - party or bubble bath - take your pick ;-) Lol! I guess I have simply gone crazy with the excitement of finally getting my domain into existence. Goodbye blogspot!


Cinnamon & Green Tea Punch
Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins | Serves 10-12 (serving size: tequila shot glasses)

You Need:

  • 1 litre water
  • 2 green tea bags * see note#1
  • 6 long cinnamon sticks * see note#2
  • 2-3 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)
  • 4-5 tbsp brown sugar (adjust to taste) *see note#3
  • juice of half a lime
  • just a pinch of salt

Method:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and toss in the green tea bags and the cinnamon. Allow to brew for 4-5 minutes on a full flame.
2. Simmer, add sugar and honey, stir till the sugar dissolves. Remove from flame. Add the salt & lime juice.
3. Once it has cooled completely, refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve very chilled in vodka/tequila shot glasses.

Notes:
1. Do not use flavoured green tea like fruity ones (strawberry, lime, peach etc) as it will alter the taste of this punch - unless you want to experiment & prefer it that way.
2. Cinnamon is different from cassia bark which is popularly used in Mangalorean cuisine. Cassia bark is called as 'thikey sal' in Konkani and is mistaken to be cinnamon. If you are using Cassia bark use 7 or 8 sticks of 2-3 inches each
3. You may use regular granulated sugar in the place of brown sugar. I used dark brown muscovado sugar. Do not add more than 5 tbsp of sugar for the said quantity of water at the boiling stage as it will taste sugary once it has been cooled down. Excessive sweetness will mask the other flavours - cinnamon & green tea need to be the dominant flavours here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Special ~ Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing

Christmas always evokes special food memories for me. While my mum always cooked the yummiest traditional fare for Christmas lunch, my paternal aunt was famous for her most amazing Christmas Roast Chicken stuffed with absolutely delicious bread stuffing. I have vivid memories of being seated around the dining table at my uncle's place - along with my cousins and enjoying this happy meal. 

While traditionally Pork Bafat and Sanna also made it to the table, the most popular and on demand fare was this roast. Since back home, my mum never worked with an oven (in those days not everyone had an oven - some could not afford it while the others thought it was rocket science to put it to good use), we enjoyed her most delectable traditional curries and side dishes all moped up with cottony soft sanna or appams. 


While I had tasted this roast made by my aunt just a couple of times, the taste lingered on for many years thereafter. When the blog came into existence and family life demanded that I venture out of my comfort zone and try out different specialities that were worthy of a feast, I attempted to make this aided with a recipe from a book. Result - absolute disaster. The method was funny and the little voice in my head asked me not to follow it - yet I did and down went the chicken down the bin. Well, not really. We ate a nicely baked but bland roast chicken with a soggy (yucky!) bland stuffing. 


A couple of years later I decided to give it a shot again - this time I was at my brother's place. Excited on learning that lil' sister was going to roast a gorgeous turkey for the Christmas lunch, off he went to buy a nice and expensive bird. The kitchen witnessed three adults toiling over a bird weighing three kilograms for three hours. The result - average. I was totally disappointed - for having let my bro and his family down as far as the Christmas lunch was concerned. Lessons learnt - 1.) Read the recipe at least thrice 2.) Plan & prepare as much as possible in advance - preferably the previous day. 


Armed with these lessons I attempted to make this roast once again this year. This time I wasn't particularly keen to ruin the chicken, so I gave a quick call to my aunt Terry who helped me with the measures and method. Thank you so much for helping me out Aunty!

By the way, just in case you are as confused as I was as on time, in Mangalore, 'chicken roast' is a term popularly used to describe chicken kebabs - the large chunks of chicken marinated in red masala and then deep fried - popularly found on the wedding/roce function menu provided by caterers. However, roast chicken is a technique of roasting a whole chicken (usually with the skin on) with different spices and stuffed with different things like raisins, bread crumbs, mince meat or giblet (pronounced as 'jib-let')

(Above Picture: The whole roast chicken - To my bad luck the skin got slightly burnt due to my tiny oven)

Today's recipe is for the typically Mangalorean way of making the roast chicken - with a bread & giblet stuffing - an aromatic stuffing that involves sauteed coriander & mint leaves, onions, ginger, garlic along with bread pieces and giblet (liver, heart and gizzard of fowl/bird). All these ingredients are sauteed in ghee (preferably) and then stuffed into the bird's cavity and sealed (stitched up). It is then roasted in the oven for about an hour and served along with sides of your choice - buttered & stir fried vegetables such as french beans, baby carrots, peas or asparagus, sauces or fresh fruit like grapes, baby tomatoes, apple slices or orange segments. 
(Above Pic: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, before & after)

While preparing the stuffing stick to using ghee instead of olive oil as it lends a rich flavour and aroma to the stuffing. It is ok to indulge once in a while :-) The liberal use of ghee, raisins and nuts makes the stuffing absolutely delicious and worth the effort. As you carve through the meat and bite into a serving of stuffing that is beautifully soaked in the juices redeemed by the chicken, trust me, you will experience nirvana!


If you are planning to make this for your Christmas lunch, do plan & prepare it in advance! Good luck!


Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Marinating time: overnight or 1 hour | Baking time: 1hour 20mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1.5-1.7kg whole chicken with skin * see notes
For the marinade
  • 1-1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp olive oil or ghee
For the stuffing
  • 4 slices of bread cubed (trim & discard the hard edges)
  • 1 medium sized potato boiled, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 small green chillies finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1-1/2" ginger finely chopped
  • 200gms chicken liver & heart washed, boiled and cut into tiny cubes
  • 25gm (2 tbsp) black currants (black kishmish)
  • 25gm (2 tbsp) raisins (golden kishmish)
  • 50gm mixed nuts (cashewnuts & pistas or almonds) roughly chopped
  • 2 small onions (or 1 large) finely chopped
  • 1 tsp stew masala powder * see notes
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar (or increase it upto 1 tbsp for a sweeter stuffing)
  • salt to taste (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee (or as required)
Servings on the side (optional)
Baked Jacket Potatoes
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cheese spread
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cucumber peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small spring onion whites finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp mint leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil
Buttered Carrots & French Beans
  • 4-5 baby carrots peeled (or 2 regular big carrots cut into finger sized pieces)
  • 12-15 french beans stringed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
Apple Slices
  • 1/2 a medium sized apple thinly sliced
  • salt to taste
Method:
Marinate the chicken
1. Clean the chicken, especially the stomach cavity - remove any traces of blood, wash and allow to drain completely or pat it dry. Gently poke the chicken all over with a fork. Gently run your fingers between the flesh and the skin to form pockets. Take care not to tear the skin.
2. In a large bowl mix the ingredients for the marinade and apply it all over the chicken, inside the stomach cavity and between the skin and the flesh (into the pockets). Cover the pan with aluminium foil or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight for best results.

Prepare the stuffing
1. Heat 4 tbsp ghee in a non stick skillet/pan and fry the bread cubes till they are just about golden brown and crispy. Remove and keep aside to cool. Adding more ghee if required fry the roughly chopped nuts and raisins one by one and remove. Ensure that the raisins just plump up and don't burn else they will turn bitter.
2. In the same pan continue to fry the onions till golden brown and then the chopped green chillies, ginger and finally the chopped coriander and mint leaves for a couple of minutes. Toss in the stew powder (or the pepper, turmeric & cumin powders) and fry for a few seconds. Remove the mixture into a large pan/bowl
3. Lastly adding more ghee if required fry the cubed liver & heart and fry for a couple of minutes till golden brown. Transfer into the pan/bowl and mix all the fried ingredients together - bread cubes, nuts, raisins, onion mixture. Add the salt to taste, lime juice and sugar and mix gently.

Prepare the sides
Baked Jacket Potatoes
1. Scrub and wash the unpeeled potatoes thoroughly and prick all over with a fork. Rub your hands with a little olive oil and salt and then rub them onto the potatoes well. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 1-1/4 hours.
2. Remove and make a cross mark with a knife and put the filling into the slits and place it back into the oven. Use the grill mode for approx 10-12 minutes till the surface looks slightly golden and the cheese filling starts to bubble.

(Above Pic: Clockwise: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, Baked Jacket Potato, Buttered Carrots and French Beans, Apple Slices & Black Currant Sauce)

Buttered Carrots & French Beans
1. Blanch the carrots in boiling water with a little salt until half cooked. Add in the french beans and continue to blanch till 90% cooked. Drain the water (don't throw it - you can use it as a stock for soups).
2. Heat some butter in a non stick skillet and stir fry the blanched vegetables. Add salt (sparingly) and pepper to taste and fry for a couple of minutes. Keep aside until required to be grilled along with the chicken during the final 10 minutes of the grilling stage.

Apple Slices
Soak the apple slices in salt water to prevent discolouring. You may either serve them slightly salted or fresh (in which case slice them just before serving) or you may lightly stir fry them along with pepper similar to the french beans and carrots.

Stuff & roast the chicken
1. Preheat oven to 220 C for 10 minutes. Cover the oven tray with aluminium foil and grease with ghee or oil.
2. Place the marinated chicken out of the fridge for an hour before baking. Fill the stomach cavity with the bread stuffing. Using a large needle and thick strong thread stitch the opening of the cavity carefully ensuring that the skin does not tear (or else your stuffing will fall out). Tie the wings and the legs close together to ensure evenly baked chicken.
3. Place the stuffed chicken on the prepared tray and roast/bake at 200 C for 1-1/2 hours (approx) - bake time will vary depending on the weight of the chicken and the type of oven used. Flip the chicken half way down the baking time - use kitchen tongs or ladles and flip carefully. Pour/baste the juices over it so they dribble all over the chicken.
4. Reserve the last 10-12 minutes of the bake time to switch to grill mode just to get a nice golden brown colour on the outer skin. During these last 10 minutes you may add the pre-baked jacket potato with stuffing for a nice browning on the surface and you can also add the blanched and stir fried veggies for a nice colour and flavour.

Plating & Serving
Once out of the oven, cover the chicken with aluminium foil, just to allow to it absorb the juices and rest for 8-10minutes. Then remove the covering and hold the chicken in place with a fork and a carving knife. Untie the legs and wings and preferably carve them out first. Cut out each portion of meat along with some stuffing and transfer onto a serving plate. Drizzle a ladle full of stock from the baking tray onto the meat. Place the sides (baked potato, stir fried veggies, apple slices etc) along with the meat and the Black Currant sauce on the other side. Garnish with mint leaves if desired and serve hot.

Notes
1. Chicken or Turkey: If you are using turkey instead of chicken, then chances are that the turkey weighs nothing less than 3kgs. Just double the quantities of all the ingredients especially you may want to increase the number of bread slices and boiled potato cubes as a turkey will have a larger stomach cavity. Extra stuffing won't go a waste - trust me. A turkey weighing 3-4 kilos can easily serve 6-8 people.
2. Stew Masala Powder: Is a typical Mangalorean spice blend used for meat/vegetable stews. Substitute 1 tsp stew masala powder with 1/4 tsp turmeric pwd + 1/4 tsp cumin pwd+1/2 tsp pepper pwd.
3. Sides: You may serve any kind of stir fried veggies you fancy. Throw in baby potatoes, button mushrooms, broccoli or baby corn.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Black Currant Sauce (Accompaniment to Roast Chicken)

The best part about Christmas is the variety of food that one gets to savour - this ofcourse is if you are lucky to make it at home or venture out and enjoy it. Besides the traditional Mangalorean Christmas meal menu which includes different types of meats cooked the Indian way, I have also had the pleasure of eating the Mangalorean way of making the Roast Chicken (recipe to follow). This sauce is an accompaniment to that. It just helps bring out all the flavours of the beautifully roasted chicken which is stuffed with breadcrumbs, raisins and giblet. 


I think this sauce can also be made round the year if you wish to eat it with any other kind of roast/baked dish. I had tried a couple of recipes for this sauce and was not too happy with them. Eventually this one worked for me. The black currants - we call them black kishmish in India, lend this sweetish tang to the sauce. The rest of the ingredients just complement it in their own way bringing in the elements of sweet, spice and sourness to the sauce. I hope you enjoy it!


Black Currant Sauce
Prep time: 5mins | Cook time: 20mins | Serves 4-6
  • 4 tbsp (50gm) black currants (black kishmish)
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 1 small onion roughly chopped
  • 1/2" ginger chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice or tamarind juice or vinegar (according to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-/12 or 2 cups of water (approx)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 small onion finely sliced (for seasoning)
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • mint leaves to garnish
Method
1. Pick and clean the black currants and soak in warm water for about an hour till they swell. Grind with the ginger, green chillies, onion, lime juice & sugar to a fine paste. Transfer the paste into a pan and add the water and salt to taste and simmer for 15 minutes without covering the pan. The mixture will thicken and reduce a little. Turn off the heat & transfer sauce to a serving bowl
2. Heat ghee in another pan and fry the onion till golden brown. Add this seasoning to the sauce and garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Date & Walnut Cake - Celebrating 1 Million Page Views!

They say all good things come in small packages. I couldn't agree more. I have a teeny tiny package sleeping in my cradle this very moment. My little baby is over a month now and it is such a pleasure to experience motherhood all over again - despite the sleepless nights. My husband is also enjoying his time with his daughter and is waiting for daddy's little girl to flash her first toothless grin at him. 

At this very moment I cannot help feeling more blessed and thankful. God has blessed me with a lovely family - my husband and two lovely children, a blog that keeps me going and a million friends who encourage and support me. A couple of years ago, feeling pretty down and lonely I prayed for some good friends. My prayers were answered in special way. Not only did I find good friends - mums of my son's friends from his first playschool, but also a good number of people who became friends because of the blog. Readers who thanked me for recipes that reminded them of their homes & childhood. Long lost school friends who re-connected with me thanks to the internet. New friends who joined my Facebook page first and thereafter went on to become my 'virtual'/online buddies. The list is ever growing and I am so happy that there is no dearth of people to turn to for love, encouragement, support - to share a tear or a smile. 


Christmas is that time of the year when families come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is not just a festival, but a season of love - to celebrate love. This celebration also calls for some self introspection - to quickly glance through the year that has gone by and ask ourselves whether ours was a life well lived. Whether we made a difference to another person, whether we brought meaning into our own life. I hope this season you have the opportunity to do all this and more - to say thank you, I love you and sorry!

Today as my blog has crossed 1 million page views, I wish to thank 3 special people who are in a very special way connected to the success of this blog. They were instrumental in pushing me to create the blog, revive it and keep it going when all I wanted to do was chuck it all and go back into my shell. Not only has this helped me widen my horizon beyond my home & hearth but also helped me grow as a person. Roshan, my darling husband, Prema, my dearest friend & cousin and May, my lovely friend. Thank you guys for every piece of advice, encouragement and love. 


At this point it would be totally unfair if I didn't thank my dear readers for taking the blog to where it stands today. It has gained popularity and in turn helped many people learn about our traditional Mangalorean recipes, because of those who have spread the word - for this I thank you. And also to all those of you who have poured your love & appreciation via comments or emails - telling me stories about your childhood or about how a certain dish evokes fond memories of your homes, families or people you have grown to love. I am so touched when I receive such mails and I always choke up while I read them. 

So thank you dear readers for making Ruchik Randhap what it is today, in your own special way! May you have a blessed & meaningful Christmas season!


Date & Walnut Cake
Prep time: 15mins | Bake time: 45mins | Yield 12 medium slice

You Need:
  • 175-200gm pitted dates finely chopped * see notes
  • 100gm (1 cup) walnuts roughly chopped
  • 100gm (2/3rd cup) soft brown sugar (I used dark muscovado)
  • 100gm (3/4th cup+1 tbsp) all purpose flour (maida)
  • 100gm (1/2 cup) butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder *see notes
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)
Method:
1. Prepare an 8"x4"x2" loaf pan - grease the insides and line with parchment/butter paper. Keep aside. Preheat the oven at 160°C / 320°F  (for 15mins if you are using an OTG without the pre-heat option).
2. Place the chopped dates in a bowl and pour boiling water to cover them. Keep aside for 10-15minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg powders together a couple of times and keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat well till incorporated. Add the honey and mix well.
4. Sift in the flour in 3 parts, mixing each part with a spatula till incorporated. Add the nuts and the dates (drained) and fold.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack/mesh to cool for 15mins.  Remove from tin and allow to cool completely before cutting. Sift some powdered sugar over the surface to decorate (optional)
6. Serve with a hot cup of tea or coffee.



Notes:
Cup measure used - 1cup = 237ml
I used Omani dates that were just ripe and were not overly sweet. You may use the variety of your choice. Mushier & darker (in colour) dates will yield a sweeter taste and darker colour. The original recipe asked for 200gm, but I reduced it to 1 cup (approx 165gm) that yielded a mildly sweet cake.
Instead of cinnamon & nutmeg powder you may use mixed spice powder that is generally used for Christmas cakes. Two pinches of dried orange peel powder will also add to the taste and aroma.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Orange & Cardamom Fig Cookies (Newtons)

Hey guys, I am back with another Christmas goody. I am so obsessed with collecting recipes, especially from newspapers & magazines that I have three files bursting at the seams. Add to these handwritten notes and chits that somehow fail to make it to the blog. Oh blimey! I have no idea when I plan to cook and post them.  

I came across this recipe a long time ago. Pamela Timms an expat living in Delhi writes a food column for Mint Lounge, the weekend edition of the business newspaper Mint. I love her interesting ideas and have managed to tear out many a recipe that has found its way to safety in my recipe file. I thought Christmas was the perfect occasion to try these babies out. 


Now that my little baby is a month old I thought it was time to move my butt around the house a bit and get back to my favourite passtime - baking. I am always in the mood to bake, never in the mood to cook though - I mean, I can totally skip cooking a meal if someone will do it for me - or I have the convenience of ordering a take away. But baking is something I can do anytime of the day provided there is some butter & eggs at room temperature, and yes, powdered sugar (I hate that job of powdering sugar - cuz I somehow don't manage to buy caster sugar)


Although I am not a fan of dry fruits, I guess I do prefer them over fresh fruits. If I am in the mood to lose some weight and do some serious dieting, I turn to dry fruits when I need a power packed in between-the-meal snack. Prunes are my most favourite, then come figs and lastly dates. If you've not guessed by now, I don't have a sweet tooth but do indulge in Indian sweets - can't resist 'em. Due to health reasons now I curtail my urge to make Indian sweets - one reason why you won't find too many sweet recipes on my blog, but I do think that festive goodies that are made with naturally sweet ingredients are just brilliant.


Now I have a whole list of sweets that call for dry fruits, but I will have to try them one by one as there are no takers for sweets in my house. Christmas is just an excuse for me to try them out. So the first goody on my list are these fig cookies or rolls if you prefer to call them. I found the recipe really simple because the filling is dead simple to make. If you want a shortcut for the filling, just use any fruit preserve of your choice - or worst case, just good quality jam that is not too sweet. You may also replace figs with any other dry fruit of your choice, throw in a few chopped nuts and you'll have your own shortbread cookie with a filling. I call these shortbread cookies as the covering is melt in the mouth and has a bit of a bite like cookies do - which is why I didn't call them 'rolls' - just in case you feel you are going to bite into a soft puff. The use of orange juice gives it a lovely tang to offset any sweetness that the figs bring in. The cardamoms just lend a lovely 'desi' sweet aroma - but you can skip them or replace them with cinnamon powder. 


I would say that these cookies are a hybrid between shortbread cookies and rolls - a bit cake-y a bit cookie-y - perfect tea time accompaniment and a perfect item on your Christmas goody menu. So what are you waiting for? 


Orange & Cardamom Fig Cookies
Prep time: 30mins | Bake time: 30 mins | Makes: 18 rolls

You Need:
For the pastry dough
  • 200gm plain flour (maida)
  • 125gm unsalted butter
  • 75gm icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
For the filling
  • 250gm dried figs
  • 240ml / 1 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 lime/lemon
  • 3 cardamom pods slightly bruised
Method:
Prepare the pastry:
In a large bowl, put the butter, icing sugar and vanilla and beat till light and creamy. Beat in the egg and sift in the flour, mix well and then transfer the contents onto a lightly floured pan - the dough is going to be extremely soft and sticky/crumbly - keep dusting extra flour till you can work it into a dough ball. Cover the pan with cling wrap and place it in the fridge for about 25-30 minutes.

Prepare the filling
In a heavy bottomed pan, place all the ingredients mentioned under 'for the filling' and bring it to a boil. After a couple of minutes simmer until the figs have plumped up and the liquid is almost dry. Let some moisture remain. Remove from the flame and discard the cardamom pods. Once cooled, blitz (blend) the figs in a mixer grinder/food processor into a paste. Divide into three portions and keep aside.

Making the cookies
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Lightly grease a baking tray.
Divide the pastry dough into three parts and roll each into a smooth ball. On a well floured surface flatten & roll each ball of dough into a rectangle of approx 36x12cm as thinly as possible. Dust extra flour to avoid it from sticking. Take a third of the fig filling and place it along the centre of the pastry. Fold one side of the pastry over the filling and then the other side over it. Press gently to seal and turn the whole roll over so that the sealed side is at the bottom. Trim the ends and then cut the roll into pieces of approx 2" each.
Place each roll on the greased baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes till the rolls are pale golden. Remove onto a wire rack, cool completely and then dust with icing sugar before serving.
Store in an airtight container - it keeps well for upto a 4-5 days at room temperature



Friday, December 7, 2012

Chai Tea Spiced Christmas Cake (Masala Chai Dry Fruit Loaf)

I am going to have a busy Christmas this time - no prizes for guessing why. Yes, the presence of a new born baby (who is a month old already by the way) ensures that her mother is always on her toes. One reason why I knew that blogging would not be so easy anymore. However, not wanting to disappoint my readers (and in turn myself) I tried out a few recipes well in advance this year. One of them was this lovely Christmas cake which fits the bill of being a non alcoholic fruit cake. 


I had bookmarked this recipe from a newspaper cutting last year and never got around to making it. This year I thought I must give it a shot. The fact that it made no use of alcohol to soak the fruits made it perfect for me . This cake makes use of tea instead of rum or brandy which is often used to soak the fruit days or months in advance. Our humble desi masala chai (tea) has become very fashionable in the West - people actually call it 'chai tea' which is nothing but masala tea or tea brewed with a bend aromatic 'warm' spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves & dry ginger. Some spice blends include peppercorn, star and fennel too.


Although not a tee teetotaler I took to drinking tea when I started working - there was a coffee vending machine at my workplace which had the yummiest masala tea which I loved to sip on every morning before I began my work and sometimes between breaks too. I am still loyal to coffee (I need my hot cuppa every morning to kick start my day) but I can easily replace my loyalties if I am presented with a cup of aromatic masala tea.

I made a lot of changes to the original recipe and the resultant cake was really impressive. It received thumbs up from our usual cake tasters (our family friends). The tea and brown sugar impart a lovely brown colour to the cake and it is fairly simple to make. As the cake happily bakes away the warm spices will fill your home with a lovely aroma that will put you in a wonderful Christmassy mood (time to play some Christmas carols to add to the mood!). 

Rich, aromatic and moist - it has all the elements of a good Christmas cake. So perfect for those who love Christmas cakes sans the alcohol - I know a lot of people who like non alcoholic cakes due to religious and health reasons - so I hope you like it!


Chai Tea Spiced Christmas Cake
Prep time: 15mins-20mins | Soaking time 7-8 hours or overnight | Yield: 14 large slices

You Need:
  • 275gm (2-1/4 cups) all purpose flour/maida
  • 75gm (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar *see notes
  • 75gm (1/3 cup) granulated sugar or 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 150gm (2/3 cup+1 tbsp) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange peel powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spiced powder or cinnamon powder (optional)
  • 300gm dry fruits (I used 100gm each of raisins, black currants and dried cranberries) *see notes
  • 200ml strong masala tea *see notes
  • 100ml fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • grated zest of an orange
  • grated zest of a large lime/lemon
Method:
1. Clean the dry fruits, pick stems if any and roughly chop and place in a bowl. Measure the orange juice and add enough masala tea to bring the level up to 300ml. Pour this liquid over the dry fruits, add the zests of the orange and lime and give it a good stir. Cover and keep overnight.
2. Grease and line a 26x13cm (10x5 inch) loaf pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven at 160 C for 15mins. Sift the flour, baking powder, pinch of salt and dried orange peel powder and cinnamon powder (if using) twice and keep aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar well and add one egg at a time, beat well. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Sift the flour in parts and fold well to incorporate. Add the soaked fruits with the liquid and fold again. The batter should be of dropping consistency so if you feel it is a bit too thick and dry add a tablespoon of milk at a time and fold.
4. Pour batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack/stand. Invert onto the rack after 15-20mins and allow to cool completely.
5. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or just plain with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. 

Notes:
1.You may use 150gm brown sugar instead of splitting between two types of sugar. Add an additional 2 tbsp to increase the sweetness - however, if you are using very sweet raisins or dates instead of cranberries then taste the batter before adding more sugar. I used dark muscovado sugar that gave a mocha colour to the cake. You may use regular white sugar for a pale coloured cake.
2. To make the masala tea boil 300ml of water and add 2tbsp tea powder and 1 tsp chai masala powder (I used Everest chai masala), let it brew for half a minute, allow to sit for a couple of minutes and then strain. If you have readily available chai tea bags you may use those as well - use as per desired strength of the tea.
3. Adjust the sweetness of your cake by using dry fruits that are less sweet - prunes, dried apricots and dried cranberries are a lot less sweeter than dates and raisins.
4. You can make your own dried orange peel powder by drying orange peels in the sun for 2-3 days. Powder in a dry grinding jar and store in an airtight container.


Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012 - Summing up a Fabulous Year!

I am delighted to write this post today, not just because I eagerly await the dawn of a brand new year, but because it is always a joy when milestones have been achieved. I did not set any targets for this year, nor did I make any resolutions, but as I look back on the year gone by, I think it has truly been a year well spent. I have learnt to cook new things, revived old ties, made new friends and the icing on the cake - brought a new person into this world. 

Almost the whole of this year was consumed by my pregnancy and delivery - while I was expecting that it would take a toll on my blogging, I was quite surprised that it didn't. On the contrary it helped me plan and organize every aspect of my life including blogging so that things moved smoothly even after the arrival of the new baby. I am still counting God's many blessings on me and my family and cannot thank Him enough - for blessing us, for keeping us alive and in good health.

So here's a quick recap of the best of 2012 - it has been so much fun to put this post together. My new year resolution is to try out things that intimidated me till date and to master them and to bring in a lot of variety to this blog.

~ Best of 2012 ~

January

My most favourite party starter - simply because it can be made in advance and frozen and I have made it a zillion times. Although it needs masala to be ground (a little effort is involved), it is worth it and tastes simply yum when served piping hot


February

If you are not calorie conscious, then this cake is the one for you. Simple and buttery goodness - oh! so melt-in-the-mouth! It's the perfect cake when you want to make a basic sponge to entertain those who don't like anything apart from plain vanilla cakes. I have made this a gazillion times on popular demand.


March

An easy appetiser/starter made with fish fillets that you can make in a jiffy. Its a sure shot way to get fussy kids eat to eat some fish as they just can't make out if its chicken or fish! The best part is that it can be grilled, baked or shallow fried. No deep frying!


April

One of Mangalore's most popular beverages - thanks to the abundance of coconut trees. Almost every Mangalorean I know has relished a chilled glass of coconut water at some point of their lives. Here's a recipe to make a perfect welcome drink with a twist.


May

The one and only prawn recipe on my blog has become the most loved recipe by those who have tried & tested it. Full credit goes to my husband Roshan for this beautiful recipe. Easy to make & finger licking good!


June

One of the most loved breakfast options on my menu at home. It's perfect for breakfast on a lazy Sunday, as a snack in your kid's lunch box or something you like to munch along on a journey or a picnic. So simple to make and delicious to eat. Tastes best with multi grain bread.


July

It can't get more simple than this. Dal Khichdi is food for the soul. Eat it when you are happy, sad, bored or ill. Tastes best when eaten freshly made and piping hot, with a dollop of ghee or yogurt. Dead simple as you only need a pressure cooker to do its job. You really can't go wrong with this recipe! 


August: 

Mangalore's take on the Goan Pork Vindaloo, made by Roshan - his own style. Tried, tested and loved by many readers. You can make it with chicken too, just follow the instructions in the recipe and you have a winner on your hands!


September: 

One of Mangalore's dying traditions - making ginger preserve at home. From the time I tasted it I have fallen in love with it. Happy that I was able to achieve the challenge that I set for myself for this year - to make it from scratch. So happy with the results - however, this is seasonal, so bookmark it and make it when fresh (new) ginger is available in the market.


October: 

An unusual recipe that I found in my mum's handwritten book soon became the talk of the town. Such a brilliant way to put pineapple peel (the one that we discard) to good use. Makes a small batch - to be enjoyed with close family!


November: 

A delightful fudge - yummy and nutty all the same. I remember going on a crazy hunt for silver leaves (varq) to be placed on top of the burfi and had a great time clicking the pictures. Since it was my first attempt at making a fudge I was pretty pleased with myself for having made perfect squares that we enjoyed for many days after that!


December

Probably the most popular cake of the season, this recipe was tried & liked by many especially by those who prefer moderately sweet cakes. Again, a beautiful cake that works perfectly as an accompaniment to tea or as a basic cake for a fondant covering - the kind you'd want to make for your parents' anniversary or a formal occasion such as a jubilee, Communion or a Baptism ceremony.



Last but not the least, adding to the above 12 are these two posts that are so close to my heart for many reasons.



Wishing all my readers and blogger friends a wonderful 
New Year 2013!!
May the 365 days waiting for you be filled with health & happiness, wealth & wisdom, peace & prosperity, glee & glow, love & laughter!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Traditional Wedding Style Mutton Polov (Ash Pumpkin & Mutton Curry)

Those of you who are in Mangalore at the moment (residing or holidaying there) must be having at least a wedding or two to attend. The wedding season in Mangalore has officially begun today (post Christmas). This is of course followed by those who religiously observe Advent (the season prior to Christmas in preparation of the birth of Christ) the period during which the Church did not conduct weddings till a few years ago. However, in today's time & age when weddings are planned and prepared months in advance, in view of the 'rush' during the season, bookings are made as quickly as possible. Owing to everyone's convenience (guests who travel from overseas especially), weddings are held during the advent season too. 


Anyway, in today's post I want to throw some light on our Mangalorean Catholic weddings and the fun and food that are such an integral part of it. While I want to write a million things about our weddings, the irony is that I dreaded the weddings when I lived in Mangalore. Now I sorely miss them and would jump at the first opportunity of attending one - no matter how remotely that person is related (or not!) to me! Irrespective of the fact that our Catholic weddings can be such a big bore if you don't know anyone in the crowd or know too many people that you are actually trying to dodge those aunties who ask you a million personal questions - when, when & when - any question they ask you usually begins with 'when'. When are you finishing college? When are you getting married? When are you going to have a baby? I am sure all of you have dealt with at least one such annoying jobless auntie.


Mangalorean Catholic weddings are preceded by a pre-wedding function called as the 'Roce' ceremony. 'Roce' in Konkani refers to the coconut extract - or coconut milk which is supposed to have cleansing properties apart from plenty of cosmetic benefits. Traditionally the bride and groom are 'cleansed' and 'prepared' for the life that follows the marriage ceremony. Basically it is a custom borrowed from the local Hindu cleansing rituals and can be compared to the 'haldi' ceremony that is followed elsewhere in India.

The Roce ceremony is the most fun among the two ceremonies as the gathering is smaller consisting only the close family, neighbours and friends of the bride or the groom. Besides a lot of song and dance that is customary, the food served on the day of the Roce is also traditional - at least one of the items is - the Mutton Polov. Its a typical stew made out of roasted & ground spices, roasted coconut, mutton and ash pumpkin (winter melon).


The earliest Polov preparations were made only with the ash pumpkin (called as kualo in Konkani), some people would add shrimp to it - it was all about the affordability of the host. As the decades passed by Polov and Mutton became constant companions. A traditional 'Roce' meal was served on banana leaves - it included mutton polov served with a large bun made in large ovens fueled by fire wood. Guests were also served traditional kele sukhe (plaintain (raw banana) sukka (side dish made of aromatic spices and roasted coconut) and fodi che lonche (chunky mango pickle). and unpolished (brown) rice of course. Again, the number of meats served to guests depended on how wealthy the host was, so sometimes guests would get to enjoy pork sorpotel (a delicacy made out of pork offal). I have tried to recreate the 'roce' meal (minus the pork sorpotel) below. The bun was made in my own kitchen, so it's not as big as what is served during the Roce.


I have posted an easier mutton polov recipe which is made with stew powder, however this recipe is the more traditional way of making it. 

If you are invited to a Roce function in Mangalore, I really hope you get to eat the mutton polov and bun - it truly is the essence of the lovely ceremony.


Traditional Wedding Style Mutton Polov 
Prep time: 30mins | Cook time:: 15 mins | Serves 3-4

You Need:
  • 500gms mutton or goat meat on the bone
  • 500gms ash pumpkin / ash gourd/ winter melon
For the 'korpo' (toasted coconut & onion mixture)
  • 1/2 of a large coconut (or 1-1/4 cups grated coconut)
  • 1/2 medium size onion sliced
For the masala
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 marble size ball of tamarind
  • 5-6 long red chillies (Byadgi)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 4 flakes of garlic with skin
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin/jeera
  • 1/2 tbsp rice (uncooked)
For the seasoning
  • 1/2 medium sized onion finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil
Method:
1. Cut the mutton into small pieces, wash and drain. Pressure cook it with a little salt & keep aside. Remove the skin & pith (seeds) of the ash pumpkin and cut into cubes.Boil the ash pumpkin with a little salt and 1 cup of water (or enough to cover it) till tender (do not overcook).
2. In a heavy bottomed pan or skillet/tawa roast the coconut & sliced onion ('Korpo') on a very slow flame till the colour changes to light brown (biscuit colour) - this may take 15-18 minutes. Ensure not to burn the coconut. Remove and allow to cool. Next, on the same pan/tawa roast all the ingredients mentioned under 'For the masala' - except the coconut & tamarind  - one by one till you get a nice aroma. Allow them to cool a bit and grind them to a fine powder, then add the unroasted coconut, tamarind and the 'korpo' along with a little water to achieve a fine paste. Reserve the masala water from the grinder.
3. Add the ground masala to the pre-cooked ash pumpkin, add the cooked mutton and its stock (cooking liquor) adjust salt to taste and bring the curry to a boil for a couple of minutes. Add the reserved masala water and additional water if required to adjust the consistency of the gravy. The gravy should be neither too thick nor too thin. After adding the water, continue to simmer for 3-5mins & turn off the flame.
4. In a smaller pan heat the ghee for seasoning and when hot, toss in the sliced onions and fry till golden brown. Add this to the curry and cover the pan immediately.
5. Serve hot with a plain bun or traditional red/brown rice.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cinnamon & Green Tea Punch - Say Cheers!!

Hey guys! I am overjoyed as I write this post. Ruchik Randhap has finally moved to its own domain! Yayy! Yes! It has been a long wait for me - for no particular reason though. Just too many things on my plate the whole of this year but now I finally got my little blog to move to its own home - a dot com address. 
So Ruchik Randhap is now www.ruchikrandhap.com! 

This calls for a bubbly, definitely, but since I am off alcohol for now, I guess we can toast to some lovely cinnamony drink that totally fits into this Christmas season too.


You can call this drink simply Cinnamon Green Tea if you wish, but its a tad too sweet if you prefer sipping on light green tea. I call it a punch because it is best served chilled (absolutely chilled) and in shot glasses AND in tiny quantities as a welcome drink. I have made this a couple of times last year after my dear friend Jenifer offered me some at her place and told me how she made it. I have experimented with my own measurement and I am sure this drink will only evolve. Go ahead and get creative if you wish - but don't go overboard as its always good to play safe with warm spices especially when you are teaming them up with something that has its own strong character - green tea. 


Last year I made this at my brother's place in Dubai and served it to his guests who went crazy over it. My brother too fell in love with it and I thought it must go on this year's Christmas menu. It's the perfect welcome drink at a party. It will leave your guests feeling absolutely refreshed and asking for more (and even wondering what went into this punch). Make sure you don't serve it at room temperature - in which case they will really wonder what you served them (sorry, but it doesn't taste very good at room temp)


Like I always get into the blah blah speech mood and bore you guys, why not prep yourself up for another speech of this season? Well, I am dedicating this post to a whole lot of people for a zillion reasons. First to Jenifer, my dear friend who has taught me a million recipes including this one - thank you Jenny! To May my lovely friend who sent me the lovely card that you see in the background - all the way from Lohr, Germany - thank you and I wish you a wonderful Christmas! I have also borrowed your beautiful cinnamon candle centerpiece idea!


I also raise a toast to the two people who couldn't wait for this post - Laxmimala my oldest friend (ever!) - we've known each other since we were 5! May our friendship that is as old as the hills remain steadfast until the cows come home! And last but not the least, my dear brother Santhosh for being such a great guy - despite having driven me crazy during our childhood, you are & will always remain to be my closest foe (:P), support and buddy and I love you tons!


So now that my speech is over, why don't you make this drink today? If you have leftovers make sure you freeze them in your ice cube mould - its great way to serve a small portion of it anytime you like! Go creative and make popsicles out of it - make sure you don't serve it to kids - green tea has caffeine in it.

It is more of a refreshing drink served at a spa - so pour yourself a drink just in case you plan to soak yourself silly in a nice hot bubbly bath. Warm water, dim lights, great music and this drink - party or bubble bath - take your pick ;-) Lol! I guess I have simply gone crazy with the excitement of finally getting my domain into existence. Goodbye blogspot!


Cinnamon & Green Tea Punch
Prep time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 mins | Serves 10-12 (serving size: tequila shot glasses)

You Need:

  • 1 litre water
  • 2 green tea bags * see note#1
  • 6 long cinnamon sticks * see note#2
  • 2-3 tbsp honey (adjust to taste)
  • 4-5 tbsp brown sugar (adjust to taste) *see note#3
  • juice of half a lime
  • just a pinch of salt

Method:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and toss in the green tea bags and the cinnamon. Allow to brew for 4-5 minutes on a full flame.
2. Simmer, add sugar and honey, stir till the sugar dissolves. Remove from flame. Add the salt & lime juice.
3. Once it has cooled completely, refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve very chilled in vodka/tequila shot glasses.

Notes:
1. Do not use flavoured green tea like fruity ones (strawberry, lime, peach etc) as it will alter the taste of this punch - unless you want to experiment & prefer it that way.
2. Cinnamon is different from cassia bark which is popularly used in Mangalorean cuisine. Cassia bark is called as 'thikey sal' in Konkani and is mistaken to be cinnamon. If you are using Cassia bark use 7 or 8 sticks of 2-3 inches each
3. You may use regular granulated sugar in the place of brown sugar. I used dark brown muscovado sugar. Do not add more than 5 tbsp of sugar for the said quantity of water at the boiling stage as it will taste sugary once it has been cooled down. Excessive sweetness will mask the other flavours - cinnamon & green tea need to be the dominant flavours here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Special ~ Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing

Christmas always evokes special food memories for me. While my mum always cooked the yummiest traditional fare for Christmas lunch, my paternal aunt was famous for her most amazing Christmas Roast Chicken stuffed with absolutely delicious bread stuffing. I have vivid memories of being seated around the dining table at my uncle's place - along with my cousins and enjoying this happy meal. 

While traditionally Pork Bafat and Sanna also made it to the table, the most popular and on demand fare was this roast. Since back home, my mum never worked with an oven (in those days not everyone had an oven - some could not afford it while the others thought it was rocket science to put it to good use), we enjoyed her most delectable traditional curries and side dishes all moped up with cottony soft sanna or appams. 


While I had tasted this roast made by my aunt just a couple of times, the taste lingered on for many years thereafter. When the blog came into existence and family life demanded that I venture out of my comfort zone and try out different specialities that were worthy of a feast, I attempted to make this aided with a recipe from a book. Result - absolute disaster. The method was funny and the little voice in my head asked me not to follow it - yet I did and down went the chicken down the bin. Well, not really. We ate a nicely baked but bland roast chicken with a soggy (yucky!) bland stuffing. 


A couple of years later I decided to give it a shot again - this time I was at my brother's place. Excited on learning that lil' sister was going to roast a gorgeous turkey for the Christmas lunch, off he went to buy a nice and expensive bird. The kitchen witnessed three adults toiling over a bird weighing three kilograms for three hours. The result - average. I was totally disappointed - for having let my bro and his family down as far as the Christmas lunch was concerned. Lessons learnt - 1.) Read the recipe at least thrice 2.) Plan & prepare as much as possible in advance - preferably the previous day. 


Armed with these lessons I attempted to make this roast once again this year. This time I wasn't particularly keen to ruin the chicken, so I gave a quick call to my aunt Terry who helped me with the measures and method. Thank you so much for helping me out Aunty!

By the way, just in case you are as confused as I was as on time, in Mangalore, 'chicken roast' is a term popularly used to describe chicken kebabs - the large chunks of chicken marinated in red masala and then deep fried - popularly found on the wedding/roce function menu provided by caterers. However, roast chicken is a technique of roasting a whole chicken (usually with the skin on) with different spices and stuffed with different things like raisins, bread crumbs, mince meat or giblet (pronounced as 'jib-let')

(Above Picture: The whole roast chicken - To my bad luck the skin got slightly burnt due to my tiny oven)

Today's recipe is for the typically Mangalorean way of making the roast chicken - with a bread & giblet stuffing - an aromatic stuffing that involves sauteed coriander & mint leaves, onions, ginger, garlic along with bread pieces and giblet (liver, heart and gizzard of fowl/bird). All these ingredients are sauteed in ghee (preferably) and then stuffed into the bird's cavity and sealed (stitched up). It is then roasted in the oven for about an hour and served along with sides of your choice - buttered & stir fried vegetables such as french beans, baby carrots, peas or asparagus, sauces or fresh fruit like grapes, baby tomatoes, apple slices or orange segments. 
(Above Pic: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, before & after)

While preparing the stuffing stick to using ghee instead of olive oil as it lends a rich flavour and aroma to the stuffing. It is ok to indulge once in a while :-) The liberal use of ghee, raisins and nuts makes the stuffing absolutely delicious and worth the effort. As you carve through the meat and bite into a serving of stuffing that is beautifully soaked in the juices redeemed by the chicken, trust me, you will experience nirvana!


If you are planning to make this for your Christmas lunch, do plan & prepare it in advance! Good luck!


Roast Chicken with Bread & Giblet Stuffing
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Marinating time: overnight or 1 hour | Baking time: 1hour 20mins | Serves 4

You Need:
  • 1.5-1.7kg whole chicken with skin * see notes
For the marinade
  • 1-1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp olive oil or ghee
For the stuffing
  • 4 slices of bread cubed (trim & discard the hard edges)
  • 1 medium sized potato boiled, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 small green chillies finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1-1/2" ginger finely chopped
  • 200gms chicken liver & heart washed, boiled and cut into tiny cubes
  • 25gm (2 tbsp) black currants (black kishmish)
  • 25gm (2 tbsp) raisins (golden kishmish)
  • 50gm mixed nuts (cashewnuts & pistas or almonds) roughly chopped
  • 2 small onions (or 1 large) finely chopped
  • 1 tsp stew masala powder * see notes
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar (or increase it upto 1 tbsp for a sweeter stuffing)
  • salt to taste (approx 1/2 tsp)
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee (or as required)
Servings on the side (optional)
Baked Jacket Potatoes
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cheese spread
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cucumber peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small spring onion whites finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp mint leaves finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil
Buttered Carrots & French Beans
  • 4-5 baby carrots peeled (or 2 regular big carrots cut into finger sized pieces)
  • 12-15 french beans stringed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
Apple Slices
  • 1/2 a medium sized apple thinly sliced
  • salt to taste
Method:
Marinate the chicken
1. Clean the chicken, especially the stomach cavity - remove any traces of blood, wash and allow to drain completely or pat it dry. Gently poke the chicken all over with a fork. Gently run your fingers between the flesh and the skin to form pockets. Take care not to tear the skin.
2. In a large bowl mix the ingredients for the marinade and apply it all over the chicken, inside the stomach cavity and between the skin and the flesh (into the pockets). Cover the pan with aluminium foil or cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight for best results.

Prepare the stuffing
1. Heat 4 tbsp ghee in a non stick skillet/pan and fry the bread cubes till they are just about golden brown and crispy. Remove and keep aside to cool. Adding more ghee if required fry the roughly chopped nuts and raisins one by one and remove. Ensure that the raisins just plump up and don't burn else they will turn bitter.
2. In the same pan continue to fry the onions till golden brown and then the chopped green chillies, ginger and finally the chopped coriander and mint leaves for a couple of minutes. Toss in the stew powder (or the pepper, turmeric & cumin powders) and fry for a few seconds. Remove the mixture into a large pan/bowl
3. Lastly adding more ghee if required fry the cubed liver & heart and fry for a couple of minutes till golden brown. Transfer into the pan/bowl and mix all the fried ingredients together - bread cubes, nuts, raisins, onion mixture. Add the salt to taste, lime juice and sugar and mix gently.

Prepare the sides
Baked Jacket Potatoes
1. Scrub and wash the unpeeled potatoes thoroughly and prick all over with a fork. Rub your hands with a little olive oil and salt and then rub them onto the potatoes well. Bake in a preheated oven at 200 C for 1-1/4 hours.
2. Remove and make a cross mark with a knife and put the filling into the slits and place it back into the oven. Use the grill mode for approx 10-12 minutes till the surface looks slightly golden and the cheese filling starts to bubble.

(Above Pic: Clockwise: Bread & Giblet Stuffing, Baked Jacket Potato, Buttered Carrots and French Beans, Apple Slices & Black Currant Sauce)

Buttered Carrots & French Beans
1. Blanch the carrots in boiling water with a little salt until half cooked. Add in the french beans and continue to blanch till 90% cooked. Drain the water (don't throw it - you can use it as a stock for soups).
2. Heat some butter in a non stick skillet and stir fry the blanched vegetables. Add salt (sparingly) and pepper to taste and fry for a couple of minutes. Keep aside until required to be grilled along with the chicken during the final 10 minutes of the grilling stage.

Apple Slices
Soak the apple slices in salt water to prevent discolouring. You may either serve them slightly salted or fresh (in which case slice them just before serving) or you may lightly stir fry them along with pepper similar to the french beans and carrots.

Stuff & roast the chicken
1. Preheat oven to 220 C for 10 minutes. Cover the oven tray with aluminium foil and grease with ghee or oil.
2. Place the marinated chicken out of the fridge for an hour before baking. Fill the stomach cavity with the bread stuffing. Using a large needle and thick strong thread stitch the opening of the cavity carefully ensuring that the skin does not tear (or else your stuffing will fall out). Tie the wings and the legs close together to ensure evenly baked chicken.
3. Place the stuffed chicken on the prepared tray and roast/bake at 200 C for 1-1/2 hours (approx) - bake time will vary depending on the weight of the chicken and the type of oven used. Flip the chicken half way down the baking time - use kitchen tongs or ladles and flip carefully. Pour/baste the juices over it so they dribble all over the chicken.
4. Reserve the last 10-12 minutes of the bake time to switch to grill mode just to get a nice golden brown colour on the outer skin. During these last 10 minutes you may add the pre-baked jacket potato with stuffing for a nice browning on the surface and you can also add the blanched and stir fried veggies for a nice colour and flavour.

Plating & Serving
Once out of the oven, cover the chicken with aluminium foil, just to allow to it absorb the juices and rest for 8-10minutes. Then remove the covering and hold the chicken in place with a fork and a carving knife. Untie the legs and wings and preferably carve them out first. Cut out each portion of meat along with some stuffing and transfer onto a serving plate. Drizzle a ladle full of stock from the baking tray onto the meat. Place the sides (baked potato, stir fried veggies, apple slices etc) along with the meat and the Black Currant sauce on the other side. Garnish with mint leaves if desired and serve hot.

Notes
1. Chicken or Turkey: If you are using turkey instead of chicken, then chances are that the turkey weighs nothing less than 3kgs. Just double the quantities of all the ingredients especially you may want to increase the number of bread slices and boiled potato cubes as a turkey will have a larger stomach cavity. Extra stuffing won't go a waste - trust me. A turkey weighing 3-4 kilos can easily serve 6-8 people.
2. Stew Masala Powder: Is a typical Mangalorean spice blend used for meat/vegetable stews. Substitute 1 tsp stew masala powder with 1/4 tsp turmeric pwd + 1/4 tsp cumin pwd+1/2 tsp pepper pwd.
3. Sides: You may serve any kind of stir fried veggies you fancy. Throw in baby potatoes, button mushrooms, broccoli or baby corn.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Black Currant Sauce (Accompaniment to Roast Chicken)

The best part about Christmas is the variety of food that one gets to savour - this ofcourse is if you are lucky to make it at home or venture out and enjoy it. Besides the traditional Mangalorean Christmas meal menu which includes different types of meats cooked the Indian way, I have also had the pleasure of eating the Mangalorean way of making the Roast Chicken (recipe to follow). This sauce is an accompaniment to that. It just helps bring out all the flavours of the beautifully roasted chicken which is stuffed with breadcrumbs, raisins and giblet. 


I think this sauce can also be made round the year if you wish to eat it with any other kind of roast/baked dish. I had tried a couple of recipes for this sauce and was not too happy with them. Eventually this one worked for me. The black currants - we call them black kishmish in India, lend this sweetish tang to the sauce. The rest of the ingredients just complement it in their own way bringing in the elements of sweet, spice and sourness to the sauce. I hope you enjoy it!


Black Currant Sauce
Prep time: 5mins | Cook time: 20mins | Serves 4-6
  • 4 tbsp (50gm) black currants (black kishmish)
  • 2 small green chillies
  • 1 small onion roughly chopped
  • 1/2" ginger chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice or tamarind juice or vinegar (according to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1-/12 or 2 cups of water (approx)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 small onion finely sliced (for seasoning)
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • mint leaves to garnish
Method
1. Pick and clean the black currants and soak in warm water for about an hour till they swell. Grind with the ginger, green chillies, onion, lime juice & sugar to a fine paste. Transfer the paste into a pan and add the water and salt to taste and simmer for 15 minutes without covering the pan. The mixture will thicken and reduce a little. Turn off the heat & transfer sauce to a serving bowl
2. Heat ghee in another pan and fry the onion till golden brown. Add this seasoning to the sauce and garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Date & Walnut Cake - Celebrating 1 Million Page Views!

They say all good things come in small packages. I couldn't agree more. I have a teeny tiny package sleeping in my cradle this very moment. My little baby is over a month now and it is such a pleasure to experience motherhood all over again - despite the sleepless nights. My husband is also enjoying his time with his daughter and is waiting for daddy's little girl to flash her first toothless grin at him. 

At this very moment I cannot help feeling more blessed and thankful. God has blessed me with a lovely family - my husband and two lovely children, a blog that keeps me going and a million friends who encourage and support me. A couple of years ago, feeling pretty down and lonely I prayed for some good friends. My prayers were answered in special way. Not only did I find good friends - mums of my son's friends from his first playschool, but also a good number of people who became friends because of the blog. Readers who thanked me for recipes that reminded them of their homes & childhood. Long lost school friends who re-connected with me thanks to the internet. New friends who joined my Facebook page first and thereafter went on to become my 'virtual'/online buddies. The list is ever growing and I am so happy that there is no dearth of people to turn to for love, encouragement, support - to share a tear or a smile. 


Christmas is that time of the year when families come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is not just a festival, but a season of love - to celebrate love. This celebration also calls for some self introspection - to quickly glance through the year that has gone by and ask ourselves whether ours was a life well lived. Whether we made a difference to another person, whether we brought meaning into our own life. I hope this season you have the opportunity to do all this and more - to say thank you, I love you and sorry!

Today as my blog has crossed 1 million page views, I wish to thank 3 special people who are in a very special way connected to the success of this blog. They were instrumental in pushing me to create the blog, revive it and keep it going when all I wanted to do was chuck it all and go back into my shell. Not only has this helped me widen my horizon beyond my home & hearth but also helped me grow as a person. Roshan, my darling husband, Prema, my dearest friend & cousin and May, my lovely friend. Thank you guys for every piece of advice, encouragement and love. 


At this point it would be totally unfair if I didn't thank my dear readers for taking the blog to where it stands today. It has gained popularity and in turn helped many people learn about our traditional Mangalorean recipes, because of those who have spread the word - for this I thank you. And also to all those of you who have poured your love & appreciation via comments or emails - telling me stories about your childhood or about how a certain dish evokes fond memories of your homes, families or people you have grown to love. I am so touched when I receive such mails and I always choke up while I read them. 

So thank you dear readers for making Ruchik Randhap what it is today, in your own special way! May you have a blessed & meaningful Christmas season!


Date & Walnut Cake
Prep time: 15mins | Bake time: 45mins | Yield 12 medium slice

You Need:
  • 175-200gm pitted dates finely chopped * see notes
  • 100gm (1 cup) walnuts roughly chopped
  • 100gm (2/3rd cup) soft brown sugar (I used dark muscovado)
  • 100gm (3/4th cup+1 tbsp) all purpose flour (maida)
  • 100gm (1/2 cup) butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder *see notes
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp honey (optional)
Method:
1. Prepare an 8"x4"x2" loaf pan - grease the insides and line with parchment/butter paper. Keep aside. Preheat the oven at 160°C / 320°F  (for 15mins if you are using an OTG without the pre-heat option).
2. Place the chopped dates in a bowl and pour boiling water to cover them. Keep aside for 10-15minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg powders together a couple of times and keep aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add one egg at a time and beat well till incorporated. Add the honey and mix well.
4. Sift in the flour in 3 parts, mixing each part with a spatula till incorporated. Add the nuts and the dates (drained) and fold.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack/mesh to cool for 15mins.  Remove from tin and allow to cool completely before cutting. Sift some powdered sugar over the surface to decorate (optional)
6. Serve with a hot cup of tea or coffee.



Notes:
Cup measure used - 1cup = 237ml
I used Omani dates that were just ripe and were not overly sweet. You may use the variety of your choice. Mushier & darker (in colour) dates will yield a sweeter taste and darker colour. The original recipe asked for 200gm, but I reduced it to 1 cup (approx 165gm) that yielded a mildly sweet cake.
Instead of cinnamon & nutmeg powder you may use mixed spice powder that is generally used for Christmas cakes. Two pinches of dried orange peel powder will also add to the taste and aroma.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Orange & Cardamom Fig Cookies (Newtons)

Hey guys, I am back with another Christmas goody. I am so obsessed with collecting recipes, especially from newspapers & magazines that I have three files bursting at the seams. Add to these handwritten notes and chits that somehow fail to make it to the blog. Oh blimey! I have no idea when I plan to cook and post them.  

I came across this recipe a long time ago. Pamela Timms an expat living in Delhi writes a food column for Mint Lounge, the weekend edition of the business newspaper Mint. I love her interesting ideas and have managed to tear out many a recipe that has found its way to safety in my recipe file. I thought Christmas was the perfect occasion to try these babies out. 


Now that my little baby is a month old I thought it was time to move my butt around the house a bit and get back to my favourite passtime - baking. I am always in the mood to bake, never in the mood to cook though - I mean, I can totally skip cooking a meal if someone will do it for me - or I have the convenience of ordering a take away. But baking is something I can do anytime of the day provided there is some butter & eggs at room temperature, and yes, powdered sugar (I hate that job of powdering sugar - cuz I somehow don't manage to buy caster sugar)


Although I am not a fan of dry fruits, I guess I do prefer them over fresh fruits. If I am in the mood to lose some weight and do some serious dieting, I turn to dry fruits when I need a power packed in between-the-meal snack. Prunes are my most favourite, then come figs and lastly dates. If you've not guessed by now, I don't have a sweet tooth but do indulge in Indian sweets - can't resist 'em. Due to health reasons now I curtail my urge to make Indian sweets - one reason why you won't find too many sweet recipes on my blog, but I do think that festive goodies that are made with naturally sweet ingredients are just brilliant.


Now I have a whole list of sweets that call for dry fruits, but I will have to try them one by one as there are no takers for sweets in my house. Christmas is just an excuse for me to try them out. So the first goody on my list are these fig cookies or rolls if you prefer to call them. I found the recipe really simple because the filling is dead simple to make. If you want a shortcut for the filling, just use any fruit preserve of your choice - or worst case, just good quality jam that is not too sweet. You may also replace figs with any other dry fruit of your choice, throw in a few chopped nuts and you'll have your own shortbread cookie with a filling. I call these shortbread cookies as the covering is melt in the mouth and has a bit of a bite like cookies do - which is why I didn't call them 'rolls' - just in case you feel you are going to bite into a soft puff. The use of orange juice gives it a lovely tang to offset any sweetness that the figs bring in. The cardamoms just lend a lovely 'desi' sweet aroma - but you can skip them or replace them with cinnamon powder. 


I would say that these cookies are a hybrid between shortbread cookies and rolls - a bit cake-y a bit cookie-y - perfect tea time accompaniment and a perfect item on your Christmas goody menu. So what are you waiting for? 


Orange & Cardamom Fig Cookies
Prep time: 30mins | Bake time: 30 mins | Makes: 18 rolls

You Need:
For the pastry dough
  • 200gm plain flour (maida)
  • 125gm unsalted butter
  • 75gm icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
For the filling
  • 250gm dried figs
  • 240ml / 1 cup orange juice
  • zest of 1 lime/lemon
  • 3 cardamom pods slightly bruised
Method:
Prepare the pastry:
In a large bowl, put the butter, icing sugar and vanilla and beat till light and creamy. Beat in the egg and sift in the flour, mix well and then transfer the contents onto a lightly floured pan - the dough is going to be extremely soft and sticky/crumbly - keep dusting extra flour till you can work it into a dough ball. Cover the pan with cling wrap and place it in the fridge for about 25-30 minutes.

Prepare the filling
In a heavy bottomed pan, place all the ingredients mentioned under 'for the filling' and bring it to a boil. After a couple of minutes simmer until the figs have plumped up and the liquid is almost dry. Let some moisture remain. Remove from the flame and discard the cardamom pods. Once cooled, blitz (blend) the figs in a mixer grinder/food processor into a paste. Divide into three portions and keep aside.

Making the cookies
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celcius. Lightly grease a baking tray.
Divide the pastry dough into three parts and roll each into a smooth ball. On a well floured surface flatten & roll each ball of dough into a rectangle of approx 36x12cm as thinly as possible. Dust extra flour to avoid it from sticking. Take a third of the fig filling and place it along the centre of the pastry. Fold one side of the pastry over the filling and then the other side over it. Press gently to seal and turn the whole roll over so that the sealed side is at the bottom. Trim the ends and then cut the roll into pieces of approx 2" each.
Place each roll on the greased baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes till the rolls are pale golden. Remove onto a wire rack, cool completely and then dust with icing sugar before serving.
Store in an airtight container - it keeps well for upto a 4-5 days at room temperature



Friday, December 7, 2012

Chai Tea Spiced Christmas Cake (Masala Chai Dry Fruit Loaf)

I am going to have a busy Christmas this time - no prizes for guessing why. Yes, the presence of a new born baby (who is a month old already by the way) ensures that her mother is always on her toes. One reason why I knew that blogging would not be so easy anymore. However, not wanting to disappoint my readers (and in turn myself) I tried out a few recipes well in advance this year. One of them was this lovely Christmas cake which fits the bill of being a non alcoholic fruit cake. 


I had bookmarked this recipe from a newspaper cutting last year and never got around to making it. This year I thought I must give it a shot. The fact that it made no use of alcohol to soak the fruits made it perfect for me . This cake makes use of tea instead of rum or brandy which is often used to soak the fruit days or months in advance. Our humble desi masala chai (tea) has become very fashionable in the West - people actually call it 'chai tea' which is nothing but masala tea or tea brewed with a bend aromatic 'warm' spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves & dry ginger. Some spice blends include peppercorn, star and fennel too.


Although not a tee teetotaler I took to drinking tea when I started working - there was a coffee vending machine at my workplace which had the yummiest masala tea which I loved to sip on every morning before I began my work and sometimes between breaks too. I am still loyal to coffee (I need my hot cuppa every morning to kick start my day) but I can easily replace my loyalties if I am presented with a cup of aromatic masala tea.

I made a lot of changes to the original recipe and the resultant cake was really impressive. It received thumbs up from our usual cake tasters (our family friends). The tea and brown sugar impart a lovely brown colour to the cake and it is fairly simple to make. As the cake happily bakes away the warm spices will fill your home with a lovely aroma that will put you in a wonderful Christmassy mood (time to play some Christmas carols to add to the mood!). 

Rich, aromatic and moist - it has all the elements of a good Christmas cake. So perfect for those who love Christmas cakes sans the alcohol - I know a lot of people who like non alcoholic cakes due to religious and health reasons - so I hope you like it!


Chai Tea Spiced Christmas Cake
Prep time: 15mins-20mins | Soaking time 7-8 hours or overnight | Yield: 14 large slices

You Need:
  • 275gm (2-1/4 cups) all purpose flour/maida
  • 75gm (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar *see notes
  • 75gm (1/3 cup) granulated sugar or 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 150gm (2/3 cup+1 tbsp) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried orange peel powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spiced powder or cinnamon powder (optional)
  • 300gm dry fruits (I used 100gm each of raisins, black currants and dried cranberries) *see notes
  • 200ml strong masala tea *see notes
  • 100ml fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • grated zest of an orange
  • grated zest of a large lime/lemon
Method:
1. Clean the dry fruits, pick stems if any and roughly chop and place in a bowl. Measure the orange juice and add enough masala tea to bring the level up to 300ml. Pour this liquid over the dry fruits, add the zests of the orange and lime and give it a good stir. Cover and keep overnight.
2. Grease and line a 26x13cm (10x5 inch) loaf pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven at 160 C for 15mins. Sift the flour, baking powder, pinch of salt and dried orange peel powder and cinnamon powder (if using) twice and keep aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar well and add one egg at a time, beat well. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Sift the flour in parts and fold well to incorporate. Add the soaked fruits with the liquid and fold again. The batter should be of dropping consistency so if you feel it is a bit too thick and dry add a tablespoon of milk at a time and fold.
4. Pour batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour or until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack/stand. Invert onto the rack after 15-20mins and allow to cool completely.
5. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or just plain with a nice hot cup of tea or coffee. 

Notes:
1.You may use 150gm brown sugar instead of splitting between two types of sugar. Add an additional 2 tbsp to increase the sweetness - however, if you are using very sweet raisins or dates instead of cranberries then taste the batter before adding more sugar. I used dark muscovado sugar that gave a mocha colour to the cake. You may use regular white sugar for a pale coloured cake.
2. To make the masala tea boil 300ml of water and add 2tbsp tea powder and 1 tsp chai masala powder (I used Everest chai masala), let it brew for half a minute, allow to sit for a couple of minutes and then strain. If you have readily available chai tea bags you may use those as well - use as per desired strength of the tea.
3. Adjust the sweetness of your cake by using dry fruits that are less sweet - prunes, dried apricots and dried cranberries are a lot less sweeter than dates and raisins.
4. You can make your own dried orange peel powder by drying orange peels in the sun for 2-3 days. Powder in a dry grinding jar and store in an airtight container.