Monday, January 20, 2014

Banana Cake with Coconut Cream frosting

So it was a perfect coincidence, the husband's birthday on Friday and having to make molten chocolate cake for my cooking course assignment. All the ingredients were hastily purchased on the way home but a sudden change in plan on seeing the sole ripe banana in the fruit basket. I succumbed to its beckoning.
I have made banana cake multiple times before and here is one of my older recipes. A colleague used to make it for her daughter and seeing how simple it was, I would make it every now and then. I remembered the banana cake slice that we were served after the HP Walkathon in 2012 and did some tweaking, adding some cinnamon. The result was really good and the cake was almost gone by the end of Friday. I am sure that had we not gone out for dinner, we would have licked the plate clean.

Now since I was
all set to make the molten chocolate cake, I did not have any cream and so used coconut cream for the frosting. Ironic that I used milk in the cake but a vegan frosting(duh!! Isn't life full of choices?). On a happy note, banana and coconut - perfect mallu combination for the perfectly mallu husband. (No, he won't accept it).

Now, from my cooking course, I do know that the shape/size of the baking tin do affect the results. Hence, I am sharing here the details of the tin that I used. Also please do read the tips below. A good friend did indicate this to me when we joined a online baking partners group but it did not answer all the questions and neither did I do much investigation back then.

Ingredients (For a 20 cm diameter circular cake): 

  1. All purpose flour : 1/2 cup
  2. Whole wheat flour : 1/2 cup
  3. Baking powder - 1 tsp
  4. Sugar - 1/2 cup
  5. Salt - 1/8 tsp
  6. Banana - 2 medium sized(15cm) ripe
  7. Egg - 1 
  8. Oil - 1/4 cup
  9. Cinnamon stick - 2inch long, 0.7mm thick
  10. Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
  11. Milk - 2 tbsp
  12. Walnuts - 1/4 cup chopped(optional)
For the frosting :
  1. Coconut cream - 1 tin
  2. Sugar - 4 tbsp
  3. Cocoa powder - for dusting

How I made it:

  1. Preheat the oven to degree 180 degree C.
  2. Prepare your baking tin by applying/spraying oil and then dusting lighting with some flour.
  3. In a bowl, mix ingredients 1 to 5.
  4. In a blender/mixie jar, blend ingredients 6 to 10.
  5. Now mix the dry ingredients in 3 to the wet ingredients in 4. Mix to combine. Do not beat. Fold in the walnuts if using some.
  6. If the batter is too thick, add milk till it comes to folding consistency. By folding consistency I mean that the batter should not fall in lumps when poured from the ladle. It should fall like a nice ribbon.
  7. Quickly pour this into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes. Once I had poured the batter into the tin, it was about 1.5 inch in thickness.
  8. Allow it to cool completely.
  9. Now, take a piece of thread - enough to go around the whole cake.(double the length if required). Use this thread to cut the cake into halves. Take one end of the thread and hold in a position midway through the height of the cake. Take the other end around the cake trying to maintain the height and bring the two ends of the thread together.  Now pull the thread ends in opposite directions such that they pierce through the cake and become straight and taut in the middle of the cake, ensuring the cake is completely cut into two.Take the top layer aside and turn it upside down.
  10. Beat the coconut cream till stiff peaks form.  Add sugar and mix well. 
  11. Spread half of this coconut cream on the bottom half of the cake. Place the top half of the cake on top of the bottom half. Spread the remaining coconut cream and using a strainer, sprinkle cocoa powder.
Tips :
  • Use the mentioned tin size or a suitable replacement in another shape. This is very important as the size of the tin decides how long the cake is to be baked as well as the temperature setting. A rough idea would be that heat penetrates at the rate of 0.0014cm per second through water. Now the cake is mostly water, so measure the thickness of your cake and accordingly bake. Also remember that the heat will diffuse from both directions if using a proper OTG. So that affects the cooking time as well. 
  • If not using the frosting, you could increase the sugar to 3/4 cup but this could make the cake too sweet depending on the sweetness of the bananas used. So go with your inner gut feeling. The bananas I used were sweet without the frosting itself. The frosting is not very sweet as it is a few tablespoons of sugar.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Radish/Mooli Paratha

Okay, never ever use bare hands to handle the radish in this recipe. Ever! I made this after so long that I forget and ended up having redness and itching on the back of my hand for about an hour. The itching has reduced, thanks to the coconut oil but the redness still persists. Anyways, getting back to the post.

Another one of my favorites. Parathas are generally loved but stuffed parathas make me feel like I am eating something healthier. Despite their foul smell, these parathas are so delicious that they can hardly be avoided.

Radish is an edible root vegetable. Baby  radish are used in salads raw. In South India, they are added to sambar and in North India, made into parathas. In Mexico, they have a special radish festival wherein carvings on radish are displayed at common spots.

Radish juice is considered to have cleansing powers and is good for the kidney. Some also believe that it helps fight cancer. Adding to all those benefits, this recipe ensures to make maximum use of this veggie, so do try it.

Preparation time : 40 minutes - depends on what method is chosen to extract the radish juice
Cooking time  : 2 minutes per paratha

For the stuffing:

  1. Radish - 2 medium sized
  2. Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
  3. Kasuri methi - 1 tsp
  4. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  5. Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Amchoor/Dry Mango powder - 1/2 tsp
  7. Oil - 1 tbsp
  8. Salt to taste
For the dough:
  1. Whole wheat flour - I usually take enough to make a smooth dough with the extracted radish juice. So start with a little and add as you go.
  2. Salt to taste
  3. Oil - 1 tbsp
  4. Radish juice - extracted when making the above stuffing. You can use plain water as well.
How I made it :
  1. Wash and scrape the radish.
  2. Grate the radish. A medium sized grater will do.
  3. Now, extract the juice from the grated radish. You could either use a muslin cloth or wear a food grade glove and squeeze handfuls of radish. Retain this juice. Remember that the more juice you remove, the better. The drier the filling/stuffing, the easier it will be to roll out the paratha.
  4. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil.
  5. Put in the cumin seeds.
  6. Once they start to change colour, add the kasuri methi.
  7. In 30 seconds, put in the red chilli powder. 
  8. Before the red chilli powder starts to burn put in the turmeric powder, grated juiced radish and salt to taste.
  9. Fry till the radish goes as dry and all the masalas are well mixed. 
  10. Now add the mango powder. Mix well and let the stuffing cool. Taste and make adjustments to your taste. 
  11. While the stuffing cools, made the whole wheat dough. Mix the flour, salt, oil and radish juice to make a nice smooth soft dough. The dough when pressed with a finger should kind of bounce back. Make sure it is not too watery/sticky as that will make it harder to roll out. Start with a little flour and keep adding as you go as it is not possible to give an exact measurement. The amount of radish juice will differ based on size, freshness and effectiveness of juicing method used. 
  12. Now, split the dough into small balls.
  13. Roll each ball out into a disc of about 5mm thick.
  14. Place a sufficient amount of stuffing, proportional to the size of the disc in the centre.
  15. Pull the ends together as can be seen in the collage above. 
  16. Apply some dry flour and roll out into a thin disc. Don't worry if the dough comes apart. You can always patch it up with some dry flour. Just ensure that you have the filling spread evenly around and the thickness of the paratha/disc is uniform throughout. 
  17. Repeat for all the balls made in step 12, provided there is enough filling. Else use this dough to make simple plain parathas.
  18. Heat a tawa/flat pan. 
  19. One at a time, place the rolled out parathas on the hot pan. Once you see that there are small air pockets forming, apply some oil/ghee and then turn. Lower the heat and let this cook for about a minute or until maillard reaction kicks in and there are enough brown spots. Apply pressure with the means of a flat ladle to help uniform cooking of all areas of the paratha. Turn, increase heat. Apply more oil/ghee if desired. Cook till maillard reactions cause brown spots- about 40 seconds.
Serve hot with curd/pickle/papad.

  • If you do get redness and itching from handling the radish, apply coconut oil and wave your hand up and about in the air, even if people think that you are crazy. Breathe! It will subside and all will be well.
  • Make the stuffing as dry as possible to enable easy rolling.
  • Make the chapati dough as smooth and non-sticky to enable easy rolling.
Trivia :
  • Maillard reactions, named after a scientist, are those reactions which cause the browning of food. These occur at temperatures of 120 degree C. It is these maillard reactions that provide that awesome taste to food. Yes, some food have their own flavour but it is this which enhances that flavour as well as the aromas that our nose detect. It is basically a chemical reaction of carbohydrates and proteins in amino acids which releases many sub compounds. These sub compounds are very volatile and escape easily into the air. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Assorted eggless pull apart rolls

All of a sudden I was seeing a lot of pictures of eggless pull apart garlic rolls on all social networks and I thought that I should give them a try. If so many people could get it right, so could I. I shuddered at the thought of Pras's reaction as I remembered the failed attempts at baking bread in my combo microwave back in India. I decided to stick to the recipe and do as it says. I succeeded the first time and so the next time, I not only used half the quantity of whole wheat flour but also used my own fillings. An easy snack for those lazy weekends at home.

My first attempt

Second time around

Preparation Time : 5 minutes or nill depending on the filling that will be used
Cooking Time : 30 minutes for baking. An additional hour and a half for proofing the bread

Ingredients (8 rolls):
For the bread:
  1. Whole wheat flour - 3/4 cup
  2. All purpose flour/Maida - 3/4 cup1.5 cups With Whole wheat, they are harder if kept for the next day
  3. Sugar - 1 tbsp
  4. Salt - 1 tsp
  5. Water - lukewarm - 1/2 cup+1tbsp
  6. Olive oil - 1tbsp + 1tbsp
  7. Yeast - fast action - 1/2 tbsp - I used Edmonds yeast and don't think I am going to look at any other yeast brand as long as I am in NZ.
For the filling :
  • Garlic butter filling
    1. 6 tbsp butter
    2. 2 cloves of garlic
    3. 2 tbsp chopped coriander or basil or oregano
  • Caramelized onion chutney
  • Dark chocolate chips and freshly grated coconut
  • Peanut butter
How I made it :
Step 1 : Proofing the dough
  1. In a bowl, warm the water such that it is lukewarm - about 40 degree C.
  2. Dissolve in the sugar and salt. 
  3. Add the yeast and set aside.
  4. Mix in the two flours and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. 
  5. Once the yeast mixture is nice and frothy/cloudy, add it in. 
  6. Mix the dough which gets less sticky as you knead it. 
  7. Once the dough comes together, apply oil on the outside. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in a warm area for about an hour, till the dough doubles in size. I usually keep mine in direct sunlight
Step 2 : Assembling the roll and further proofing
  1. Knock the dough down and then split it into 4 smaller balls. 
  2. Roll out each into a long rectangular shape of about 1/2 inch thickness.
  3. Spread the filling of your choice.
  4. Roll from one end to another.
  5. If they are too big, cut them into 2 inch long cylinders. 
  6. Make them stand with the cut side facing up on a baking tray.
  7. Apply some more oil on each of them. If making them with the garlic butter, you could use the remaining garlic butter instead of oil. 
  8. Set aside for proofing for at least 20 minutes.
Step 3: Baking
  1. Place the rolls in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree C and bake for 30 minutes. 
Serve hot with a cup of tea or coffee. They disappear in no time so don't hesitate to make more.

Panneer Potato Cutlets

Living in a developed country means "HUGE". Almost nothing is under a kilogram at most supermarkets. Further, this is how one feels one is getting the bang for the dollar being spent. Like I felt when I picked up milk 2 weeks ago. Yes, 2 weeks ago. Coming from India where the milk would not last more than a day, here milk lasts for weeks. It is on my to do list to find out what it is that they add to make the milk last this long.(A friend clarified that the milk sold here is boiled and packed and therefore lasts longer. Thanks) So, I knew we would not consume all of the milk before the "best by" date and so I made some home made panneer. I use my blog as my recipe journal as well, which means, I revisit my own blog to check the recipe of dishes I have tried. Mom's panneer fingers are not on this as it is a business secret for C-store. So obviously, I don't have any written record of the recipe. Being in different time zones from your mother doesn't help either especially when she is definitely going to be fast asleep at the time that you are cooking up your meal.

So I just put together things that would make a good cutlet and it was good. 

Ingredients (makes about 25 cutlets, each of about 1.5cm in diameter) :
For the panneer :
  1. Milk (Full fat works best and avoid UHT/long life milk) - 1 .25 litres
  2. Curd/Yoghurt - 4 tbsp
  3. Vinegar - 1/2 tsp
For the cutlet :
  1. Panneer - from the above or about 3/4 cup of shredded/grated/minced panneer
  2. Potatoes - 1 large boiled, peeled and mashed
  3. Green Chilly - 2 sliced thinly or chopped
  4. Red chilly powder - 1/2 tsp
  5. Garam masala powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Bread crumbs - about 1/4 cup + more for dusting - see tips
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Oil for frying
How I made it :
  1. Pour the milk into a pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Just as the milk boils lower the heat and put in the curd and vinegar. 
  3. Mix well till you see the milk curdle and the fat separate. 
  4. Turn of heat. Drain the water to get fresh soft homemade panneer. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the panneer. This water can be retained and stored to be added to dough to make softer rotis or make naan.
  5. Now, add the panneer to the potato, green chillies, red chilly powder, garam masala powder. 
  6. Adjust the salt. 
  7. This may be a bit sticky so add the bread crumbs to make a dough that is not too sticky. Alternately, put into airtight container and leave in fridge overnight. 
  8. Heat oil in a kadai - sufficient to deep fry.
  9. Spread more bread crumbs on a paper or flat plate.
  10. Make small discs out of the dough. Dunk in more bread crumbs and press in those bread crumbs. Keep aside.
  11. Once oil is hot, deep fry the discs on both sides until golden brown.

Serve hot with pudina chutney or tomato sauce or mustard sauce

Tips :
  • You can make bread crumbs from fresh bread. Just put it into a mixie jar and use the pulse option.
  • If you want aired out bread crumbs, you could use dried toast or bread dried in the sun. These serve well to form that crust on the cutlets.

Aye Aye Captain!

An office outing on a Thursday can make it seem like the weekend has come early. So we wound up watching Captain Phillips.

The movie is based on the true story of a Captain Phillips who was taken hostage when the first American cargo ship, in history, to be attacked by pirates, was hijacked. The movie tries to portray the relationship between Captain Phillips and the "captain" of the pirates, the ordeal that Captain Phillips underwent as a hostage and the rescue mission by the USS BainBridge.

What I wanted to capture here are the thoughts that arose in my head while and post watching the movie.

What caused ex-fishermen to become pirates?
There is a scene where "Muse", the leader of a pirates group is woken up because his bosses were arriving.  The bosses yell at the pirates to be at sea as that is where they can make money. And then you see many people willing to risk their lives to be chosen in the pirates crew so that they could make some money. So this shows that there are very limited options to earn a living in Somalia, which is one of the reasons why they resort to become pirates. It is seen as "easy money". Most of these people who resort to becoming pirates are ex-fishermen whose source of earning a living has been taken away. Post the Somali Civi War, the Somali government collapsed and ships of international corporations starting dumping toxic waste into the Somali waters. This causes death of the aquatic life and in most cases, there is no chance of revival. Therefore the fishermen are left without a means of livelihood.

Yes, I used to think that money was the root cause of all evil but not anymore. Human greed for wealth and power are the root cause of all evil.

Could the USA have done better?
And then you see the USS Bainbridge coming to rescue Captain Phillips but under huge pressures from the government. One gets to see the huge infrastructure put into place by the US Navy to prevent pirate hijackings. It is no small feat, with the navy, airforce, healthcare specialists and SEAL marksmen, to name a few, being involved. Would the situation have been different if the United States had spent the money that it had spent on building this anti-hijacking squad on creating jobs in Somalia for these forlorn fishermen?

Well, may be they are doing something else about it, but these are my thoughts after watching the movie. The movie is a must watch and it is always a pleasure to watch Tom Hanks. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Summer walks in Auckland - Te Ara Tahuna Walkway

I dragged my feet, the 1.5kms, to work on Friday. I wanted to get used to the routine again. The holidays had just fled past and now are like a good dream. This weekend now seems like just any other weekend at the end of a working week.

We were to meet up with friends and acquaintances over the weekend but I was too much into my book to care. I wonder how it is that I never read "Gone with the wind" earlier. It was in too much demand at the library. In spite of its length, I related with Scarlett O'Hara in so many ways. I just had to finish the book before work started off. And not to mention the assignments from the science of cooking course.

No concrete plans were made for the weekend with the impending rain. But the gray skies and cool winds beckoned to me and I worded the wish to go for a long walk. The husband immediately took to it and I was thrilled that I would be sitting at some scenic spot and reading my book.

The NZ Herald had recently published an article on summer walks in Auckland and how could I not choose the one near Orewa beach, the beach I had fallen in love with on our way back after our trip North. We had some methi peas parathas from breakfast which we packed for lunch. So in an hour we were out the door.

The Te Ara Tahuna Walkway is shared by cyclists and pedestrians. One must stick to their left and try to give the cyclists way. It is a loop track that goes round the Orewa estuary which is surrounded with multi million dollar houses. So, basically we went on a walk through the backyards of millionaires and beyond. It is about 5.5kms of walking through people's backyards on cemented paths with a bit of unsealed road. The best part is the remaining 2 kms where one walks through fields and a bit of forest. It is amazing to find the forest, in the middle of nowhere to be teeming with bird life. We spotted so many of the birds on the ground. Binoculars and a guide to the birds in Auckland are on my to buy list. The walkway is lined with view points overlooking the estuary and each point has a wooden seat which has some of the best wooden engravings. The path is not very well marked as all other tracks that we have taken. We did lose our way but thanks to the GPS signal and the network, we were back on the track easily. It is easy to get lost considering you are walking through a web of backyards.
 Little Fox Eats
 Pain Au Raisin

 My reading spot

Apart from the forest stretch, stopping for a short snack at the Little Fox Eats truck and at a small grassy patch to read my book were the highlights for me. The Pain Au Raisin that is made in France, snap frozen and sent over was delicious and filling. Ice blocks in different flavours can be tried when the sun is not beating down upon you, else you may find yourself standing with just the stick in your hand.

A short get together with friends at the Orewa beach with a game of cricket ended the day on a sweet note. All in all, a walk that should really be a bicycle ride. 

Sindhi methi machchi curry

I thought I was done with my grocery shopping for the week. I had told myself that we were eating much more than we should be and soon weighty troubles would be knocking at the door. So I had to be careful. But how could I stop myself from picking up those bitter gourds or that bunch of fresh methi when we had to visit the Indian store for chapati flour? Methi - that flavoursome green which perks up any dish? Yes, the bunch was large.. but it was just 1.5NZD. The husband gave a nod of approval to put it into the basket.

Once home, we sat about picking the fresh leaves to put them into an airtight container so that they last. Awakening. There was way too much methi than the both of us needed before it would go bad. So we had to fight the deal that we had struck to try to remain vegetarian until mid March. Methi can be bitter so veggie dishes don't require too much of it and it had to be a non-veg dish that could help use up most of the methi.

After a 8km loop walk around the Orewa estuary, we stopped at the store to pick up some meat. All we could find were pieces of salmon. I picked them up remembering the methi fish curry that Pras gobbled up when we last visited Ooty. So here's how I made the methi fish curry. It is super easy to put together.

Preparation time : 15 minutes
Cooking time : 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves 6) :
  1. Fish - with few bones - 750grams
  2. Fresh methi/fenugreek leaves - 1 cup finely chopped and densely packed
  3. Ginger - 2 inch piece
  4. Garlic - 16 pods
  5. Green chillies - 6
  6. Tomatoes  - 3 medium sized
  7. Jeera/cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  8. Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
  9. Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  10. Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  11. Garam masala - 1 tsp
  12. Water - as per gravy requirement. I used 1 cup.
  13. Oil - 1/4 cup
  14. Salt to taste
How I made it :
  1. Clean the fish. Cut into 2 inch cubes Salt it and keep it aside.
  2. Make a puree of the tomatoes
  3. Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and green chillies.
  4. Wash the methi and finely chop them.
  5. Now, wash the fish and keep on dry towel.
  6. Heat oil in a wide bottom pan.
  7. Throw in the fish and let them fry till they are half cooked on all sides.  About 2 minutes on each side.
  8. Remove the fish pieces.
  9. Throw in the jeera seeds.
  10. Once they crackle, lower the flame and put in the ginger garlic green chilli paste.
  11. Let that fry till the raw smell is gone. About 3 minutes. 
  12. Next, throw in all the dry masala powders. Fry for a minute.
  13. Now, put in the methi leaves and let them fry to reduce their bitterness. 
  14. After about 4 minutes of frying, put in the tomato puree. 
  15. Adjust the salt and let this fry till the fat separates. 
  16. Add the water. Once it comes to the boil, add the fish pieces. 
  17. Cover and let the fish cook on low flame Took about 10 minutes. 
  18. Serve hot with chapatis.