23 November 2014

Some News!! ...and How To Make Real Vanilla Extract

The weather is cooling down in sun-shiny Hyderabad. One can now feel the chill in the air as the lazy season sway in. It's beautiful to look out from my balcony in the morning to see a tinge of fog hovering over the horizon. Winter is here! warm conversations, lovely food, and rich cakes, and of course, the celebration of the birth of Christ, the Savior! All these are what i'm looking forward to - what about you?

So, looking ahead to all the baking that is planned, today's post is on how to make pure vanilla extract. I know this post is long overdue, however, i hope it comes in handy as you get about your baking through this festive season. I've been making my own vanilla extract ever since i came across this post, two years back. It's very simple to make, and once you get the first batch going, you'll never run out of vanilla extract ever again. All you have to do is to keep topping it with your choice of liquor. You can then kiss the store bought synthetic ones, goodbye...

Anyway, in another news, PanCuisine's chutney recipe was featured in the recently published cook book titled "The Seven Sisters: Kitchen Tales from the North East." As the title suggest, this cook book is a compilation of all the favorite authentic recipes from the Seven Sister States of the North East. I'm grateful for the mention, and excited to try out all the other recipes mentioned in the book. 

If you love Northeastern cuisine and want to experiment with the favorite local dishes of the Seven States, this book is a good start. Now, here is today's recipe:

250 ml - Brandy/Vodka
3 nos - Vanilla Beans
Sterilized bottle

Slit the vanilla pods in half and put it inside a sterilized bottle, pour in the brandy and seal. Keep in the corner of a dry, dark place for two months minimum. Shake the bottle once in a while. Once the liquid turn deep in color, your vanilla extract is ready. Happy Baking!!!

30 August 2014

Cabbage Curry using rendered Pork Fat - Rongmei Naga Curryl!!

Today's recipe is a favorite curry of mine. Cabbage prepared the Rongmei way. Cabbage is such a versatile vegetable and super healthy too! I love it boiled, steamed, as a fresh salad, and the list goes on.  It is no surprise that even my son loves cabbage curry.

In the traditional Rongmei style of cooking this lovely vegetable, we would use 2-3 tablespoons of Ganampui, which is rendered pork fat, fermented near the family hearth. This would be usually added as the Magic ingredient that binds the whole dish together. The intense taste of this melted fat may not be everyone's cup of tea, but once your taste buds are baptized and converted to its unique flavor, there is no looking back.

City life, however, does not allow me the luxury of preserving Ganampui, so the next best option is to simply render fresh pork fat and add a tablespoon or two of flavored pork lard. For me, any excuse to add pork in my dish, is always, a very good excuse!

To those of you who have been experimenting with Naga cuisine, i encourage you to try this non-veggie vegetable dish. And the rest of you guys, staying far away from home, missing home and the hearth, cook this up and feel a little closer to home. Thank you all for stopping by -- Have a great food filled weekend!!

Pork Fat - 250 g
Flavored Lard - 1 Tbsp
Cabbage - 1/2 portion, diced
Onion - 1
Tomatoes - 3-4
Potatoes - 2-3 depending on size, diced
Salt -  As per taste
Red Chilli Powder - 2 Tsp
Garlic - 5-6 cloves
Water - 5-6 Cups

Cut the pork fat into small pieces and keep aside.
Heat a cooking pot, make it super hot, then sear and melt the fat, keep the fat pieces aside.
Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the cooking pot and fry the onions, light saute, make sure not to caramelize it, else your entire dish will taste very onion-ie (is this even a word ?;)).
Then, add the cabbage and tomatoes, saute for 2-3 minutes, return the fat pieces to the pot, add salt and chilli powder and mix.
Now, add the potatoes and water, cook covered till the water comes to a rolling boil. Then, smash the garlic pods with the back of your knife and dump it into the curry. Cover and cook till potatoes are cooked.
Once the potatoes are soft, mash some of the pieces to thicken the gravy.
Sprinkle some chopped coriander and this curry is ready to be served with warm rice and a nice chutney. Enjoy!!

4 August 2014

Easy Chocolate Cake - No Fail Recipe!!

It's been a long haul since my last post. Life has taken a drastic turn ever since i got back to working -- full time -- yes! hear! hear! -- after a gap of 5 long years, it's been pretty crazy!!! By God's grace, finally, the family has fallen into some semblance of a routine :D. Anyway, i hope all you lovely people are doing well. I intend to be more regular here at Pan Cuisine going forward, meaning weekend project! :)

On this note, today is all about a date with a very simple chocolate cake. I know i've posted quite a few chocolate recipes, but there's no harm in sharing another one i guess?? In the process of tasting and trying, you increase or reduce the quantity of an ingredient or two and then..voila! you end up with a perfect cake that covers all that you demand out of a cake - light, soft, chocolaty... This cake is just Supa! It is perfect for a tea time treat or to be enjoyed with a nice chilled milk. This will have you going back for more. Also, one perfect cake  to use this as base to make layered cakes.

Oh! please note, using vegetable oil in my cakes is just a matter of preference, you are most welcome to go the butter way, or may be a half of butter and vegetable oil even? Am sure you'll enjoy whatever it is you use! May i suggest though, that you use real vanilla extract instead of the essence which is synthetic and spoil the flavor of the cake. Go ahead and enjoy it with friends and family!

P.S. Keep the remaining cake in an airtight container to contain the moist texture. Happy baking!!

1 1/2 Cups - Plain Flour
1 Tsp - Baking Powder
1 Tsp - Baking Soda
1/2 Cup - Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup + 2 Tsp - Sugar
2 Tsp - Real Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup - Veg' Oil (Canola or Sunflower)
4 - Eggs
4 Tbsp - Curd, beaten

Preheat oven to 170 degrees centigrade and line a 20 cm baking pan.
Sieve flour, baking powder and soda bicarb and cocoa powder into a bowl and keep aside.
Beat oil, sugar and vanilla till well combined, then add the eggs and whisk till frothy.
Mix the dry and the wet ingredients and blend till well combined, it'll be quite thick at this stage.
Add the beaten curd to the thick cake mixture, whisk till it become a smooth runny batter, now, pour this into the prepared baking pan.
Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes till the tip of a  knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
Once done, cool it inside the pan, on a rack for a couple of minutes, turn it out on to a plate, cut and serve it while it's still warm.
Maybe a dollop of vanilla ice cream at the side.... Enjoy!!

1 April 2014

Spicy Pomelo Salad - Recipe from my childhood!!

When was the last time you tasted pomelo? Or rather, when was the last time you saw a pomelo fruit? :). Last weekend, we drove down to Bangalore, and just upon reaching the city that holds a lot of memories for us, there at the roadside were a line of tables with men selling pomelo! I was ecstatic! And i picked up a couple on my way back to Hyderabad. So, here is a fiery salad recipe made from a super refreshing winter fruit to welcoming the fiery Hyderabad summer.

This is a simple but spicy pomelo salad recipe that will keep your mouth watering for a long, long time. Let me warn you, if you make it, you are enjoying it at your own risk and yours truly holds no responsibility to/for what happens to you afterward. :)

For those of you who are not aware of this fruit, pomelo fruit has two varieties, one is this sunshiny peachy pink ones that i have today, and the other variety is one with a white pulp, that looks a lot like sweet-lime. Both are equally great, but somehow, my preference has always been for this bright, happy, sunshiny peachy pink variety. Depending on the amount of sunlight the fruit tree received, some can taste a little astringent if grown in the shade. But no matter how it taste, sour, sweet or astringent, there is nothing that sugar, salt and green chillies cannot fix.

My excitement for this fruit, i guess, stems from its association with memories of happy childhood winter days, climbing up on the kitchen roof, one or two big pomelo fruit in hand, enjoying it as it is, or making a salad like today's recipe. Time definitely ran at a slower pace those days, life was carefree and days were spent having reckless fun. I grew up to a backyard that had a lot of fruit trees, guavas, lemons, peaches, pomelos, super sour grapes, passion fruit etc.. fruits for every season and life was just great fun! 

Lately i have been grieving a little, thinking that my son will grow up deprived of experiencing a bit of the laid back, fun filled village life that i enjoyed. He will not know or get to taste the number of fruits and vegetable that i grew up on, this i know because my husband's first experience to enjoying this fruit was after our wedding, at my cousin's place, where we were served a basket full of pomelo freshly plucked from the tree in her backyard. Until that time, he had not heard, seen or tasted this amazing fruit. Shocking right!

Anyway, here is the recipe for this simple, spicy and amazingly refreshing pomelo salad. Hope you try it out soon. 

Pomelo Pulp - About 500 gms
Sugar - 3-4 Tbsp
Salt - 1 Tbsp
Green Chillies - 3-4, sliced

Take out the fruit pulp and keep aside in a bowl. Add the sugar, salt and chillies. Then, with your hand, mix, squeeze and crush the pulp and everything together till the juice or what i like to call, spicy nectar, fill the base of the vessel. All you got to do then is to take a spoon and just slurp up this refreshing goodness. Enjoy!

27 January 2014

Lime Bars made with Oats flour!

I love lemons! Love lemony cakes and bakes even more! I had obsessed over this cake years back and this year round it is these Lemon bars. My friend introduced me to it, and it was love at first bite! I've had my friend make this for me a couple of times but had never bothered to bake it at home.

Last week, i had this major craving for some lemony-buttery goodness. So finally i baked it at home. The first time round, the crust was slightly browned, as the oven temperature too high, and also baked for too long. It was good, but the lime curd had dried a little instead of mouse like consistency it ought to be. The photos of the lime bars are from my second attempt. This time round i wanted to add some semblance of healthy something into it, and so i used part oats flour and also readjusted the oven temperature and baking time. The result as you can see is lush, moist, lemony, buttery, and can i say...healthy goodness, i just cannot get enough of. 

It is a very delicate desert, and me with my heavy hand just could not get a neat slice, so i decided to click them in the tin itself before i gobble up everything. You absolutely must use country eggs to get this intense lemony yellow color. Salivating already?? Ah! When life hands you lemons, i say, make this lemon bars...much better than lemonade i promise! :).

I love it just the way it is, but if you so prefer, you can dust some powdered sugar and just slurp! slurp! away. Enjoy!!

For the Base
1/2 Cup - Plain Flour
1/2 Cup - Oats Flour ( blitz ready to eat oats)
100 gms - Butter, I used regular Amul butter
1/3 Cup - Icing Sugar

Lime Curd
1/2 Cup - Granulated Sugar
1/2 Tsp - Baking Powder
2 - Country Eggs, medium sized, if small, use 3 eggs
1/3 Cup - Lime Juice
Zest of 2 Lime

Preheat oven to 170 centigrade and keep a 7 or 8 inch square ungreased baking pan ready.
Mix the ingredients for the crust, blitz in a food processor, then press it into the square baking dish to form the base and bake it for 20 minutes.
As the base bakes, take the ingredients for the lime curd, blitz it in the same food processor and pour this mixture on top of the hot pre-baked base and bake it further 20 mins.
The lemon bar is done when the top is soft yet firm to the touch.
Cool till the base of the pan is cooled enough to handle and then cut it into squares and serve.

16 January 2014

Rice Gruel with Pork Fat and Dried Gongura leaves/ Napniang Gaan in Rongmei - Happy New Year!!

A wonderful and prosperous New Year wishes to you dear readers of PanCuisine. I hope 2014 is treating you well already. Rice represents fertility and prosperity in most cultures, and so i am kick-starting my first post here with a Rice dish. 

Today's dish is a rice gruel dish called Napniniag Gaan, a typical Rongmei dish that i grew up on, loved by the young and old. The word gruel is somehow associated with poverty, and the reason for that are many i suppose, but this dish is supper rich. The preparation of this dish is similar to the Thai rice gruel, where it differs is the use of fermented lard/pork fat. Fermented lard is the central flavouring agent in most of the vegetable curries among the Rongmei Nagas residing in Tamenglong, my home town.

Since i did not have fermented lard, i used the fat reduction from my pork chops. What i normally do is strain the remaining fat-oil, store it in the fridge, and use it in my vegetable curries. This dish is pure comfort food for me. Rice gruel is for me, what a soup would be for a westerner. It makes me feel closer to my roots, it reminds me of my Grand mom's kitchen, all the heart warming food enjoyed near the hearth with my many cousins. It evokes a lot of happy memories.

The hero of the dish is the dried Gongura leavesGankhiang in Rongmei. There are two varieties of this leaf, differentiated by the flower it produces, red or white. The white flower variety is the one i am using today. The red flower gongura leaves are available in plenty here in Hyderabad, used in varied ways by the locals in their cooking.

Anyway, I added fresh pork fat as well, just because :). When buying pork chops, if the fat is too big, what i do is cut off major chunk of the fat and freeze it for later use. It always come in handy for a dish like this one. This recipe is sufficient for 3-4 people. This is a great way to use up left over rice. as well. This dish is a meal in itself, but most families back at home prefer to have this served with rice, yes rice, and some spicy chutney. You can cook this dish in a pressure cooker or a deep bottomed pot. Here is the recipe.

 2 Cups - Cooked leftover rice (if using raw rice, 2 handful of rice will do)
4 Cups + 3 Cups - Water
1 - Onion
Thumb sized - Fresh Ginger
5 Pods - Garlic
2 Cups - Dried Gankhiang/Gongura
1 Tbsp - Lard
1 Think Chunk - Fresh Pork Fat
1 Tbsp - Bamboo Shoot
4 - Red dried Chillies
1-2 Tsp - Turmeric Powder
Salt - As per taste

It is easiest to cook this in the pressure cooker. Put the rice and 4 cups of water, some salt and bring it to a rolling boil. Let cook for about 5-10 minutes. Take the pressure off, then add the remaining water and the rest of the ingredients, check the salt and spice (chili heat), put the cooker back in the stove and let it cook open for a good 15-20 minutes. Once done, serve it piping hot. Enjoy a warm, rich, gruel goodness!!!