Wednesday, May 30, 2007 I come with my jack fruit

Dear Foodies,

The Jack sitting on a dollop of ...hmm..what was the flavor ??

Mini tarts filled with the Jack
Bee and Jai came up with this wonderful plan of getting all us foodies to get back and savor the fruit that has so easily and silently slipped away from our memories. And did they succeed. Every day I have been seeing a minimum of one post of the fruit. A few have been really serious about it and managed to hunt for the real fresh fruit and the rest of us have made our peace with the canned ones.

When I opened my can of jack fruit I could think of no better way of eating but just as is !! But well that would not get me an entry into the event, nope ! I had seen a show on Food Network where Paula Deen topped key lime cookies with a cream cheese mix and baked them. It was a new thing to know that cream cheese could be baked. I had some ricotta cheese in my fridge that I knew would spoil if I did not use it up soon. And I had to use my hand blender you see. So I blended some ricotta cheese and cream cheese with a few flavorings to come up with this recipe. I added some oven roasted peaches and jack fruit ( I had to do something with it ! :D) and the result was yummy just like a mini cheese cake. I think the addition of eggs would have made this a perfect cheese cake.


For the filling
  • 4 Tbsp - Cream cheese
  • 6 Tbsp - Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp - Vanilla essence
  • 2 tsps - Lemon zest
  • Sugar as per taste
for the base and filler fruits
  • 4 Tbsp - Cream cheese
  • 6 Graham crackers
  • 1 Tbsp - Butter
  • 3 nos - Jack fruit & Peaches (washed)
  • A couple of Strawberries
  1. Pre-heat the oven to about 375deg C. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the cream cheese and ricotta cheese out of the refrigerator to bring them to room temperature.
  2. Half the peaches and remove the pits. Line the jack fruit and peach halves on the pan and place them in the oven for about 20 mins or till you can see the juices in the peach bubbling.
  3. Also wrap the graham crackers in the aluminum foil and place them in the oven for a few minutes. This makes the butter in them to melt and makes them soft and easy to crumble. This way I could skip pulling the blender out of the cabinet ! Well you could also just wrap them in tissues and pound them to your hearts content with a rolling pin :D Which ever suits you fine, just have them coarsely powdered.
  4. Line a muffin pan with muffin cups and spray with some cooking oil spray. If you are patient enough use melted butter.
  5. Fill the muffin cups with the crumbled crackers and press down with the bottom of a cup. Place them in the freezer for a few minutes to set.
  6. Take a deep dish and place the cream cheese in it and blend using a hand blender until smooth. Next add the ricotta cheese and blend for a few more minutes until smooth and creamy.
  7. Add the lemon zest, vanilla essence, sugar and mix well. This will be a thick mixture which looks like whipped cream brought to soft peak consistency, but a lot more dense.
  8. Once the fruits are roasted and cooled, dice them up, even the fresh strawberries.
  9. Slice a tiny piece of butter on each of the muffin cups and then spoon the cream cheese mix. Add a spoon of the diced fruits next and then top it off with more of the cream cheese mix.
  10. You can go ahead and fill up all the cups to the brim as they will raise a little initially but will eventually fall in at the center forming a crater.
  11. Place this in an oven pre-heated to 350deg C and bake for about 20 mins or until you notice the craters and a slight browning. I placed the them on broil for the last min to get an even brown on the top.

  12. You can either serve them warm or chilled for an hour. I filled the crater with some mango ice-cream before serving :), you could also use some whipped cream or honey or maple syrup or....Ssshhhh
These were really good and paired with the mango ice cream, it was fantastic. My friends and I just loved them. They really matched a cheese cake in flavor and the fruits inside were a neat little surprise. I filled each cup with a different combo of the three fruits. The roasted jack fruit was really yummy. It gave a nice bite to the otherwise smooth tart. The lemon zest was the main flavoring in the cheese mix and it brought a lot of freshness to the tarts. I loved the robust flavor they gave the filling and will surely be using them more. The graham cracker base was a perfect complement to the vary textures in the filling. Do try it out with your own choice of flavorings and fruit fillings. But make sure you have enough fun :)
What do you do with extra fruit, have it with mango ice-cream ofcourse :D
I am going to send one of these out to Bee n Jai for hosting JFI this month. I can't thank them enough for getting me to buy Jack fruit here. Thank you :P and hey a final Thank you to Indira for coming up with this event in the first place :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Coconut rice with a twist ...

Dear Foodies,

This was a dish that fell into place as I was going on. I had no idea what I was making until it was done and sitting on my plate. I started out with the intention of making a curry with Soy granules. It was a long time since I had eaten it and I suddenly had the cravings for them. I checked my kitchen closet, and dug out near 3/4th pack of it. Happy, I was :), So I went about getting the veggies ready. I diced some fresh carrots, capsicum, onions, all to match the size of the soy granules, and that meant tiny cubes(Why! Oh why !! It took me such a looooong time.) Once that was ready, I thought I was all set to get the curry started. I opened the pack of soy granules so I could soak them in water as the veggies got cooked. Surprise !! It had those teeny tiny insects in it was way past its shelf life ! I threw out the whole pack and then cleaned the rest of the shelf. But after all that I was still hungry and had neatly diced, cute veggies with me. I had to come up with something using all of them and decided to make it into a curry that I could add rice to,hence making it complete meal on its own. The result of that experiment was this extremely delicious rice dish. It was so wonderful that I fell in love with it right from the first spoonful. This is a must try guys.

I had only recently discovered that coconut and garlic can be paired together and the act did not have to be termed blasphemous. We are brahmins and in our house...coconut was ranked high up ( atleast I felt so) and garlic was nearly an untouchable...and that is how my taste buds have been programmed. We use garlic and onions and garam masala very rarely. But after coming here for my Masters, that has changed. Most of my roomies and friends are used to having the first two of the three as the initial step of any dish. You first heat up some oil, saute some onions and garlic, and then look arnd for veggies to put into it !! hehe. I have kinda gotten used to it now, but comfort food is still something without any of those. I proudly proclaim that my mom would dish out a three course meal every single day for the whole of the 8-day Dasara celebration without using onions/garlic/masalas even once :) I need to get all those recipes from her now. But before that I need to reacord this recipe for future,

For 3 cups of cooked rice(cooled a little) you will need:
  • 1/2 cup - Carrots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup - Capsicum, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup - Onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup - Tomatoes, finely diced (use fresh ones only or skip this)
  • 3 nos - Green chillies, finely chopped ~1 Tbsp
  • 2 nos - big Garlic cloves, finely chopped --finely diced, that is the theme today!
  • 1/2 cup - Peas or Garbanzo beans or Lima beans (optional)
  • 1/4 cup - French cut beans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup - dessicated Coconut
  • 1 cup - Coconut milk, I used the canned one
  • 2 tsp - Turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp - Garam masala
  • 3-4 Tbsp - Oil, to saute the veggies
  • 2 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp - Cumin seeds/Jeera
  • 1 tsp - Shah Jeera (optional)
  • 2 tsp - Fennel seeds/ Saunf - I loved the layer of flavor they added (too much food tv ??)
  • 4 nos - Cloves
  • 2 nos - Cinnamon sticks, 1 inch pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander leaves for garnish (optional)
  1. Heat some oil in a wide pan. Once the oil is ready add the spices in the order mentioned.
  2. As they start giving out a nice aroma, add the garlic and chillies, 30 secs later the onions and turmeric go in. Saute them till translucent.
  3. Add the capsicum and the peas next. Once they get a crinkled exterior skin, add the carrots and after a minute add the tomatoes & garam masala and cook till the tomatoes get mushy and the oil starts to separate from the curry.
  4. Now add the dry coconut and lower the heat a little before you add the coconut milk (to avoid splitting). Add a little water too if needed.
  5. Add salt and let the curry cook for a few minutes until all the veggies come together.
  6. Add cooked rice and mix well without breaking too many rice grains. Garnish the coriander leaves and enjoy this fabulous dish with some plain old yogurt !
The photos definitely don't do justice to this dish. I had made it for dinner and there was no sunlight, just the boring yellow light from the bulbs, I tried my best though ! I simply loved this rice dish. More so since I had no clue how it would all taste together. But I am really happy that I dint have soy granules, cos I would have missed out on this one. I would surely recommend it to all of you. Its a dish to wipe out all the odd leftover veggies in your fridge and though the list of ingredients seems long, its just throwing together stuff. So try it out and let me know how you liked it :)

Monday, May 21, 2007

I Screammmm for Mangoes

Dear Foodies,

Do you want to scream too ??
Summer is here finally, atleast I hope so !! The weather here has been marching all over the place bringing rain and chilly weather just about any time of the day :-( The last few days have been good though with the Sun visiting us and my kitchen has a new entrant too...a neat little gadget I have been waiting to own. I got finally got a hand blender, and it was gifted to me by my buddy who plainly got tired of me asking for it every single time we went out shopping !! :-) I have been searching my brain for recipes that I could use it in :D. I made my best cake ever, a pineapple-upside down vanilla cake over the weekend. Yesterday I set out making my first Ice Cream :-) Yayyy !! Being a true Indian, whose heart starts to ache for Mangoes just as soon as the Sun peeps out in the summer, the flavor of the ice cream was decided ! I cannot find any fresh ripe mangoes at the stores here and so resorted to the Mango pulp I get from the Indian stores. The Ice-cream was so utterly simple to put together.

I had googled for recipes before starting out and found that there are version with and without eggs. The one's with eggs needed the milk, cream and egg mixture to be cooked a little by simmering them together. All this is then cooled and put into a ice-cream maker. For the egg-less version you just need to bring all your ingredients together in a bowl and then continue to make your ice-cream.Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups - Whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups - Heavy cream
  • 1 tin - Mango pulp (~ 30 oz)
  • 2 tsp - Vanilla essence
  • 10 spoons of sugar or adjust as per your preference
  • 1 tsp - Salt
  • 2 tsp - Lemon juice
Blend all of this together in a bowl. If you have a Ice-cream maker, then I guess you can just follow the manufacturer's instructions. I used a huge plastic container and blended all the ingredients for a few minutes and placed the box in the freezer. I got it out every hour or so and blended it again for a few minutes before sending it back into the freezer. I did this about 3 times before I left it to set one last time. How much more difficult could the instructions get !! :-)
I tore the mint used for garnish and had it with the Ice-cream and loved the mix of flavors
The Ice-cream was delicious, and perfect for every single 'back from the Sun' trip to the freezer. The ice-cream did not have the creamy texture, but tasted more like a sorbet, with a light crunch from the ice that had formed. If any you guys have tips to get the creamy texture of ice-cream it would really help me in my future attempts. Is there something else I can do or is it the eggs that lend the creaminess to the ice-creams ??

This is the last picture, I promise :D
This bowl is off to Deepa of Recipes n More for the AFAM-Mango event , I hope she excuses me for delaying it by a day, and another scoop is off to Padmaja for the WBB-Summer fruits event. Aaah ! feels so good to be sending entries to events after a loooong time :D

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dal Mussallam -A recipe to live for !!

Dear Foodies,

This is one of the best dals I have ever made or eaten & also one of the simplest recipes to cook. For most Indians, dal and rice with a little drop of ghee is their comfort food. And a dal like this is just the perfect one for me. It has a very creamy, smooth texture to it and takes the everyday dal a notch higher. I found this recipe in the cookbook a few months back. I intended to include a pic of the book and a little about the author and the book itself. But I have stayed away from blogging long enough to have erased any memory of the book, even its name ! I tried looking it up on the library's website but with no success :-( Will let you guys know the moment I get a chance to visit the place myself.

I tried the search one more time and found the book !! Here it is Secrets of an Indian kitchen. The author, Mridula Baljekar, is UK based and you can read more about her on her website here. The contents of this book are categorized by way of cooking methods like: Baghar/seasoning; Bhuna/stir frying; Dum/steaming; Korma/braising. She explains each method carefully before going into the actual recipes. The recipes have very detailed instructions, with an intro to each. She has also included helpful substitutions and tips where ever needed.There are also 'things to watch out for' kind of notes here and there, the utensils/equipment required etc., which I think is very thoughtful. This is all I can remember about the book, I just browsed through it a couple of times and found a very good number of recipes interesting. I dint get around to trying many though, and had to return the book early. Do look for this book in your local library !
I have made this one about 3-4 times, the second time being the very next day :-), Yes, thats how good it is. Onto the recipe without anymore delay. This is more from my memory, and I am not sure if it is exactly how the book states it, but is definitely very closeeeee.... :D The ingredients in the tadka do look simple and might seem too little, but don't add anything more and enjoy the simplicity of the dish.

Pressure cook:
  • 1 nos - small Onion, chopped and sauted in a little butter
  • 1 1/2 cups - Toor dal/Masoor dal, washed thoroughly
  • 1 tsp - Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp - Chilli powder
  • 1 nos - Tomato, medium sized, chopped - if using canned diced tomatoes, I recommend you add them to the dal above and pressure cook since they are not as tender and take a longer time to cook
  • 1 tsp - Garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp - Yogurt - THE most important ingredient
  • Salt to taste
For the seasoning/tadka:
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Ghee/butter - stay away from oil for this one, I promise you will not regret :-)
  • 1 1/2 tsp - Jeera/Cumin seeds
  • 2 small Green chillies, finely chopped - or as per taste
  • 2 big cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
  1. Saute the onions in a little butter in the pressure pan and then add dal, 3.5 cups water and the rest of the ingredients to it and cook. Masoor dal was recommended in the book.
  2. Once the steam from the pressure cooker dies down, open it carefully and set it on medium heat on the stove top. Add in the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Next add your favorite garam masala and the yogurt and stir them in. Turn down the heat a bit right before you add the yogurt, just to be careful of avoiding it from breaking up. The yoghurt makes the dal creamy and rich, which I think is the best part of it.
  4. While the dal is simmering, get the tadka ready. Heat some butter/ghee in a small pan, once it is hot, add the cumin seeds, green chilles and garlic. Just as the garlic starts to brown add it to the dal, turn off the heat on it and close with a lid.
  5. The author's tip : Open the lid and mix in the tadka right before serving or at the table. The whiff of the aroma when you open the lid will bring out all the hunger in you and satisfy you even before you dig into it :) And she is so true in saying so.
  6. Garnish with coriander leaves if you can hold yourself even after the smell hits you :P. Serve with hot rice or chapatis.
This has become my favorite dal recipe, and to think it is so simple to make ! After this recipe I have become a fan of the magical transformation a spoon of yogurt can lend to a dish, be it dal or a North Indian gravy dish. If you don't already do this, try it out today and turn your dish into a rich, creamy one without the need for any fattening heavy cream. Yogurt also tends to bring all the spices in the dish together giving you a smooth overall effect instead of a sharp individual feel. And not to forget, that it can also take care of that accidental, unintentional extra spoon of red chilli powder or garam masala in the dish ;-)

~~ I have been away for a long time, and have no exact reason for it. I thank all of you who continued to visit here and also sent me emails, left comments inquiring if all was well. Thank You !! It was really wonderful to read your messages. A very special thank you to Kanchana, Nabeela, Jaya, Hema, Sharmi :) I am doing well & just got caught up with things. I am done with my courses at school and on the look out for jobs right now. I got just bogged down by the slow results and lost the mood for blogging. I have been cooking and blog-surfing all this while, but just could not get myself to post. But now, I think it does'nt make any sense by not posting as the photos are just piling up and I am starting to forget the recipes already !! :D

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