Spaghetti with roasted garlic sauce

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to live without garlic and lemon. I don’t know what I’d do without them. For this hearty spaghetti meal, I slow roasted full garlic bulbs in the oven, mashed them with some olive oil and crushed black pepper. That’s it. The garlic roasting bit I’d watched on TV or might have read it somewhere – I don’t quite remember. It’s been a while and I’ve always wanted to do it. Garlic sure is pasta’s best friend and I just got them together on a plate.

spaghetti roasted garlic sauce

Ingredients:

Spaghetti – one portion

Garlic – 3 full bulbs

Olive oil – to drizzle over garlic

Salt – to taste

Pepper – 1 tsp crushed

Cherry tomatoes – handful

Basil – a few leaves

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Method:

Preheat oven at 190C for 15 mins.

Remove some of the flaky skin of the garlic bulb but not so much that the cloves just fall apart. Cut the top of the bulb off leaving the rest of the bulb to be exposed.

Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt on the exposed part of the garlic and all over it.

Wrap in foil and roast in oven for 50 mins.

You can throw in the cherry tomatoes (drizzled with olive oil and with a sprinkling of salt) as well and take them out after 40 mins.

When there’s 15 mins to get the garlic out, cook the pasta so it remains warm when you mix it with the sauce.

Take the garlic out and let it cool a little.

You can see the flesh would have turned really soft.

Squeeze the flesh out of the bulbs into a bowl.

Add a dash of some more olive oil with pepper and mix well.

Toss the cooked spaghetti in this garlic sauce and add more olive oil to it if it seems too dry.

Garnish with the roast tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

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Crunchy Chocolate and Date Bars – No baking!

There are many vegan brownies, gluten free cakes, no sugar desserts making the rounds these days. I never fancied any of those, but I tried my hand at making something quick and easy that works as a dessert or even breakfast bar. There’s  no ‘added’ sugar, no flour and no baking. But it does have a lot of flavour, deliciousness and crunch!  Dates act as a sweetener and also as a binding agent. They make these bars really chewy and tasty. You may chose to omit the chocolate but then again, you’ll be the person who chose to omit chocolate. You don’t want that kind of reputation now, do you? Just kidding. Please alter the recipe as you want. Don’t mind the pictures, I was only  trying this out and didn’t think they’d turn out SO good! Here you go, my crunchy chocolate and date bars.

crunchy chocolate and date bars

Ingredients:

Muesli – 1 cup

Dates – 3/4 cup (seeds out)

Nuts – handful of walnuts crushed (use any other nut of your choice)

Chocolate – 1 cup melted

Olive oil or butter – 1 tbsp

Square pan to let the bars set in

Method:

Melt the chocolate with the butter/olive oil in a microwave or by a double boiler method (where you put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place it over a pot of simmering water). Ideally for 30 – 40 seconds. Check every 20 seconds, else the chocolate might burn.

In a processor/blender pulse the dates. It won’t turn into a paste. It will only bring it together and form a ball of sorts. This is enough.

In a mixing bowl, add the muesli, nuts and the dates. Mix it by hand as if you were kneading dough. When it seems all mixed, add the melted chocolate and mix it till it’s incorporated.

Now tip this on to a square tin or box and press it down evenly.

Refrigerate for 30 mins to an hour so it sets.

Cut up in bars and serve.

I don’t know how long this can last. Ideally if kept in the fridge I’d say 3-4 days easily. 

 

 

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Lemon Cheesecake with Pistachio

Can’t not love a good cheesecake, amirite? This one’s got a nice lemony zing to it and some pistachios for texture. It’s like sunshine on a plate with specks of pistachios adding that crunch. The first time I tried my hands on cheesecake, I altered the recipe I found on Joy of Baking. It was my go to website for all things baking. What I did this time, was add lemon juice and zest and top it with some pistachios that I already had. I’m not for one to buy extravagant ingredients to cook or bake with. But I got these nuts in a box as a gift a few months ago. Key to achieve the right consistency and texture of cheesecake is all in the amount of time that goes into baking it. A little less time in the oven and it won’t set, a little long and it’s dry. It has to be perfectly creamy, yet set enough to hold its shape well.

lemon cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

Marie biscuits – 6-7

Parle-G biscuits – 6-7

Melted butter – 1/4 cup

Filling:

Cream cheese – 1 box (180 gms)

Fresh cream – 1/3 cup

Sugar – 1/3 cup (use caster or powdered)

Eggs – 2

Vanilla – 1 tsp

Lemon – zest and juice from one

Pistachios – handful crushed

Method::

Blitz the biscuits together in a mixer. Add melted butter and blitz some more, till it looks like sand from the beach.

Line your baking tin with parchment paper and tip the biscuit mixture into it.

Press it down and make sure you’ve covered every corner of the tin.

Now leave it in the fridge to chill, while you make the filling.

Whisk the cream cheese in a mixing bowl till it’s soft. Add sugar and whisk some more.

Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix it all well.

Add the juice of the lemon.

Whisk the fresh cream if it’s too thick in a small bowl so it doesn’t turn lumpy in the cream cheese mixture. Now add it to the mix and whisk well.

Get your crust out of the fridge and pour the batter on top of it.

Now gently top this batter with crushed pistachios.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 50 mins.

Let it cool in the oven with the door open for about an hour and then in the fridge for 2 more more hours.

Add more crushed pistachios if you’d like before slicing it up.

 

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Tomato Chicken Curry

tomato chicken curry

Just to take it easy this Sunday, I made a relatively simple chicken curry. It’s basic – tomatoes, some onion, some spices and chicken, of course. It’s good to whip up when you’re not in the mood for something elaborate but still want something that has “Sunday lunch” written all over it. I initially set out to make butter chicken, but I didn’t have any butter. And what to do when you have a ton of plump ripe tomatoes? So many things, yes. I chose to make curry with them. It turned out nice and tangy. Mildly spicy but that’s something you can adjust as per your spice tolerance levels.

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Orange and ginger syrup cake

A good pound cake recipe works great as a base for many different variations of it. That’s how I could make my Jamun Cake and Coffee Cake. Slight alterations and bam! you have a new cake. I did the same with oranges. There are many recipes you can find online, but I stuck to the one that works for me with a few changes to accommodate the addition of new ingredients. In this case, since I wanted the cake to taste and smell of orange, I added the juice and zest of half an orange. That’s why I increased the flour content. The syrup is pretty basic with a good kick of ginger. Goes great with a cup of strong adrak chai.

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Ingredients:

Flour – 1 and 1/4 cup

Salted butter – 1/2 cup at room temperature

Sugar – 3/4 cup

Baking powder – 1 tsp

Eggs – 2

Vanilla – 1/2 tsp

Fresh orange juice – from 1/2 an orange

Orange zest – from one orange

Method:

Preheat oven at 180C for 10 mins.

Whisk butter and sugar till it’s light and fluffy.

Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.

Add the orange juice and zest.

Add the flour with baking powder. Gently fold into the batter.

Line your baking tin with parchment paper and pour the batter in it.

Bake for 35 mins or till done. Use a toothpick to check if the center has baked.

Syrup:

Ingredients:

Honey – 2 tbsp

Fresh orange juice – from one orange

Sugar – 1 tsp

Freshly grated ginger – 2 tsp

Method:

Mix all the ingredients and heat on medium heat for 10 mins or till it turns slightly thick or like a syrup.

Once the cake is done, let it cool for around 10 mins.

Now pour the syrup on the cake while it still is in the tin. Let it sit for a few hours and soak up the syrup.

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Oreo stuffed brownies

I’m not a fan of brownies. I guess it’s what sawdust might taste like. But it’s still a big deal with many young people. And I also figured I have baked with them at all. There isn’t much one can do with them besides stuff them into your regular baked goodies. I was probably the only one who hadn’t got around to doing this. Late to the party, but I got brownies!

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Ingredients:

Chocolate – 1 cup cut into pieces

Butter – 1/4 cup

Flour – 3/4 cup

Sugar – 3/4 cup

Eggs – 2

Vanilla – 1 tsp

Baking soda – 1/4 tsp

Filter coffee decoction – a splash (optional)

Oreo cookies – 9

Salt – a pinch (omit if you’re using salted butter)

Method:

Preheat your oven at 180C while you move on to prepping. Around 10 mins.

Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave or by using the double boiler method.

Let it cool for a minute or two before you add the eggs in one at a time, whisking it well.

Add vanilla and sugar. Mix well.

Add the coffee decoction at this point if you have any.

Add the flour and baking powder, and gently fold into the chocolate mixture.

Line your baking tin with parchment paper and pour half the batter into it.

Line Oreo cookies leaving enough space between one another so you can cut the brownie easily.

Pour the remaining batter on top of the Oreos and bake for 22-25 mins.

Let it cool completely before cutting it up.

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Mutton Berry Pulao

I had my first berry pulao at Soda Bottle Openerwala in Gurgaon a couple of years ago. Just the way it was plated, it looked great. A mound of the  pulao in the middle of a round aluminum cake tin topped with fried onions, cashews and of course, berries. What I made of it was that it was essentially mutton biryani with cranberries. But what these cranberries do is give you bursts of sweet and sour pops of flavour in midst of the mildly spiced biryani. And that’s what sets it apart from the regular biryani. I looked up the recipe for a good mutton berry pulao. There were multiple options, but what was common was that unlike the biryani I make with ground masala, this one is made with powdered spices. I enjoyed cooking it though. If I had some khoya I’d have made Mawa cake and it would have been like lunch at an Irani cafe in Mumbai. Not as good, but close enough I guess.

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Ingredients:

Mutton on the bone – 500 gm

Basmati rice – 2 cups

Onions – 5 finely sliced (2 for the rice, 2 for the mutton  and 1 for frying in the end)

Cinnamon pieces, cardamom, cloves – few each

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Chilli powder – 2 tsp (you can go higher or lower)

Garam masala – 3 tsp

Garlic – 4-5 cloves chopped

Ginger – 1 inch piece chopped

Dried cranberries – 1/2 cup

Honey – 1 tbsp

Cashews – handful

Coriander for garnish

Salt to taste

Ghee to cook

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Method:

Soak the cranberries for 20 mins.

Heat honey and saute the cranberries in it for 7-8 mins. Add cashews and let it brown a little. Turn off heat and keep aside.

Deep fry one finely sliced onion till dark brown and keep aside.

Wash the meat well and keep aside. Wash and soak the rice in water for 15 mins.

Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pressure cooker and add the onions.

Once onions are browned, add the mutton along with the powdered spices, ginger and garlic.

Add 1/2 cup of water and salt, and let this come to a boil.

Now put the lid on and wait for the first whistle. After the first whistle, turn the flame down and cook the meat for 20 mins.

While the pressure is dropping off, on another flame, heat 2 tbsp of ghee and add the whole spices with onions.

Let onions soften. Add 4 cups of water and let it come to a boil.

Add the rice now and some salt.

Let this come to a bubble on high heat. Now turn the heat down and let it cook for 15 mins or till it’s done 3/4th of the way.

Drain the water.

Remove the lip from the pressure cooker and pour out some of the gravy from the mutton, and keep just enough so the rice can cook through in it.

Tip the rice on top of the mutton and put it back on the flame. Let the rice cook for another 5 mins or till done. Just leave the lid on without the whistle.

Once done, mix gently. Garnish with fried onions, coriander, cranberries and cashew nuts.

Note: Alternately, I’d also consider cooking the rice and meat separately and then layering them one on top of the other with the garnishes in between the layers.

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Java Plum (Jamun) Cake

I was being all nostalgic chatting with my friends from school on a WhatsApp group recently. We spoke at length about school, monsoons, teachers, and of course food. I instantly went back to jamuns. One reason I loved the mostly tart, rarely sweet fruit is how it gave me a purple tainted tongue every single time I ate a handful of them. I thought I’d add these little fruits to my usual sponge batter to see what becomes of it. And it was delicious! To take it a little further, I made a jamun jam/coulis of sorts to top the cake with. I also added the juice of a lemon to give it a fresh and zingy taste.

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Ingredients:

Flour - 1 cup

Butter - 1/2 cup

Sugar - 3/4 cup

Eggs - 2

Vanilla - 1 tsp

Lemon juice - of one lemon

Baking powder - 1.5 tsp

Salt - a pinch (if you're using salted butter then skip adding salt)

Jamun - 3/4 cup pitted (I scraped the fruit off the seeds) 

Topping:

Jamun -  1/2 cup pitted (I scraped the fruit off the seeds)

Sugar - 1 tbsp

Honey - 1 tsp

Butter - 1 tbsp
Method:
Preheat oven at 180C while you prepare the batter.

Beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and mix well.

Add the jamun, keeping a handful of pieces for later.

Add flour with the baking powder. 

Fold the flour into the egg mixture just till it's incorporated well. Don't over mix.

Pour batter into a loaf tin and stick a few pieces of the jamun on top.

Bake for 40-45 mins or till it's golden brown on top.

For the topping, cook together the ingredients mentioned with a splash of water.

Cook it till the fruit softens and you can mash it with the back of a spoon.

Let both the cake and topping cool down. Once they do, slather the cake with the jamun topping and serve.

 

 

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