Thursday, November 19, 2015

Beef Puffs

Today I have a yummy little snack to share with you. Back in Bombay and in Goa, these puffs are legendary. You find loads of variants of the puff with a variety of the fillings - chicken, veg, mutton etc. They are pretty easy to find, though finding a good one might not be too easy. My favourites all came from stores in Bandra, namely my college haunt - Andora's Cafe, Hearsch's Bakery and a more pricey Candies. So eventually, when I learned to make my own at home, I was really excited. Back in Bombay I always made the puff pastry from scratch and it always turned out well. I hope to make it again someday and share the recipe here.

Here in Sydney, I was thrilled to find I could buy frozen puff pastry. That meant it was now possible to enjoy these little puffs with a fraction of the effort and time involved. Now don't get me wrong. I am all about cooking and baking from scratch, but everyone needs to be open to a few shortcuts every now and then, especially when life gets hectic. So today, we are going to use the store bought frozen version. That covers the pastry. For a tasty filling I use my Beef mince recipe, but leave out the potatoes. Also you need to make sure that the liquid has cooked out so that you don't have a runny filling. A runny filling will only result in a soggy pastry.

Now it's just a matter of assembling the puffs. I cut up each thawed sheet of pastry into 6 portions and place the filling on one side keeping away from the edge. Run a finger dipped in water along the edges and fold over to seal. Apply an egg wash and bake. You can make these in a larger batch and refrigerate them. Just bring them to room temperature and heat them up on a pan or in the oven and you can sit down to a nice little snack. Very often, I have these with some tomato ketchup and I can safely say, nothing beats it.

Beef Puffs

Beef mince (each puff requires a spoon of filling)
Frozen puff pastry sheets, as many as you need (Each sheet yields 6 pieces)
1 egg, for the egg wash

Preheat the oven to 220ºC.

Place the thawed puff pastry sheet on a flat work surface and cut into 6 potions. Place a spoon of the filling on one side of each puff staying away from the edges like so -

Keep a little bowl of water near your work surface. Dip a finger in the water and run on the edges of each puff.

Flip the empty half over onto the side with the filling and seal the edges. Place it on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Crack an egg in another bowl and beat lightly. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the puffs. This gives it a lovely golden brown glaze.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or till golden brown.

Enjoy them warm.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Sriracha Chinese Cucumber Salad

Every now and then I love a little snack. Yes, I snack between meals Dad. My Dad would be horrified that I still do. He is a strong believer that food should be restricted to meal time, unless you were at a party or something. However, I love my snacks. I've always tried to cook / bake from scratch and now I want to try and take that one step ahead and eat clean. It will take some getting used to, but I think it definitely is do-able and I hope to take that to my snacks as well. Does this mean you'll stop seeing desserts, bakes and other slightly indulgent food on my blog. Most definitely not. I will still do that, but will try and be more mindful of the kind of food I eat on a regular basis. Do you have any clean eating recipes that you love? I would love to try them out too. Leave me a comment and let me know :)

So back to this salad. I love cucumbers - continental, lebanese, baby cukes - all of them. One of my favourite ways to eat cucumber is straight up sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt. I usually serve some up with lunch or dinner. I wanted to try and change it up a little. So after a little looking around on the internet I came across this recipe. It was quick and easy and sounded delicious. I could definitely snack on some of this too. I'm very glad I stumbled across this recipe. 

I did this a tiny bit differently. I didn't drain out the liquid and to make it work as a fresh salad, toss salad in the dressing and serve immediately. If not, it will get soggy. You can make the dressing ahead of time and just chop the cucumber and toss it up just before serving.

Sriracha Chinese Cucumber Salad
Adapted from: Kirbie Cravings

1 continental cucumber, cut into batons
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp fresh coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
1/4 tsp red chilly flakes
Lemon / lime juice, to taste 

Mix all the ingredients except the cucumber pieces together in a bowl.

Add the cucumber pieces to the bowl and toss well.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chaklis - Savoury Indian rice crakers

For quite a few months now, I've been yearning for some good Chaklis (Savoury Indian rice crackers). I have made them at home in Bombay using my late Mother-in-law's recipe and they are fantastic. I bought a couple of different packets from the Indian grocery stores here in Sydney, but it just never hits the spot. So why am I not making them here? I didn't have this - 

I know for those of you who haven't seen this before, it must look like something straight out of an alien space craft but just wait till you see what you can do with it. This is what it looks like on the inside - 

In some ways it is similar to a spritz cookie press. You slide in a plate from the assortment on the right into the barrel. For this recipe I used the one with the single star shaped perforation. Place your dough in the barrel and top it with the spiral press. All you do it rotate the lever on the top and that lowers the press and presses out the dough through the perforation. If that doesn't make sense yet, don't worry, it will shortly.

My dear blogging friend Manu of Manu's Menu had posted some recipes featuring this press. So I asked her where she got her's from and she very kindly directed me to the shops in Harris Park. So last weekend that's where we went and finally bought one. I've hunted for this press for so long here and am so thrilled that I now have one. No more buying those unsatisfying packets of cruchy, but still hard like stone chaklis from the store for me. 

The very next morning, we set out making a batch of chaklis. The dough comes together quick and easy and makes a decent sized batch. Stored in an airtight container should give us something to much on for atleast a week with a cup of afternoon tea. And that thought makes me very happy indeed.


3 cup rice flour (fine)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup ghee
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp. red chilly powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Oil for deep frying

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub the ghee into the flour till everything is well mixed.

Gradually add little water to knead to a dough.

Heat the oil. Test with a tiny pea sized piece of dough. When added to the oil, it should rise to the surface quickly. If it browns really fast, the oil is too hot and needs to be cooled a little. If it settles to the bottom, the oil is not hot enough and needs to be heated a little more. 

The oil temperature is important, if its too hot, the chaklis will brown but stay raw on the inside and if the oil is not hot enough, it tends to absorb a lot of oil and wont have the right texture.

Take portions of dough and add to the chakli press.

Shape the chaklis on some baking paper.

That's my wonderful husband cranking out the chaklis while I fry them, just incase you were wondering if that was my hand ;)

Carefully using a flat spatula, life the chaklis off the paper and place into the oil. Let it cook on medium flame till golden brown. Drain on some absorbent kitchen paper.

When it has cooled completely, store in an air tight container.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

SRC: Brownie Pudding

For this month's SRC reveal, I was assigned Anna's blog, Cheese with Noodles. I love that name. It combines two of my favourite foods. Anna sounds like someone I could be great friends with. Apart from cooking up really yummy food, she loves indulging in her crafty hobbies like crochet, which we have in common and sewing, which I'm hoping to spend more time on soon. We share the love of gardening too. And she lives is Alaska. Oh how could I forget her pets - she has bunnies, cats and dogs, which could only mean that she is a super busy woman.

While looking for a recipe to make for this month's reveal, I narrowed it down to her Buttermilk Cheddar Chive Bread, a very interesting Fruit Pizza, these droolworthy Garlicky Bacon & Cheddar stuffed Burgers and this refreshing Greek Pasta Salad. However, when I saw this Brownie Pudding post, my mind was made up. I love pudding and I love Brownies, so I new I had to try this Brownie Pudding.

It was easy to put together and requires just a few pantry staples. My favourite part of this recipe was not having to wait for it to cool down. You can enjoy it warm with some Vanilla ice-cream, which is exactly what we did. These puddings have the most delicious crusty top that is beautifully chewy and a warm, gooey centre, perfection. I was thrilled, because until today I'd only seen gooey centres on the television and here I was sitting with an individual pudding with the perfect gooey centre. Thanks Anna for a lovely recipe.

I stuck to the original recipe, only I made them in individual ramekins and I agree with her on the portions. I made 3 individual portions, but 4 would have been much better. That's just something I'll have to  make note of for when I make this again.

Brownie Pudding

115g butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder + 1 tbsp
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp Vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream, to serve with (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Grease 3 individual ramekin bowls and set aside.

Beat the eggs and sugar, till thick and creamy, light yellow.

Sift the cocoa powder and flour together.

Add this to the eggs and sugar mix and mix together until combined.

Add the melted, cooled butter and again mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared ramekin bowls or a larger bowl that has been greased.

Place these bowls in a water bath (A water bath is a larger baking dish filled with hot water that reaches about halfway the height of the bowls.)

Carefully place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes if you are making one large bowl. If you are making individual portions, like I did, bake for about 30-35 minutes.

Test by inserting a toothpick near the edge of the bowl. When it comes out mostly clean it is done. Don't overbake as you want to have the middle a little gooey.

Let it cool for about 15-20 minutes and serve with vanilla ice-cream, if desired.

Here's the pudding bowls, just out of the oven -

Just so you know, you too can get the perfect gooey centre :)

Don't forget to check what the other members of Group A posted - 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Country Pumpkin Muffins

One of my favourite seasons is Fall and stemming from that, I love all things Fall - the days getting cooler, the leaves turning colour, apples, pumpkins, Halloween, love it all. You see, right upto this time, I'd only every used a pumpkin to make a savoury side dish, I'd never used it for anything sweet. For years now, I've sat back and watched so very many blog posts from all across the globe using pumpkins for desserts and sweet bakes. I've always been curious to see what that would turn out like but strangely enough, not so curious as to actually try it out myself. Go figure, right! A while ago, while pumpkins were at the peak of their season, I bought myself a little Kent pumpkin to finally use in a sweet bake. I hadn't quite decided what I was going to make. I knew there would be plenty of inspiration on the internet. (Gosh, I really can't imagine life without the internet anymore - can anyone else relate to this or is that just me?) Anyway, so after staring at my pumpkin for a few days as it sat on the kitchen counter I came across this recipe for pumpkin muffins.

It was the perfect choice for me. I got to use the pumpkin in a sweet bake. And it made for the perfect breakfast on the go option, since I start work at 7 am now. (Gasp!) It keeps really well in the fridge  too. This batch actually kept for a little over a week. All I did was take out the one or two we needed at the time and popped in the microwave for a few seconds to get the chill off and I ended up with a nice, warm, moist, flavourful muffin. I was more than pleased with this recipe and I can safely say I'll be trying my hand at some more sweet recipes with pumpkin in the future. This recipe makes quite a few muffins. I made some in the muffin moulds and the rest I poured into a bundt pan and got a little cake out of it.

You will notice that the muffins look a little different. Well, I forgot to add stir in the fruit and nuts before pouring the batter in the pan so I just added a few to each muffic. The ones on top with the raisins and nuts visible clearly are those ones. That was the time I added the fruit and nuts to the batter and the muffins on the lowest row are made from that batter. I think I like the ones where I can see the raisins clearly better visually. So I've decided the next time I make these, I will stir in most of the fruit and nuts but reserve a few to place over each unbaked muffin so the look like they're studded with little jewels. :)

The original recipe calls for canned pumpkin. I can't find canned pumpkin at the local supermarket, so I used a whole Kent pumpkin and made my own puree.

Country Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from: Taste of Home
Makes about 26-28 muffins
(I got one dozen muffins and a little bundt cake)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 raisins (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cup)
1 cup chopped pecans (the original recipe uses walnuts but I didn't have any)

To make the pumpkin puree - 
Cut the pumkin in quarters / wedges.

Don't worry about the skin. Leave it on for now. Its easier to take it off after baking.

Take out the seeds and membrane. You can roast the seeds to snack on. Discard the membrane.

Place the pumpkin skin side down on a lined baking tray and baked it in the oven at 180ºC for about 30-40 minutes or till the flesh of the pumpkin is tender. Test with a fork or a knife.

Let it cool. The skin just peels off. You may need to peel the skin off gently with a knife, but it comes off pretty easily.

Mash the flesh using a potato masher or you could puree it in a food processor, if you like. I just used the potato masher.

I used a smallish pumpkin and ended up using all the puree for this recipe, but any excess you may have can be frozen to use later.

To make the muffins - 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin puree and water till combined.

In another bowl combine the dry ingredients, the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spice powders and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin puree mix and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold in the raisins and chopped nuts.

Spoon batter into a lined muffin pan.
Without the raisins & nuts ---- with them added on top --- a combination of both 

Bake for about 15 minutes or till done.

If you are baking the batter as a larger cake, it will take longer. My bundt cake baked for about 50 minutes.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

SRC: Gingerbread Milkshake

Is it too early to be starting with Holiday goodies? Is a milkshake even an appropriate holiday treat? Well the answer is 1) Its never too early to start trying out Holiday goodies and 2) Yes - especially when you live in a place that has a Summer Christmas.

This month for the SRC reveal, I was assigned Nicole's blog, Daily Dish Recipes. I've admired Nicole's blog for years and then somehow in the recent past I lost touch with it. I was so excited to learn that I was assigned her blog this month. Choosing a recipe to make for the reveal was not easy. After shortlisting a few, I was left with 23 recipes and after tossing to and fro between them for a few days I was no closer to picking one. The only thing that helped me decide this month was the weather Gods. We're smack bang in the middle of our first heat wave of the season, and we still have 2 months of Spring to go, Yikes!!! I needed to pick a recipe the would cool us down and would involve little or no cooking. I quickly looked through my shortlist and I was down to 2 recipes - Homemade Fruit Irish Cream Sodas and Gingerbread Milkshakes. I had pinned the Irish Cream Sodas to try a couple of years ago and I fully intend trying it out. But in the end, my love for Christmas won and I went with the Gingerbread Milkshakes. I wanted to have a nice cool drink to serve up around the holiday season. This milkshake was really delicious, I can see myself serving this at other times of the year too. There are just two components to this recipe, making the gingerbread syrup and then blending everything together. Making the syrup was really easy and my whole house smelled like Christmas. The flavours were beautiful, but I will make the syrup stronger the next time, that way I wont need to add too much and will be able to control the sweetness. But its an absolute winner of a recipe. Thank you Nicole :)  I halved the recipe and those are the quantities mentioned below. I made absolutely no changes (except leave out the whipped cream for the topping) and was very happy with the result.

Gingerbread Milkshake

For the syrup:
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the milkshake:
30 ml milk
210 ml French Vanilla ice cream
Ground cinnamon, to sprinkle over

In a large saucepan, mix the water, sugar, ground ginger, vanilla and ground cinnamon and bring the mixture to a boil.

Once it has started boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and let the syrup simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Store in syrup in a jar as you will have syrup left over.

In a blender, mix 1-2 tbsp gingerbread syrup, the milk and the ice cream and blend well. Taste and add more syrup if needed and blend well.

Pour into glasses and spinkle ground cinnamon on top to pretty it up.

Serve up!

Don't forget to check out what the other Group A members have posted this month.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Chinese Sticky Pork Belly

Today, I'm bringing on some serious yum! I came across this recipe, went and bought the protein, made it and am posting about in all in a 2 day span, which in itself could be a record. (Mind you I still have atleast a dozen other recipes that are vying for your attention, they've been made and clicked and are just waiting to be posted). This one just had to be shared with you at the earliest. It is simple, doesn't take too long, but it is so tasty, it would be a crime to not share it with you.

I usually make my favourite pork curry and we enjoy it. Apart from that, I've only ever made these pan-fried pork chops and thats how long my pork recipe repertoire is. Now that's just wrong and needed to be fixed. You will see a few more pork recipes coming up. When I was on the lookout for some interesting ways to cook pork, I came across this recipe. I have heard so much about how good pork belly is and also how good a sticky Asian glaze can be, so obviously the two together had to be even better, right? I was so right. The original recipe calls for the pork to be cooked for 2 whole hours. While I've done this before when I didn't have access to my pressure cooker, I knew I wasn't going to slow cook it this time. I used my pressure cooker and in about 15-20 minutes achieved the same lovely tenderness. If you haven't tried using a pressure cooker before, you should. Maybe borrow it from a friend and see if it works for you. I use mine all the time. I use it to cook meat, boil dry beans (instead of buying canned ones), boiling potato and beetroot and so much more. I cannot imagine life without my pressure cooker. Oh wait, I did have to wait for a whole year before I got mine from back home and it wasn't fun. It just cuts down cooking time drastically and you save on gas/energy by cutting down on cooking time. That's a win-win in my book. I hope to share more pressure cooker recipes with you in future.

Back to the pork belly. There's beautiful flavour in the meat and the glaze is just a wonderful bonus. One thing I should mention is be very careful when the meat is in the pan, there is a lot of serious popping that goes on and you don't want to burn yourself. Frying the pork adds some lovely crunchy bits to the pork. So you end up with tender, succulent meat, crunchy bits and a sticky glaze. Yum!!! I served this pork up with a bowl of warm noodles and some stir fried Asian greens.

Chinese Sticky Pork Belly
Adapted from: Kitchen Sanctuary

1 kg pork belly
1 heaped tsp ginger paste
1 heaped tsp garlic paste
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional, but I find it adds lovely flavour)
1 tbsp sugar

For the glaze:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper
1" ginger, peeled and finely chopped 
2 red chillies, finely sliced (or to taste)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce

Cut the pork belly into 4 quarters. Marinade with the ginger paste, garlic paste, salt, vinegars and sugar for 10-15 minutes.

Add 2 cups water and close the pressure cooker. Put the whistle / weight on and bring to a boil over high heat. After a whistle, reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 12 minutes. After 12 minutes, take it off the heat and let the pressure drop naturally.

Carefully take the pork out. Cut into bite size pieces.

In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add the pork pieces, salt and pepper. Fry on a high heat till the pork starts turning golden brown. Be careful while frying the pork as it will pop and sputter while frying.

Mix the remaining glaze ingredients in a small bowl.

Pour the glaze over the pork and cook till the pork looks dark and sticky. Stir frequently. Do not leave unattended - you do not want the pork to burn.

Once the glaze has thickened, garnish with some finely sliced chilly and spring onions and serve with some noodles or rice and greens.