Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Chocolate Pistachio Fridge Cake

Ottolenghi recipes never fail to delight. They include a melange of vegetables, a few meat-centric nuggets, involve a multi-step cooking process with a string of ingredients as long as my arm, and eventually pleases the palate. Not complaining, no no no. I usually maneuver my way through the labor intensive recipes. So when I find an easy dessert, I am ecstatic.  

All I have to do is melt chocolate with butter and maple syrup. Add pistachios and raisins. Crumble in graham crackers and let it settle in the fridge. And I have a scrumptious immensely snackable chocolate bar. Ottolenghi calls it a fridge cake. I call it my nemesis.

Adapted from Simple by Ottolenghi
Makes 25-30 small bars

10 oz dark Chocolate (I used Trader Joe's)
1 stick or 8 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
1 cup Raisins
3 tablespoons dark Rum
A large pinch of Kosher Salt
6 oz Graham Crackers (about 15 pieces)
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Pistachios

Line a 13x8 inch pan or dish with parchment paper.

Soak raisins in rum.

Fill a deep saucepan halfway with water and bring to boil.

Chop chocolate into 1 inch pieces. 

Put chocolate, butter, cut into eight pieces, maple syrup and salt in a heatproof bowl. 

Place in a heatproof bowl over the saucepan. The simmering water should not touch the bowl.  

Heat chocolate for 4-5 minutes. Then stir well till smooth.

Crumble graham crackers into 1 inch pieces.

Add raisins, 3/4 cup pistachios and graham crackers into chocolate. Stir till crackers are well coated with chocolate.

Spoon the chocolate into the lined dish. Smooth the top till it is flat.

Sprinkle the remaining pistachios over the top. Push them in lightly to embed. 

Let the chocolate sit for 15 minutes. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.

Cut into 2 inch bars. 

Refrigerate till you serve.

These bars make an ideal hostess gift for Carla and Victor. Some are parcelled off to Nikita as she visits. And the crumbs fall into my lap.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Lamb Shanks with Leeks and Barley

The media is ablaze with theories on the conclusion of Game Of Thrones! Sunday's episode is the last after eight torrid seasons. As the series culminates, questions abound. Who will sit on the Iron Throne? Who will live or die? The fate of this imaginary realm will be decided once and for all.

To accompany the resulting mania, I plan to dish up a GOT worthy repast. It will have to include roasting meats. Some greens. And copious amounts of wine, the main quaff of the series .

Lamb shanks are deemed appropriate. They are large, albeit shaped like a mini leg of lamb. They turn deep brown in olive oil, are then covered with leeks, barley, umami paste and beer, before going into the oven for a slow roast. You ask umami paste? Yes it does exist on Amazon. But I make my own. It is quite a flavor bomb, a paste made with soy sauce, fish sauce, anchovies, tomato paste, garlic, mushrooms, miso paste and a few other spices. And you thought umami was just the fifth taste bud!

Wafting aromas tickle the palate. The roast gets a stir halfway through cooking to brown evenly. Leeks form a crisp crust and barley plumps up tender from the lamb juices. Roasting meets the carnivore standards, both in taste and color. May the games begin.

Serves 4

4 Lamb Shanks
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Leeks
3/4 cup Pearl Barley
2 teaspoons Umami Paste (recipe below)
1 160z dark Beer
2-3 cups Water
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Black Pepper

Makes 1/2 cup

2 Anchovies
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
2 teaspoons Tomato paste
2 teaspoons Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons Olive oil
4 Garlic cloves, minced
4 Shitaki Mushroom, minced
1 teaspoon white Miso Paste
1 teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
A pinch of crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Blend all the above ingredients in a food processor till smooth.
Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Place an ovenproof Dutch oven on a high flame.

Add olive oil.

Pat lamb shanks dry and add to hot oil. 

Sear lamb on all sides. The shanks should be deep brown.

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 325F.

Wash leeks to remove any grit. Chop into chunks.

When lamb has browned, add leeks, barley and umami paste.

Pour in the beer and bring to a boil. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce.

Add between 2 and 3 cups water, enough to cover the shanks. 

Place shanks into the oven and cook for 2-3 hours till shanks are tender.

Halfway through give the shanks a stir and return to the oven.

Poke shanks with a knife to check if they are tender.

Serve with sauteed greens. 

Use a fork and knife or eat GOT style- with your hands!

Game time approaches. All senses are on high alert. Rumor mills are rife on the internet. We ignore them all to enjoy our hearty meal.Winter is over. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Kheema Masoor Pullao

Prassy waxes eloquent about a kheema and masoor biryani. And I'm too far to partake of her spoils. So I hunt for an adequate substitute. I improvise. No biryani for me, just the semblance of one...a pullao.

It starts with a ground paste of ginger, garlic, green chiles, kadhipatta leaves, ground coconut, cloves, cinnamon, coriander seeds....a plethora of spices. I cook whole masoor dal separately in water till soft. Here's where I think and go wrong. I cook them a tad too long.They are mushy and bland. The second time around I will cook them along with the ground meat as masoor dal cooks quickly. Plus they will absorb that meaty flavor as they cook. Saute onions and tomatoes along with the ground masala. Brown ground beef or lamb in the masala. Scatter turmeric and chile powder over meat. Season well. Add washed masoor dal and water and cook covered till dal cooks. Mix hot cooked basmati rice with meat and dal. Garnish with fresh cilantro and fried onions...and enjoy the mock biryani aka pullao.

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons fresh ground Coconut
2 Green Chiles
10 Kadhipatta leaves
4 Garlic cloves
1/2 inch piece Ginger
2 tablespoons Coriander seeds
1 Cinnamon stick
3 Cloves
2 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 large Onions
2 Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Chile Powder
1/2 pound ground Beef or Lamb
1/2 cup whole Masoor Dal Or Puy Lentils
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 cup Basmati Rice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Ghee
Fresh Cilantro
Fried Onions

Soak rice in plenty of water for 30 minutes.

Grind coconut, green chiles, kadhipatta, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, cinnamon and cloves to a smooth paste using little water. Keep aside.

Slice onions and tomatoes finely.

Heat oil in large saucepan. 

When it shimmers, add onions and saute till soft and translucent.

Add ground paste and saute, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and saute again till tomatoes are pulpy. The masala should be thick. You should see oil oozing from the edges of the masala.

Drop ground meat into masala. Break up the meat as you saute.  Brown meat for 5-7 minutes, or till there is no pink remaining.

Add turmeric and chile powder to meat. 

Wash dal and add it to meat. 

Season with salt.

Add enough water to barely cover the meat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes till dal is soft.

Drain water from rice and place in a deep saucepan.

Add 2 cups of fresh water to rice, along with salt and ghee.

Bring to a boil over heat.

Cover with a lid and turn the flame to the lowest setting. Cook rice for 14 minutes. 

Uncover and fluff rice with a fork. Be careful, the rice will be steaming hot.

You could serve the pullao two ways.

Spoon the rice onto a platter and top with meat and lentils. Top with cilantro and fried onions as I did.

The other way is to mix the rice and meat before plating. Heap the pullao into a bowl, top with cilantro and fried onions and serve.

 I'm not too sure what the pullao should taste like, but whatever my palate samples is downright delicious.We eat this with an onion raita. A simple but satisfying meal.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

The month of May has not surrendered its cold weather grip as yet, so I still persist in soup making. Half a butternut squash will be an adequate base. Enhanced with lemongrass, kaffir limes, star anise, minced green chile and ginger, the soup takes on Asian tones. Use fresh, frozen or dried kaffir lime leaves, though the fresh ones taste the best. Break off and use a few petals of the star anise as it has a pronounced flavor. A generous portion of coconut milk gives it a creamy texture. Bowl and spoon await.

Serves 4

2 cups peeled and cubed Butternut Squash
1 Lemongrass stalk
4 fresh Kaffir Lime leaves
3 Ginger coins
2 petals of Star Anise (not the whole flower)
1 large Cinnamon stick
1 Green Chile, minced finely
1 teaspoon Canola Oil
2 cups Chicken Stock
2 cups Coconut Milk
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Cilantro to garnish

Heat oil in a deep saucepan.

Drop squash into oil. Saute for a few minutes.

Trim end of lemongrass. Peel outer layers. Cut lemongrass into 2 inch stalks.

Add lemongrass, kaffir leaves, ginger, star anise petals and cinnamon to squash. Saute till you can smell the aromatics.

Add green chile to squash as well.

Pour chicken stock over squash. Simmer over a low flame 20 minutes till squash is cooked and pulpy.

Separate aromatics from squash. Leave the chile bits in.

Puree squash and stock in a blender.

Pour the puree back into the saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add coconut milk and salt.

Let soup bubble for 5 minutes.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro, and squeeze of lime juice.

Soup is creamy, wholesome, satisfying...altogether the best thing on a cold, dreary May afternoon.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Merguez Kababs

Merguez is a North African spicy sausage. And by spicy I mean a sausage with a kick. A homemade version with lamb and harissa, the main flavoring, is a wonderful addition to the table. I use an Ottolenghi recipe as an inspiration. 

Ground lamb is my choice today, but beef works as well. A jar of harissa from Trader Joes is waiting to be opened. I toast cumin, coriander and fennel seeds till fragrant.  Ground to a coarse powder, they flavor the lamb, along with garlic, smoked paprika, chile powder and fresh breadcrumbs. Massage this blend into the lamb. Use gloves if you can, as your hands will turns bright red and oily. Form the meat into oval kebabs. Bake them in a hot oven on a sheet lined with foil. Watch out for oil. Lamb gives ob ff a lot of fat as it roasts. 

I serve these kababs nestled in eggplant and lentils. You could serve them in pita pockets, drizzled with a tahini sauce or in buns as a spicy hotdog. Go to town!

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes 15 palm sized kababs

1 pound ground Lamb or Beef
2 Garlic cloves
2 teaspoons Harissa paste
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 teaspoons Coriander seeds
2 teaspoons Fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup fresh Breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Place lamb in a bowl.

Grate garlic cloves into lamb.

Toast cumin, coriander and fennel seeds till fragrant. Cool and grind to a coarse powder. Add to lamb.

Add harissa, paprika, chile powder, cinnamon, olive oil, breadcrumbs and salt to lamb. 

Mix well. Use gloves as your hands will get red and oily.

Keep lamb aside for an hour to let flavors develop.

Heat oven to 350F.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Form lamb into palm-sized oval kababs. 

Bake for 20 minutes on one side. You will have a lot of oil on the baking sheet. Use a ladle to remove oil leaving 4-5 tablespoons.

Flip and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Kababs will shrink some as they bake.

Remove merguez kababs from the oven.

Serve with  eggplant and lentils.