COCONUT CARAMEL MINI BITES

 

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I was speaking to a friend last week and she asked “So what’s the plan for Valentine’s Day?”  Am I the only one who gets asked stupid questions? Every year I reply “Nothing special” and feel like a freak. This time I answered “Oh I am wearing my new black, lacy corset with the pink stilettos and taking the dog for a walk”. The man of the house heard this and choked on his beer and peanuts and the gawky teen rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Did I say something wrong? Freak! So, my friend and soon-to- be enemy pressed on ”Seriously, how will you show love, come on”   Show my love? Oh yeah…..for the last 5 years we wake up at the crack of dawn to pack food and drinks so that a young boy can pursue his passion, I load endless number of dishes into the dishwasher and piles of colour coordinated laundry into the washing machine, I tolerate male blindness and make lost T shirts appear out of thin air, I have cleaned blood, puke and poop endlessly, driven at 100 km/hour on empty roads to get the boy to training on time, held hands, prayed for patience and rejoiced at the victories, cried for our losses, smiled when I wanted to bash up the 2 men. We have shared, fought, kissed away tears, made up after a spat, held hands and assured each other, tied a fractured wrist in a splint, massaged aching backs, iced sore shoulders, supported each other’s dreams, gone to hell and back  and lived every minute of everyday for each other through thick and thin, sick and sin.  If that doesn’t show love, nothing  will. I guess everyday should be a celebration then.

 

 So 2 days before the advent of the “romantic day” Man of the house flew away on business leaving me with the temperamental teen. Teen declares “I want something different, coconutty”  Since no heart shaped candies were likely to come my way I decided on these coconut caramel bites to please the teen and see if it evoked any romance in my 40 plus heart. Fat chance!

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I have seen this recipe on one of the cooking shows where vegan food and vegan cheesecakes are ooh-ed and aah-ed over. They used coconut oil in the recipe. My only relationship with coconut oil went as far as my hair, so I decided on butter. Ofcourse being a healthy treat they omitted sugar but I did not want to risk feeding them to the bin so sugar won over healthy.  I have no big love for home made chocolates but these little treats are quite good. They are chewy in the centre with the bitter chocolate coating offering a contrasting flavour. Teen was generous with his praise and going “Mmmm”. I got a Happy “Momentine” hug and make some more  soon whispered in my ear…..ha ha….Love is in the air.

 

 

 

RECIPE

 

COCONUT CARAMEL BITES

 

MAKES- 15 PIECES

 

130 grams finely shredded, dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

 

200 ml coconut cream

 

50 grams  sugar

 

1 teaspoon butter

 

190 grams dark chocolate (baking)

 

Line a tin or cookie sheet with non stick paper, In a shallow saucepan heat sugar with a teaspoon of water on medium heat. The sugar will start darkening at the edge. Swirl the pan so as to avoid burning the sugar. Do not stir. Let the sugar darken to a golden brown.

 

Put off the heat and add the coconut cream. It will start spattering. Put the heat on medium and stirring constantly heat the mixture for 4-5 minutes till it thickens. Add in the coconut and continue stirring on low heat till the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough. Turn off the heat and add the butter and mix.

 

Spoon the mixture onto the lined sheet and shape into a 4’ by 8’ rectangle, using your wet fingers or the back of a spoon. The layer should be even and a little thicker than ¼ inch. Freeze. After 40 minutes in the freezer remove and cut into 15-16 squares. Do not separate yet. These are quite a heavy treat so don’t be too generous. Freeze for another hour or 2.

 

Line another large cookie sheet with non-stick paper. Melt chocolate over a double boiler/ bain-marie. Do not over heat chocolate. Stir occasionally. When partially melted remove from heat and stir, so that the remaining lumps melt in the residual heat. Remove filling from the freezer. Break into the cut pieces. Using 2 forks dip each piece of filling into the chocolate, turning over to coat it evenly. Place on lined sheet. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut (optional) Working fast coat all the pieces and return tray to the fridge.

 

Remove from the fridge (30-40 mins). Store in an air tight container. Keep refrigerated

 

 

 

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KHOW SUEY(MY WAY)

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Happy New Year dear readers, visitors, my regulars and the irregulars. By the time you read this we will be half way through the month. Its been one hell of a roller coaster year for us. Moving cities, setting up home in a new place for the 3rd time, a certain loveable boy in my house has turned 15 and shot up by 4 inches overnight, to tower over Dad, , using a new oven in my miniscule kitchen and discovering that 180o is 200 and amidst the ups and downs of life and this wonder called living I feel l lost myself somewhere and discovered a new me, I left behind a piece of my heart elsewhere and fell in love with a new place, a new home and I learnt that I can sand, prime and paint a dresser as well as I can bake. Phew that’s one helluva long sentence and I am out of breath.image

Coming out of the festive season and emerging out into a brand new year knowing that the hype is behind us, has a calming effect on my household. Father and son have realised that we have a kitchen at home too…. with a cook! So we decided to welcome the New Year with a quiet dinner of Khow Suey {Kha-o Sway}. A Burmese dish with Thai, Chinese and Indian influences. Khow Suey is a curry based dish eaten with noodles and topped with interesting little tit-bits like crispy fried garlic, sprouts, crispy onions, chopped parsley, peanuts and a dash of lime juice. Its unusual, simple yet very flavoursome and hearty. It has such a “family feel” to it. It is so much fun to construct your own bowl of Khow Suey at the table and take a helping of the toppings as per your taste. It can be made in a vegetarian, seafood or chicken version. For a change the recipe is longer than my introduction but don’t be intimidated by the length. It’s a simple and fun dish to make and eat. I always make 2 portions extra and yet find that there are raised eyebrows and expressions saying “That’s all?”

Its a very forgiving dish and you can make a plain curry with no additions and just let the toppings do the talking. Go ahead and give it a try….”your way”…”my way” or “the Khow Suey”

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RECIPE

KHOW SUEY

Serves 4

For the curry:

1 tblspn coriander seed powder

1 large onions, chopped roughly

Ginger- thumb-sized

4-5 cloves Garlic

3-4 fresh Red Chillies (alter according to your spice threshold)

Zest of 1 lemon

1-2 tablespoon oil

300 ml coconut milk

  • Grind all the above ingredients to a fine paste
  • In a deep vessel heat the oil, lower the heat and fry the paste on low heat of 4-5 minutes, stirring so occasionally. If the paste sticks to the bottom of the pan, add a little water. Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk. Cook the curry on low heat for 6-7 minutes stirring often. it should be thick and creamy. Add salt to taste. Keep aside.
  • For Vegeterian curry: Red and yellow peppers, Carrots, Water chestnuts, Brocolli. A total of 300 grms of vegetables chopped to bite sized pieces. Stir fry in a pan with a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt, on high heat for 5 mins. Keep aside. Add to the curry before you serve.*
  • For prawn/ chicken curry: 400 grams of prawn or chicken (cut into 2 inch pieces). Can be added to the curry and cooked till done. This step can be done just before you serve. *

 

*The reason for the last minute addition of the veg and meat being that it doesn’t over cook to a soggy mess.

Noodles:

  • 5 portions of noodles (approx. 450 grms). Cook according to instructions on pack. Drain in a colander. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of oil and mix well coating the noodles to avoid sticking. Keep warm.

Toppings:

  • 10-12 cloves of garlic sliced thinly, deep fried to a golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place in a small bowl
  • 1 large onion sliced and deep fried to a golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place in a small bowl
  • 100 grams bean sprouts stir fried
  • A handful of peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup coriander chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • 2 hard-boiled Eggs (cut into quarters)

Put above toppings in individual serving bowls and line the bowls in a tray ready to serve.

 

Assembling Khow suey

  • In a large soup bowl or deep dish add a portion of noodles. Top with curry. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of each topping and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!!

DIWALI SWEETS

SANKAR PALA & NANKHATAI

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Yes, its Diwali time for us Indians. In every household in India in whatever way and whichever form everyone will celebrate Diwali, whether it lighting lamps, doing Laxmi Pooja or kids bursting crackers. It’s so Indian to celebrate Diwali, irrespective of your faith, community, class. This year we are in Singapore, with its large Indian community it lacks the festive hustle and bustle. All around there are posters wishing Happy Diwali, announcing Diwali dinners and the Metro compartements are decked up with Indian motifs but the buzz and the beat, the colour and dance and FOOD (deep fried, sweet, savoury, spicy) its just not here. To put it kindly this is a polite, watered down version of the Diwali a Mumbai girl is used to.

A true blue Indian Diwali is an assault on your senses. The noise and colour and crowds and the food is enough to drive you into a tizzy and go meditate in the Himalayas after the festivities are done. The crackers are burst a million a minute, its one continuous “rat-a-tak-tak”. If migraine is not your thing then care for some asthma please? The streets are jammed with people in all their jhatak (shiny, gaudy) finery, the loudspeekers are belting out Bollywood music and the food is the focal point. The fantastic array of sweets and savouries, makes the noise and crowds and the sudden surge in air pollution bearable. Visiting friends to wish them has a special attraction. Even Mr. Junior the sullen teenager who is reluctant to accompany us on meet and greet sessions is quite excited and doesn’t pout or show attitude. From chaklis to chivda, gulab jamuns to gathiya, from mithai to mawa barfis, it a feast fit for a king.

I can guardedly say that though I don’t miss the crackers and noise and air pollution, I did miss out on dressing up in my sari and jewellery and making the gourmet tour around the city. Yes, away from home Diwali is Rookha-Sookha (Sad and Dry). If not the buzz, I decided to re-create the food that would certainly brighten our Diwali.

Sankar pala and Nan Khatai are two popular diwali farsans (snacks).

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Sankar pala is a crispy fried cookie which is sweet and mildly savoury and an excellent accompaniment to your cuppa. Nan Khatai is an Indian cousin of Shortbread biscuits but laden with ghee and cardamom. I topped it with nuts to add to the richness. Both are easy to prep and have very similar ingredients but the final product is chips and cookies (makes sense??)

So dear ones, my readers and visitors, thanks for stopping by and reading my crazed essays and showing your “Likes”…Happy Diwali! Go on make these rich, ghee laden, sugar filled sweets and enjoy the festivities…….if you can’t then what’s the point of those salads.

RECIPE (from  vegrecipesofindia.com )

SANKAR PALA

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Semolina/ Rava

½ cup castor sugar

3 tablespoons ghee (melted)

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup warm milk

Sunflower or any odourless Oil for deep frying

  • In a bowl or thali sieve the semolina, flour and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well using your fingers.
  • Pour in the ghee and rub it into the flour.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, bringing the dough together with your hands. Keep adding the milk till you get a firm but pliable dough. You may not need to use all the milk.
  • Divide the dough into large tennis sized balls and roll it out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut the rough edges using a knife or pizza cutter. Cut into diamond shapes. Reusing the scraps roll out more dough.
  • Heat oil in a deep vessel. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Fry the cookies until golden brown, turning and flipping often. Drain on kitchen paper and store in an air tight container.

 

 

 

NAN KHATAI

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A close relative of the short bread cookies, these are popular cookies in western India, made usually during Diwali by The Maharashtrian and Gujarati communities. Most households in India do not own ovens. The ladies make the dough at home and bring it to the commercial bakeries for baking. Before the festival you can see long serpentine queues of women sitting on the pavements outside bakeries, patiently rolling the dough into balls and lining them up in tins, cheerfully chatting away, blissfully unaware of the traffic chaos they are causing. They are forgiven for the sake of these heavenly cookies and anyways all is fair and taken for granted in the spirit of Diwali.

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RECIPE

1 ¼ cup All-purpose Flour

¼ cup semolina

½ teaspooon Baking Powder

½ cup Caster sugar

½ cup or 8 tablespoons Ghee, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon Vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon Powdered cardamom

pieces of cashews, Almonds and pistachios (soaked in milk)

  • Mix cardamom powder with the sugar.
  • Add the ghee and mix with a whisk until light and creamy. Add vanilla essence and mix well.
  • Sift the flour semolina and baking powder over the ghee mixture and using your hands bring the mixture together to form a crumbly dough. Add 1-2 tablespoons of warm milk if the dough falls apart.
  • Shape the dough into ping-pong sized balls and flatten them slightly. Embed the tops with the soaked nuts. Line them up on a greased tray and bake for 15-17 minutes at 170o C, until just golden around the edges.
  • Let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

 

 

GOBI MANCHURIAN

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I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this post is about the Gobi Desert in Mongolia or a lesson in politics on the disputed Sino-Soviet region of Manchuria. Its none of the above ….it’s about the fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine, where the slogan “Hindi Chinny Bhai Bhai” (Indian Chinese Brotherhood) is revealed in a new and tastier light.

Let me start at the beginning….the Indian Chinese community that settled in the Indian city of Kolkata over a century ago, developed a range of Chinese vegetarian options to suit the Indian palate, using local vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes and the Indian staple Paneer (cottage Cheese). These veges or paneer are batter fried and served in spicy, tangy gravies that may resemble Chinese gravies but are clearly favoured and flavoured for the Indian palate. These gravies are an amalgamation of soya sauce, chilly sauce, a good dose of tomato ketchup, ginger, garlic and chilly and some more chilly.

From Kolkata to Mumbai and Ahmedabad to Allahabad , every city and small town in India caters to the Chinese food craze. From Chopsuey to Hakka noodles to Chilli fry to Spring rolls, its all there on the menu of street stalls and fancy restaurants. Chefs dish out their versions of Teriyaki, Manchirian, Cantonese, Thai and the general population is lapping it up and licking their bowls clean. They refuse to stop there…..as if embracing the Chinese cuisine and making it your own wasn’t enough now Indian fast food, Bhel and Dosas have a Chinese version as well. The humble Bhel ( a mix of puffed rice, crispy puries, onions, sev and tangy, sweet chutneys) has a Chinese brother (or sis), the Chinese Bhel – a concoction of crispy fried noodles, capsicum, onions, soya sauce and a red hot sauce that passes off as Schezwan. Any self respecting Chinese cook would commit suicide before he pronounced the dish as Chinese.

To get back to Gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian, I can say it’s a consolation prize for the vegetarian population who would otherwise miss out on the taste of China with a large helping of desi-ness. The cauli florets are batter fried to a crisp much like chicken or beef and then rolled in this very delectable, finger–licking sweet and sour gravy. Served with fried rice or noodles it ticks all the right boxes.

We Indians love to take a thing Phoren (foreign) and give it a Desi kiss and make it our own. Look, how we got the Big Mac to serve potato burgers and Paneer Wraps in India and see how the British are eating Chicken Tikka Masala (albeit their Anglicised version) by the ton. I am confident that in the light of the contribution made by the Indian Chefs to their rich heritage, the Chinese will soon declare Gobi Manchurian as their National Dish.

RECIPE

GOBI MANCHURIAN

For the Crispy fried Cauliflower

1 medium Cauliflower (approx 400 grmas)

½ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup cornflour

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon chilly flakes (optional)

1 egg white

Oil for deep frying

For the gravy

5 cloves garlic chopped (coarsely ground)

1’ piece of ginger chopped

1 fresh/ dried red chilly cut into 4 pieces

1 tablespoon oil

2-3 tblspoons dark soya sauce

1 tblspoon chilli sauce

3-4 tblspoons tomato ketchup

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon cornflour mixed in a tablespoon of water

finely chopped coriander and green onions to garnish

  • For the crispy fried Cauliflower: Wash and break the cauliflower into large florets. Sprinkle salt and keep aside.
  • In a deep bowl mix the flour, salt, chilly flakes and egg white with a whisk. Add water to make it into a thick coatable batter (almost like cream).
  • Heat oil in a deep pot. Lower the heat to medium. Dip the florets in the batter to coat evenly and fry them in oil to a golden brown. Once fried, let them drain on kitchen papers to absorb the excess oil.
  • For the gravy: measure out all the sauces, sugar and vinegar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar. Add 3 tblspoons water
  • In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of oil. Fry the ginger garlic and chilly on low heat for a few seconds. Add in the sauces and bring to a boil. Put off the heat.
  • Just before you serve, reheat and toss the florets in a non-stick pan to crisp them up a little bit. This will help to get rid of excess oil. Re-heat the sauce and add in the cornflour paste to thicken. If the sauce is thick without the paste eliminate the use of cornflour.
  • Add the cauliflower, stir to coat. Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and chopped coriander.
  • Serve with fried rice.

 

  • If you like more gravy feel free to double the gravy ingredients.

MINIMALISTIC MASALA POTATOES

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Hey there my Lovelies…wondering if I had fled the coop! Well, well I am back, yes back blogging but not in the same place, city or country. To cut a long story short I have moved …city, countries, homes. I am in Super organised, well-lined up, super super clean and extremely disciplined Singapore. Yes it’s a change from chaotic, buzzing, “I-don’t-know- What-hit-me” Mumbai, but its not that big a change, not like I have moved to the North Pole and have to live in an igloo and hunt down seals!!

So here I am living out of a service apartment with no baking equipment, no ingredients or tins. It’s like I have been banished from “bake-land”. I have here 2 pans and 3 pots and 2 knives and 3 tablespoons which double up as serving spoons. So whilst I await my 5 mixers, 20 whisks, a dozen bowls and 50 spatulas (LOL) I am literally living on the kitchen equivalent of a shoestring budget. I had the prudence to pack my masala essentials, though junior man was gunning for the plethora of food courts and restaurants that belt out these incredible aromas and food to match.

Never in my life have I cooked with so few ingredients/ masalas and yet have all dishes turning out surprisingly unique and tasty. There is a significant lesson for me out here, just because you have 10 spices lined up, doesn’t mean you have to use them all a few can do the job just fine. I am learning the art of “masala restraint”.

So in this cubby hole of a kitchen (why are there no spacious kitchens in Singapore? The answer lies in the wonderful food courts ), I decided to whip up some wholesome meals without the usual grumbling and hewing.

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Potatoes…. Since I haven’t yet chanced upon any Indian veges, potatoes are a staple and no ones complaining. My Minimalistic Potatoes are just what the name suggests, no curry leaves, hing (asofoetidia), no mustard seeds popping . Just green chillies, onions, garlic and a few masalas with a generous squeeze of lemon and parsley (coriander if you please). The boys are enjoying the Chinese and Japanese and Korean cuisine, I have no such luck as vegetarian food is not exactly their forte. Hence the aromas of my everyday cooking tide me over my home-sick taste buds.

Wherever I go, new home, new country, new people, new friends….no matter how much I miss home…. I am only as far from my home as my spice box.

RECIPE

Minimalistic Masala Potato

6 large potatoes (boiled till well done but not mushy)

1 large onion (cut into ½ cm cubes)

2 pods garlic chopped fine (almost minced)

1 green chilly cut into 3

2 tblspns oil

1tsp whole cumin

1 tsp. chilly powder

½ tsp Tumeric (haldi)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground Corriander seeds

1 tsp sugar

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt to taste

A fistful of coriander leaves chopped fine 

Once the potatoes are boiled, cool, peel and cut into cubes or roughly chop

Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add in the onion, garlic and chilly. Fry on a low flame till the onions change colour but do not brown. Add the spices and a tablespoon of water (to prevent them from burning)

Add in the potatoes =, salt, sugar and juice of ½ a lemon. Stir to coat the potato with the masala. Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander.

 

 

KOUIGN AMAAN- DARING KITCHEN CHALLENGE

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For those of you who don’t thing of bread beyond the yeasted dough or a breakfast toast and butter, here is a pastry from “bread-heaven”. A challenge to pronounce- Kwee-Ahmaan and a bigger challenge to control yourself from polishing it off in one go. Imagine the very French croissant’s coupling with buttery puff pastry and sweet Danish and voila! You have Kouign Amann- a round crusty pastry that originated in Brittany in the 1800s. History has it that a baker from a town of Douarnenez in the district of Finistère. in a desperate attempt to save a failed batch of bread dough added a significant amount of butter and sugar turning it into Kouign Amann. Bretons claim that the Kouign Amann is the “fattiest pastry in the world” (your thighs will hate you), its their answer to the Parisian Croissant.

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The process involves making yeasted dough, resting it, beating down chilled butter to a flat, thin layer and encasing it in the dough. It is crucial for the success of the KA to keep the butter chilled at all times, as this is what forms those sugary sheets of fluff. Active time is barely 45 minutes but the resting and chilling can take up most part of your day. I always use cling film to line my counter when rolling and folding the dough. This serves a dual purpose, less mess and since the dough can get sticky and difficult, the film helps to lift it off the surface and fold. Wrap the dough in the same cling film and chill. This way I can carry on with my other mundane chores without having to constantly clean up the counter.

These buns are irresistible, flaky like puff pastry on the outside revealing soft layers of fluffy bread with every bite. I can promise you one is never enough. The filling can be anything from chocolate chip, nuts to Nuttela. I stuck with my favourite- sugar and cinnamon. This is rich, rich, buttery and mildly sweet and doesn’t need anymore fat or fancy but I will leave you to decide. A large mug of tea and a tray of these buns is enough to ruin any hopes you had of getting into those shorts this summer (LOL). As I sweat it out on the treadmill a large poster with a bikini bod reads, “Workout till you are proud of yourself”…… ha …Ha..it will take a lot of workout for me to be proud!!

RECIPE

KOUIGN AMAAN

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

300 grams strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp instant yeast OR 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

200ml warm water

25g / 1 ¾ Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

250grams cold unsalted butter, in a block

75 grams caster sugar,(mixed with ½ tsp cinnamon, plus extra sugar for sprinkling

  • Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes. Can be made by your good old hands too. NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first.
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.
  • Sandwich the butter between two sheets of grease-proof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm / 5½” square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm / 8” square. Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
  • Roll the dough into a 45 x 15cm / 18 x 6” rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.
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  • Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.
  • Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40 x 30cm / 16 x 12” rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with additional caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.
  • Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with additional caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.
  •  Preheat oven to 220°C / 200°C (fan). Bake the pastries for 30 – 40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.
  • Serve warm or cold.

MINI QUICHE (Spinach and Corn)

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My lunch girls, have been clamouring for an afternoon out for ages. Without meaning to be pricey I must have withdrawn from my lunch and /or coffee engagements; reasons ranging from fatigue to flat tyres ………… eventually they threw up their hands in despair and like good chums decided to plonk themselves in my living room (no permission asked or appointment taken). How nice is that….they could have kicked me out of the lunch group instead. Oh they were decent enough to give me a 2 day notice with strict instructions not to slave in the kitchen, a cup of tea and digestives would be great. Cup of tea and sweetened saw-dust for my girls?? I would have heard a few disappointed murmurs at a later date. The weather being the way it is, tea was out. Cold coffee and Lamingtons and my mini quiches sounded just the thing to please my “care two hoots for the waist line when good food is around” friends.image

Spending a morning with your girlfriends is one of the few pleasures of life. Nothing beats chatting aimlessly, venting your ire, crying over a bad haircut, discussing your mean teenager and using politically wrong language without being judged, without a harsh opinion or comment. On the contrary girls are so full of praise for your catty comments, they verbalise so many “oohs”, “aahs” and “yes you should have kicked his ….”, and then there are so many hugs going around for being brave, mean, greedy, lazy and all the other uncalled for behaviour. Where your male soul mate would just say “hmmm”, “oh”, “ok”, the female counterparts are so much superior in their efforts to make you feel wonderful, loved, beautiful and on top of the world. All it takes is cold coffee, lamingtons and quiche!!

Carried away with my unexpected morning affair!! Let me get to the Quiche on hand. Simply short crust pastry, spinach and corn filling and cream, eggs and nutmeg. Obviously there is a twist…..I flavoured the pastry dough with garlic powder and oregano (you pick your spices.) The cases were lined with thinly sliced gruyere (go ahead and use cheese slices, its so much easier). My recipe for the pastry makes the dough quite crumbly and difficult to handle, if you have a recipe which you are comfortable with go ahead. The quiche is light, healthy (I like to believe so) and the right accompaniment with the cold coffee. No fuss cutting it and the eternal embarrassment of the pastry falling off the filling. (LOL)

Life couldn’t be happier or simpler, a group of chatty, nutty, emotional females, sitting with their feet up on the chairs, sipping coffee without counting the calories, eating with their fingers, not bothering about my unwashed hair and flour dusted Tee, laughing, raving and ranting about their blessed life and promising to start the diet after the last bite of Quiche.

 

RECIPE

SPINACH AND CORN MINI QUICHES

MAKES 12

PLAIN SHORTCRUST PASTRY

250 grams plain flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon dried oregano (any other herb will do)

125 grams chilled butter, chopped

1 egg yolk

3-4 tablespoons cold water

  • Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add in the garlic powder and oregano and mix. Add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until crumbly.
  • Combine the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Add to the flour mix. Cut with a knife to form a dough, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together gently to form a dough. I find it very handy to turn out the dough onto a plastic wrap and bring it together with the help of the wrap, wrap it tightly and then gently press it together to form a dough ball. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
  • Roll out the pastry between two sheets of plastic wraps or grease proof paper. Using a plain cutter or a jar cap cut rounds of the pastry to fit 12 cupcake tins. If the dough breaks in places, patch it up with little bits of dough.
  • Refrigerate while making the filling.

 

FILLING

50 grams Gruyere/ strong cheddar/ cheddar slices

1 tablespoon butter/ Olive oil

1 medium sized onion finely chopped

1 cup spinach, shredded

1/2 cup steamed corn

2 eggs

200 ml cream

50 ml milk

Freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 190oC

  • In a pan melt butter with a dash of oil. Fry onions on low heat until tender. Add the spinach and corn. Continue stirring on low to mediun heat until the spinach wilts and any extra moisture dries up. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Remove the dough lined cupcake tins from the refrigerator. Line the bases with the cheese slices. Divide the spinach and corn mix between the 12 cases
  • In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, pepper and nutmeg. Laddle the cream- egg mix into the pastry shells.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned and set. Serve hot.

KATMER PIE

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Another regional pie for us from the Daring Kitchen (yes Daring Bakers’ has been re-christened Daring Kitchen, much to my disappointment.)

The host for this month Milkica from Mimi’s Kingdom decided to challenge us with a traditional Serbian Katmer pie. Katmer pie originates from southern parts of Serbia. It is traditionally filled with cheese, meat, leeks pumpkin, combination of cheese and Swiss Chard or spinach. The filling can be sweet or savoury but the crust remains the same. She challenged us to get creative filling the pie with whatever took our fancy. It is not the filling which caught my attention or got me excited but it was the pastry.

It’s a traditional type of puff pastry. This type of dough is made with lard instead of butter and is much simpler than puff pastry. This pastry is made as it was in the olden days. It’s a much simpler version of puff pastry that we are used to making and that’s the part of the challenge that I enjoyed the most. The pastry dough is wonderfully stretchy and easy to handle which makes the process a whole lot less frustrating! No butter or fat seeping out of the edges. On baking its supposed to flake, though mine was rolled out quite thick yet it did not flake as much as I would have liked it to. It was a little tough on the teeth a few hours later, but that could be because I stinged on the fat. Another “tradition” I did not follow was using lard. I used ghee instead. Maybe I didn’t rest it in between rollings…there was a good recipe that I did not get right and after the work I put in, my spirits drooped a little.

The proportions given by Mimi were large enough to feed my neighbourhood so I halved them. For the filling I made savoury cottage cheese scattered with nuts and raisins. Since the pastry was tough in a few places my teen and I practically scooped out the filling and ate it as is. (LOL). Don’t ask what I did with the pastry. I could have easily said “Oh the pie was a success…ten on ten…yummm….delicious….will make it again” but honestly it was one of my failed projects. The crusty pastry was really a struggle to eat and too chewy. It was a pity I couldn’t get it right, though I enjoyed the process immensely.

So dear friends I am going to give you Milkica’s recipe as is and if one of you can figure out where I went wrong, you know where to find me! Till then “Doviđenja” (doh vee-JEH-nyah)

KATMER PIE

Recipe-DOUGH

Servings: One large pie baked in a dish approximately 8×8” (Serves 4)

2 cups spooned & scraped / 250g all-purpose (plain) flour

½ teaspoon salt 150-175ml warm water

More all-purpose (plain) flour for dusting

2 – 3 tablespoons / 30 – 45g soft lard/ Ghee/ Butter

  • Measure all purpose flour, warm water and salt.
  • Put lard/ ghee/ butter in a small bowl and leave in a warm place
  • Mix all ingredients except lard in glass bowl and knead to form a soft dough.
  • Transfer dough on a floured surface and knead it a little until you achieve elastic, but soft dough. Use additional flour if required to make a smooth, soft dough.
  • Divide dough into six equal pieces and shape every piece into a round ball. Leave them to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using a rolling pin roll every piece of dough into a flat, round shape, approximately 1/8” / 3 – 4mm thick. Divide pieces in two groups of three. Brush first piece of dough with melted lard and cover with another piece of dough. Brush second piece of dough with lard and cover with third piece. Do not brush this third piece of dough with lard! Repeat the same with another three pieces of dough.
  • You will have two piles of dough (rounds, placed on top of each other). Leave them again to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Roll every pile using rolling pin into round shape, approximately 1/4 – 1/3” / 5 – 8mm thick.
  • Using sharp knife make eight cuts around the formed circle (see picture).
  • Brush surface with melted lard/ fat of your preference
  • Fold brushed, cut petals onto the centre part of dough (see picture).
  • Continue until you fold all eight of them.
  • Turn the dough so the folded parts are underneath. Do the same with another pile of dough. Leave both pieces of dough to rest until you prepare the filling.
  • Once the filling is prepared and cooled turn on your oven on 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Roll one of the pieces of dough on lightly floured surface into large, square or rectangular shape to fit your baking tin.
  • Transfer layer of dough on baking tin brushed with melted lard.
  • Arrange your filling all over the first layer of dough.
  • Roll out the other piece of dough and transfer it to baking tin, covering filling completely. Press edges with your fingers to stick together.

 

  • Brush surface of pie with melted lard.
  • Cut whole pie into small square pieces. Bake pie in preheated oven around 30-40 minutes until deep golden in colour.

Recipe- Filling

200 grams cottage cheese

1 small onion diced

Small or 1/2 Bell peppers (red & yellow) diced

1 green chilly chopped or 1/2 tsp chilly flakes)

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons butter

50 grams Cheddar Cheese grated (optional)

  • Fry the onions in butter till they change colour.
  • Add in the bell peppers, chillies. Sautee on medium heat for a minute.
  • Add in the cottage cheese (broken into rough pieces). Season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly, breaking any large pieces of cottage cheese as you stir. Put off the heat. Add in cheddar cheese and mix.
  • Cool slightly and the filling is ready to use.