Pistachio Milk Cake | Regal Endings



The night before Ramadan began this year, I went out with my friends for dinner. We meet up once a month taking turns to pick our restaurants and last month it was Vietnamese fare. We tucked into roast Chicken with Bao buns, duck breast grilled and dunked in Hoisin sauce and shared an enormous bowl of Pho that my friend insisted we try and still couldn’t finish it completely. I really wanted to go all out on dessert and the menu didn’t quite impress. We were in Downtown and decided to walk towards Dubai Mall just for dessert. We bounced ideas and settled on the dessert everyone has a version of, the Milk Cake. It was close to 11 pm and the cafe was almost full and we were lucky to snag a corner. Knowing long hours of fasting begin the next day and to satiate sugar cravings that seemed to have risen during the walk, we ordered a Classic Milk cake and a sizzling Brownie accompanied with of scoops Vanilla ice cream drowning in chocolate sauce. Milk cakes have been doing the rounds for quite some time in Dubai, and this was the second one I was trying. While we took turns with our spoons from different sides, I decided that this years’ Eid recipe on my blog has to be Milk Cake.

Now this isn’t the first time I would be sharing one on my blog. I made and shared the Latin American Tres Leche with a twist of Coconut milk and Mango cream 7 (omg wow!) years ago when it was still unheard of. It was in the early years of my marriage when I’ve spent many an afternoon watching Food Network. A genoise sponge is baked, poked and prodded at on the surface and made to soak an emulsion of three milks. I added a little tweak of pureed mangoes to the whipped cream. It tasted wonderful but the cream was more soft than stiff peaks and I was not too proud of how it looked. I have gained some baking skills over these years which is why I felt recreating it would be a little easier once I had seen and tasted one from a dessert parlor.

It comes as no surprise that I wanted to try a Pistachio version. Unlike chocolate or fruit-based dessert, where guests like either one or the other, Pistachio is what I fall back on knowing it will please everyone. I made a note to test a recipe and how it’s received at one of the Iftars’ I would host for family. Truth be told, it’s just the right dessert to feed larger groups of people. You can prepare it a day before where it will chill (I just had to) in the refrigerator right until sweetened cream has been whipped and smothered on top to serve. Why I thought of Pistachio is because I had an opened jar of Pistachio Paste waiting to be used in the refrigerator. However, there wasn’t enough for a cake for 14 of us. Or maybe it was enough, but I wasn’t settling for mild flavors. To compensate, I ground Pistachios not completely sure of how it would be. I couldn’t replicate the emerald green color of my fine pistachio paste but it delivered on an almost identical taste. The three milks, so to speak, used are Evaporated Milk, Condensed milk and Whole Milk. The texture of the milk was slightly thicker when I tried it at the restaurant so I decided I would use Half and Half. If you can’t find that, you just need to replace half the volume of whole milk with whipping cream. I combined the ground pistachio paste directly into the milk mixture before pouring it over the Genoise.To add a little finesse to the presentation, I piped the whipping cream using a nozzle over the cake and then covered it with Pistachio dust. 

When I shared my finished cake, so many of you reached out asking for the recipe. I guess I saved the best for the last. I even went ahead and made a Mango milk cake using freshly pureed mangoes and then topping the whipped cream with a lusciously golden Mango curd. Take your pick. I promise either won’t disappoint at your Eid lunch. 



Pistachio Milk Cake

Cake recipe barely adapted from Yoga of Cooking

INGREDIENTS 

Cake

  • Eggs – 5

  • Sugar – ¾ cup

  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp 

  • All Purpose Flour – 1 cup, sifted

  • Baking powder – 1 tsp

  • Salt – a pinch

Milk Mixture 

  • Evaporated milk – 1 cup

  • Condensed Milk – 1 cup 

  • Heavy Cream – ½ cup

  • Full Fat Milk – ¾ cup

  • Pistachios – 150 g

Topping

  • Heavy Cream OR Whipping Cream – 2 cup

  • Sugar – 3 Tbsp

  • Powdered Pistachio – as desired.

METHOD

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.

  • Grease and flour an 9×13 inch sheet pan OR ceramic dish.

  • Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks.

  • Using a stand mixer OR hand held beater, whisk the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth and double in volume.

  • Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.

  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. 

  • Fold this sifted mixture into the whipped egg yolk mixture. Be gentle and make sure you do not over mix. 

  • Clean and dry the stand mixer bowl OR a glass bowl. 

  • Pour a drop of vinegar into this bowl and spread it with a kitchen towel.

  • Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high, until stiff peaks form and the mixture looks foamy. This will take about 4-5 minutes,

  • Gently fold in the egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture.

  • Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or till the top is golden.

  • Let cool completely before proceeding with the milk mixture.

Milk Mixture

  • Place the pistachios in a food processor.

  • Grind the pistachios on a medium speed for 5 minutes. It will resemble very thick peanut butter.

  • Using a silicone spatula, stir the paste and wipe down the paste from the processor back into the middle.

  • Process for another 5 minutes on medium speed.

  • Stir and wipe down and blend again for 5 minutes one last time.

  • The paste should be very smooth and the oils of the pistachios should have released.

  • If you feel the paste can get smoother, continue processing in 2 minute intervals till the consistency is right.

  • In a large bowl or jar, use a whisk to combine all the milk mixture ingredients together.

  • Add in the pistachio paste and whisk thoroughly till it is a homogenous mixture

  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY

  • Using a skewer OR a fork, poke ( a million!) holes into the top of the cake.

  • Set aside 1/2 cup of milk mixture.

  • Gently pour a part the remaining milk mixture on top of the cake.

  • Make sure you don’t miss the corners of the cake.

  • Wait for the surface to absorb it briefly.

  • Once it looks a bit dry (2 minutes), pour a little more of the milk mixture.

  • Continue this process for the remaining milk mixture.

  • Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours.

  • Check if the milk has been absorbed completely.

  • If it has, you will be able to see the cake surface. Pour half of the milk mixture that was set aside.

  • If it has not been absorbed completely, you will see the liquid on the surface. DO NOT pour any additional milk mixture.

  • Refrigerate the covered cake overnight OR at least 10 hours.

TO SERVE

  • Whip the heavy cream and sugar in a clean, dry bowl till stiff peaks form.

  • Be careful not to over beat because the cream will curdle.

  • Using a silicone spatula, spread the whipped cream on surface making sure it is smooth and even on all sides.

  • Sprinkle powdered pistachios generously all over the cake,

  • Cut the cake and gently transfer to serving bowls.

  • Divide and pour the remaining milk mixture into the bowls.

NOTES

  • I piped the whipping cream using a pastry bag an open star tip nozzle for a good finish. This is completely optional.

  • If you’re halving the recipe, you must use 3 eggs. The remaining ingredients can be halved.

  • The amount of milk the cake absorbs depends completely on the baking pan the cake is made in. When I used a rectangular one, it absorbed better in comparison to the cake made using halved ingredients recipe in a square pan.

  • If the milk does not absorb, it will be difficult to spread the whipping cream on top.

Have a good food day.

Mango Milk Cake | Seasonal Delights



Ramadan is undoubtedly, the busiest time on my blog. I have been lying low throughout the year but closer to Ramadan, I feel obliged to shoot and share recipes for my table and yours. I almost always start planning with dessert for the day of Eid and then work my way backwards. This year I made a Pistachio Milk cake for an Iftar I hosted for my cousins and was inundated with requests to share the recipe. There were a few ideas that didn’t make it beyond the testing stage on the blog and I felt I had to make it up for it with more dessert. Given that we’ve been blessed with the season of mangoes coinciding with the month of fasting, it made perfect sense to try my hand at making a refreshingly light milk cake that would make for a sweet ending after generous servings of celabratory Biriyani.



The Milk Cake is in essence a Tres Leche cake. This Latin American dessert starts with baking a Genoise sponge. Eggs are separated and while the yolks are whisked with sugar to a ribbony stage, the whites are beaten till glossy and five times its volumes. They’re both gently folded with flour and baked just until golden. To get an idea of how airy and light is is, gently press the sides once it is out of the oven. It springs right back after contact and makes an animating squishy sound. There’s a reason why it should be this light so I would suggest keeping it away from toddler fingers that may want to have a bit too much fun making some noise and upsetting the delicate structure of the cake.



Tres Leche means ‘Three Milk’ and that’s what the cake was made for. The air bubbles entrapped accommodates the liquid generously without collapsing. Traditionally, It is usually a mixture of Evaporated Milk, Condensed Milk and either whole milk or heavy cream. Given I made this recipe before, I found combining the milk and heavy cream in equal amounts for the last component made the texture I was looking for. It is slightly thicker than the usual consistency which makes it ideal for tha addition below.





When I made Mango Tres Leche years ago, the recipe called for blended mango cubes to be added while whipping the cream. I’m not sure whether it was the extra liquid or my inability to recognize if the cream had been whipped to soft peaks, the result was mango cream that didn’t quite hold it’s shape. Mind you, it tasted indulgent especially after it was chilled. However it took away from the presentation you associate with a Tres Leches dessert. For this reason, while recipe testing I decided to add the pureed mangoes directly into the milk mixture. This way the genoise sponge would absorb and hold the flavor of Alphonso much better than it being combined to whipped cream.



It takes just a few firm whisks to incorporate the puree completely into the milk mixture. It does have to meld completely otherwise the lumps could create ‘drainage’ issues by preventing the liquid to be absorbed into the cake.



This is probably one cake where you don’t have to worry about bumps or cracks on the surface because you’re going to be punching tiny holes. Fair warning, it starts off quite satisfyingly while you badger the surface with a skewer and then slowly borders on cumbersome to make sure every inch has been punctured enough to make way of the liquid that will be poured and to initiate the absorption stage. This is imperative to the final texture of the milk cake. It’s a little fascinating to see how the genoise just about holds its shape when being cut despite being drenched in liquid. I actually like to pour the milk a little at a time to note how quickly the cake is absorbing the liquid. When I made Pistachio Milk cake, it was for a larger group and I baked it into a rectangular pan. The milk mixture soaked through completely in an hour and I was relieved I set aside some to pour more on top. The genoise for this cake was baked in a square ceramic dish. I noted that the liquid was absorbed relatively slower in terms of time and I had more milk mixture remaining. This isn’t a problem because you can refrigerate it and pour it directly into the serving bowl and place your cut cake in the middle. Alphonso is rich when it comes to flavor and it mellows the sweetness from the condensed milk. I help myself to any liquid remaining in the bowl and it’s precisely for this reason I added the puree directly to combined milk.



The reason why it is so important that the liquid drains into the cake completely is because of the next step. The cake will be chilled in the refrigerator over night and about an hour before it is served, it will be topped with heavy cream, sweetened and whipped to soft peaks . Should there be any liquid stagnant on the top of the cake, it makes it difficult for the whipping cream to adhere to the surface and there’s very chance it will slide off. There’s no need to fret should this be the case. You can drain any extra milk on the surface and then proceed to spreading the whipping cream. I like using my offset spatula to spread and smoothen it allover the cake but a silicon spatula or even a butter knife will do the job well. Take care to get the cream even to the edges and especially to make sure it is of the same height all over. The difference, if any, will become obvious when it is cut so it’s one more thing to take a little time to perfect.





When you look at milk cake versions available in Dubai, you’ll find almost always find some element resting on clouds of whipped cream to let you know what flavor you’ll be digging into. Strands of saffron, dried rose buds and biscoff sauce are a few of the many versions you’d find. So when I thought of making mango milk cake, how I would top the whipping cream to indicate so had me thinking. You wait an entire year for these sunshine yellow mangoes to start appearing in your supermarket aisles that it seems a shame not to literally squeeze all possible options to incorporate them in summery desserts. Given my poor knife skills and little patience, slivering the flesh to make roses was what I would have loved but I know that’s not happening.. That’s when I thought of testing a very simple Mango curd that’s going to come handy not just in this dessert but also great to have (literally) chilling in the refrigerator for sandwiching cake layers or filling cupcake cores. I know making any sort of fruit curd from scratch is a little tricky when eggs are involved. It also poses an issue about longevity and I didn’t know how long it would keep well. I looked up a few eggless curd versions and found one and adjusted it ever so slightly to make this velvety smooth Mango curd that would rest beautifully on top of the whipped cream.

Now if Mango is not something you fancy, I have a Pistachio Milk Cake you could try. I’m being completely honest, as much as I love my mangoes, Pistachios in dessert (gelato especially!) is my true weakness and that’s only if I am forced to choose. The Genoise sponge drenched in cool mango flavored milk with decadent layers of whipped cream and lush Mango curd makes for a beautiful dessert to end your celebratory Eid lunch. And if you’re baking it to take to your family gathering, cut yourself a slice and have it waiting for you at the end of the day. You will thank me later.



Mango Milk Cake

Cake recipe barely adapted from Yoga of Cooking.

INGREDIENTS 

Cake

  • Eggs – 5

  • Sugar – ¾ cup

  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp 

  • All Purpose Flour – 1 cup, sifted

  • Baking powder – 1 tsp

  • Salt – a pinch

Milk Mixture 

  • Evaporated milk – 1 cups

  • Condensed Milk – 1 cup 

  • Fresh pureed Mango Pulp – ¾ cup

  • Heavy Cream – ½ cup

  • Full Fat Milk – ¾ cup

Topping

  • Mango Curd – optional. Click here for the recipe.

  • Heavy Cream OR Whipping Cream – 2 cups

  • Sugar – 3 Tbsp

METHOD

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.

  • Grease and flour an 9×13 inch sheet pan OR ceramic dish.

  • Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks.

  • Using a stand mixer OR hand held beater, whisk the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth and double in volume.

  • Transfer the mixture to a separate bowl.

  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. 

  • Fold this sifted mixture into the whipped egg yolk mixture. Be gentle and make sure you do not over mix. 

  • Clean and dry the stand mixer bowl OR a glass bowl. 

  • Pour a drop of vinegar into this bowl and spread it with a kitchen towel.

  • Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high, until stiff peaks form and the mixture is glossy. This will take about 4-5 minutes,

  • Gently fold in the egg whites into the egg yolk and flour mixture.

  • Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 18-20 minutes or till the top is golden.

  • Let cool completely before proceeding with the milk mixture.

Milk Mixture

  • In a large bowl or jar, use a whisk to combine all the milk mixture ingredients together.

  • Add in the mango pulp and whisk again till it is smooth and no lumps remain.

  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY

  • Using a skewer OR a fork, poke ( a million!) holes into the top of the cake.

  • Set aside 1 cup of milk mixture.

  • Gently pour a part the remaining milk mixture on top of the cake.

  • Make sure you don’t miss the corners of the cake.

  • Wait for the surface to absorb it briefly.

  • Once it looks a bit dry (2 minutes), pour a little more of the milk mixture.

  • Continue this process for the remaining milk mixture.

  • Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours.

  • Check if the milk has been absorbed completely.

  • If it has, you will be able to see the cake surface. Pour half of the milk mixture that was set aside.

  • If it has not been absorbed completely, you will see the liquid on the surface. DO NOT pour any additional milk mixture.

  • Refrigerate the covered cake overnight OR at least 10 hours.

TO SERVE

  • Whip the heavy cream and sugar in a clean, dry bowl till stiff peaks form.

  • Be careful not to over beat because the cream will curdle.

  • If you’re piping decorations, set aside a little whipped cream.

  • Using a silicone spatula, spread the whipped cream on the surface making sure it is smooth and even on all sides.

  • IF you’re topping with mango curd, keep a glass of hot water, a kitchen towel and a butter knife OR an offset spatula ready at hand.

  • Spoon the curd on top of the cake.

  • Dip the butter knife in the hot water, wipe it with the towel and smoothen the mango curd over the whipped cream. The heat from the knife will make smooth the curd, which is thicker in texture, across the whipped cream.

  • Repeat the above process, till the mango curd covers the whipping cream.

  • Fit an icing bag with desired nozzle and spoon the set aside whipped cream.

  • Pipe designs around the perimeter of the cake.

  • Cut the cake and gently transfer to serving bowls.

  • Divide and pour the remaining milk mixture into the bowls,

  • You can pipe more whipped cream designs if you’d like. Totally up to you.

NOTES

  • If you’re halving the recipe, you must use 3 eggs. The remaining ingredients can be halved exactly.

  • The amount of milk the cake absorbs depends completely on the baking pan the cake is made in. When I used a rectangular one, it absorbed better in comparison to the cake made using halved ingredients recipe in a square pan.

  • If the milk does not absorb, it will be difficult to spread the whipping cream on top.

  • Should there be excess liquid for whatever reason after refrigerating overnight, tilt the pan slightly and drain the milk that is on top of the surfac
    e.

Fresh Mango Curd {Eggless!}



For the past few years, Ramadan has been arriving in the peak of Dubai summers. The golden lining, if I may say so, is the influx of seasonal mangoes from the Indian subcontinent. They’ll slowly start appearing, tart, green and far from the ripening stage in the early days of May. Towards the end of the month, the color lightens revealing tints of yellow and before you know it the aisles of the supermarket will be hosting Mango ‘festivals’ where you get to pick and choose from over a dozen varieties that have arrived across the breadth of these countries. Rajapuri, Mallika and Malgova from the southern coastal areas, Alphonso and Kesar from the western parts and Chaunsa and Sindhri from across the border. I gravitate towards Badami and undoubtedly the most popular one, Alphonso.

Interestingly, it was during the Portuguese colonization that grafting of mango trees were introduced to produce varieties like Alphonso. No doubt, it is one of the most prized exports from India when they are in season. I’m still learning how to peel mangoes without disturbing the flesh bursting with sweetness that lies underneath. They’re cut, pureed, blended and treated in every other way possible till they slowly start changing colors again and you know this season has come to an end. One of my recipes in time for Eid, is a Mango milk cake and I was wondering how to use them once clouds of whipped cream top a delicate cake drenched in milk flavored with freshly pureed mangoes. When blended it is a bit runny in consistency and I needed something slightly thicker. That’s when the idea of Mango Curd came to mind. I did know that I had to keep the technique egg less reminiscing a batch of Lemon curd that never saw the light of the day amidst scrambled bits. Pureed mango is combined with a cornstarch slurry that will help it thicken with a little heat. The addition of tart Lime juice cuts through the sweetness and the addition of butter thats stirred at the end renders a velvety smooth curd.



The best part is there is so much you can do with one little jar. Core cupcakes, pour in some curd and pipe Raspberry buttercream on top. Make thumbprint cookies and spoon some more in the middle right before they’re baked. Make blind baked or even chilled tart shills and fill them with more curd. Top your overnight oatmeal that you’d have for Suhoor or slather a little on a slice of warm toast for a quick little indulgence on the morning of Eid. Of course, you can always make this for what I intended originally, a decadent Mango milk cake. Without eggs, they will keep well a little more longer in the refrigerator although I’m pretty certain you won’t have trouble finishing a jar of these.



Eggless Mango Curd

Recipe adapted from Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

  • Freshly Pureed mango pulp – ¾ cup

  • Sugar – 5 tsp (optional)

  • Butter – 2 Tbsp

  • Lime juice – 1 Tbsp

  • Corn Starch – 2 Tbsp

  • Water – 2 Tbsp

METHOD

  • Add the lemon juice to the mango puree and stir well.

  • Pour this into a thick bottomed sauce pan.

  • Whisk the corn starch and water in a glass thoroughly. It should be completely free of lumps.

  • Add this to the saucepan and stir.

  • Heat this mixture on a low flame.

  • Constantly stir the mixture to prevent lumps from forming.

  • The curd will start getting thicker and creamy.

  • If you have a candy thermometer, it should read 166-170 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Test the curd and check if it is sweet enough. If not, add sugar up to a teaspoon at a time. Stir and taste again before adding more.

  • Turn the heat to simmer and add butter one tbsp at a time.

  • Stir the curd gently till all the butter has melted.

  • Take the sauce pan off heat and pour the curd in to a glass jar or a bowl.

  • Place cling film directly on the surface to prevent skin from forming.

  • Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or till set.

  • Use it within 5 days.

Have a good food day.

Curry Chicken Puffs | Crumbs on my fingertips



During the early years of my marriage when we used to live with my husbands’ parents, these Curry Puffs were was a recipe I earned brownie points with. Prior to my arrival, these were not made at home. For me these curry Puffs were a staple for Iftar, growing up, especially when we had cousins over. For this reason, these were one of the first recipes I could make from scratch independently. Cubed chicken is marinated briefly with spices and a dash of lemon and cooked and shredded. Onions are caramelized alongside garlic and ginger paste, chillies for heat and a little more spices are added before the chicken is mixed in for the filling. It has all the ingredients you would use in a good chicken curry except for whole tomatoes to keep the filling dry. With the notion of the table has to be filled with favourites when entertaining for Iftar, these would almost always by my contribution.

When I would go back to Kerala for the summer holidays, we were (literally) dragged to visit endless family members. My father actually had a plan in writing with dates against each area and the number of houses we were to visit in the span of two weeks he would be in Kerala. One of the things that made it less daunting for my 8 years and older self, was the prospect of being offered tea. After the customary chit-chat including weather, date of arrival and departure and exchanging notes of milestones from the year gone by, we would be called into the dining room which would have at least four, if not more, plates of nibbles waiting. Some houses knew we would be arriving beforehand and the spread on the table would be more elaborate with piping hot fried snacks which almost always included Pazham Pori, Kerala’s household Plaintain fritter. Some of the things you’d find on the table would be peanut and pea laden fried mixture, Jackfruit or Plantain chips, (orange) sweet cream filled biscuits accompanied with glasses of Tang for the children. This was easily close to two decades ago where most snacks were still made from scratch in every household and very few people bought form bakeries. In fact, ‘bakery items’, as they’re referred to, were mostly found in houses where a family member either worked or owned a bakery. On both my parents side, there were relatives in the immediate family that did so which meant these were the houses were one could expect flower shaped Tea cakes and Chicken Puffs. I distinctly remember that they’re referred to in plural. ‘Puffs idukku’ meant help yourself to a piece. Kissan ketchup, which was a shade brighter and much more sweeter than what we had in Dubai, would be squeezed on to your plate and I’d slowly break it apart with my fingers and making sure I didn’t drop pastry flakes on to the tabletop.

Back in Dubai, close to my teenage years, frozen puff pastry started appearing in the frozen section of the supermarket. There was one particular year that they were seen at every Iftar we were invited to and would be made at ours. Slowly, chicken made way to meat, fish and even sweeter fruit fillings. 

In all honesty, I prefer Egg stuffed ones to Chicken. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, this was a constant craving in the second trimester. More than the egg, the satisfaction was when flaky pastry would crumble and melt in your mouth and the butteriness slowly appears. Making Puff Pastry has been on my list for a very long time. But until, then store bought works just as well. Given they are very common, I underestimate how much they are appreciated and am proven wrong every time they are served. This is one of the dishes where there is a polite hustle and back and forth for the last piece remaining. Don’t tell anyone, I always keep a few hidden in the oven for later.

Curry Chicken Puffs

INGREDIENTS

Chicken Mince

  • Chicken  breast – 500 g

  • Ginger garlic paste – 1 Tbsp

  • Red chilli powder – 1 ½ tsp

  • Turmeric Powder – ¾ tsp

  • Garam Masala – ¾ tsp

  • Ground pepper – 1 tsp

  • Salt – to taste

  • Lemon juice – 2 tsp

Filling

  • Onions – 2 medium

  • Ginger Garlic paste – 2 Tbsp

  • Green chillies – 2-3 to taste

  • Red Chilli powder – 1 tsp

  • Coriander powder – 1 ½ tsp

  • Turmeric Powder – ¾ tsp

  • Garam Masala – ¾ tsp

  • Coriander leaves – a fistful

  • Boiled Potoates – 1 (optional)

  • Butter – 1 tbsp, cubed

  • Salt – to taste

  • Coconut Oil – as needed

  • Frozen Puff Pastry squares – Thawed for 30 minutes

  • Egg – 1

METHOD

  • Cut the chicken breast into cubes and wash thoroughly.

  • Mix all the spice powders, ginger garlic paste, pepper, lemon juice and salt together.

  • Rub the above mixture into the chicken cubes and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. 

  • Heat a little coconut oil on medium-high heat.

  • Fry the chicken cubes stirring frequently.

  • The water from the chicken will start releasing.

  • Continue cooking the chicken till the water has evaporated. 

  • Using a spatula, shred the chicken in the pan while it is still warm or once it is completely cool, shred the chicken in a blender with not more than 3 second pulses.

Filling

  • Thinly slice onions and green chillies.

  • Chop coriander leaves finely.

  • If adding potato, cut the boiled potatoes into small cubes.

  • Heat coconut oil on low heat.

  • Fry the onions till they start turning brown.

  • Add ginger garlic paste and sauté well for a minute.

  • Add sliced chillies and sauté again.

  • Add the spice powders and mix well.

  • Add coriander leaves and sauté again.

  • Add in chicken mince and mix making sure the caramelized onion and spice mixtu
    re blends well.

  • Add half a tablespoon of melted coconut oil and mix well.

  • If adding potato, tip in cubed potatoes and sauté gently so that the potatoes don’t mash and break.

  • Turn down the heat to simmer and put the cubed butter on top of the mixture.

  • Cover the saucepan and let the butter melt. This should take about two minutes.

Assembly

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade.

  • Prepare a sheet pan or a baking dish with Parchment paper.

  • Beat the egg well.

  • Take a pastry square and spoon mixture on one half.

  • Fold the empty pastry side through the middle over the mixture.

  • Using light pressure, press the edges together using your finger tips.

  • Using a fork tip, press the edges lightly to seal it completely.

  • Brush egg wash over the top part of the pastry.

  • Place on the parchment paper leaving an inch between each filled pastry.

  • Bake the pastry for 25 minutes.

  • Check if the top has turned golden. If it hasn’t bake till it does checking in 5 minute increments.

  • Once they’ve turned golden, flip the pastries very carefully (don’t burn your hands!).

  • Bake for an additional 10 minutes and then switch off the oven.

  • Let it rest inside for 10 minutes before taking out.

  • Serve warm with ketchup.

NOTES ON VARIATIONS:

Egg: Prepare the Onion filling according to recipe above. Add boiled eggs that have been halved through the middle and gently toss till its coated in the Masala. It needs extra care while folding because it is bulkier.

Fish: Substitute chicken for canned tuna or Kingfish fillet in the recipe for chicken filling above. Proceed with the remaining recipe.

Red Meat: I would recommend cooking red meat either in a press cooker or slow cooked till the meat falls apart from the bone. Chunkier meat would make folding thawed pastry a bit difficult.

Have a good food day. 

Cheesy Jalapeno Croquettes | Gooey Goodness



In a household where at least one fried dish is expected for Iftar, you’re constantly looking for new options. Kerala has plenty of fried food options and breaded Cutlets and Samosas stuffed and filled with meat are a staple on most tables. My home is no different and we have some form of fried dish almost every day for my husband. It’s mostly boiled egg, spicy Potato masala or thinly sliced onions dipped in Gram flour batter and fried till gold and crisp. These options are rotated throughout the week and he’s content with the options. On the other hand, I look out for new recipes that are a bit different from the usual Malayali fanfare. Last year, I was introduced to these Mozzarella stuffed Potato Croquettes. I added one little tweak and it’s now one of my go-to recipes when entertaining family members for Iftar.



I had these for the first time at my dear friend’s house last year when she hosted us for Iftar. I use the word host because her table setting is nothing short of elaborate (Royal Albert on steroids I kid you not) and she goes out of her way to make you feel at home. We’re from different countries and she’s introduced me to recipes when I was still grasping the basics of cooking in the kitchen. When we used to live in Abu Dhabi, she would make fresh pancakes and runny eggs for breakfast and we would sit on her kitchen table, again immaculately laid out, and drone on for hours about everything under the sun with glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice. Almost every breakfast or our coffee session would end with me asking for a recipe or to be shown a technique. If I like something I’ve eaten, regardless of who it is I make it a point to let the person know their efforts have paid off. Certain recipes I go a step further and will ask for the recipe. Many a time, I’ve been told they’ll share the recipe later and you know it’s not coming your way. Or when it is shared and you do give it a try, it doesn’t taste quite the same (I have a sharp flavor memory, if that is a thing). It reflects so much on a person who not only enthusiastically shares her knowledge with patience but also almost immediately elaborates on what has been asked and without any hesitation. Saman is one of those rare people. In fact she is the person who opened the doors of baking to me. I’ve made my fair share of burnt cakes and sunken muffin tops but it was watching her bake that really pushed me to try more with the right recipes. 

Alright, I’ll rest the best friend fan club talk here. Back to these cheesy croquettes. There’s very few ingredients that go into the mashed potato mixture which means they’re a great option if you have a large group of guests. I compared the prepping time required to make Chicken Cutlets. The only bit that will take a little time is shaping and stuffing the cheese inside but considering you have to prepare, cook and mince chicken for the former, this is relatively much quicker to complete. Hand mixing the mashed potatoes is easier than using a spoon to incorporate all the ingredients together. I did not discard the Jalapeno seeds which meant my fingers were tingling for quite some time. Nevertheless, if you love heat these Croquettes will not disappoint. 



Let’s talk cheese. I really wanted to try these with fresh Mozzarella but was a bit wary considering they’re much softer in texture and didn’t know if it would hold up inside while being fried. Mozzarella cheese sticks or the chunkier blocks are combined with Vegetable oil so they’re easier to cube to place inside the Potato mixture. I try to pick the lightest colored version available as they taste closest to fresh Mozzarella. Do take care to seal the Mozzarella inside as it will literally be a hot mess if otherwise when it hits the deep fryer. 



Next step is breading. Saman uses Italian breadcrumbs instead of the regular ones and I would strongly recommend doing the same. They’re slightly coarser in texture and have quite a few dried herbs including Parsley and Oregano. If you have these in your pantry, you can make it yourself too. Apart from these, she adds powdered Parmesan (no more cheese please said nobody ever!!)  and a dash of Paprika. It adds more to the color than heat. The shaped croquettes are dipped in egg wash and then coated with the breadcrumb and cheese mix.





Considering there is Mozzarella in the middle, the Croquettes are shaped slightly elongated. I will say they do need delicate handling and this is where the texture of the mashed potatoes play a big role. You want to boil them where they’re still a bit powdery when mashed. I realized allowing the mashed potato to become cold to touch made for easier shaping. It becomes crucial in the frying stage too. Once my potato mash was much softer and it made it very difficult to turn over in the hot oil. My slotting spoon made indents through the breading and the mozzarella starting seeping through the potato into the hot oil. Mind you they still taste fantastic (It’s fried cheese after all) but you’ll lose points for how it looks. Firmer potato mash texture made ladling easier and helps retain its shape.

When I ask my husband want he wants for Iftar, his answer is almost always ‘anything you’d like.’ Off late, he’ll add ‘ and that cheese stuffed potato if you get the time.’ Last weekend I had family home for Iftar and I made these alongside Parippu Vada. There was no surprise that these finished very quickly and were appreciated by everyone. With a heart of Mozzarella and the heat of Jalapeños, I guess there’s no surprise there.



Cheesy Jalapeno Croquettes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • Large Potatoes – 2

  • Onion – Medium sized, ½

  • Coriander leaves – Finely chopped, 2 Tbsp

  • Coriander powder – ¾ tsp

  • Chilli powder – ½ tsp

  • Jalapeno – 2 

  • Salt – to taste

  • Mozzarella cheese – cut to small cubes

  • Coconut oil – To fry

For breading 

  • Italian breadcrumbs – as needed

  • Parmesan cheese – 2 tsp

  • Paprika powder – 1 tsp

  • Egg – 1

METHOD

  • Boil potatoes till they’re soft and still powdery.

  • Mash them well to release steam and let it cool completely.

  • Finely chop onion and jalapeno chillies and mix it in the potatoes by hand.

  • Add coriander leaves, coriander powder, chilli powder and salt to taste and mix it by hand.

  • Take a lime sized potato mixture and flatten it slightly in your palm.

  • Place a mozzarella cube in the middle and seal it well with the potato mixture.

  • Continue shaping the remaining croquettes in the same manner.

  • In a bowl, mix breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and Paprika powder together.

  • Beat the egg thoroughly.

  • Dip the croquette in the egg wash and then coat it in the breadcrumb mixture.

  • Heat oil on medium-high heat.

  • Once hot, fry the croquettes till they’re golden brown.

  • Serve immediately.

NOTES

  • If fresh Jalapeños aren’t available, replace with 3-4 spicy green chillies.

  • The texture of the boiled potatoes should not be extremely mushy. It will crumble when it is deep fried.

  • You have to let the steam from the mashed potatoes escape completely. It should be cold while handling.

  • The mozzarella cube has to be sealed from all sides otherwise it will seep through and melt in the oil when it is being fried.

Have a good food day.

Summer Chicken Salad Croissant Sandwiches | Assembling Finesse



Ramadan Kareem to you! It’s that time of the year to reflect, to be grateful and to gather around the table with family and loved ones. We’re precisely halfway through the month and the routine of kitchen frenzy is balanced with introspection and worship. It is also the time when the last round of Iftar invites are sent out before the blessed ten nights of worship begins. Through this week, I will be sharing recipes that will make entertaining easier. Like these elegant croissant sandwiches filled with garlicky Chicken salad and a tang of citrus. It comes together very quickly and will make a classy yet fun addition to grace your table.

On a personal note, it’s been an awfully long break away from my blog. I’ve been dabbling with personal projects including moving houses towards the end of the year which was unexpected and nothing short of exhausting to have everything in place. And when it comes to blogging here, I just can’t get myself to rush through the process. Usually when I would blog it all begins with a whim. Once I start then I’ve got to go through my checklist methodically with styling, prepping, cooking, shooting and then editing. And that usually only happens when I have spare time from the daily grind. And with a growing child, that seems to be extremely hard to catch. I did know that no matter what, I have to blog during Ramadan. The last four years has seen me turnaround a handful of recipes during this month and it would have been a shame to let this year slip. 



This chicken salad draws heavy inspiration from the Waldorf Salad. The original recipe has green fruit alongside fresh leaves that mask easily while lending it a sweeter taste. I start with chicken breasts cut into thin strips. Butter is melted and I wait till it browns and just about starts to smoke. At this point I tip in so many cloves of garlic that would have me sent to exile by the Queen had I whipped this in her kitchen (Her disdain for garlic is pretty famous). I hold a grudge against chicken that tastes, well, cold. This is the case for most chicken cooked off the bone and it’s a flavor I can’t enjoy. Chilled chicken sandwiches that I would eat are very rare and it all boils down to the flavor of the chicken. For this very reason, whenever a recipe did calls for cooked chicken, I prefer doing this. You would think that the chicken would pick up the garlic flavor quite strongly but it isn’t the case. It’s astonishingly on the milder side and the browned butter steals the show. The days when I have lettuce heads almost down to the middle, I make a quick salad and use the same technique to cook the chicken breasts. Halfway through, water starts seeping into the pan from the chicken and I season generously with freshly cracked pepper and sea salt and let it cook all the way through. It’s like a cheat stock cooking technique that successfully uplifts the meat from bland to flavorful.   




This is where the ingredients become a bit Waldorf with the addition of a stalk of celery and half an apple. You could choose between green and red depending on how sweet you would like it. I’ve used red every time and my guests have never guessed that apple is one of the ingredients. My first tryst with Celery was back in high school when I would read the Babysitter Club series. Claudia Kishi’s love for Oreos and Twinkies is repeatedly highlighted considering it had to be hidden from parents’ policy of no junk. A snack they did approve of was celery with peanut butter. The story of how it tastes when I tried it, I’ll save for another time. I will say the flavor celery itself has slowly (very slowly) grown on me and it makes way into my kitchen when I make Fried Rice or this chicken salad. It’s characteristic crunch adds to the texture of the chicken filling. Considering its nutrient profile, this is a good way to sneak in celery into little bellies.



The next ingredient is the universally preferred binder of salad filling, the humble Mayonnaise. Here’s another ingredient that I couldn’t stomach (it was the smell honestly). I add a little at a time because it has a tendency to mask the remaining ingredients should you add too much. It’s more to bind the ingredients than to flavor for me. This is why I tone down any potential eggy aroma with freshly peeled Tangerine. The Moroccan variety that is still available has a slightly thicker pith so I take a little time to remove that before adding chopped segments. To steepen these citrus notes, I add orange juice instead of the usual lemon. This was clearly an experiment I got lucky with. Considering this is a ‘salad’ filling, I add Tahini (white sesame) paste towards the end. It melds with the garlic chicken really well and you can almost pick up flavor strains you would associate with Shawarma. 


To tie it all together, you need to add freshly cracked pepper. There’s no element of heat apart from this ingredient so feel free to add as little or as much as you want. I had children in my guest list but they can handle heat pretty well. I added just enough so that the sweetness from the crisp apples still pushes through. Waldorf salads have Walnuts in them and I swapped them for toasted pine nuts. I know they’re more popular in winter but the former has a bit of a bitter after taste. My guests and I had a wonderful Saj platter on my birthday that was generously topped with Pine nuts and I loved how it tasted together. 



And finally, what makes these sandwiches dainty to serve are these Croissants. Mind you, they make a great sandwich with everyday bread too. I had croissant sandwiches at a friend’s place quite a few years ago and it was an idea that had stuck with me. I picked mini Sourdough croissants from the supermarket as the tinier size makes for cleaner and easier handling. I am not exaggerating when I say these flew off the platter in my last Iftar party. Children approving of recipes is the most honest feedback one can expect.We were hosting my husband’s uncle who have a ten year old son who was fasting. He heartily ate the sandwiches until he was full and then loudly announced the remaining have to be packed to take home. His sheepish grin and his mother’s expression is one I’ll always associate with these croissant sandwiches.  


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Summer Chicken Salad Croissants

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken breast – 500 g

  • Garlic – 10-12 cloves

  • Worcestershire sauce – 3 tsp 

  • Butter – 1 Tbsp

  • Celery – One stalk

  • Apple – Half

  • Orange juice – 3 Tbsp

  • Tangerine – 1 

  • Mayonnaise – 5 Tbsp 

  • Tahini – 1 Tbsp 

  • Pine nuts – 3 tbsp (optional)

  • Freshly ground Pepper – to taste

  • Salt – to taste

To serve 

  • Croissants

  • Ice berg Lettuce leaves- Washed thoroughly 

METHOD

  • Clean chicken breast and cut into small strips.

  • Heat a frying pan and melt butter.

  • When it starts turning brown and smells nutty, tip in garlic gloves and sauté.

  • Watch closely and make sure it does not burn.

  • Once the garlic starts browning, add in chicken breast.

  • Sautee the chicken in the garlic butter.

  • Once it starts releasing water, turn up the heat to medium-high flame and continue sautéing in intervals.

  • When the water completely evaporates, add the Worcestershire sauce and mix it.

  • Taste the chicken and season only if required.

  • Let the chicken strips cool completely.

  • Chop OR mince the chicken strips to smaller bits.

  • Wash and then chop the celery stalk to small pieces

  • Peel and chop the apple half  to small pieces.

  • Peel the tangerine and remove as much of the pith as you can.

  • Chop the tangerine segments to small pieces.

  • In a large bowl toss the chicken, celery, apple and tangerine segments together.

  • Add orange juice and give it a good mix.

  • Add the mayonnaise a tablespoon at a time and mix between each addition.

  • Add the tahini paste and pepper and mix well.

  • If you’re adding pine nuts, toast them in a pan for 4-5 minutes or until they turn golden.

  • Let it cool and then add to salad.

  • Check the texture of the salad. If you want it to be less thicker, add half a tablespoon of mayonnaise a mix well. Check the consistency again and add more till you’re happy with it.

  • Taste the salad and season if required

ASSEMBLY

  • Cut the croissants through the middle. [I like to cut through leaving the end intact like a hinge. It makes holding the sandwich easier]

  • Tear the lettuce leaves by hand and place two or three in the middle of the croissant.

  • Spoon the chicken salad on top of the leaves. Don’t fill it too much as it will fall out and turn messy.

  • Chill the croissant sandwiches for at least one hour. 

  • Remove the sandwiches from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving.

    Have a good food day.