Oat and Panko Chicken Tenders | ‘Makkana’ chicken


Ramadan Kareem to all my lovely readers. Another Blessed Month has descended upon us and I’m geared with a quite a few goals I pray to accomplish. My blog is rather dormant given the time restraints of raising a toddler. However, every year I have the urge to share with you recipes my family enjoys suited for the month of Ramadan. This year is no different. I’ve planned way ahead and have a few recipes in my kitty that I can’t wait to share. Given that I know quite a few children who will be fasting this month, the first recipe I have is for the little believers amongst us. For their will and determination, a little something for the little hearts patiently waiting to break their fast. 

I don’t quite remember at what age I started fasting the entire month of Ramadan but you could find me hovering in the kitchen around the time of Iftar. Without a doubt, when you are that young one of the incentives of observing the fast is knowing what would be laid out on the table at sunset. Umma knew exactly what my brother and I would be expecting and made sure there was at least one dish we liked. My favorite (still is) piping hot Medhu Vada with spicy mint chutney and ketchup! I could easily, and happily, skip dinner eating plates of these.


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Chicken nuggets are a favorite with a children and this recipe is a great alternative to the store-bought frozen ones. And you’re not comprising on convenience as this recipe comes together very easily. If Ali had his way, he would eat naadan chicken fry every single day. Two minutes into the frying stage, from the aroma, he appears in the kitchen from whatever it is he is doing and excitedly asks to eat it right away. That along with Okra Bandakka Upperi, two dollops of yoghurt and steamed rice is his favorite meal. Oh, and of course, Pappadum, which is a staple for children. 

While browsing finger foods for toddlers, I found a few where oatmeal was used for breading. I was looking for a texture quite similar to deep fried chicken tenders without using flour. I had an inkling that pounding the oatmeal using my mortar and pestle would give the rough texture I was looking for. And it did. I was a bit skeptical how it would adhere to the chicken and decided to add a bit of Panko too. Once, I could have sworn in I bought a new box of Panko but couldn’t find it in my pantry. Instead, I toasted the end slices of a bread loaf till they browned slightly, let it cool and then ground them roughly. What you’re NOT looking for is a fine texture. The unevenness and little bumps is exactly what you want. Texturally, once they were fried I was pleased. Crisp and golden, Ali has christened them ‘Makkana chicken’ and it has become my go-to recipe on a busy day.


I don’t deep fry these tenders. I almost only use coconut oil for frying but in the absence of the spices, I’m not quite a fan of its dominating flavor. Adding a teaspoon of butter was purely experimental. The butter mellows down the coconut flavor and leaves an inimitable nuttiness considering that it browns quite a bit while frying. These take a while to fry only because you can’t crank up the heat. I use a teeny frying pan and fry not more than 5 at a time. I replenish the frying fats right before adding a new batch but sometimes I add a bit while frying too. Two batches in and you’ll get the hang of it. You want the oat and panko flakes to crisp slowly and turn buttery golden.     


How many of you remember Ruby Tuesday’s in Dubai? I remember how a friend of mine would order their chicken fingers just for the honey mustard dip. That’s something you need for this recipe.  Ali doesn’t look beyond the ketchup bottle. That seems to be another favorites among children. I found a honey mustard that comes together with 4 ingredients and a whisk in a minute! Another favorite dip of mine is sweet chili sauce. I made these when my niece came to stay over during her school break and between the three of us, we polished off an entire platter for lunch. The plus side of these chicken tenders is that they don’t leave you sluggish and full like after a greasy meal. I like having these alongside fresh parsley and radish slices or a few carrot and cucumber sticks. 



Do give these a try. I’d love to hear how they turn out. Especially, the little ones’ opinion.

Oat and Panko Chicken Tenders

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken Breast – 500 g, cleaned and washed
  • Rolled Oats flakes- 1 cup
  • Panko or rough breadcrumbs – 1 cup
  • Egg -1 
  • Salt – as required
  • Pepper – as required
  • Coconut oil – to fry
  • Butter – to fry

Honey Mustard Sauce (recipe barely adapted from Pinch of Yum) – optional

  • Honey – 2 tbsp
  • Mayonnaise – 2 tbsp
  • Mustard paste – 2 tbsp
  • Vinegar – 1/2 tbsp

METHOD

  • Slice the chicken into tenders making sure they aren’t too thick.
  • Season the fillets with salt and set aside.
  • Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oatmeal a little at a time till they are smaller.
  • Mix the oatmeal, panko, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • Beat the egg with a fork.
  • Dip each tender in the egg wash and then coat with the breading mixture.
  • On a low flame, in a pan melt a teaspoon of coconut oil and butter together. 
  • Once it becomes hot, turn up the heat to a medium flame.
  • Place the tenders making into the pan making sure they don’t touch each other.
  • Fry the tenders for about a minute. 
  • Check if the underside has become and flip only if they have.
  • As and when the frying fat in the pan reduces, add them both one teaspoon at a time.
  • Serve immediately.

Honey Mustard Sauce

  • Whisk all the ingredients until smooth.

NOTES

If you can’t find Panko in your supermarket, toast a few slices of white bread and grind them coarsely.

Have a good food day.

Kozhi Nirachathu | That Remarkable Stuffed Chicken


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Isn’t this what you would call a showstopper? There’s nothing that can prematurely seize conversations giving way to a buzz of excitement when a whole bird is placed right in the centre of the table. The chatter resumes but it would all be in awe and appreciation for the bird that has arrived. Here she lies in crimson colored gravy that emanates the spices you are about to experience. And if it looks like a days’ worth of labour, the merit would have come your way even before she has been carved. Kozhi Nirachathu is one of the prized recipes of Moplah cuisine. A light onion masala and hardboiled eggs are stuffed into a whole chicken which is then fried and baked alongside a caramelised onion gravy.

I don’t particularly enjoy butchering chicken or any meat for that matter. To me, this is an easy way out because I just have to wash the chicken really well rather than poking and prodding around joints before cutting and realizing I have cut through a bone, yet again. Which reminds me, I need to watch a video of butchering chicken on YouTube. 



When it comes to the marinade, there’s not much much of a surprise here. There is a disconnect between the bird and the gravy given the fact that they only come together in the final stage of baking. This is why the chicken needs to be marinated seperately beforehand for it to be at par with the fiery gravy. Right before the marinade, I lavishly bathe the whole chicken inside out in lemon juice that tenderizes the flesh and removes that stale smell you can associate with raw chicken. 


Before it is baked, the marinated chicken is shallow fried in hot oil. Aesthetically speaking, the outcome is far more glamorous than the chickens that makes it straight to the oven or  the ones that are cooked through on the stovetop. It doesn’t provide those dark singed spots. Besides, nothing matches the flavour of frying. For the marinade, I use the Kashmiri variety of chili powder as its richer colour doesn’t tend to fade through the rigorous heat it is subjected to. 


There’s quite a bit of onions at play in this recipe. A little goes into the stuffing for the chicken and then a lot is needed for there to be gravy everyone can dip their Porottas into. Partly why you do not want to rush this recipe is because of the onions. It takes a while to fry them and to attain that golden caramelisation. The key is to slice the onions as thinly as it is physically possible. Some days I bring out my food processor and some days it’s me and the chopping board working together very patiently. While cooking the onions, should you crank up the heat to speed things up, you’re going to end up with a burnt hot mess. When it comes to toasted onions, there really isn’t any fix to eradicate its far from pleasant flavour. Be patient and keep an eye on it, stirring once in a while, where it will deepen to a golden hue releasing all its sweetness. To balance it, a smooth paste of pounded ginger and garlic is added once the onions start browning. I usually make my own paste that would last me a few days if I know I’m making curry or biriyani masala during the week. However, even if I do have that in the refrigerator, I make just enough to use in the recipe. It would be fresh with sharpness and wouldn’t have lost its potency. 



A key ingredient used in this recipe is a fine powder of Aniseeds. It may be tempting to substitute it with fennel seeds, which is what is mostly used, but it is different. Place a handful of seeds in your palm and take a quick whiff. It smells more sweeter but pungent at the same time. I tried using fennel seed powder when I was in a hurry and didn’t want to grind aniseeds for its powder. That time after tasting the gravy, I realised that the flavour it brought to the gravy was marked and irreplaceable. So go ahead, and buy these Aniseeds. I thought I’d never finish them but considering I make this recipe quite often, I’m happy I have enough stock of these.



Please, PLEASE, pretty please use coconut oil exclusively throughout this recipe. Let me go as far as saying that if you’re thinking of using sunflower or any other oil for whatever reason(s), don’t bother reading any further. I’m sure I sound dramatic but to attain that inimitable flavour, you cannot do without coconut oil. Start with sautéing the stuffing. Then use a generous amount to shallow fry and brown the chicken. I continue using the same oil to make the gravy and I make sure there’s not a drop left in there when I spoon it into my oven dish.



Ali loves eggs and that’s what he usually eats when we sit down to eat Kozhi Nirachathu. I would think what else I could add to this recipe to make him sit a little longer instead of going back to play leaving us to finish our meal. That is when I added potatoes. Pan fried potatoes are one of his favourite accompaniments when he eats rice. I chop baby potatoes into small cubes with their skin intact and fry them in coconut oil till the skins are crisped and the potatoes cooked through. When I start making the onion gravy, I have a pan with the potatoes frying right beside it. They roughly come together around the same time and I stir them into gravy right before it goes into the oven. The potatoes pick up the flavors of the gravy when they are baked together.






 Making the onion gravy is the most finicky part only because it requires time and your attention. This is one of the recipes that make the hours spent worthwhile. It is my go-to for weekend meals and certainly for potlucks. Hot fluffy Appams and flakey Porottas are the bread options you should consider. Off late, I only bake Jalapeño cornbread to go with it. And if it was just me, I would toast a few slices of milk bread and get right into it. And I promise you, this is a recipe you will be going to more than you think you would.

Kozhi Nirachathu

Feeds 2 generously with leftovers or 4 comfortably.  

Recipe adapted from Malabar Spices

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken – 1 weighing between 800 – 1000g
  • Kashmiri chilli powder – 3 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 6 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste

Stuffing

  • Hardboiled Eggs – as required
  • Onions – 1 medium
  • Chillies – 4
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric – ¼ tsp
  • Chilli powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt – to taste

Caramelised Onion Gravy

  • Onions – 5 medium
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Chillies – 4
  • Tomatoes – 4
  • Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tsp
  • Coriander Powder – 2 tsp
  • Turmeric – ¼ tsp
  • Chilli powder – 2 tsp
  • Aniseed powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Potatoes – 4 small (optional)
  • Coconut Oil 

METHOD

Chicken Marination

  • Remove the skin from the chicken.
  • Cut the neck and tail portions off.
  • Thoroughly cleanse the inside portion of the chicken especially the rib cage.
  • Wash the chicken well making sure the water is clear and no longer has traces of blood.
  • Pat the chicken dry and place it in a clean bowl.
  • Pour lemon juice over and inside the chicken and rub it in.
  • Mix the spices of the marinade together.
  • Rub the spice mix all over the chicken.
  • Allow to marinate preferable overnight or minimum 6 hours.

Stuffing

  • Thinly slice the onions and green chilli.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large saucepan.
  • When the oil is hot, add curry leaves, onions and chillies and saute.
  • When the onions start browning, add the ginger garlic paste and continue sautéing. 
  • Should the mixture start sticking to saucepan, add a tablespoon of water and stir.
  • When the onions turn golden, lower the heat and add the spices and stir well for a minute.
  • Add the hardboiled eggs and set the stuffing aside in a bowl.

Crisp Fried Potatoes (optional)

  • If you’re adding potatoes to the gravy, clean and scrub potato skin thoroughly.
  • Roughly chop the potatoes into small cubes with the skin intact.
  • In a frying pan, add 4 tablespoons of coconut oil.
  • On medium to high flame, fry the potatoes.
  • Add salt and crushed pepper to taste and keep stirring ensuring all sides cook through.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked and the skin is crisp, remove from heat. This will take close to 20 minutes.

Stuffing the Chicken

  • Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator for a couple of hours to bring it to room temperature.
  • Start stuffing the chicken by placing one egg at a time and sealing it with prepared onion stuffing. Usually a chicken of this weight can not hold more than 2 eggs.
  • If your chicken is smaller, do not overstuff the chicken as this might cause the flesh to tear during the frying process.
  • Ensuring no stuffing is coming out, tie the legs and hands of the chicken using kitchen twine.

Caramelised Onion Gravy

  • Slice the onions and chilli finely.
  • Chop tomatoes roughly into cubes.
  • Heat 1/3 cup of coconut oil in a large saucepan large enough to hold the chicken.
  • Lower the chicken into the hot oil and fry on medium heat. 
  • Turn the chicken on its side every 2 minutes and fry till all the sides are brown and crisp.
  • Remove the chicken and drain it on paper towels.
  • In the same oil, fry the onions, chilli, and curry leaves.
  • Once the onions start browning, add the the ginger garlic paste and cook till the raw smell disappears.
  • Lower the heat and add in the tomatoes.
  • Saute and let it cook until the tomatoes have broken down completely and the gravy has begun to form.
  • Add the gravy spices and aniseed powder and fry well. 
  • Check for salt and season accordingly.
  • If your’e adding potatoes, add the cooked potatoes (method above) and give it a gentle stir. 
  • Add the remaining eggs into the gravy.

Baking the Chicken

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • In an ovenproof dish, spread the gravy leaving ¼ behind.
  • Place the fried chicken in the middle and spread the remaining gravy on top.
  • Cover the dish with aluminium foil and cook for 1 hour.
  • After an hour, switch off the heat.
  • Remove the aluminium foil and let the dish stay in the oven till you’re ready to serve.

Have a good food day.

Oatmeal Pancake Pops | One for Ali



How quickly has the final week of Ramadan arrived! In a few days, our routines will return to normalcy. There are a lot of goals I haven’t completed and yet the ones I have been able to, have struck a chord. Having eliminated the distraction of food, what I could finish reading resonated deeper than usual. Such is the beauty of this month. I’m hoping to leave it behind firmly clutching a few resolves. Speaking of Ramadan coming to an end, it also means that we are getting back to eating breakfast. Well, that is if you are that sort of a person. 

The final recipe I want to share, for this month, will make the transition from Iftar evenings to breakfast post Ramadan smoothly. Considering you have the little ones at home for the summer, I can vouch this won’t be abandoned. Ever since Ali could eat more than mush, I have made these pancakes for him and he finishes them without a fuss. In fact, it is one of his favourite meal options and on occasions he has enjoyed them for dinner too.



As far as the blog is concerned, I am thrilled with all the responses I’ve received this month. Things were much quiet in the earlier part of the year only because I was determined to share more than just one spanking new recipe for Ramadan. To everyone who has mailed, messaged and shared their comments, I can’t thank you enough. It is gratifying to know a little part of My Mouth is Full was served at your dinner table amongst loved ones. 



Tea time is an elaborate affair in most Keralite homes. It wasn’t so much in mine though. Nibbles to accompany tea were only made if guests informed us of their arrival well in advance. It was definitely not the case in my husbands’ home. Their need for tea is as strong as their brew and both Pappa and Mummy break their fast with a cup of tea fuming at the brink. And on regular days, even if it is tea for just the both of them, there is a snack ready at tea time. If you’re a Keralite, shame on you if couldn’t identify the Uniyappam pan above. Uniyappam is a spherical fried cake made from a batter of rice flour, mashed bananas and coconut bits and is sweetened with jaggery syrup. Mummy makes a savoury snack for which even a non-tea person as myself goes and prepares a cup of milky sweet tea. She will be visiting after Eid in a couple of weeks and I have planned on adding it to my repertoire here. 

Before it started popping up on Beach Road, I had the mini pancakes at Global Village for the first time. A serving is a dozen and the most popular topping is a hefty blob of Nutella that melts over the warm pancakes and a dusting of icing sugar. Their pancake pan is a huge sheet of metal that can make close to a hundred pancakes at one time. Batter is poured into greased moulds from a height using a funnel and I couldn’t help noticing how much the pan resembled an Unniyappam pan. Fuelled by the idea, I knew I had to attempt making these at home.

If you’re from Kerala, chances are you already have one of these lying amongst your pots, pans and meen chatti. If you don’t, you can pick one of these up on your next visit. If you’re in the UAE, you could find one at your nearest Lulu Supermarket. And if that is not possible too, befriend a Keralite and convince them to forego a kilo of their baggage allowance to bring you back one. 



I have a couple of ideas on how to serve these.  For Ali, I pour Date Dhibs syrup on the side of his segmented plate and dip them before every bite. I fancy the customary drizzle of maple syrup with knobs of softened butter.



I made cocoa pancakes with the batter too. It was a no-brainer really. I set aside a fourth of the prepared batter and stirred in sifted cocoa powder. And instead of slathering them with Nutella, I took a different route. Maple syrup over Cocoa Pancakes didn’t seem quite right.  After pouring a bit of batter into the pan, I quickly spooned half a teaspoon of Nutella and covered it with more batter on top. Don’t tell your little ones and prepare to watch faces of shock, surprise and excitement when they bite into a Nutella *stuffed* pancake pop.  




This variation was me thinking on my feet. I slid in a sliver of banana and poured over the batter, calming down the sizzles. This was what I found when they were cooked and overturned. A perfectly caramelised banana swaddled in a pancake popper. I swapped the syrup for a tart raspberry compote and that cut through and balanced the sweetness of the bananas.



I’ve tweaked the original recipe to make it completely refined-flour free. I occasionally add crushed cardamom, cinnamon powder or grated nutmeg to the dry ingredients, depending on my mood.  A pat of melted butter and a lightly beaten egg goes into the pre-soaked rolled oats and buttermilk mixture. This recipe instructs to soak the oats the night before. Don’t worry If you’re running short on time. I’ve always made them after a minimum of two hours of soaking and they’ve been fluffy every time round. And in the end, throw in whatever mix-ins your heart fancies to your batter.

Chocolate Chips make a fun option. The chips soften inside the batter and you get a chunk in every bite.  I wanted to try a tiny marshmallow version. What stopped me was the possibility of it coming into contact with the hot mould from within the batter. That would have just been a toasty burnt mess. Considering how well the caramelised banana bottom turned out, you could try mixing fresh berries chopped into small bits and mixing them directly into the pancake. Just a few days ago I was fretting looking at my over-ripened ripe (yes, I mentioned ripe twice) bananas. I chopped a couple and blended it along with the rest of the batter. Those were, hands down, the softest pancakes I’ve made so far. The options are endless, really. 



And just in case if you were wondering this batter makes adult sized, fluffy pancakes too. I’m still going with chocolate chips.

Oatmeal Pancake Poppers

Recipe adapted from Orangette

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup rolled oats

  • 1 cup buttermilk*

  • ¼ cup wholewheat flour

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • ¼ cup butter, melted but not hot

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • Desired mix-ins (chocolate chips)

METHOD

  • Combine the oats and buttermilk in a bowl and mix.

  • Let the oats soak overnight or a minimum of two hours.

  • In a bowl, combine the wholewheat flour, sugar and salt.

  • Add the egg and melted butter to the oat mixture and mix well.

  • Add the flour mixture and combine.

  • If adding mix-ins, combine them with the batter now.

  • Warm the Uniyappam pan on medium high flame.

  • Pour the batter filling ¾ of the mould.

  • When bubbles start forming on the top and the sides look set, flip the pancake.

  • Cook until the second side is set.

  • If the pancakes brown too quickly, turn down the heat.

  • Serve warm with syrup, butter or berry compote.

Cocoa Pancakes

Add 1 tablespoon of sifted cocoa powder to ¼ cup of prepared batter and mix well.

Nutella Stuffed Pancake

  • Pour batter to fill ¼ mould.

  • Quickly spoon a teaspoon of Nutella.

  • Pour batter to cover the Nutella.

Caramelized Banana Pancake

  • Brush the mould lightly with melted butter.

  • Place a thin slice of banana inside the mould.

  • Pour batter and repeat cooking steps as mentioned above.

Eggless Pancakes

Replace the egg with the addition of the following to the dry ingredients:

  • ¾ tsp Baking Soda

  • ½ tsp Baking Powder

NOTES

*You can prepare buttermilk freshly like I do. Add a tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of milk and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.

Have a good food day.

Biscoff Banoffee Pots | The Lotus effect



 

It makes me anxious. Well before the set date, I would have made four lists. A shopping one, the intended menu, preps to be done the day before and what needs to be finished on the day itself. All this time, I’ve only helped prepare the main course or casually looked after dessert. After our move to Dubai, I’ve entertained for my extended family thrice. I feel we don’t do the social house visits, even to the homes of close family, as much as it was done when I was a child. Our lives are just much more busier than what it used to be. However, gathering together for a meal is still a family affair. While preparing for it, I don’t know why I have an adrenaline rush that feels exactly like I am about to sit for an exam. The Math paper, for which I’m unprepared for, to be specific. It’s the nerves of the responsibility of having to do prepare everything solo. Coupled with my little one, it takes a bit longer considering his meals and acitivites are priority. Yet, I love entertaining. I relax once everyone arrives and the conversations overpower the nervous chattering in my head. Needless to say, dessert is the least stressful (and my favourite) course. This was dessert no.2 the night I made that simple Shahi Tukra. Considering how easy it comes together, it would be a wonderful addition to a dinner your’e hosting or even to take over for potluck. 



Lotus biscuits sashayed into the dessert scene in the UAE rather quietly. Nutella had been overdosed on and was a predictable choice on most menus. Lotus biscuits were crumbled over softies, formulated into fudges and injected into cakes and suddenly everyone seemed to be formulating their signature Lotus creation. For a dessert fiend, it would be considered unacceptable that I haven’t tasted any single one of them yet. I was very close to trying the Lotus Softie at SALT but that day they were sold out. It took a while before the biscuits themselves starting trickling down to the commoners and started appearing on the supermarket shelves. That is how I had my first Lotus Biscoff biscuit. And after the first bite, I was glad I hadn’t tasted it before. It screamed Cinnamon. A sharpness of ginger. Did I taste a peppery heat? These cookies tasted similar to a Gingersnap but softer and sweeter. I instantly had to use it in dessert myself. 

The Banoffee pie typically has a layer of crushed digestive biscuits combined with melted butter. Since the dessert is chilled, the butter solidifies and you literally might hit rock bottom towards the end of your serving. The Biscoff cookies crumble into finer crumbs, even with just a rolling pin and a ziplock. I omitted the melted butter step which is honestly my least favourite layer in the classic version. Doing so, the crumbs stick to the layer above, making the dessert cohesive and you’re not left wrestling a clunky biscuit base with your dessert spoon. The most obvious reason to replace the otherwise bland biscuits is purely for its zesty spiciness. It provides a balance for the sweeter layers above.



For the banana flavour to steep, a simple vanilla pastry cream was made from scratch. This custard variation uses the eggs as a whole so I didn’t have to worry about what to do with leftover egg whites. I have begun using whole Vanilla beans for desserts. Working with them requires a patient demeanour and let’s just say that I would have never made a good surgeon. It is tricky enough to scrape off what is required without risking splitting the bean into two. I keep going back, re-scraping the stalk making sure I have collected the teeny tiny seeds by the thousands. 

In the UAE, whole vanilla beans are on the pricier side which is acceptable for a valued spice. I visited Mumbai for a friends’ wedding late last year and one of the things I stocked up were on Vanilla beans from Foodhall. They are sold in packets of 3 beans for the equivalent of 7 dirhams! If you buy Vanilla here, I’m sure you understand why I picked up what I could with eyes popping out of my face. I am trying hard not to push my revelation but the difference has been profound in terms of flavour. I have predominantly seen, tasted and cooked Keralite food and learnt very early on that every spice has a distinct potency that subtly influences the final profile of a recipe. A vanilla extract would be dissolved in the final stage after the custard is cooked and I’ve noticed all it lends is an overwhelming odour. However, the scraped vanilla seeds, just like any spice you would use, is added in the beginning stages of cooking that releases its flavour. The sweetness permeates into the cream leaving a pleasantly light and fresh redolence.



The name Banoffee is apparently the combination of the word Bananas and Toffee. Toffee itself is caramelised butter and sugar but for this dessert but Dulce de Leche is what is commonly used. Considering it is made from sugar and milk you could say it a jam made from milk. Boiling a condensed milk can inside a pressure cooker sounded terrifying to me. It was, however, the quickest way to make dulce de leche from scratch. Well, it is also more energy efficient than boiling it on the stove in a saucepan of water for more than two hours. I started with a prayer hoping it doesn’t become another pressure cooker disaster episode. I have a smaller pressure cooker so instead of the large condensed milk tin I used two small 90g tins. You just have to make sure they don’t touch each other before you close the lid. It had my full attention and in twenty minutes of cooking and cooling each, I was opening the can revealing this lusciously smooth caramel interior. It requires a heavy hand while spooning as the texture is very thick. 

These days I really can’t browse through the supermarket shelves with leisure since there’s a toddler in tow who has gone rogue with a shopping trolley. I was picking up Raspberry preserves when I saw a jar of what looked like dulce de leche to me. The label said Caramel and when first on the ingredient list was sweetened condensed milk. It has a deeper colour and is looser in texture compared to the one made at home. Considering how versatile it is from dessert toppings to cookie fillings, it’s found a permanent spot on my dessert pantry list. Regardless of whether you are using a store bought one or homemade, dulce de leche has a gummy texture. When you’re making individual servings, it is a bit difficult to spread the dulce de leche. What I like to do is after having spooned it, I use a toothpick and swirl into the pastry cream so you get a bit of it in every bite.



Chocolate in this dessert is purely as a garnish. The ingredients themselves are on the richer side yet I’ve found when they are served in smaller portions it’s surprisingly light. Opt for grated chocolate or shavings. Even if it is milk chocolate, you don’t want to rob the airiness and introduce bitterness with clunky bits of chocolate chips or a dusting of cocoa. Considering white chocolate has no cocoa, I used a combination of milk and white chocolate for the final dusting.



Ali has taken it on himself to quietly finish whatever I set aside for his daddy. One time it was cupcakes I had made for Daddy’s potluck lunch at work. Lips smeared with buttercream, he proudly announced that he had finished ‘Daddy cake’. While preparing this dessert for a lunch date with my friend, I specifically made a bowl for my husband as a treat after Iftar. Ali decided to finish it, while playing on the floor with his fire truck, a spoon at a time. Considering he doesn’t have candy and chocolates from the store, I am a bit easier on him when it comes to homemade desserts. 

I have to admit Individual desserts do take longer to assemble. Nevertheless, once they are brought out, the petite servings become the centre of conversation. It allows your guests to enjoy their moderated dessert or shout out for one glass more. And when your Iftar menu is saturated with fried pastries, sweet and savoury, and an elaborate Biriyani, this dessert makes for a refreshingly sweet ending. 

Biscoff Banoffee Pots

INGREDIENTS

  • 250 g Lotus Biscoff Biscuits – crushed to powder

  • Vanilla Pastry cream (see recipe below)

  • 3 ripe bananas – sliced thinly

  • Dulce de Leche (see recipe below)

  • 2 oz. Dark chocolate – grated

  • Whipped cream

Dulce de Leche

  • Before I found store bought Dulce de Leche, I used this pressure cooker method to make dulce de leche before I found it at the store.

  • In the UAE, you can find Dulce de Leche by Bonne Maman in the Jam section at major supermarkets under the name Caramel. The first ingredient is Sweetened Condensed Milk.

Vanilla Pastry Cream – Recipe from Glorious Treats

  • 3 cups full-fat milk

  • 2 eggs

  • ½ cup sugar

  • ¼ cup cornstarch

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract OR seeds from 1 vanilla pod

METHOD

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • Beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork to combine.

  • Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan.

  • Gradually pour in milk, while whisking, to make a smooth mixture.

  • Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Continue to cook and stir one minute.

  • Temper the beaten eggs by pouring several tablespoons of the hot mixture into the bowl with the eggs and whisking constantly.

  • Pour warmed egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the hot milk mixture.

  • Return to a slow boil, and cook one minute, stirring constantly.

  • Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.

  • Set aside to cool.

  • When the pan has cooled, place in the refrigerator to fully cool.

ASSEMBLY

  • Add 3 tsp of Biscoff powder to the bottom of your serving bowl.

  • Using the back of the spoon, press it firmly against the bottom and sides.

  • Add enough pastry cream to cover the powder.

  • Flatten it gently without mixing it into the powder.

  • Place 4 thinly sliced pieces of banana.

  • Add 4 tsp of pastry cream to completely cover banana pieces.

  • Place 1 tsp of Dulce de Leche and swirl it into the pasty cream with a toothpick.

  • Using an offset spatula or a piping tip, cover the remaining part of the bowl with whipped cream.

  • Sprinkle grated chocolate on top.

  • Allow it to set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

NOTE: If you can’t find Lotus Biscoff cookies, Ginger biscuits make a suitable substitute.

Have a good food day.

Crisp Pulled Chicken Rolls | Stuffed to the brim


When you are 7 years old and have just begun fasting, you’re constantly thinking about what Umma is preparing for Iftar. At that age, you don’t comprehend to the significance of fasting long hours. She would ask what my brother and I would like to eat to break our fast. These rolls were one of them. Sweet morsels of bread, a filling cutting through the sweetness with a lingering heat and the buttery crispness that is the start to this delightful bite.

Back then it was also probably because each bite could be dipped in ketchup. What is it about ketchup that makes it itself appealing to children? My own little one has recently tasted it for the first time and can’t get enough. At the supermarket yesterday, he threw in the largest bottle of ketchup his little hands could reach out and hold into his trolley.


Let’s start with the filling. When I made these rolls, I did not make it from scratch. I had a bit of Roast Chicken Moplah style leftover from Friday lunch. I shred the meat and tossed into golden sautéed shallots. As the chicken was already roasted, the texture worked out to be a little smoother than I would like it. Don’t be limited to poultry. Cook a stuffing of your choice of meat or fish exactly how you would make for cutlets or puff pastry. 

Leftover chicken curry is another genius dish to repurpose for this recipe. It has all the ingredients you would need if you’re starting from the beginning. Pick out the flesh from the bones, add it back into the curry and then cook it on a frying pan till it reduces and thickens enough to use as stuffing. You could add sweetcorn, beans and/or carrots into your stuffing too. Totally optional. Crumbled hardboiled eggs aren’t optional unless you really hate them.


Humour me when I call these rolls Samoon. That is what hot dog rolls were referred to when I was younger and I have an inkling that they’re still called that in the smaller grocery call-and-we-deliver stores. Ideally it is best to use rolls bought on the same day. The bread is soft enough to scoop without ripping the roll which might happen if the bread is a bit stale.



And don’t throw away those bread remains. Toss them right back into your stuffing at the ready. And add a drizzle of melted butter to stir things up. Never a bad idea.





Now this is what made these rolls my favourite back then. The edible flour sealant that crisps up in brown butter. Flour is mixed with a little bit of water to make a thick paste to contain the stuffing. It should be thick enough to spread with your fingers. In a very hot frying pan, pat down a knob of butter and wait for the sizzling to calm down. You then place the rolls, flour side down to cook and eventually seal in the stuffing. 

Now if it is close to runny, the paste might bubble and burn, leaving an exposed bread roll waiting for stuffing to tumble out. If it is too thick, it would not cook through and a gummy, chewy start to a roll is, well, rather unappetising. This is precisely the reason you should try having these rolls fresh off the stove when it as it’s crispest. It could get a bit soggy when it becomes cold.

I like to dip it with Thai sweet chilli sauce now. Ali has taken over the ketchup legacy for now. I hope your month of fasting is a blessed one.



INGREDIENTS

  • Hot dog rolls – cut into half

  • 5 tbsp All Purpose Flour

  • Water as required

  • 2 tbsp melted butter

  • Stuffing of your choice

Chicken Stuffing

  • 250g Boneless chicken cut into thin strips

  • 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste

  • 2 chills sliced finely

  • ¼ tsp Turmeric powder

  • ½ tsp Chilli powder

  • ½ tsp Garam Masala

  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced

  • 2 hardboiled eggs

  • 5 tbsp water

  • 2 tbsp coconut Oil

  • Salt to taste

METHOD

Chicken Stuffing

  • Heat coconut oil in a medium pan.

  • Fry the onions till they become glassy.

  • Add the ginger garlic paste and chillies and saute till the onions turn a deep golden colour. This may take a while.

  • Add the spices and saute well.

  • Add the chicken strips and stir well ensuring it is coated with the spices.

  • Pour water, lower the flame and cover the pan.

  • Keep checking the chicken for doneness in 5 minute intervals.

  • Once it is cooked, using a wooden spoon or a spatula, shred the chicken in the pan. Since the chicken is hot, it will shred easily.

  • Remove the shells of the eggs and crumble it well.

  • Add crumbled eggs into the chicken mixture and stir well.

  • Check seasoning and take off heat.

Assembly

  • Using your fingers, gently scoop out the bread from within the rolls to make it hollow.

  • Add the scooped bread and melted butter into the stuffing and mix it well.

  • In a bowl, put the flour and add water, a few teaspoons at a time, just enough to make a paste.

  • Consistency is key. The paste should be thick enough to spread using your finger. If it turns out too runny, add flour to make it thicker.

  • Heat a frying pan and brush with melted butter.

  • Using your finger, spread the flour paste on the opening of the stuffed bread to seal it.

  • Place the roll, flour paste side down, on the hot pan.

  • Fry till it becomes crisp. This shouldn’t take more than a minute.

  • Toast the roll on its sides lightly and take off heat.

  • Serve alongside your favourite sauce.

 

Perfecting the Stovetop Pizza | Tweaking techniques



Can you explain the appeal of Pizza? It took a whole new meaning after our honeymoon in Italy. Making pizza at home never really replicated the ones we had at the pizzerias. I tried buying a pizza stone for the oven but taking it out was always a mess without a peel. And then I found out that pizza can be made on the stovetop. All under 20 minutes! The weather in Dubai right now is pizza conducive. The heat will allow yeast to bloom and rise in no time. Considering Iftar is late into the day, I’m looking for options beyond the fried food platter. This recipe is going to help me on that front this month. More than a good dough recipe, mastering a few techniques promises rustic pizzas every single time. I’m sharing my tips and tricks so that you can perfect the stovetop pizza.



Let’s talk about sauces. On this particular day, I made two pizzas. The first one was the Uber Supreme, a name my husband came up with, on an all-purpose flour base. For this I used a combination of his favourite hot sauces and assorted ketchup flavours. Yes, we have more than one ketchup bottle in the refrigerator.

The second pizza was a vegetarian one for the little one using a whole-wheat pizza base. For his pizza, I used his favourite homemade pasta sauce. It is a pink sauce that I have been making for him almost every Thursday. I start with a whole pod of garlic, sweet shallots and sliced juicy fresh tomatoes sautéed in oil and reduced for a while. After seasoning, in goes a pinch of oregano, a splash of heavy cream and grated cheddar cheese. I’ve made it so many times that I can do it in my sleep. It would be the first time he would be trying pizza and he’s usually a bit sceptical when it comes to trying something new. Since he is more than accustomed to the flavours of his pink sauce, I was hoping he wouldn’t run off after the first bite.



I use two cheeses for my pizza. Firstly, the sauce is topped with coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese before I pile the vegetables or meat depending on what pizza I am making. At the very end, right before I start cooking the pizza, I roughly tear chunks of fresh mozzarella straight out of its brine. (There’s nothing like the real stuff, right Achi?) You could mix it up with cheese you prefer but just make sure it is the sort that has high moisture content so it melts easily. You do not want to crank up the heat to forcefully melt the cheese because you certainly do not want a crust that is tough, bitter and burnt. 



Apart from fresh green salads or having them absolutely raw, my husband won’t have any sort of vegetables. No stir-fries and certainly no gravies either. He’s open to the odd Cauliflower Manchurian and didn’t mind Ful Medames at an Arabic breakfast we tried a few years ago but apart from that, at the dining table he turns a blind eye to anything that isn’t meat. He takes his poultry very seriously and that makes cooking for him a breeze. For this pizza, I wanted to finish a bit of Pepperoni salami lying in the refrigerator and a few slices Beef Bacon we hadn’t used from brunch he made a couple of weekends ago. There was leftover chicken mince from meatballs I had baked for Ali’s lunch a day ago too. I hadn’t seasoned it heavily and spruced it up a bit with pantry spices. After chopping the bacon into bits and pan frying it in its own fat, I cooked the remaining chicken mince in the same pan. And only because nothing should go to waste in my frugal kitchen.


As of now, these are a few vegetables Ali loves. The aubergines were coated with turmeric, chilli powder and salt, rested for a while and then pan-fried in olive oil. The spinach was wilted in a bit of heat and wasn’t seasoned. Then there was half a cob of boiled sweet corn. The okra was stir-fried the naadan way, mustard seeds and shallots tempered in coconut oil and then okra sautéed in it, for his lunch. If he wasn’t taking a nap while I was preparing this pizza, I know there wouldn’t be any Okra leftover for topping.



I have more ketchup variants in my pantry stock. Heinz can add anything to their ketchup and my husband will buy it. They occupy a good third of my refrigerator door shelving. I combined the above 8 bottle contents in proportions I don’t bother noting down. Taste as you go is the key here. No prizes for guessing it is rather spicy. You don’t have to be this adventurous though. Just a bit of inspiration.





I firmly believe the crust maketh the pizza. I prefer thin crusts but my pan will never replicate the results of a wood fired oven. I’ve tested the recipe a total of four time for this pizza dough. The only ingredient that varied was the proportion of yeast. The fermentation process of this fungus is what traps air pockets causing the dough to double and make it pliable to work with. While testing I added a bit of sugar to produce more gas and it also helped toning down the flavour of the yeast.  

Another testing finding was a generous tablespoon of Extra Vigil Olive Oil made a softer dough. This helps especially in the case of a whole-wheat pizza base. As it has less gluten it toughens up and chewing on a base that tires your jaws is not favourable. The dough is much darker and it deepens on the portion where the crust comes in contact with the hot pan. That being said with a little practice I started getting crusts that cook through and are on the softer side. 



One thing I noticed about the dozens of videos I watched of stove top pizza is the final result looks misshapen. This is something I had the most trouble with. I would attribute it to the fact that the pizza base has to be flipped once before you start adding the topping and cheese to allow the base to cook through. You start by carefully placing your stretched dough into the pan. The dough is floppy and flipping it when it being half-cooked makes it stretch even when you don’t intend to. 

This is where shaping the diameter of your pizza base makes it perfect. You are creating a tiny fort that holds in all the toppings. It even holds the cheese and prevents it from melting and setting on the crust. You could either use just the index fingers of both hands or using your index finger, gently push the dough into the palm of your other hand. You don’t have to make it too tall.  The tricky part is the fort side is what needs to go down first into the heated pan. However, this makes it relatively easier to flip the pizza once it is cooked. The biggest difference I found is that it is this faux fort that prevents the pizza from spreading while flipping and retains it shape.



The size of your pizza depends (obviously) on the pan. Use a deep pan that has a lid (here’s what I use) because you would need to cover it for the cheese to melt evenly. I would suggest not going above 9” in diameter to avoid the nightmare of flipping the pizza. Ideally your  toppings and cheeses should be prepped and ready close to your stove. Once the pizza is flipped, the sauce-topping-cheese layering has to be completed fairly quickly. The longer you take to finish, you risk cooking the base too long and that could result in a tough crust.



Each pizza takes no longer than 15 minutes to cook. It shouldn’t be alarming that you can finish eating it in lesser time. Given how easily it comes together, it’s going to be a family favourite in no time. 

 

Stove Top Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • Toppings of your choice

  • Pizza Sauce – recipe below

  • Pizza Dough – recipe below

  • 4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

  • 250 g fresh Mozzarella cheese – roughly cut (optional)

Pizza Sauce

  • 6 tbsp Tomato Ketchup

  • 2 tbsp Tabasco or Hot Sauce (optional)

  • Oregano – 1 tsp

Pizza Dough – All-Purpose

  • 1½ cup All-Purpose Flour

  • ½ tsp Yeast

  • 1 tbsp Sugar

  • ½ cup warm water

  • 1 tbsp Olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

Pizza Dough – Whole Wheat

  • 1½ cup Whole-Wheat Flour

  • ½ tsp Yeast

  • 1 tbsp Sugar

  • ½ cup warm water

  • 2 tbsp Olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

METHOD

Pizza Sauce

  • Mix the sauces together in a bowl.

  • Add oregano and mix well.

Pizza Dough

  • In a large bowl, pour in warm water.

  • Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water and let it rest for 5 minutes.

  • Add flour, salt, and olive oil.

  • Using a wooden spoon, stir all the ingredients until it starts coming together.

  • Lightly flour a surface and put the dough on to it.

  • With a heavy hand, start kneading the dough, for a minimum of 5 minutes, till it becomes smooth.

  • Grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough into it.

  • Cover it with plastic wrap.

  • Set it aside in a warm place.

  • Allow it to rest and rise for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 4 hours.

ASSEMBLY

  • Lightly flour a surface and place pizza dough.

  • Roll out the dough to ½” thickness.

  • Make sure the pizza base is smaller than the pan you will be using.

  • Using your index finger, gently press the diameter of the base into the palm of your other hand (pictured above), forming a slight wall.

  • Using a fork, prick all over the pizza base.

  • On medium-high heat, pour a tablespoon of olive and swirl the pan to spread it.

  • Slowly transfer the pizza base, wall side down, into the pan.

  • When the pizza base starts bubbling, slowly flip the pizza.

  • Spread the tomato sauce on the pizza base within the wall.

  • Sprinkle half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.

  • Add your toppings.

  • Sprinkle remaining shredded mozzarella on top.

  • If using fresh mozzarella, dot the pizza with the chunks away from each other.

  • Pour olive oil on the pan close to the pizza base.

  • Drizzle the top of the pizza with no more than ½ a teaspoon of olive oil.

  • Cover the pan with the lid and allow the cheese to melt.

  • Lift the lid once in a while to prevent the moisture from the lid falling on top of the pizza.

  • Allow the pizza to cook for 8-10 minutes on low-medium heat.

  • If you are cooking a whole-wheat pizza base, take the pizza out of the pan as soon as the cheese has completely melted.

  • Serve immediately.

Have a good food day.

 

Badam Milk 2 ways | A balmy favorite



Ramadan Kareem everyone!

I was never the child who winced at the sight of the milk. Nor the one who stealthily poured it down the sink when mom was not looking. I don’t start the day to pretty lattes or a steaming mug of tea. It is a habit lost on me. I start my day with tepid milk most likely with muesli. When we eat out for breakfast, there’s always a little part of me missing my glass of milk. Coming home from school, there’s usually a tall glass of milkshake (usually banana) waiting on the kitchen table. In the cooler months it was a mug of warm Cadbury hot chocolate.

In India, milk is the start of so many desserts. There is khoya which is milk simmered for several hours. The water content evaporates leaving behind coagulated mass. Shaped into spheres and deep-fried, the syrup engorged Gulab Jamun’s the first entry under desserts in an Indian restaurant. Curdle milk with freshly squeezed lemon and half an our later draining the solution, you can start on another syrup engorged favourite, pearly white Rasgulla. The dessert is currently going through a custody battle between the state of Odisha, claiming invention rights, and West Bengal, whom the world credits for formulating. And I don’t know who to credit for creating Rasmalai. Personally I prefer the latter. The dumplings itself are flattened lightly, poached in sugar syrup and then put to rest in a milky syrup laced with cardamom.


Then there’s Kaju Kati. You could call it fudge, except it is not milk and butter, it is ground cashew nuts and (hopefully) pure ghee heated in sugar syrup. It becomes pasty enough to spread in a dish and is adorned with edible silver foil. These diamond cut bites are dangerous for my self restraint especially when they can be found ominously waiting on the dining table. They are tiny and I find myself making an argument in my head how one or maybe even two is a treat. It is primarily nutrient packed nuts and ghee and sure, there’s sugar, but it is still healthier than a fat slice of chocolate cake, two slabs of salted caramel brownies OR four chocolate chunk cookies straight out of the oven. 

The combination of milk and ground Almonds is a beverage I can never refuse. Almost 12 years ago my family along with my cousins went on a road trip to Munnar in Kerala. Over the days when we would be walking on the streets, I would be on the lookout for a Milma cart around the corner. Apart from tea and coffee, they served a drink named rather unimpressively hot milk. It was poured in a literally paper thin cup and I would hold it with the stole I was wearing saving my fingertips from scalding. Pale yellow and overly sweet, it had a faint taste of crushed cardamom. The high altitude temperature would quickly cool the boiling milk and I would sip on it very slowly thoroughly enjoying myself. I doubt there was almonds in this milk but, to me, it tasted very similar to Badam Milk.



Let me tell you something odd about the way I drink milk. Unless it is Nutella hot chocolate, I don’t drink milk from a glass. I drink it with a spoon. What I mean is there is always a bit of Muesli or oats sinking at the bottom. Off late I add the crusts (you’ve got to try it) of Ali’s morning sandwich into my morning muesli. When I fast, more than food, I am looking forward to something cool to drink. That’s how I would drink my Badam Milk. Straight out of the refrigerator, with a tall dessert spoon. The texture is quite thick and it feels like I am having Payasam. I flavour it with freshly ground cardamom and generous pinches of saffron. For a little more bite, I chop a handful of pistachios, cashew nuts and almonds roughly and add it to the milk right before I sit down to drink it. And oddly (for myself) I no longer add sugar to the milk. The combination of ground almonds and the assorted chopped nut leaves behind a sweetness which I leave undisturbed. 



I was making myself a glass for the first day of Iftar when I decided to add a little more almonds than the recipe normally calls for. Exactly a fourth of a cup more. When the milk started reducing after I had added the ground almond paste, the consistency naturally changed from a pouring one. As I tipped it over with my spatula, a smoothie bowl began to form in my mind. I tipped it all back, and placed enough thinly sliced apples to cover the base. THEN, I poured it all back and added a few dried figs, and caused rose petals and more sliced nuts. It is what I am going to be having for Iftar for the next few days. It is light enough not to pique an empty stomach and fills you up slowly without the food bogging me down. I’m planning on making a batch that will last me a couple of days and make bowls for Iftar everyday depending on what I feel like having. It saves me a lot of time with regards to what I want to eat to break the fast and l can go about making the rest of Ali’s meals and a few fried tidbits for the mister.

If you have picky milk refusers in your family, give this recipe a try. Provided that it isn’t topped off with a lot of sugar, it is a healthy and nutrient-rich beverage that will help you tick off their daily glass quote. 

Have a good food day.

Badam Milk 

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 ml full-fat Milk

  • ½ cup almonds, blanched and peeled

  • ¼ cup full-fat milk

  • 3 green cardamom pods, crushed finely

  • A generous pinch of saffron

  • 2 tbsp warm full-fat milk

  • Chopped nuts – ¼ cup

  • Sugar – to taste

METHOD

  • Soak the saffron in warm milk and set aside.

  • Grind the almonds and ¼ cup of milk into a smooth and fine paste.

  • In a wide bottomed saucepan, pour the milk and bring to a boil. Keep stirring in intervals or the milk will burn at the bottom of the pan.

  • Once the milk starts bubbling on the side, add the ground almond paste and stir really well.

  • Lower the flame and cook the mixture for about 10 minutes.

  • Once the mixture starts bubbling, watch it closely and keep stirring to prevent the milk burning.

  • The milk would have reduced at this stage. Add sugar, saffron along with the milk and cardamom powder.

  • Stir well and then take the pan off the heat. If you want to chill before serving, allow the badam milk to come to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator.

  • Top off with chopped nuts right before serving.

 

Smoothie Bowl

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup Almonds, blanched and peeled.

  • 500 ml full-fat Milk

  • ½ cup almonds, blanched and peeled

  • 3 green cardamom pods, crushed finely

  • A generous pinch of saffron

  • 2 tbsp warm full-fat milk

  • Chopped nuts – ¼ cup

  • Fruits – as desired

  • Sugar – to taste

METHOD

  • Prepare the Badam milk in the same method as stated above.

  • Place chopped fruits and nuts in a bowl.

  • Pour the almond milk into the bowl and let it cool.

  • If desired, you could chill the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours.

The simplest Shahi Tukra | All the way from Agra



A morsel of royalty. The khansamas, the Royal chefs of the Mughal kitchen, are recognised for inventing this dessert. The key ingredient in this recipe is bread which, come to think of it, is a staple in a poor mans’ diet. On paper it is, quite simply put, a bread pudding.The nobility, perhaps, was achieved with the elaborate process of frying bread triangles in pure ghee. Further progressing its status was milk, sweetened and boiled clotting like cream. This Rabri was flavoured and perfumed with the crushed whole spices and saffron imparting its hue. Certainly not a dessert to be taken lightly (pun intended).

Credits for this recipe goes to Gul. My best friend, Saman, and her cousins used to operate a fashion boutique in Abu Dhabi and Gul used to work for her. She hails from Lucknow, and for that very reason, doesn’t diminish the authenticity of this easier much lighter version of this recipe. Saman mentioned how her sister-in-law made this dessert for a family gathering and how shamelessly easy it was to make. 



When I asked her for the recipe, she sent me a text message with five ingredients and a ratio of sugar to water. This was close to three years ago when I was inexperienced in the kitchen. I could only cook if I had precise measured ingredients accompanied with detailed step by step instructions. This was a four line text message. I nervously prepared the recipe and halfway through panicked seeing the consistency of the milk. It was a far cry from thickened milk and I wondered how it would finally set. I texted a photograph of the pan on my stove which she then texted to her sister-in-law who confirmed I had it right. More about this consistency later.



A month ago, I was anxiously dug through my phone for this recipe. Weirdly enough, entering ‘milk’ pulled out the message history from the archives. We moved to Dubai earlier this year and I was hosting a farewell dinner for my uncle and aunt returning to Kerala having recently retired. I was cooking for 17 family members. Nervous as I was, I wanted to go all out for this special night. And that meant I was had two desserts on the menu. Dessert no. 2 was a layered dessert which meant it needed a little more prepping. This Shahi Tukra would come together quick enough to prepare the remaining of my menu.

For starters, the bread isn’t deep-fried. Yes, there is Ghee involved but a little goes a long way. Put teaspoons full just enough to crisp the slices to golden. Not having to fry the bread saves a lot of time which makes it a perfect contender for dessert for larger dinner parties. Secondly, there isn’t any Rabri for the bread to soften in. A simple sugar syrup is what does this. Milk is added to the syrup and boiled for not more than fifteen minutes. At this stage, the milk has just started thickening but still loose enough for dipping.

This is the star technique to this recipe. The triangles are dipped in th milky sugar syrup and any remaining syrup is poured over the arranged bread slices. How simple is that?



A generous pinch of the above is a step is not to be skipped. Ali loves working with the mortar and pestle and had a hearty (and deafening to me) time pounding these large green cardamoms to fine powder. This powder is fried in a little ghee right before you make the sugar syrup ensuring the flavour deepens in the cooking process. I had to add saffron threads for colour right before I took the milk syrup off the stove.



A handful of slivered pistachios. Dried rose petals. Just a few more things to mask this effortless recipe. Putting the final touches to my dessert placed a huge smile on my face. And why wouldn’t it?

Have a good food day.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 loaf white bread (milk bread preferred) – cut off crusts and cut into triangles

  • 5 cardamom pods finely crushed

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 cup water

  • 1 cup fresh milk

  • Saffron threads

  • Pure ghee

  • Chopped pistachios – to garnish

  • Dried rose petals (optional)

METHOD

  • In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon of ghee and toast bread slices till golden and crisp.

  • Keep adding ghee as needed to toast the bread slices.

  • In a saucepan, melt a teaspoon and quickly fry cardamom powder over low heat.

  • On a medium heat , add sugar and water to the saucepan and stir.

  • Let it cook for close to 10 minutes stirring occasionally.

  • Add the milk to the saucepan and bring it to a boil.

  • Once the syrup boils, lower the heat.

  • Stir occasionally and cook the syrup for not more than 15 minutes.

  • Add saffron threads, stir briefly and take off heat.

  • Quickly dip toasted bread in the syrup. Be careful not to burn your fingers.

  • Arrange dipped bread slices in your serving dish.

  • Pour remaining syrup over the bread slices.

  • Garnish with nuts and rose petals.

  • Let it sit for an hour before serving to ensure the bread becomes soft.

NOTES

  • If you like your desserts cold, let the dessert chill in the refrigerator once the dessert has cooled to room temperature for a couple of hours.

Sticky Toffee Churros | Because, why not?



Earlier this year, as part of the first Abu Dhabi food festival, the Plaza of the Corniche was dotted with a bevy of food trucks. There was a nip in the air and we walked the grounds with Ali in his faux fur lined beanie cap. A little over a year old, the bustling crowds, live music and the string lights were all stimulus that he soaked in wide eyed. Amidst the trucks serving lamb raan curry wraps and grilled cheese, a line had formed that was getting longer by the minute. On my tip toes, I saw the source at end was the Churros truck. It was an hour after we had reached and Ali was beginning to squirm and whimper with restlessness, his cheeks, pink flushed, from the cool breeze. Within ten minutes, we were headed back to the car with a flustered-ready-to-wail Ali sans Churros.

Churros was the forbidden fruit that had fogged my mind and I was rambling about it after Ali had slept that night. The following day the Street Feast was coming to an and being a Friday, making a trip to the Corniche after Juma’ah prayer would mean forsaking the little one’s afternoon siesta. I stepped out after putting Ali down for a nap and I found my husband waiting to surprise me with Churros in his hand. He had slipt out braving the Shamal sandstorm and supposedly longer queues than last night possibly to stop me from rambling more about it.



Soggy exterior. Chocolate sauce watered down to a limp reduction. That was the reality of the churros. What made it a delight was it was one more on the endless list of things he does to make me smile. We spoke about visiting Spain and having Churros from vendors off the street for breakfast. I’ll stick to Hot chocolate and he could try cafe con leche. With plans of an unknown impending Spanish holiday, I felt the need to redeem the experience in my own kitchen.

Fried dough and melted chocolate was a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, I had recently shot a Sticky Toffee Pudding for a client. It’s a dessert that tugs at my heartstrings considering that it was the first post I published on my blog.  I spent a few hours editing the photos of her Toffee sauce alone and have been wanting to bake it once again. That didn’t quite happen. The day I was thinking of frying Churros I had the usual dilemma of what variation I would make for the in-laws. Chocolate is not something they fancy and this challenge has more than often inspired a few interesting dessert ideas. I’ll have to credit Sticky Toffee Churros to the same challenge. A wonderful alternative to dipping Churros in molten chili chocolate is warm, buttery toffee sauce.



I chopped a handful of Sokari dates and steeped it in boiling water with a pinch of Soda bicarbonate. I pureed it and added it to my Churro batter. Mind you, the preparation of the batter is a mini workout in itself. Water and flour need to combine properly into a smooth, lump-free dough. I added my the pureed dates directly into half the batter that was ready to fry. Frying also requires a bit of patience. The temperature of the oil is vital to a crunchy shell that reveals an almost cake-y like centre. Too hot and you risk having an undercooked centre and a dark exterior. Not hot enough and the Churros might end up sans their trademark crispiness. As with all frying methods, I’d suggest a few test runs of not too long Churros to ensure the temperature is just right.

I deliberately had to shorten the length of my Churros as my star tip was larger than what is used. I realised my error only while I was testing the oil and just continued anyway. In comparison, the Date Churros were not *as* crisp as the classic version. Upsetting the dry liquid ratio might be responsible. However, all is forgotten once they’re dunked in said toffee sauce below.





I may have overdone the sugar dousing bit. I tend to take things a bit too far when Cinnamon is involved. I had made a bottle of Vanilla sugar repurposing used beans and have let it sit around for weeks unopened waiting for the right occasion. I added Cinnamon to this sugar and had my Churros rolling in the deep. As you can see its more sugar overload for every indentation rather than a light dusting. It’s the Cinnamon honestly. In my world, way too much Cinnamon is not an option.



Surprise surprise. He actually preferred the Toffee sauce over the chocolate. I do think it is because my dark chocolate stash was close to nothing for melting and I had to use semi-sweet chocolate chips. I have to warn you they are quite heavy on the stomach too. 2 or more and it feels like you’ve gone through a massive slice of cake. Regardless, now that the winter we are used to in the part of the world (20 degrees Celsius is brrr cold) this is a recipe right for the weather.

See you on the other side of 2016. A lot of changes headed my way and hoping my blogging pace picks up now the little one is a bit older. Happy holidays everyone!

Sticky Toffee Churros

Churro Recipe adapted from Saveur.com.

Toffee sauce recipe by Jamie Oliver

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 stick cinnamon

  • 2 ¼ cups flour

  • 1 egg

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

  • 10 medium dates, pitted and chopped

  • ¼ tsp soda bicarbonate

  • Canola oil, for frying

TOFFEE SAUCE

  • 60 g unsalted butter

  • 60 g sugar

  • 70 ml heavy cream

DIPPING CHOCOLATE

  • ½ cup 70% or higher dark chocolate

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • ¼ tsp red chilli powder

METHOD

  • Bring butter, salt, vanilla, cinnamon stick, and 2 ¼ cups water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

  • Remove from heat and discard cinnamon. stick and add flour; cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a smooth dough forms, about 5 minutes.

  • Transfer dough to a bowl, and add egg; stir vigorously until dough is smooth.

  • Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with 3⁄8″ star tip and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, combine sugar and ground cinnamon in a flat plate or baking dish and set aside.

  • Pour oil to a depth of 2″ in an deep saucepan heat over medium-high heat.

  • Working in batches, hold piping bag above oil, and pipe about four 6″ lengths of dough.

  • Fry, turning often, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

  • Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, and then transfer dish with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

  • Quickly shake or roll until evenly coated.

  • Repeat with remaining dough in piping bag.

DATE CHURROS

  • Soak prepared dates with soda bicarbonate in boiling hot water just enough to cover the dates.

  • Let it sit for 10 minutes.

  • Puree the dates to a fine paste and add it to prepare churro batter.

  • Mix rigorously to ensure even distribution.

TOFFEE SAUCE

  • Place butter, sugar and cream in a low pan over low heat.

  • Stir until sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened.

  • The sauce should darken to a deep golden color.

  • Be careful not to overcook otherwise the sauce will have a burnt flavor.

DIPPING CHOCOLATE

  • Heat cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.

  • Once it begins to simmer (bubbles forming around the edges), add chocolate and chilli powder.

  • Stir slowly until chocolate is melted and everything is combined.

Have a good food day!

 

 

Kare Pan – Japanese Curry Doughnut | Fasting Feasting



There has to be something fried for Iftar. Almost every year I hear the conversations of good intent of women wanting to avoid making them keeping their family’s health in mind. I would like to see how far into the month they would keep this resolve. For you see, I know for a fact in Kerala, there is always something fried at the Iftar table. Beef cutlet, Mutton Samosa, Chicken Spring Roll, Ulli bhaji [Onion Fritters]. Potato Bonda and Pazham Pori [Plantain fritters] comprise of an incomplete and exhaustive list. Over the years, innovation has creeped in slowly and we find ourselves much more experimental.  Especially if it is an Iftar party. You will find the much revered classics but you will most definitely spot that one dish which no one has seen, heard, made, tasted the works before. I’m glad to help you build that list with this Japanese Curry Doughnut.



I first met the Curry Doughnut at Yamanote Atelier. I was headed back to Abu Dhabi after staying with my folks sans husband. We have this little tradition where I buy a few treats for him to make up for the days I haven’t been around. He’s always been a fan of a sweet and spicy flavours combined and that is what I had assumed this doughnut would be. He loved it. I took a bite of this crunchy bread stuffed with mildly hot potato curry and sat there thinking why it tastes so oddly familiar. It’s humongously filling and you’ve got to be starving if you can enjoy more than one. I knew instantlyI had to recreate this recipe for Ramadan.



The bread recipe was quite basic with the usual flour, egg, butter and yeast ingredients and proofing method. Prepare to knead away for the softest results. There really is no shortcut. It is the curry that had me in a fix. I wanted it to taste true to my first bite. All the reading I did left me a bit hopeless. The one crucial ingredient it required would be difficult to source in the UAE. Japanese curry roux is similar to stock cubes when added to vegetable stew renders that inimitable flavour. I then started looking for recipes from scratch. I knew that wouldn’t happen after Tonkatsu sauce, shio koji and togarashi, popped up in the list of spices required. I was desperate and asked my husband, in my most exasperated tone, if we could ask a relative visiting Japan at that time to fetch me a few boxes. He thought about it for a moment and said I should trust my flavour instincts and recreate something similar. I started at him hard thinking if he’s secretly training me for Masterchef.

Thus began the experiments in the kitchen. Since he’s a huge fan of chicken, I first made a basic Garam Masala spiced chicken curry and cooked it to a slightly thicker consistency. Verdict issued was it tasted good but if I was trying to recreate what I set out in the first place then I have missed the target. It was nothing close to it. Too different. It had been a while since I had last eaten it. Determined, on our next weekend stay in Dubai, we went to taste test the same Curry Doughnut from where all this madness had begun. I must,quite humbly, admit my bread was much softer (woohoo!) but yes, that curry didn’t taste anything like it. 

And out of nowhere, Pav Bhaji started ringing in my head. That’s it. A mushy vegetable stew that leaves a lingering heat, that is what I’ve been looking for. Encapsulate it and a few minutes later, you’ll be biting into the goodness that is deep fried bread.



Here’s another distinct feature of the curry doughnut, it’s breaded with Panko. Panko is a Japanese variation of breadcrumbs which is made from only the bread and without crusts. It’s not around as finely and you can see they’re much larger flakes. They tend to absorb much less grease than regular breadcrumbs and has a distinct crunch.


It might just be easier if I showed you how to shape them because they are a bit trick.y

Pinch off a small piece of dough. Roll it out in a circular shape making sure that you don’t roll the dough out too thin. If you do, you risk the filling tearing through the dough once you start shaping it.

Fold over one side and gently press to seal.

Bring together both ends and pinch tightly.

Slowly roll the doughnut tin the palm of your hand and shape it into a ball.

Dip the shaped doughnuts in egg wash.



Coat the egg washed dipped doughnut in breadcrumbs and continue till all them are dipped and coated.



And then fry away. It doesn’t require more than a minute for the crumb to turn crispy golden. Enjoy them while they are still warm to make the most of the dough in all its puffed glory.

Kare Pan – Japanese Curry Doughnut

Recipe barely adapted from Closet Cooking

Stuffing recipe barely adapted from Sandhya’s Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

Doughnut

  • 1 teaspoon yeast

  • ¼ cup water (lukewarm)

  • 3 cups flour

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted and cooled)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup pav bhaji (recipe below)

  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)

  • 1 tablespoon milk

  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

Pav Bhaji

  • 2 teaspoon Coconut oil Sunflower oil2 Tsp

  • 3 cloves chopped garlic

  • 1-2 finely chopped green chillies

  • 2 medium sized onions chopped finely

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

  • 4 medium size tomatoes

  • ½ cup cauliflower florets

  • ½ cup carrot chopped

  • potatoes boiled and mashed

  • 3 teaspoon Pav Bhaji Masala

  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder

  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder

  • 4 tablespoon salted byyer

  • salt to taste

  • 3-4 teaspoon lemon juice

METHOD

Pav Bhaji

  • Cook cauliflower and carrots in a pressure cooker till it is mushy. About 4 whistles.

  • Heat oil in a pan .Add garlic & green chillies and saute for 30-40 seconds.

  • Add ginger & onions and saute until it turns light brown.

  • Add a pinch of salt while frying onions. It will help to evaporate the water & fry quickly.

  • Add the diced tomatoes to it and cook on medium heat for three to four minutes, stirring continuously or till oil separates from the masala.

  • Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder , 1 tsp pav bhajji powder to the mixture.

  • Now add the cooked vegetables & mashed potatoes to this mixture along with 1-1.5 glasses of water.

  • Using a potato smasher, press the vegetables a few times till all of them are completely smashed

  • .Bring it to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

  • Add the rest of the pav bhaji masala and salt now.

  • Cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes and stir continuously.

  • Add lemon juice and turn off the heat.

Doughnut

  • Mix the yeast and the warm water in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

  • Mix in the flour, sugar, salt, butter and water and form a dough.

  • Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes.

  • Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise to double its size, about 60-90 minutes.

  • Knock the dough down and knead for 2 minutes.

  • Place the dough back into the bowl and let rise again for 30 minutes.

  • Knock the dough down and knead for 2 minutes.

  • Pinch the dough to form medium sized doughnuts.

  • Mix the egg and milk in a bowl.

  • Roll out one of the pieces of dough into a 6 inch circle and place a spoonful of the curry in the centre.

  • Fold it over and pinch the dough closed.

  • Bring the edges together and seal tightly.

  • Gently shape the dough turning it over in your palm of the hand.

  • Dip the formed bread into the egg wash and then dip them into the panko bread crumbs to cover.

  • Cover the bread with and let rise while you heat the oil.

  • Heat the oil in a pan.

  • Place the bread into the oil and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 60-90 seconds per side.

  • Place the cooked curry bread onto some paper towels to drain while it cools.

NOTES

  • If you can’t find Panko, don’t panic. Here’s how you can make Panko from scratch.

  • You can stuff these doughnuts with any curry you like. The key is to make it slightly thicker using cornstarch so that it is easier to stuff.

Have a good food day.