Monday, May 30, 2011

Coconut oatmeal cookies

A chewy cookie. I adored the Peperidge farm oatmeal cookies and have since then been trying to recreate the perfect texture. Oatmeal and grated coconut seemed an admitable combination.A little bit of Indian spices and this is a cookie which can come together within half an hour. I used grated coconut found in the freezer section. Dry coconut can also be used but a little more milk will be needed to put the dough together. The final product was a little bit like the famed Bengali Malpoa; the semolina-coconut deep fried, syrup dipped dainty. Its a beloved of all Bengalees and a must in the harvest season. The calorie levels will even out; the cookies rich in butter and the Malpoa batter deep fried to golden perfection. Very much like Malpoas, my cookies had a mind of their own when it came to shape. Roughly oval and somewhat flat.

2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 cup grated coconut
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup jaggery
2 eggs
4 Tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla, ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon and allpice, ground

Preheat oven to 190 degree centigrades. In a mixer beat the butter first and add jaggery until creamy. Beat in the eggs one by one until fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla, spices, milk into the beaten froth and blend briefly. In another bowl, put the flour, oatmeal, grated coconut and baking powder together. Sift to incoprporate air and mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add the egg mixture and fold it in until all the dry ingredients come together. Drop the batter onto oiled baking sheets. Keep about an inch gap between each. Bake for 15 minutes in middle rack.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Maankochu" Chutney (মান্ কচুর চাটনী)

A paste, a cutney or is it a sauce? I haven't been able to find an appropriate English name for Maan Kochu, so I will refer to it as Mankochu. I have a propensity for roots and tubers. So when I had at my mother's place this delectable chutney, I instantly wanted the recipe. Unfortunately, I haven't come upon it in Chennai. The dish is made with the raw grated vegetable. Its necessary to try it out before embarking on the recipe, since it can itch. There's something very Bengali to smell the mustard oil as you put a large dab of this green chutney on steamy rice.


500 gm Maan-Kochu or root stock
1 and half cup, Coconut, grated
2 cups, Coriander leaves, Chopped
1 and 1/2 Tablespoon, Mustard Seeds
Half cup Mustard Oil
3 Tablespoon, Green Chillies, chopped
Rock Salt, your taste.
1/2 Tablespoon, Sugar
Water, According to your need of thickness of the paste.

Wash the Maan-Kochu thoroughly,before peeling. Grate a little bit and taste it. If it tickles, then don't proceed. Cut the vegetable if it passes the "tickle test" into very small pieces. Keep aside.
Grind the mustard seeds, sugar and salt. Add this to chopped green chillies, coriander, and the grated coconut. Put everything together with the chopped maan kochu pieces little by little in the mixer, and blend. Add extra salt sugar if necessary. Add the mustard oil and blend. Add water little by little, only if the consistency is too thick.
One can have this spread with bread, chapati, and with hot rice.

Pumpkin noodle

I find myself frequently conned into making potato gnocchi. Nothing against it, its a lovely pasta and my husband loves it! However in the sweltering Madras weather it is a lot of WORK (in capitals, yes!). So when I saw David Rocco's Gnudi con la zucca, I thought to earn similar amount of glory with some shortcuts ;-). The recipe needed to be modified, since I didn't have the listed ingredients listed in the original recipe. In spite of that it came ou very well! So here's the substituted items one can get away with.(a) pumpkin instead of butternut squash (b) Grana Padano instead of Pecorino Romano (c) home-made paneer hung overnight to drain instead of ricotta. And no egg as binder since I wanted it vegetarian.
I halved the amounts, since I had only two to feed.

We had it topped with slow-cooked bell pepper in vinegar and honey.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sweet plantain bread

I had three ripe plantains which needed using up, so I came up with this bread. I must have had sweet plantain before, but our Kerela trip memorably introduced me to the vegetable again. We were staying at a homestay run by a Syrian Christian family at Kottayam. Twice at least breakfast was mashed/baked sweet plantain. I have been using ripe yellow plantains since then in many ways. Try the milkshake with sweet plantain for example. Awfully easy! Rich, creamy and healthy. Or as a filling which I will share soon.

This time I used it in a multi-grain bread. Stunning with Pesto, Muhammara or plain old Mint Chutney. This is a bread starting from a sponge, with two phases of raising the dough so it does take some time.

3 ripe plantains
1/2 cup rye flour
2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh yeast
1 Tablespoon jaggery
1 and half cup water
White Oil to grease
1 Tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (optional)

Bake the ripe plantains at 180 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes. For the sponge, in a separate bowl add the rye flour, 1 cup white flour, half teaspoon salt, yeast and the jaggery. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and then add 3/4 cup water for making a thick batter. Cover and keep in a warm place overnight. The plantains should be baked by now. Cool them and then scrape the golden yellow flesh of the ripe plantains. Store in the refrigerator until next day.

Next day, stir the sponge batter. In a clean bowl add the whole wheat and 1 cup white flour with salt. Pour the sponge batter and mix it. Add some water to make it a shaggy dough. About 5 minutes kneading should do. Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes. In the meantime bring the sweet plantain to room temperature. Make it into a mash. Add the mash to the dough. Work it in thoroughly. Knead for another 5 minutes. The dough is likely to be sticky. Oil a loaf pan and transfer the shaggy mass to it. Smooth over the top. Poke the pumpkin seeds in if using. Cover and let rise for another 30-45 minutes. In the meantime preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Bake for about 40 minutes on the lowest rack. If necessary, cover the top with a foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent it browning too quickly. Let cool and unmould.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tomato Tart

This tart was made as dinner in order to avoid standing at the stove and cooking in the heat. I generally have tart dough frozen in the freezer. This time I did start from scratch. But on the other hand, I took a short cut in the mustard; using kasundi instead of making the mustard paste myself. The rest was simplicity itself. Sliced tomatoes, Fresh herbs chopped and scattered. And finaly shaved pieces of Manchego on top. Baked for 20 minutes and voila dinner is ready!


For dough
210 gm white flour
125 gm unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup chilled water, to be used with discretion

7 inch tart pan

For filling
4 large tomatoes, sliced
3 Tablespoon Bengali kasundi (mustard)
3 Tablespoon mixed fresh herbs
3 Tablespoon shaved Manchego

Make the dough. I followed Pim's One pie dough to rule them all. Line the tart pan with the dough. Bake the dough at 200 degrees centigrade for 10 minutes. Take out the tart base out. Smear the bottom with the mustard. Put the tomato pieces to cover the base, in layers if necessary. Sprinkle the chopped herbs. I used a mixture of flat leaf parsley, mint and dill. Scatter the cheese on the top. Bake for 15 minutes at 150 degrees centigrade. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Sherbets of Summer

It is firmly summer here. When I was in Calcutta last week, I went about with a permanently hang-dog face after 10 minutes outdoors. The heat is scorching but even more is the high humidity. It is slightly better in Madras, but only very slightly :>.... You need to top up your liquid reserves continuously. At home we shift from smoothies and milk-shakes to fruit juices. And preparing them becomes a labour of love. Especially if you make a concentrated version which can be watered down to rejuvenate you when one gets into the house and collapses. The following are recipes made from watermelons and unripe mangoes. This is the season for them. And we are wolfing them down; gladly, naturally :).

The unripe mango one is more seasonal since they will be off the markets in a month. In south India they appear almost as soon as the Sun starts ruling. You should try to get large mangoes. Too small and the labour becomes intensive. Traditionally, my mother would roast the mango on a gas flame until soft, the classic Aam Pora. The smoky overtones add another dimension. I admit I cheated. I will come to that in a minute ;->.

Unripe Mango Sherbet

2 large unripe green mangoes
1 cup white sugar or to taste
1 and half litre water
1 and half teaspoon (or to taste) Pink Salt or beet nun

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature. I set mine at 250 ̊C. Wash the mangoes very well. If necessary soak them for an hour in water to get rid of the sap which sometimes will run down the fruit when the mango is broken off the tree. Put the mangoes on the rack nearest and blister them. Take out the rack out 5 minutes and turn the fruit to blister it uniformly. After another five minutes, take it out. The mangoes should have softened a bit by now. For the rest of the softening, I put them in a pressure cooker with the water and cook them at highest pressure for 5 minutes. Let them cool down completely. Take the mangoes out of the liquid. Peel the mangoes. Scrape the flesh from the skin and add it to the liquid. Squeeze the flesh from the seed. I find it fastest to do it by hand. Add the sugar and boil it to dissolve the sugar. Puree the liquid. Put it back on a low flame and add the pink salt. One can use ordinary salt if pink salt is unavailable.Only this has a distinct sulphurous smell which I grew up with! Make sure it dissolves. Test to judge its salt/sugar/sourness component. Transfer to a carafe and chill it.
This is a concentrated solution so you might want to dilute it with chilled water for serving.

Watermelon Sherbet

2.5 kg watermelon
1 inch ginger
Sugar (optional)

Wash the watermelon. Remove the peel. Cut the red flesh out. Make sure the white flesh is avoided when the pulp is taken out. Remove the black and brown seeds. Peel the ginger and roughly chop it. Add the watermelon flesh and ginger into a blender and puree it. If it is too thick, add water and blend again. The watermelons here are very sweet, so sugar does not need to be added. However if necessary you can sweeten it with sugar. Serve chilled.