Saturday, September 24, 2011

Venetian Carrot Cake- a la halwa

Ever since I saw the Venetian Carrot Cake on one of Nigella Lawson's programme I had it in my mind to make it. It naturally reminded me of the justifiably famed gazar ka halwa (carrot halwa) that is made with the surfeit of carrots in winter. Carrot halwa used to be a very seasonal fare back when I was a child when carrots were really around at affordable prices only in the cooler months. Perhaps it was just as well; halwas are not for the calorie freak :). Neither is this cake! It might lack the clarified butter and high fat milk added to halwa but it makes it up with the three eggs. It was the use of olive oil in a sweet cake paired with nutmeg and lemon which intrigued me. I made a few changes to the ingredients listed in Nigella's recipe, so maybe I should call it Indian carrot cake. I upped the amount of grated carrot. Used ground cashew instead of almond and pine nuts and increased the amount of lemon zest. Mine didn't rise at all. But inspite of that it is a soft, moist cake. The so much larger allowance of nuts of course makes it taste quite different from carrot halwa, but it is very likely, the canny Venetians took the idea of the cake from their trading partners in the Orient!

2 tablespoons toasted coarsely chopped cashew
1 and half cup cashew ground to flour
3/4 cup cashew ground finely but with visible bits
Carrots, grated 200-250g
75g golden raisin
60ml rum
150g caster sugar
125ml regular olive oil, plus some for greasing
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice half a lemon

Ground the toasted cashew into various degrees of coarseness in batches. Tip the cashew flour and next most finely ground nuts into a large bowl. Zest the lemon into it. Boil the rum with the raisins until they have plumped up. Cool. Grate the carrots. I made a big batch of grated carrot and left them overnight in the refrigerator, so that they dried out a bit. Mix the carrot into the nut flour. Add the raisins along with the rum and stir thoroughly. Cream together olive oil, sugar, vanilla extract, grated nutmeg until it is creamy. Add the eggs one by one to the creamed mixture, beating thourougly. Add the lemon juice last. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and fold in, so as to wet it. Grease a 9 inch cake pan with olive oil. Pour the batter. Smooth it over. Strew the top with the coarsely chopped cashew bits. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Test by a fork to make sure it is completely cooked.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lemon cashew tart with banana bread crust

Sometimes a dish is born out of adversity. So it was with this pie with a cashewnut filling and a banana bread crust. A low-fat banana-bread recipe failed and got blitzed into crumbs that then went onto encase a cashew frangipane. This is one way of using up a cake which has not risen to your expectations. Similarly, any leftover crumbs will do the trick. I have written down the ingredients of both the crust/bread and the filling. The bread/crust was baked before, then blitzed in a processor with more butter to be made into a pie crust. The nut filling can of course be made of other nuts; almond frangipane being the commonest in pastry shops. The addition of the lemon juice and zest is what makes it special. In this case I used a 7 inch tart pan. The sliced pear was added to add a bit more fruit, but is open to reconstruction.

For the crust
1 cup white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 and half ripe banana

5 Tablespoon jaggery

1/2 inch ginger, minced
4 Tablespoon skimmed milk
8 Tablespoon butter

For the filling
3/4 cup cashew, unsalted, ground
1 egg

2 lemons, used for juice and zest
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup white sugar
4 Tablespoon butter
1 pear, peeled and sliced thinly

In a processor, put together the banana and all ingredients of the crust except half the butter, until it forms a dough. This can also be done by hand. Starting from scratch, the ingredients come together into a fairly sticky dough. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 40 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Blitz to disintegrate it into crumbs. I added 4 tablespoon of softened butter at this step. Press the crumbs evenly into a thick crust in a tart pan. Bake for minutes. Let cool.
Grind the cashew into powder with salt and half of the sugar set aside for the filling. Grate the lemon zest and juice the lemons. Melt the butter in a pan. Remove it from heat and whisk in the egg until a yellow mass forms. Add the lemon juice and zest. Stir thoroughly. Add the ground cashew and then whisk again until a thick paste is formed. Taste at this stage to adjust the tartness of the lemon. It should be sour but not mouth puckeringly. Add a few tablespoons of sugar if necessary.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Garlic Chicken

My husband has two firm rules when he cooks. More butter is better. And there's no harm in adding a few more cloves of garlic. One of his signature dishes, this garlic chicken certainly upholds those aphorisms. The dish never fails to win him accolades; my mother still reminisces about the first time she had it! This recipe calls for a marinade of few hours; but I have known it to be a resounding success even without that step.

300 gm chicken, in pieces, bone in

For marinade
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoon alcoholic liquid; we had gin at hand
1 teaspoon vinegar
Pinch of Herbes de Provence
1/2 teaspoon salt

Green capsicum, half, diced
2 large onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, sliced
2 inch ginger, minced
2 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon honey
Salt to taste

Prepare the marinade. Marinate the chicken pieces for 30 minutes to an hour at room temperature or inside the refrigerator. In the meantime chop all the other condiments. Heat the wok and melt the butter. Add the onions and cook them for 10 minutes until translucent and they have started to pick up brown flecks. Add the ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the garlic, chicken and salt. Pour half of the marinade, stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the capsicum and coat them with the onion mixture. Open and stir it once in a while. If it is too dry add a few teaspoons of water. Cover and cook until the chicken is just done. This dish is best done in a wok/kadai/pan. Avoid the pressure cooker. The taste is more intense when stirred and cooked with juices released by the chicken. Serve warm with rice.