Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Kerala beef biryani & Christmas traditions

Christmas is a month away- A MONTH AWAY- can you believe that?
Its too early to whine about resolutions and how fast this year went by,which i shall keep for my New Year post, so lets talk about food, and Christmas family traditions.

Christmas is a big deal for us back home, something i thoroughly miss after we moved to UK. Although we have tried to do something or the other on Christmas day with friends who are around, its never the same without family. Christmas was spent with cousins and aunts and uncles and started pretty early with a church service at the wee hours of the morning. Droopy eyed we'd still go to church without much fuss because we know we'd get to open presents after. After church we'd all go over to my paternal grandparents house where my grand mother would have prepared a breakfast fit for the kings. But before we sat down to breakfast we'd open all our gifts, which of course was the most favourite part. Breakfast would be elaborate with a Kerala special called appam (hoppers as its commonly known here) served with chicken or mutton stew and there would also be loads of sides like boiled eggs, steamed plantains and this and that. I cant ever remember my grand mother entertaining guests with just two or three dishes, she'd go all out, and every one of them delicious.

We'd have relatives or friends dropping by and they would all be given fruit cake (equivalent of the Christmas pudding) and home made sweet sweet wine. Lunch would follow soon after with a biryani and a side of raita, pappadum, cutlets (croquettes), fish fry etc etc. All home made. It would stretch on for a couple of hours, with non stop banter, Christmas carols in the background, and finally end with dessert which would either be a payasam (which is a sweet milk pudding with vermicelli) or caramel custard or something similar. We'd all be stuffed by then and would be calling dibs on which sofa or bed we'd want to plonk on.
IMG_8804 (1) 
These are all such fond memories of home during Christmas. Its not the same now. Of course the appam and the biryani's are all very much omnipresent, but its no longer a big gathering with cousins and family as we are all spread around the world now. I feel terribly home sick around Christmas time and give Ro quite a hard time about it.

Beef biryani is not something that is made on Christmas day- its usually a chicken or a mutton biryani- but i thought I'd give a twist to tradition with a beef version, which is just as good. The recipe may look long and a bit intimidating for first timers, but its actually not that cumbersome, especially if you manage to make the beef curry a day or two in advance. Do read my notes.

Every family has a Christmas tradition, but if you are looking for something different this time around, then check out the Waitrose Christmas page which has a round up of traditions from around the world accompanied by recipes (Mixing Gorgonzola cheese with Prosecco, now that's a combination i thought never existed!).

Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. Its not about nutrients and calories. Its about sharing. Its about honesty, its about identity.' Louise Fresco

Kerala Beef Biryani (Serves 4 to 5 generously, as part of main) 
To marinate
Beef- 1 kg, diced
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1 tsp
Pepper powder- 1 tsp
Yoghurt- 4 tbsp
Salt- to taste

For the masala
Oil- 2 tbsp
Onions- 2 large, roughly chopped
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Ginger- 2 1/2 tbsp, peeled and roughly chopped
Garlic- 2 1/2 tbsp, peeled and roughly chopped
Green chillies- 3 to 4 (increase or decrease as per tolerance level)
Tomatoes- 2, finely chopped
Garam masala- 1 tsp
Chilli powder- 1 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder- 2 tsp
Fennel powder- 1/2 tsp
Biryani masala powder- 1 tsp (optional)
Mint leaves- 1/4 cup, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Water- 1/2 to 3/4th cup
Khus Khus (white poppy seeds)- 1 tbsp, soaked in water
For the rice
Ghee- 2 tbsp
Cloves- 5 pods
Cardamom- 5 pods
Cinnamon- 2, 1 inch sticks
Star anise- 1
Bay leaves- 2
Basmati rice- 3 1/2 cups (I used Tilda long grain rice)
Water- 7 to 8 cups
Salt- to taste
Lemon juice- 1/2 tbsp

For garnishing
Ghee- 3 tbsp
Onions- 1/4 cup, julienned
Cashew nuts- 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves- 1/4 cup
Marinate the beef with all the ingredients under the 'to marinate' section. Keep aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Grind together the ginger, garlic and green chillies.
Soak the khus khus in water for about 15 minutes, and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
Wash and soak the rice in cold water for about 30 minutes.
Also get the garnish ingredients ready by heating the ghee in a pan and frying the onions and cashew nuts, separately till they turn golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and keep aside.

Into a pressure cooker pour the ghee. 
Keeping the heat on medium, add the chopped onions and curry leaves and cook till they turn a light brown in colour. This could take around 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the crushed ginger-garlic-chilli paste and continue cooking till the raw smell disappears.
Add the tomato and cook till they turn mushy and the oil starts to slightly separate.
Stir in all the spice powders- garam masala, chilli powder, coriander powder, fennel powder and biryani masala (if using).
Season with salt, saute for about 2 minutes, and then tip in the marinated beef and all its juices.
Add the mint and coriander leaves, give a good stir and then pour in about 1/2 cup water. 
Bring to a boil, and close the cooker.
Put the weights on once the steam comes and cook the beef on medium heat for about 4 to 5 whistles or till the beef is completely cooked.
Wait for the steam to die on its own and then open the lid.
If you feel the gravy is too loose, then slow cook it till you feel its thick-ish. Alternatively, if you feel there is not enough gravy then add some more water. Remember you need enough water to mix with the rice and make it moist.
Stir in the ground khus khus, check for salt, add more if needed and take the meat off heat.
While the beef is cooking get the rice ready.
In a large pot (enough to hold around 8 cups of water) heat the ghee.
Throw in the whole spices and sauté for a couple of seconds, just to get the aromas going, on medium heat. Put a kettle of water to boil at this point.
Add the drained rice and fry for a couple of seconds.
Add about 7 to 8 cups of water to the rice followed by salt and lemon juice. Stir well and wait for it to boil on high heat.
Once the water starts boiling, time it and cook the rice to an almost al dente form, for about 6 to 8 minutes maximum on a rolling boil.
Keep stirring in between, but make sure the rice doesn't break and get over cooked.
Drain immediately into a colander.

To assemble, smear the bottom of a large heavy bottomed pan with ghee. Use left over ghee from frying the cashew and onions.
Spread a layer of rice and then sprinkle half a tsp each of the chopped coriander leaves, fried onions and cashew over the rice
Top with a layer of the beef curry. Spread it out as gently as possible.
Tip in the remaining rice, spread it out and sprinkle the remaining biryani masala powder and coriander leaves. Continue the layers till you run out of both, but with the rice layer right at the top.
Close with a tight lid, making sure no steam escapes, reduce heat to the lowest possible and let it warm up for about 10-15 minutes.
When done, scatter around the remaining fried onions and cashews and serve hot with some raita, pappad and pickle.
Notes: The beef curry can be made a day or two in advance, refrigerated and used as required for the biryani. In fact its a better option because the curry would taste absolutely delicious once the masalas have caught on.
The rice i use got cooked to perfection in exactly 5 minutes, so keep a close watch and make sure you don't over cook it. If you can comfortable with the absorption method with the exact quantity of water used, please do that instead
It is a spicy one, so reduce the green chillies to 2 if you are not a spice fan. I used birds eye chilli
If you can get hold of beef on the bone, nothing like it. I shall do so the next time.
Instead of using the biryani masala powder you can also use normal curry powder in its place.
You can do the layering in the oven as well. Arrange it in an oven proof bowl and warm in an oven preheated at 150C for about 20 minutes.
Freeze the remaining biryani in a freezer proof container. To thaw, either transfer it to the top compartment of the fridge and let it thaw over night or take it out and leave on the counter for it to thaw by evening. Tip the contents into an over proof bowl and let it heat in an oven preheated at 200C for about 15 minutes. 
If you don't own a pressure cooker, you can slow cook the beef in a heavy bottomed pan till done. Just keep a check on it at intervals, keep stirring in between and add water as required.

Tomato and shallot raita
Yoghurt- 1 cup
Green chilli- 1/2 of one, finely chopped
Chaat masala- 1/2 to 1 tsp + enough to garnish
Salt- to taste
Tomato- 1 small, finely chopped
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 1 tsp

Add a few table spoons of water to the yoghurt and whisk to make it a bit loose.
Stir in the salt, chaat masala and green chilli
Add the tomato and shallots, give it a good stir and just before serving garnish with coriander leaves and a generous sprinkle of chaat masala.

With thanks to Waitrose online for sending me a Waitrose gift card which I used to purchase my ingredients. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Egg and coconut chutney bondas (kebabs)

My mum used to make a version of this when we were young. It was that rebellious period where we didnt like anything home made, leave alone bonda's, which were the most boring things ever. Instead we wanted things from the bakery, or burgers and hot dogs from the fast food joints. Fast forward 20 years later and I want all these boring dishes I never bothered to notice. Dont get me wrong here, I love my steaks, pizzas and pastas, but I realised I want these simple unassuming memories of home also, unusually a lot more these days.

Blame the 2 week short trip back home, the depressing weather (I am not joking, but I havent seen the sun for more than 10 minutes at a stretch since i got back), the winter chill, or you know just to find out if you could make the dish the same way mummy made. I wanted to call her up to get the exact recipe, but my globe trotting mother was in Thailand with her friends and so had to make do with my memory of the recipe she had once mentioned over the phone. 
To be honest, I cant remember if it tasted anything like hers, but I can assure you it tasted darn good. I wouldn't say the husband gobbling up 4 of them one after the other is proof, but you get the idea right? I would say these are like Scotch eggs, but like a poorer cousin with coconut chutney instead of meat. Its a great appetiser and a different one at that. Using quails eggs make it a tad fancier and also an easy finger food since you can just chuck the whole thing into your mouth.

Serves 7 to 8 as a starter
Eggs- 12, hard boiled (I used quails eggs)

For the chutney
Grated coconut- 1 cup
Coriander leaves- 1 cup
Mint leaves- 12
Tamarind paste- 1 tsp
Green chilli- 1
Salt- to taste
For the batter
Gram flour- 2 tbsp
Plain flour- 2 tbsp
Ajwain seeds- 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder- 1/2 tsp
Fennel seeds, powdered- a generous pinch
Baking soda- 1/4 tsp
Salt- to taste
Water- enough to make a thick batter
Cook the quails eggs in boiling water for about 6 minutes to hard boil them. Drain, peel and keep aside.

Grind together all the ingredients for the chutney in a food processor/ blender, scraping down the sides at intervals, until you get a smooth-ish paste.
Resist the urge to add water.
Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate till ready to use.

Mix together all the dry ingredients for the batter in a mixing bowl and add enough water to make a thick batter, almost paste-like.
Make sure its not too loose, or else it wont stick to the egg. That said, if it does end up being too loose, just add some more flour to get the desired consistency. Or if too thick, loosen it with water, 1 tsp at a time.
When ready to cook, heat oil in a deep pan.
Wrap the coconut chutney around the quails egg and make into a smooth ball. Do so with all the eggs, making sure you dont over do the chutney on each egg.
Cover the balls in batter and drop them into the hot oil.
Cook for about 2 minutes on each side, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels.
Serve hot with spicy ketchup.

Notes: I used quails egg and the chutney quantity was perfect for 12 of them. The said quantity should cover 5 to 6 medium size eggs easily. The chutney recipe can easily be doubled.
I made the chutney the previous day. Bring it out to room temperature half an hour before making the bondas.
Also, I found that the chutney had dried a bit the next day, so i stirred in 2 tsp of water so it would stick to the eggs. Please add water bit by bit because once it becomes too watery, there is no way to fix it.
The chutney works great on its own with idli, dosa or even as a sandwich filling.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Caramelised onion and French goats cheese tartlets

The weather in this part of the world is turning cold and wintry and its our first Autumn since we've moved out into the suburbs so I'm quite enjoying the fall colours around us. We drove around a bit last weekend to take in the colours and was completely in awe of how gorgeous the Chilterns were. The mist started rolling in out of nowhere and I couldn't help but stop and take some pictures. Even more impressed with my new OnePlus 2 phone camera that has done justice to the scene. I just shot these on HDR mode, no post processing or filters and some pretty cool features to play around with.

Moving on to today's recipe, goats cheese is not something I've always loved. It was more like an acquired taste and now I've begun to enjoy it quite a bit. That said, it doesn't make its way through to my dishes at home that often and its only when a recipe particularly calls for it, that i pick it up. I had no idea there were a few varieties of goats cheese until The French Goats Cheese team got in touch explaining about the different varieties available and most importantly how versatile they were. Till now, all i knew was it was used it salads. I couldn't be more wrong- you can whip them up for a mousse, melt on vegetables, spread on toasts and so on. 
One of my favourite ways to comsume goats cheese is to slice up a fresh baguette, toast it lightly, crumble some goats cheese and top with a slice of roasted pear with honey and thyme. Its delicious and you just cant stop at one. I was put forth with a challenge to encourage people to think outside the box when it comes to using French Goat's cheese. I don't know if this recipe can be called thinking outside the box, but it worked wonders for us. Caramelised onions and goats cheese is a match made in heaven and I couldn't think of a better way to put the cheese that was sent to me to good use.
The Crottin de Chavignol is slightly crumbly but gorgeous, and was used in my pear crostini. The Valencay, a creamy white soft cheese is perfect in salads, but i decided to use it atop my tart and the mini log which is the most popular was used up melted on a toast. To discover more about French Goat's cheese and recipe inspiration please visit the website.

Recipe inspiration here
Olive oil- 2 tbsp
White onions- 2 large, thinly sliced
Dark brown sugar- 2 tbsp
Thyme- a few sprigs (dried or fresh)
Salt and pepper- to taste
White wine vinegar- 2 tbsp

Puff pastry- 1 sheet, thawed and rolled out to a rectangle and about 1 inch thick (I got a ready rolled one)
Goats cheese- around 100gms, crumbled (I used Valencay, a French goats cheese)
Milk- 2 tbsp, to brush the pastry
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on low-medium heat, and throw in the onions.
Cook till they soften and turns a golden brown in colour, but doesn't burn. This could take around 15 to 20 minutes.
Keep stirring in between to prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom.
Once you attain the brown colour, add the dark brown sugar and mix well with the onions.
Continue cooking to allow the sugar to caramelise and the colour to change to a darker brown, another 10 minutes or so. Again make sure you keep stirring to stop the onions from burning.
Pour in the vinegar and de-glaze the pan after which you add the thyme, and season with salt and pepper.
Give a good stir and take the mix off the heat. Keep aside.
Preheat oven to 100C and cut out 8 circles or rectangles from the rolled out puff pastry.
Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and score the outer edge of the pastry, about 1 in inside with a sharp knife. Don't go all the way to the base, this is to just give a sort of rim.
Brush all over with the milk and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or till golden brown and puffed.
Remove from the oven and press down the inner circle leaving the outer in tact. This sort of gives it a vol-au-vent look.
Fill the pastry cases with caramelised onions and top with the crumbled goats cheese.
Place it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, after which you can take it out and serve warm.
Notes: The caramelising bit takes a bit of time, I agree which is why its a good idea to do it a day or so ahead and use as required for the tarts
Instead of making tartlets, you can of course use the entire puff pastry as it is and once done slice into squares and serve.
White wine vinegar can be replaced with red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar.

With thanks to French Goats Cheese for sending over samples and accompaniments. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Bespoke Indian inspired cakes from ChinsKitchen

Last week I was invited to an afternoon tea at Chintals cosy home to celebrate the launch of her venture- Indian inspired cakes. I met Chintal briefly at an event last summer and exchanged a few words, but it was at our blogger catch up last month that i was finally able to sit down and hear all about her Indian inspired cakes and soon after got an invite to her launch party.
From the images you can make out how professionally decorated and creative the cakes are. Needless to say, they were all delicious and if it wasn't for a sugar high (and a heavy lunch), I would have eaten 2 slices of each at least. Other than the fact that she transforms traditional Indian desserts into cakes, what I noticed was that they were not ridiculously sweet and were not layered- which means you actually get to taste the cake and the flavours attached, and not get thrown off by the sweet frosted layers in between, that cakes today are notorious for. She also uses the freshest of ingredients for her cakes and also do eggless versions of some of the flavours. And what a pleasure it was seeing cakes that were not garishly fondant decorated, but beautifully butter creamed and ganached with generous sprinklings of nuts and spices.
From the cakes she displayed, my favourite was the show stopper- a handsome Indian spiced carrot cake with salted caramel. It was moist, spiced adequately, and the salted caramel was just the perfect icing on the cake (pun intended). Second of course was the coconut, orange and pistachio cake which I thought was a brilliant combination of flavours. She also does nice nankhatais, Indian shortbread, that my husband exclaimed were more delicious than the shortbread cookies he had from Harrods (which according to him were the bestest!)
Chintal has more details about the flavours and ordering details on her website, and the next time you have a party, like say Diwali for instance, please don't be boring and buy kaju burfi, instead order her cardamom, rose and pistachio cake and woo your guests.

Thank you Chintal for having me over to your gathering. I absolutely look forward to tasting more of your fabulous cakes.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream - 2 ways

I'm back after a short trip and jumped straight into work without having any time to brood over the holiday getting over. Deadlines, macaron orders, supper clubs and pop-ups fill my time for the next couple of weeks and then the much awaited trip to India end of December. While I was away Haagen Dazs sent me a gorgeous parcel (the husband kept sending me pictures of the package) and I couldn't wait to get back and check it out. In my gift pack was a Nespresso Inissia, a personalised silver plated spoon, a really nice OXO ice cream scoop, an egg timer and of course vouchers and the new Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream.

We don't do ice creams that often but when we do its always Haagen Dazs. I'm sure its a brand we are all familiar with and we all have that one flavour we are addicted to. Mine was the dulce de leche and it was a struggle getting over it. I had attended the launch of the Haagen Dazs Master Ice Cream Academy a couple of months ago and learnt a thing or two about how sounds and sights affect taste and of course got to taste a fabulous strawberry ice cream. Dan Doherty from Duck & Waffle made us an interesting ice cream float, one that I've been meaning to try at home, but before the blink of an eye summer whisked by without any warning.
That said, there is no rule you can have ice cream only in summer. Which brings me to these 2 desserts i whipped up with the new coffee flavour, so intensely coffee and perfect for an addict like me. I broke my head trying to decide what to make and I wanted to do something different than the usual pairing of the coffee ice cream with a cake or brownie. Cookie dough slices sandwiched with coffee ice cream and an affogato were the two easy to do options i came up with.

Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream Affogato (makes 1)
The Affogato happened quite by fluke and i ended up enjoying that much more than the slices. I could also put the Nespresso machine to good use, making a kick ass espresso for the affpgato and I'm hooked. You can whip it up in no time and tastes absolutely delicious. I added a dash of Amaretto for some good measure. No regrets.

Strong espresso coffee- 1 espresso cup
Amaretto (or any liqueur of choice)- 1 tbsp
Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream- 2 scoops
Praline- 2 tsp (recipe below)
Use your favourite coffee beans to make a strong shot of espresso.
Scoop the ice cream into the serving glasses and pour over the Amaretto.
Top with the steaming hot espresso by pouring it gently over the ice cream.
Sprinkle praline over the ice cream and enjoy.

Praline (recipe adapted from here)
Granulated sugar- 3 tbsp
Plain cashew nuts- 10 whole
Butter- 1/2 tsp
Melt the sugar in a non stick pan on low heat till it starts to caramelise and turns a light golden brown in colour.
Add the cashew nuts and butter and stir till it turns darker, but make sure you don't burn it.
Remove from heat once the cashew nuts look roasted,and pour on to a tray lined with baking paper.
Leave to cool completely and then break into smaller pieces or pulse it in your processor for a couple of seconds to get a coarse mix.

Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream and cookie dough slices (recipe adapted from here)
Cookie dough slices were a unique choice, and I could imagine what a strong coffee flavour would do to a vanilla-y cookie dough. I decided to keep the filling and the dough thin so we could just hold it in our hands and eat as opposed to having it as a formal dessert with a plate and such.

Unsalted butter- 1/2 cup
Dark brown sugar- 1/3 cup
Granulated sugar- 1/4 cup
Milk- 2 tbsp
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1.2 tsp
Plain flour- 1 1/4 cup
Chocolate chips- a generous handful
Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream- 1/2 a tub, spreadable consistency
Melt the butter and both sugars in a saucepan, stir till the sugar has completely melted.
Take it off the heat and pour in the milk, vanilla and salt.
Stir in the plain flour till well combined and you get a smooth mix without traces of flour.
Keep aside to cool and then fold in the chocolate chips. Its ok if it starts to melt, but stop before it completely does so.

Have a tray ready with 3 sheets of baking paper.
Place one sheet on the tray and spread out or roll half of the dough on to the sheet, around 1/2 inch thick (or thicker or thinner if you prefer it that way)
Top with another baking paper and roll out the second half of the cookie dough into the same thickness as before.
Press the third sheet on top of the rolled out dough and freeze for about half an hour.
Remove the top cookie dough layer and spread the coffee ice cream as evenly as possible.
Top with the second cookie dough layer, gently press down, cover with baking paper and refreeze till ready to use.
Let it sit at room temperature for a couple of minutes to make slicing easier.
Slice into squares and eat immediately.

This is a sponsored post for Haagen Dazs in association with Great British Chefs. Thanks for the gift pack that was sent to put together the recipes.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Butternut squash loaf cake

I am part of The Happy Egg Co. Taste 100 Blogger network comprising of taste makers and I absolutely love it. They send us challenges every month with of course a winning prize, and its one of those emails i absolutely look forward to. In fact I won the May challenge which was photography and styling oriented and was pretty stoked to have Marte Marie Forsberg select my post as the winning entry. I won an 8 course tasting menu meal for two at the award winning L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and i cant wait to check out the place (waiting for an occasion to celebrate to make a booking).
In July The Happy Egg Co. decided to rustle things up a bit and organised a baking masterclass for bloggers at the Central Street Cookery School. It was conducted by Bee Berrie of Bee's Bakery and it was an afternoon filled with baking. We made a sponge cake and went berserk flavouring it, layering it and decorating it, an Eton Mess, an easy version of puff pastry and Custard tarts. By the end of the evening we were all in a sugar coma, but absolutely satisfied with our work and went back home loaded with all the goodies.
The fact that i had to distribute my custard tarts on the bus back home and among friends that weekend is another thing (I would have ended up eating it all on my own if i hadn't done that). I now use only Happy Eggs at home (thanks for the vouchers) and love the sizes they come in. I had some left over butternut squash after the gnocchi expedition and I put it to good use in this super moist butternut squash loaf cake with all the flavours (and colours) of autumn, not to mention how easy it was to put this together.

Recipe adapted from here (makes 2 large loaves or 3 small loaves)
Plain flour- 1 3/4 cups
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/2 tsp
Ground cinnamon- 1/2 tbsp
Ground nutmeg- 1/2 tsp
Ground allspice- 1/2 tsp
Granulated sugar- 1 1/4 cups
Eggs- 2 large
Vegetable oil- 1/2 cup (any flavourless oil can be used)
Milk- 2 tbsp (refer notes)
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Butternut squash purée- 7 1/2 oz ( a little less than 1 cup) (refer notes)
Preheat oven to 175C and line your baking pans with baking paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice together till well combined.
In another bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla until well combined. This may need a bit of work, but absolutely achievable by hand and you don't need an electric mixer.
Add the squash puree and continue to mix well.
In batches, add the flour and fold until just combined, and no traces of flour is visible. Resist the urge to over mix.
Pour into the prepared cake tins and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes (for small loaves and around 1 hr for a large loaf) or till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Cool completely on racks, after which you can wrap them in cling film and refrigerate for up to a week.
Notes: The butternut squash can be replaced with pumpkin purée, mango puree or any fruit purée for a different flavoured cake.
To make butternut squash purée, slice the squash into two, apply some oil on each side and roast in a 200C oven for about an hour or until tender. Keep aside to cool and scoop the flesh into a food processor/blender and make into a purée.
If you find that your purée is quite watery, avoid adding the milk.

With thanks to The Happy Egg Co. for inviting me to the baking masterclass and for the vouchers to be redeemed at supermarkets.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sri Lankan beef smore

This beef pot roast of sorts has been quite popular. I served it at a Christmas party a couple of years ago and got some good reviews and the recipe has been passed on to friends and family over the years. I made it so often for a while and then decided to go off it for the longest time. I find something i like and i eat it or make it till i get sick of it and then not look it at forever. This was something like that, only I went back and made it again last week and fell in love with it all over again. I had a good enough reason too...
...a gorgeous piece of meat from Donald Russell, Britain's leading mail order meat supplier. They are based in Aberdeenshire and guarantees the best-tasting meat you'll ever find. From traditional cuts of naturally reared beef, pork and lamb to more contemporary ones like game and veal, they have quite a wide range of products. They also have a unique collection of marinades for different kinds of meat, which is worth checking out when you've run out of ideas to impress.

My handsome piece of meat came nicely packed in a chilled box, shock frozen and i removed it immediately and transferred it into my freezer. It was a large thick piece of meat, so i had to thaw it at room temperature for quite a bit of time. The quality of meat was excellent and i can safely say, one of the best so far. We paired the beef dish with a full bodied red wine, and mashed potato and vegetables to soak up all the gravy. It was so difficult to make the end product look nice in the picture. But trust me it tasted fabulous.

Recipe adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey (serves 4 as part of main meal)
Beef shoulder/ brisket meat- 1kg, tied as a roast
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste

Coriander seeds- 4 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1tsp
Fennel seeds- 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds- 1/4 tsp

Oil- 3 tbsp
Cinnamon stick- 1, 2 inch piece
Cardamom- 3 pods
Cloves- 3 pods
Onion- 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger- 1 tsp, peeled and finely chopped
Garlic- 1 tbsp- peeled and finely chopped
Chilli powder- 1 tsp
Tomato paste- 1 tsp, diluted in 1/4 cup water
Red wine vinegar- 2 tbsp
Chicken stock- 1 1/2 cups
Coconut milk- 1 cup
Pat dry the piece of meat and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
Dry roast the coriander, cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds for about 2 to 3 minutes or till fragrant, keep aside to cool and then grind to a fine powder.

Heat a pressure cooker over medium-high heat and sear the meat on all sides, to tap in all the flavour. Transfer to a plate and rest.
Reduce heat to medium and into the same pressure cooker add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves and sauté for a couple of seconds, making sure you don't burn them.
Add the onions, ginger and garlic and continue sautéing till the onions turn a golden brown and the raw smell from the garlic and ginger disappears, around 7 to 8 minutes on medium heat.
Add the ground masala powder and chilli powder and stir well.
Pour in the diluted tomato paste and continue to stir, till oil slowly starts appearing on the sides.
Add the red wine vinegar and chicken stock at this point and bring to a gentle boil.
Check for salt and add if needed
Carefully place the seared meat , along with any juices, into the gravy, ladle over some of the liquid and close the pressure cooker.
Wait for steam to appear and put on the weights. Reduce heat to low and cook for about an hour.
You will have to play this by ear because cooking times depend on the cut of meat and your pressure cooker. For me, one hour was perfectly fine, in fact 50 minutes to be precise, as the meat was almost fall off consistency.
Open the cooker and stir in the coconut milk.
Bring to a boil and turn off the heat.
Transfer the meat to a chopping board and slice lengthwise.
Place on a serving tray/ bowl, pour over the gravy and serve with crusty bread or mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables like how we did :)

Notes: Original recipe calls for slow cooking in an oven, covered, at 175C for 2 1/2 hours, while basting and tuning at intervals.
I'm thinking this recipe would be just as fine with stewing beef pieces.

With thanks to Donald Russell for sending me the gorgeous piece of meat.