Monday, 14 December 2015

Christmas specials

New Tea Capsules from PG Tips
I got a swanky new Nespresso machine and i love the occasional cups of delicious coffee i get to enjoy. I also do enjoy a goo cuppa tea every evening and these new tea capsules from PG Tips helps me put my Nespresso machine to full use. The innovative, colourful pods are compatible with almost all the Nespresso machines and deliver a consistently delicious cup of tea, brewed to perfection in an instant. Works exactly the same way the coffee pods work. 

There are 4 desirable flavours- caramel and vanilla, green tea, peppermint and raspberry and apple. I have been thoroughly enjoying these on a daily basis and the raspberry and apple is my absolute favourite. Follow PG Tips on Twitter to be update on all the news.

Get your Perky on
These quinoa and sprouted grain oat bars from Perkier are the perfect snack bars, made with natural, whole food ingredients that have a lot of health benefits. They come in four flavours:
- Cashew, chia and pumpkin seed quinoa bar
- Goji and cranberry quinoa bar
- Cacao and cashew quinoa bar
- Cranberry and cashew oat bar enhanced with sprouted buckwheat

They are all gluten, wheat and dairy free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. the new range is available at Sainsbury's, Asda and Wholefood stores. Join the conversation and share how you ‘Get Your Perky On’ via Twitter and Facebook.

Nudo Adopt this Christmas
Nudo  Adopt is a collaboration of small scale artisanal producers aiming at bringing high quality, speciality food to a wider audience. Nudo helps give security to the farmers by making the link with the customer which in turn helps to keep traditional farming practises alive.

Nudo has brought out a few unique Christmas gift ideas, and if you have a foodie friend to impress, then this is the deal. You can adopt an Italian Olive tree and give them either a gift pack of 3 stylish tins of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, right off the tree or give them an annual subscription with 4 deliveries a year, keeping their olive oil stash going all through the year. If you need an under tree gift, or a stocking filler, then the new sage infused oil from Nudo is a pure winner. I tried it on my fish a couple of days back and loved it. No Christmas is complete without a Panettone. If its infused with Nudo EVOO, even better! Its super moist and absolutely delish. For more gift ideas check out their unique gift section 

Festive recipes from Neil Rankin
I'm definitely not new to mulled wine and cider, but mulled beer is something I've not really come across. I guess its for people like me that Neil Rankin has partnered with AB InBev to create 2 perfect winter warmers using beer- Mulled Thai Spiced Lager and Mulled Ale. He has picked some of the nation's favourite beers and turned them into mulled drinks using ingredients that are easily available at home, but brings together different flavours altogether.

I was a bit doubtful after reading the ingredients in his mulled Thai spiced lager. Coriander stalks and mint leaves with beer?? Wasn't too sure how it would taste, but it wasn't that bad. Of course if you are not a fan of lemon grass, then this drink is a not for you. Also, the spice does really kick in once warmed, so be sure to not go overboard with it. Get both his recipes here.

Borderfields Gift Packs
Borderfields is the UK's biggest cold pressed rapeseed oil brand and only uses the finest quality rapeseed, all grown in UK. I guess by now everyone knows that rapeseed oil is one of the most healthiest oils to use with a near perfect balance of essential fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9. I do cook a bit with rapeseed oil and in the new year i shall try and do a lot more baking and Indian food prep using rapeseed oil.

I'm a sucker for anything infused, be it alcohol or oil or cakes or whatever it is. So when Borderfields sent me a gift pack with a range of infused oils, i was pretty happy i could use most of them while entertaining during the holidays. The Borderfields British Infusions Cold Pressed Rapeseed oil gift pack range includes Basil, Garlic, Chilli and lemon infusions and can be picked up exclusively here.

Do share your Borderfields' festive creations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

PicMonkey Collageb
A couple of weeks back i attended a small Christmas do hosted by Lactofree at the really charming Bake-a-Boo tea shop in Hampstead. Done up in pretty pastels and laces and flowers, it was almost like walking into an Alice in Wonderland enchanted tea party. Amidst chit chatting with fellow bloggers, we got to enjoy some incredible treats using products from the Lactofree range. From smoothies to sandwiches, to turkey meat balls to pita Christmas trees to scones to mince pie cupcakes to Irish cream and truffles, we were stuffed to the gills, and had to sadly leave behind a gorgeous looking trifle. I have to also mention the impressive collection tea's this lovely lil place had. I tried the strawberry and kiwi and kept stealing sips from the almond tea (this was like having marzipan) and rose tea my blogger friend Suchi had ordered.
I put my Lactofree cheddar to good use the very next day in a posh version of the mac & cheese and then some in a chilli cheese toast. The Almond milk (very impressed with the semi-skimmed version) is currently being enjoyed in different versions of winter warmers, precisely hot chocolate. Below is my favourite version using my favourite dark cocoa, honey, a generous pinch of cinnamon and the secret, a good sprinkling of fleur-de-sel right at the very end before pouring it into your mug. I am loving the addition of salt and Ive ended up adding it in all my hot chocolate versions. Really! try it!

I'm a big fan of the Schwartz products. In preparation for winter and the holidays, Schwartz has introduced 2 new products to their vast range- Mulled Cider and Mulled Wine spice sachets. For lazy bums like me who love mulled drinks but cant be bothered to put together the spices and make them, this comes as a saving grace. They come in sachets and are pretty easy to use- much similar to tea bags.

Chia Bia
PicMonkey Collage 
Not one for healthy eating, but I was given the task of taking the Chia Bia challenge and see how it does good to your system, and so i decided to give it a go. I admit, it was a bit of a struggle to get the ball rolling when trying to use an ingredient that you have no idea about. Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, calcium, omega 3 and so on; and with Chia Bia, you only need 2 tablespoons a day to get you feeling tip top.

I used them in a lemon drizzle cake and proudly took it to work the next day much to the disappointment of my health conscious boss who as it turned out was a big fan of chia seeds. She told me that baking it or cooking it kind of defeats the whole purpose of using a super food like this and insisted i try it out in salads, smoothies and drinks.

I took the chia berry mixes- cranberry and blueberry to her place soon after and i tasted one of the most amazing smoothies there. I honestly had no idea kale could taste so nice in a drink. She made a green smoothie with broccoli, apples, oranges, kale, banana and some chia cranberry and also sprinkled some whole chia seeds on top for good measure and promised me it would taste good. Of course, nothing green could ever taste good was my reply but i had to change that soon after my first sip. It was delicious. Ever since, ive been motivated to try vegetable smoothies at home and have quite succeeded in making a few using Chia Bia. I still have plans to try it out in a cookie or a snack bar, but i think for now I'm thoroughly enjoying them in my smoothies. You can seriously consider these smoothies as a detox option after all that binge eating and drinking during the holidays.

With thanks to all the brands mentioned for gifts and event invites. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Spinach and artichoke dip stuffed garlic bread

How are Christmas preps going on you loverly people? I am off to my sister in laws next weekend for a pre Christmas bash and then to a blogger friend's place for a fun pot luck. We have a tradition of exchanging home made gifts for Christmas, and last year we all went out to brunch to a fancy restaurant sans the husbands, and exchanged them there over cocktails and conversation. This year we have been so busy with chaiparty pop-up stalls and other interesting business ventures, that we couldn't actually do a day out. We are still doing home made gifts (I have taken the plunge and made something I'm very excited about, fingers crossed on how it would ultimately turn out) but exchanging it on Christmas day, like it should be, with family and dear ones.

We have been busy on our whatsapp group discussing the theme, menu, gifts and so on and I have been entrusted with the vegetarian starter. I've made this recipe as a dip again and again at parties, and was quite convinced this is what I was going to take to the party, when I thought I should try this version, one that I book marked eons ago, a try before i decided. It's a fab appetiser idea and you score points on uniqueness. It doesn't take any time to put together, and you can cart it off anywhere and finish off the last baking in the oven just before serving. Stress free, hassle free and delicious.
PicMonkey Collage
I decided to use the Norwegian cheese Jarlsberg instead of the traditional mozzarella because I was sure the nutty flavour from the cheese would be a perfect match with spinach and artichoke and it was. Maybe next time I'll up the quantity to 1.5 cups (oh please, its the holiday season, no ones on a diet). Its a cheese I was not familiar with until I attended a soiree hosted by Jarlsberg at the Good Housekeeping Institute where Signe Johansen and Lucie Bruckner took us through a session on how to use the cheese in different recipes, and of course treated to some delicious canapés using the same. After creating our own mac and cheese sandwish, we sat down to a glorious meal with wine and chatter. (I also got to drink a shot of the famous Aquavit for the first time. It shall be remembered is all i can say).

Recipe adapted from here
Baguette- 1
Oil- 1/2 tbsp
Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped
Spinach- 250 gms 
Canned artichoke hearts- 200 gms, drained and chopped
Salt and pepper- to taste
Chilli flakes- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Garlic powder- 1/2 tsp
Cream cheese- 230 gms
Jarlsberg cheese- 1 cup + enough to garnish

Butter- 2 tbsp
Garlic- 3 cloves, finely chopped
Slice the baguette into 4 and using a long serrated knife cut out the insides, leaving about a cm of bread around the edges, and scoop/ or push it out to make the baguette slices hollow. Keep aside. (Use the scooped out bread to make bread crumbs)
Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the shallots till translucent. 
Add the chopped artichoke hearts and saute for a couple of minutes.
Tip in the spinach, mix it all together and cover and cook till they have all wilted.
Open lid and cook till all the water has evaporated. 
Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chilli flakes and transfer the mix into a mixing bowl.
Add the cream cheese and Jarlsberg cheese and give a thorough mix, making sure all the cheese melts.

Pre heat the oven to 175C and line a baking tray with silver foil.
Stuff the baguette quarters with the dip, using a teaspoon and pack it in as much possible. I found it was much easier to do this using a piping bag. Fill it with the dip, nip off the end and pipe into the baguette. 
Place the filled baguette quarters on to a chopping board and slice them carefully to pieces that are about an inch thick.
Place the sliced pieces on to the lined baking tray, arranging them back into the shape of a full baguette, or if your tray isn't that big, you can arrange them side by side.
Mix together the butter, garlic and parsley in a small bowl .
Cover and melt in the microwave for a couple of seconds.
Brush the garlic butter generously over the bread, and in between the slices if possible. Also make sure all the minced garlic gets used up, just top it all on the bread.
Cover the baguette with another foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Take the tray out of the oven, open the foil, sprinkle the remaining cheese and place back in the oven open, for a couple more minutes, for the bread to lightly brown and the cheese to melt.
Serve warm as a starter or as a side with soup.

Notes: Feel free to use mozzarella cheese instead of Jarlsberg and sprinkle parmesan right at the very end.
Add some shredded chicken to it and make it a non veg starter
If you want to do the dip, after you mix in the cheese, dump the mix on to an oven safe bowl, top with more cheese an dbake for about 20 minutes or till the mix is bubbling away. Serve with crusty bread.

With thanks to Jarlsberg cheese for the fab evening and for the cheese sample.

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.