Friday, January 24, 2014

Focaccia Caprese - My grand entrance into the We Knead to Bake baking group

Everyone knows I practically live on Facebook and I'm fairly active on a few food groups and have loads of food obsessed friends. I started noticing the same breads appearing on my timeline last year. Once it was a Hokkaido Milk Bread, the next time it was Bialys, then suddenly everyone was making doughnuts! I asked Saee about it because she seemed to be part of these mass baking events, and she told me about the We Knead to Bake group.

Some time last year I attended a bread class conducted by Saee at the APB Cook Studio run by Rushina and it was there that I finally realised that bread was not such a scary animal after all. In fact, bread was more flexible than cake which needs more precision. I tried out a bread or two now and then but on the whole I gave in to my lazy self and didn't stir too much.

Then suddenly we acquired a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. There was no way I could leave that just sitting on the kitchen counter doing nothing - I had to find things to make where I could use it. Bread and the We Knead to Bake group popped back in my mind and I dashed off a request to join. Aparna told me I had to wait for the new year to begin as that was when the round of bread baking would start.

2014 finally came and I was part of one more activity. A new bread every month sounded reasonably doable and since I lacked neither equipment nor easy access to ingredients, I was more than ready. Luckily for me the first bread for the year was a focaccia - an easy bread, perfect for beginners.

Aparna chose Focaccia Caprese as the bread for January.

I followed the recipe to the T and pressed the KA into service to do the kneading. I looked on in delight as the dough came together. However, as I watched in wonder, I did have some doubts. I remember stretching the dough in the bread class and though the KA was twisting the dough I didn't feel convinced that that was good enough.

I was right. I ended up with a disastrous leathery bread. My bread mad husband ate every last crumb but I knew that it hadn't worked. So I attempted it again on the next weekend. This time I just did the very initial mixing in the KA and once the ingredients had come together I took it out and hand kneaded the dough for a good 15 minutes. What a difference it made!

Here's the original recipe from The Kitchen Whisperer that inspired Aparna to choose this focaccia.

This is what I did.

For the Bread -

3.5 cups maida
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup very good EVOO
1.5 cups warm water

Herbed Oil for brushing -

1/4 cup very good EVOO
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp minced fresh garlic

For the topping -

1 large ripe tomato
1 pack Amul Mozarella/Pizza Cheese
Fresh Basil leaves

In a clean bowl simply whisk together the herbed oil ingredients and keep aside.

I put all the bread ingredients barring the warm water into the mixing bowl of my stand mixer. First I started the machine on the Stir mode using the Dough Hook just to mix things gently and to prevent the flour from flying around in a cloud. After a minute I increased the speed to 2 and poured in a cup of warm water in two batches. I added a little more than another quarter cup of water till the dough came together into a ball and didn't stick to the sides of the bowl. I switched off the mixer and took out the dough to knead it by hand.

I kept warm water with me as I kneaded, pushing and stretching the dough and wetting my finger tips just a little to keep things going. After about 15 minutes of kneading I felt the dough was soft and just very slightly sticky, and quite smooth. I could stretch it about a foot without it snapping into two.

I oiled the mixer bowl with some EVOO and put my ball of dough to rise, covered with a pretty kitchen towel. The weather being slightly chilly I put the bowl in the microwave and left it there undisturbed. I DID NOT put on the microwave - just parked the dough inside.

After an hour or so the dough was nicely risen and as instructed, I divided the dough into two, flattened them out two cookie sheets and left them to rise again. In 20 minutes they were nicely puffed up. I poked dimples into the bread and slathered them liberally with the herbed oil mix.

The focaccia took about 17 minutes (at 200C ) to get a beautiful golden sheen. I forgot to take it out early enough to add the topping so the final bread was a little darker than I would have liked. Anyway, the bread was taken out of the oven and slices of mozarella and then tomatoes were piled on with a further lashing of herbed oil. The breads went back into the oven, this time at 220C for another 5 minutes.

I had perfect Focaccia Caprese and we had just that for dinner. The olive oil is the backbone of this bread - use the best you can find and I promise you, you will be quite happy to eat this bread on it's own.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pork Shops in Mumbai - well, some of them

I love pork. I love it so much I started a group, The Porkaholics, on Facebook just to connect with other pork-mad people and drool over porkalicious pictures, photos, recipes and exchange information.

Many, many months ago I thought of doing a round of pork shops in Mumbai and simply putting together a list in one place, on this blog. However, I took the lazy way out and simply created a document on The Porkaholics page and left it at that. That was a good thing because many members added information and we have contributions not just from Mumbai but from all over the country!

Still, the blog post was due and here it finally is. The entire credit for all the research on this one goes to my friend Jubal who happily drove me around the city and helped me locate as many shops as we could. In fact, he'd sat with his Dad and Mum and compiled a list of shops and where to find them before we set out.

This list is far from complete but it was such fun wandering around Bombay, locating shops in alleys and by lanes, driving around from New Bombay till Mazgaon, and seeing much more than just the pork shops themselves.

The first shop we went to is the one where Jubal and his family regularly shop at, called Himalaya Cold Storage. This one's on Nahur road in Mulund.

This is the list of goodies available

And this is the man in charge, Mr. Kishore

I asked Mr. Kishore about other pork shops and he mentioned his brother's shop in Vikhroli. Another brother runs a shop in Vashi and that one is called Hilton and is very well known in all of New Bombay. An interesting thing that Mr. Kishore told us was that his family was in the pork business with many shops all over the place including one in Dahisar. The family shops can be recognised by the shop names - all of them begin with 'Hi' after his grandfather's name (which unfortunately I have forgotten)

The Vashi shop, Hilton Cold Storage is in sector 17. The phone number is 27880899 and the address is Shop no. 34, Raikar Bhawan, Sector 17, Plot 9, Vashi.

For those in Navi Mumbai Hypercity in the Inorbit Mall stocks a few imported cold cuts and a good selection of frozen pork products like Sumeru ham, bacon, sausages, and some other brands too. If you're in Nerul there's an excellent shop just outside the railway station called Modern Cold Storage. Tel - 27701582. This shop stocks fresh pork along with a good range of frozen and processed meats.

In Kharghar there is Jambon Stores in Sector 20.

Hilltop Cold Storage is in Vikhroli.

Jubal and I drove to Vikhroli and found D'souza Cold Storage which is bang opposite the church. Hilltop, pictured above, is just around the corner.

Jubal's Dad had highly recommended a shop in Sakinaka on the Pipe road. We hunted high and low and finally found the shop. The only tragedy was that it was no longer a pork shop but was selling Tshirts instead. Fortunately Jubal is the persistent type and he asked around in the neighbouring shops if there was a pork shop nearby and we hit gold!

After walking through an old wada like building we came upon a village neatly tucked in the heart of the crowded Saki Naka area. In this little village was the St.Anthony Pork and Meat Shop.

After our little adventure in Saki Naka we drove on towards south Bombay. It was afternoon and many of the shops on our list were closed. They would reopen in the evening.

We found the Wadala shop open. Poona Farm Products is another wonderful shop that stocks not only fresh pork and a variety of frozen pork products, they also sell pork vindaloo, sorpotel and a few other cooked goodies.

Further south at Dockyard Road we discovered a municipal market that houses a massive fish section, and separate mutton, beef and pork sections! Unfortunately the shops were closed for the afternoon. The place looked quite clean so if you're in the area or nearby don't hesitate to go there. Just ask anyone in the area and they will be happy to show you where the market is. It is across the BPT road that is parallel to P D'Mello road.

We doubled back and went to Kalina to nail down another pork shop. Modern Fresh Meat.

There are many, many more shops all over the city. Quite a few of them are listed here on this document that I have created on The Porkaholics page.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Not Quite Traditional Sorse Narkol Chingri - Prawns in Mustard and Coconut

My sister in law, K's sister, is quite fond of the few Bengali dishes she has eaten at my house and it was quite natural that I would cook something Bengali when she's coming for lunch. She and her kids love prawns and so I decided to make Sorse Narkol diye Chingri or Prawns cooked with Mustard and Coconut.

The mustard and coconut combination is a classic Bengali combination and it is magical with prawns. My recipe is not traditional at all but is my own tweaked version. It's easy, it's delicious, and I usually have all the ingredients at hand.

This is a simple preparation with a few ingredients and that is why it can be tricky, especially with the mustard paste. Be sure to soak the mustard powder before you add it into the prawns. I use the Sunrise mustard powder that's popular in Bengal. I have also had success using the Atlas brand mustard powder which is great for making table mustard and is easily available in Mumbai. Even bottled kashundi works quite well. However, English or French style mustards are not options.

The same sauce can be used to cook fish and paneer too.

Sorse ar Narkol diye Chingri

Prawns, shelled and de-veined
chilli powder
jeera or cumin powder
green chillies
2 onions, finely minced
garlic paste
mustard paste
coconut milk
mustard oil

Marinate the prawns in salt and turmeric powder.

If you're using mustard powder to make your paste soak in water and make a thin batter like paste 15 to 20 minutes in advance.

Heat oil in your wok or kadai and let it get really hot. Reduce the heat and add the green chillies. Slit them if you're okay with the pungency or leave them whole if you just want the milder flavour. Add the chopped onions and fry slowly. The onions must not brown. Add a sprinkle of sugar and let this cook on a relatively low heat for a good five minutes. Add garlic paste and cook for another minute.

Now add the marinated prawns, a dash of chilli powder and some jeera powder. Stir well and let it cook for a minute or so.

Pour in the mustard paste and and stir. And then pour in 200 ml of thick coconut milk. Add a little water if you want a thinner gravy.

Bring it all to a boil and let it bubble till the prawns are done. This should take 3 to 4 minutes at the very most.

Serve hot with plain rice.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Home made Tomato Ketchup

Last week I went for a Pantry Staples Class by Saee where I learned how to make some easy condiments, spreads, etc., which are all part of our pantry and which we invariably pick up on our weekly grocery runs. It was a revelation just how easy some of these are to make and the proof of that ease is the fact that I didn't even wait a week to try out one of the recipes!

Ketchup is something we consume in large quantities and it is on my shopping list very often. A recent discussion on a Facebook group revealed the fact that the immensely popular brand of tomato ketchup that I'd been buying contains barely 20% tomatoes. I checked the ingredients on the label and found that it contains 28% tomato paste. Just 28%?! What was the remaining 72% then? Since I had seen just how easy making ketchup was and I had the recipe at hand, tomato ketchup is what I chose to make.

I didn't get all the ingredients listed on the original recipe and have tweaked the recipe a little. However, the original recipe is superb and I will make that too. I'm sharing Saee's recipe here and I will mention what I changed in the recipe as I go.

Spicy Tomato Ketchup

8-10 large tomatoes, cubed
8-10 cloves of garlic
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tbsp coriander seeds (I used powder because I didn't have the seeds)
2 bay leaves/ allspice leaves *
8-10 black peppercorns
4 bird's eye chillies (I didn't use any)
2 tsp red chilli flakes or powder (I used Hungarian smoked paprika )
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp sugar
200 ml tomato puree (tetrapak)
1 tbsp chopped celery stem
2 cloves

Wash the tomatoes and cube into large pieces. Place all the ingredients barring the sugar and the tomato puree, into a pressure cooker with 2 cups water and cook till the tomatoes are soft. Remember to chop up the ginger so it gets cooked through. I forgot and had to chop it and mash it later.

Once cooked let it cool. Discard the bay leaves.

Blend the cooked tomato mix in your electric mixer.

A note of caution - let the boiled tomato mix cool a little before you put it into your blender, especially if it has a glass jar. Don't fill too much or the hot liquid can splash out and burn you badly. While puréeing is an easy process it is one that you must do with a little care.

Once the tomatoes are blended quite smooth, pass the mix through a sieve. Press hard and coax as much of the mixture through as possible. You will need a sieve that has a reasonably wide mesh that allows the pulp to pass through. I didn't have one and ended up having to puree the mix seeds and all in my liquidiser. The sieved pulp is definitely better as the seeds can give the ketchup a slightly bitter layer of flavour. Sieving also ensures you get a really smooth ketchup as your final product.

Now pour the sieved mixture into a thick bottomed vessel and bring it to a boil. Add the tomato puree and the sugar at this stage. Let it bubble nicely and reduce the heat and let it cook for 30 to 45 minutes on a lowered flame. The watery sauce has to reduce and thicken. Taste it and adjust salt and sugar as required. The ketchup will thicken a little after it has cooled.

Here's what my ketchup finally looked like.

Decant into a clean sterilised bottle and REFRIGERATE.

This recipe uses no preservatives at all and the ketchup will spoil if left on your pantry shelf so refrigerate it without fail. If you're making a large quantity, divide into smaller batches so you can take it out a little at a time and use it up portion by portion.

If you can get your hands on these chillies use them for sure. They will add amazing colour to your ketchup. I couldn't get them for this batch but I really wish I had.

* My blogger friend Manisha pointed out that bay leaves are vastly different from Tej Patta (what we in India commonly call Bay Leaves). So in case you're a reader from Europe, America or anywhere outside India, you need to use what we call Tej Patta. There's no English word for it.

You can read Manisha's post about the difference between Tej Patta and Bay leaves here. There are pictures to illustrate the difference too.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, January 6, 2014

Kosha Mangsho with a Bahraini Twist

Kosha Mangsho is one of those quintessential Bengali dishes that you will see on every Bengali restaurant menu and is usually in the repertoire of most Bengali housewives. However, it's not something my Mom ever made and I was introduced to it somewhere in my 20s in a small Bengali restaurant  called Radhika in Pune. Since then I have seen and eaten many versions of this dish and have wanted to try making it myself too.

There seem to be two fundamental points of difference with Kosha Mangsho - a thick minimal gravy versus a a thinner jhol like gravy, and cooked in a pressure cooker or cooked directly in a wok or thick bottomed vessel. Somehow I have always preferred the thicker less gravy version and the non pressure cooker method is after all, the real way to do it - so that's what I did.

I have an inherent inability to follow rules and it was the same with the Kosha Mangsho. Even though I hadn't ever made it myself before, I didn't want it to have the typical Bengali taste and flavour. I was in the mood for something different. So I decided to use the technique and play with the flavours.

I went through my spices in the pantry cupboard and chanced upon the Bahraini Spice mix that my fried Jubal had shared with me. This spice is a beautiful blend of the usual garam masala spices with the added zing of dried lemons that is typical to the area. It works wonderfully with pork and with goat meat and I was sure it would make a killer kosha mangsho.

Here's what the spice bottle looks like. the black streak that you see at the top of the bottle is the dried lemon. You have to empty out the bottle and mix everything up really well. Sorry for this sorry looking image!

Kosha Mangsho with Bahraini Garam Masala

1 kilo goat meat, cut into small pieces
150gms fresh curd/dahi
jeera/cumin powder
ginger garlic paste
Bahraini Garam Masala 
mustard oil

3 large onions, chopped really fine
1 star anise
3-4 cardamoms
3 inch piece cassia bark
3 bay leaves
mustard oil
4 potatoes, cut into quarters

Marinate the meat in the first six ingredients and let it sit for as many hours as possible. Marinate overnight if you can, or at least 4 hours. 

I used a thick bottomed biryani deghchi to make the kosha mangsho and it worked perfectly. Use a thick bottomed kadai or wok or just use your pressure cooker as a pan. 

Heat about half a cup of mustard oil till it smokes and then reduce the heat. Fry the potatoes till they are nicely red and then remove and keep aside. In the same oil throw in the whole spices keeping the heat at medium so you don't burn them. Add the finely chopped onions and fry well for about five minutes. Keep the heat on low and let the onions cook slowly. Add half a teaspoon of sugar and stir well. Don't brown the onions, just let them fry slowly till the edges start to turn colour. 

Add the meat pieces one at a time without too much of the marinade. Reserve the marinade. Zap up the heat and braise the meat well. Keep stirring because you don't want to burn the onions. Coat the meat pieces well with the onion mix and braise for five minutes or so. This preparation needs some attention so be prepared to stir and stir! 

Once the meat is well seared you can reduce the heat to medium and add the reserved marinade. The curd in the marinade and the onions will both release water as will the meat so don't add any water to the cooking pot. Use a frugal quarter cup of water to wash out the marinade that's stuck to your bowl and keep it aside. Once you've added the marinade give it all a good mix and cover the pot. Reduce the heat as soon as the liquid in the pot starts to bubble. Let the meat cook in this steam undisturbed for about 10 minutes. 

Add the marinade wash water, give it another good stir and braise covered for another five minutes. You have to keep coming back to stir and add water, very little at a time. This process continues till the meat is cooked. Depending on the quality of the meat this could take anything from 45 minutes to an hour. Add the potatoes when the meat is about 80% done. If they get cooked too soon, remove them to a plate and add them again later. That's what I did. 

Your kosha mangsho is ready once the meat is cooked through and is tender. 

Serve the kosha mangsho with luchis, parathas, or even the wonderful Malabar parathas. 

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pantry Staples Class with Saee

Most cooking classes these days are about cup cakes, bread, desserts or cuisines like Mexican, Thai, and the ever popular Chinese. Learn 5 easy pasta recipes, 6 simple salads, 3 desserts in a jar recipes, 5 healthy main courses -  the list goes on and nothing captures the imagination any more. And one day Saee said she was thinking of doing a Pantry Staples class - I leaped up at the idea and told her I was coming for sure.

Saee's been taking bread workshops for a while now under her own My Jhola brand and even has customised classes where an interested student can Bring Home My Jhola and learn in the comfort of their own kitchen using equipment that they have instead of an overly professional and sometimes intimidating studio kitchen.

The Pantry Staples Workshop was one of the most informative and fun workshops I've been to in a long time. We made

Spicy Tomato Ketchup
Basil Walnut and Parmesan Pesto
Pumpkin Seed butter
Saffron and Cardamom Lemonade Concentrate
Strawberry Vanilla Jam

The hubby loves jams and has a collection of home made jams sitting on the shelves. His mum made jams at home and his sister makes some amazing jams too. Saee regularly sends over jams that she's made as do other foodie friends like Rushina. In fact, US based food blogger Niv Mani also brought over some of her own home made jams all the way to add to his jam collection! When I saw the Strawberry Vanilla Jam on the list for the workshop I knew I had to attend this one :)

Gourmet foods can easily be made at home and Saee's workshop was a demonstration of just how easy some of these are. You don't need any fancy equipment or gadgets, neither do you need any special utensils or vessels. We're also becoming more aware of the presence of artificial preservatives and flavourings in commercial foods and many of us would like to be able to cut those right out of our diets. This workshop showed how easily that can be achieved.

Most ingredients are now commonly available and are not prohibitively expensive any more. Basil, for example, is now available with most local vegetable vendors and if, like me, you shop online it's not a problem at all. It's the same with almost all the ingredients that we used in the workshop so one doesn't have to worry about not being able to make the same stuff at home for lack of ingredients.

I came home with a bag full of goodies and a head full of recipes. The biggest surprise for me was the Pumpkin Seed butter. I have a million food related hangups and can shut my mind to a whole lot of things. If there's a healthy label attached, it doesn't help matters. I didn't expect to like the butter and though I was interested in the process of making it I was fairly confident it wasn't something I was going to try out myself. Well, I have changed my mind. This is something I could easily enjoy slathered on toast in the mornings!

Here's a look at what we made-

Walnut Basil Pesto with Parmesan

Pumpkin Seed Butter

 Spicy Tomato Ketchup

Chunky Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Saffron Cardamom Lemonade

(Lemonade Photo Credit - Saee Koranne - Khandekar)

Keep your eyes peeled for Saee's next workshop. Trust me, you will learn interesting things and you'll have a whole lot fun too! 

Marathon Bloggers Project 52 2014