Monday, November 29, 2010

Baklava

This is a greek sweet which is made with flaky sheets of phyllo pastry, filled with layers of nuts and soaked in a sweet honey-sugar syrup - even writing this makes my mouth water... I first made this about 8 yrs ago for Diwali wanting to try something different and it became such a hit amongst our friends. It's not all that daunting and comes together in no time. The phyllo sheets are very thin and are almost translucent but they are not all that hard to work with.

What I like about phyllo dough is that it's very low in fat and though it requires brushing with butter, it's still something I can control as opposed to puff pastry sheets that come loaded with butter as-is. In the US, these can be found easily in most grocery stores in the freezer section (usually next to the puff pastry sheets). It can be used for both savoury and sweet dishes.

BAKLAVA


Ingredients:
Phyllo dough - 1 (8 oz) roll, thawed acc. to package directions
Chopped nuts - heaped 1 cup (I used walnut & almonds, roasted lightly & pulsed coarsely)
Raisins - 2 tbsp, chopped (optional)
Cinnamon powder - half tsp
Butter - 1/4 to 1/2 cup, melted (I use a light hand when it comes to brushing with butter)

For Syrup:
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Honey - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - half tsp

Method:
1) In a small bowl combine the nuts, cinnamon & chopped raisins if using.


2) Preheat oven to 350F and butter the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.

3) Cut the thawed phyllo sheets in half (lengthwise) so they can fit in the loaf pan. Work with them quickly, to avoid them drying out. So, keep everything ready and closeby (nuts, butter and sheets) so you can start the layering.


4) Layer 2 to 3 sheets of phyllo in the pan and brush the top with butter, add another layer of 2-3 sheets and butter the top layer, add one more final layer of 2-3 sheets and top with butter.
5) Now sprinkle a light layer of nuts mixture and top with 2-3 sheets, butter the top layer, sprinkle another layer of nuts, top with 2-3 more sheets, butter and nuts.. repeat until all but 8-9 sheets are left and all the nuts are used up.


6) Now layer the sheets similar to what was done for the bottom part, put 2 sheets, butter the top layer lightly, place 2 more sheets, butter and so on until all the sheets are done. Butter the top most layer with some butter.

7) With a sharp knife, cut the layered phyllo in the pan into squares (this will make it easier to make pieces after it has been baked). Bake this in the oven for about 35-40 mins, until light brown.

8) Meanwile, heat water, sugar and once all the sugar has melted, add the honey and allow to simmer for 20 mins. Cool this syrup in the refrigerator until the baklava is baked.

9) Once the baklava is ready and out of the oven, pour this cooled syrup on the hot baklava uniformly and allow it to soak the syrup overnight (uncovered so it retains it's crispness). This is now ready to serve.

More recipes using Phyllo:
Spanakopita
Apple Strudel

Friday, November 19, 2010

Potato & Kale Fry

I'd never tried the daunting looking Kale but one day I decided to give that a shot after the success with Swiss Chard. Back home, my parents would definitely make one new green each day of the week -so I grew up loving greens of all kinds... they would mostly be poriyals, kootus or masiyals. This recipe that I tried looked different - pairing Kale with potatoes and adding indian spices appealed to me and this is now a regular dish at home(with some modifications). It's goes well with rice or rolled up in a chapathi.

POTATO & KALE FRY


Ingredients:
Potatoes - 2 big or 3 medium
Kale - a small bunch, 4 to 5 cups, chopped (after removing the stalks)
Ginger - 1 inch chopped
Garlic - 4 to 5 cloves, chopped
Turmeric powder - half tsp
Chilli powder/Sambar powder - half tsp (or to taste)
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - quarter tsp
Cumin seeds - quarter tsp

To Grind:
Coconut - 3 to 4 tbsp, grated
Green Chillies - 6
Pottukadalai (Dalia) - 3 tbsp or Almonds - 12

Method:
1) Boil the potatoes and peel them (I usually microwave them for 7 mins).

2) Grind the coconut, pottukadalai (or Almonds) & green chillies to a paste with a tiny splash of water.

3) Heat oil in a big pan, season with mustard and cumin seeds, then add the minced ginger and garlic, quickly followed by the chopped kale. Saute this until the greens wilt a bit. Cover and allow them to cook for about 10 mins or so.

4) Now add the turmeric powder, salt and chilli/sambar powder followed by cubes of potatoes.

5) Cook them for a few minutes together before adding the ground coconut paste.

6) Keep roasting this on a medium flame until the potatoes and kale are completely done (another 5 to 7 mins) & dry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Crepes

How often do you get inspired by airline food? For me, almost never what with me being a vegetarian - most of my airline meals consist of rice, potatoes, dhal of some sort or spinach and if i'm lucky then some paneer maybe thrown into the mix. But this time, I had the opportunity of trying some crepes with a quark and raisin filling topped with a slightly tart yet sweet cherry sauce and I was completely bowled over.

Wanting to recreate that at home, I read up about quark and decided to use ricotta cheese as it's substitute... As for the recipe for the crepes, I borrowed Alton Brown's. Not having cherries on hand it was the strawberry jam that was cooked with a touch of water to form a sauce... The resultant dish was pretty good though it didn't have the same taste as the one i had on the flight. I guess I must try with the real quark sometime.

The crepes came together in no time and that recipe is definitely a keeper. The next day morning, I made another batch and spread some nutella and topped with some banana slices and those were gobbled up in no time. I would like to try some savoury fillings next time...

CREPES


Ingredients:
Eggs (large) - 2
Milk - 3/4 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
All Purpose Flour - 1 cup
Melted butter - 3 tbsp
Butter for coating the pan

Method:
1) In a blender, combine all the ingredients and pulse together. Keep this batter in the fridge for an hour so the bubbles will subside. The batter can be made ahead and used within 48 hrs.

2) Heat a small non stick pan on medium and coat with butter, pour about 1/8 cup of batter and swirl (like you would for aapams). Allow to cook, flip over and cook the other side as well.

3) Keep the crepes separate by using a sheet of parchment paper in between.

Ricotta Filling:
Ricotta cheese sweetened with some sugar and plump raisins. Topped with a thinned down strawberry jam that has been heated to a sauce.


Nutella Filling:
Spread Nutella and arrange banana slices. Fold over and dust with some powdered sugar