Saturday, March 30, 2019

DIY for a hot Delhi summer: Make some raisins at home

The white, hot season is upon us. Well, almost anyway. The flowers of spring have started to wilt, and the landscape will soon take on that dull, brown hue. Somehow, nothing, nothing ever prepares you to deal with the heat of a Delhi summer. I often find myself amazed at how the weather oscillates as it does here. From the biting cold of early January to the blazing heat of June. There are some perks, of course - of summers, I mean. It brings with it some of my favourite fruit of all time - mangoes, watermelon, lychee! :D

While we look forward to whipping up some delicious smoothies, we have also been thinking of ways to make use of the summer sun. And, then, dad came up with a brilliant idea. Raisins!! 

Raisins to serve!

When the price of grapes had gone down last month, we bought bags and bags of that stuff. Dad suggested we sun-dry some, to make raisins. I was quite cynical, of course, about the whole thing. Would it work? Anyhow, they were washed and cleaned, and we spread them out on plates covered with a thin muslin cloth, and put them out to dry. Two weeks later, I was amazed to find that it worked! Now, we have our own homemade, sugar-free, delicious black raisins! And, guess what, I just bottled the first jar. 

Store in an airtight glass container

These raisins are dark, and wrinkly, slightly chewy and sweet, with just a hint of tang. Delicious to snack on as is, or in oats or with pancakes or anything else!  As the sun gets stronger, dehydrating fruit will be a piece of cake. The plan is to make more raisins - the green ones are out in sun presently, followed by sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil). 

How to

Wash and clean grapes of your choice. You can do this with any kind - black, green, seedless or any other variety. Just remember if you dry a full plate of grapes, you will probably end up with one small jar because the grapes will shrink as they dry out.

Spread out in a single layer on a plate.

Cover with a clean cloth or a net mesh, and keep out in the sun.

Green grapes being dried 

Remember to bring them in at night (or, if it rains!)

Be patient. Soon, you will have a pantry filled with jars of delicious dehydrated fruit, ready to top over desserts, or eat as is :)

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Breakfast for a Monday morning

Lately, I have been waking up a lot to dawn chorus. It is a wonderful feeling, and I can even tell you the order in which the birds start chirping in the morning. At the break of dawn, it's usually the crows - they are the first ones to rise I think, and then the melodious songs start. So, by the time my alarm goes off I am usually half awake thanks to bird songs. It's a different matter of course that I often spend an hour lazing in bed even after the second alarm goes off, before I jump out in an attempt to make it out of the house on time.

So, today I thought I'd talk a bit about breakfast. This is because as far as meals go, I think I do my best in the morning. My breakfast needs to be perfect. I can go buy a plate of rajma chawal for Rs.20 from one of those jan aahaar kiosks if need be, but if I need to compromise on breakfast, it's not a happy day. I had shared some of my favourite oatmeal recipes in the past, so I thought of doing a savoury breakfast post today. This is one of my current favourites - essentially a sandwich filling, but would be great as a filling in anything else too: pies, wraps, or whatever. What I love about this recipe is that I can easily make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge, ready to be slathered on to a piece of toast any time I want.

I call this my Red-Green-White filling because it has all these colours in equal measure: red from the tomato, green from the pesto, and white from the mushroom and cream cheese! This recipe makes enough filling for one sandwich - just enough to keep hunger pangs at bay before I break for lunch. However, it can just as easily be doubled (or tripled, or more...). This is a great choice for a picnic lunch or an evening snack as well. I like to make this at least once a week, when I am in the mood for some extra indulgence - especially on a mean Monday morning! 

Loaded with goodness

What you need

3 large button mushrooms, or other mushroom of choice, cut into thick slices
Quarter of a large tomato, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp pesto
1 tsp cream cheese
2-3 drops of olive oil
A pinch of salt
A few pieces of black olives (optional)
2 slices of bread, toasted*

*I love garlic bread with this filling, but any kind of bread works. If you like you can always add a pinch of garlic powder to the filling for that extra garlicky kick in your sandwich.

How to

Smear a few drops of olive oil on your pan, and add mushrooms. Sprinkle salt, and allow the mushrooms to sweat. The water from the mushrooms will stop them from burning. When they start to get a bit toasty, add the pesto and mix.

Add chopped tomatoes. Give it a good stir. After a minute, add the cream cheese and mix everything together. Turn of heat. Allow the sandwich filling to cool slightly before spreading on a piece of warm toast. Top with the sliced olives.

Enjoy immediately. If packing for later, you can spread this on fresh bread, and toast or grill the sandwich just before having.

Crusty bread with a warm filling

Monday, March 4, 2019

Lemon butter cookies for the happy soul

There is something magical about lemon and butter, wouldn't you agree? And when you bring them together, be assured good things will happen. We have been having a spate of gloomy weather here in Delhi. Spring took a roundabout, and it feels like we are heading back to winterland. Personally, I love this sort of weather. Overcast skies make me happy, and also set the stage for the best baking experiences ever! It's like having a radiator (read oven) with a delicious smell! Who can resist that?!

These are butter cookies with a wonderful lemony flavour. I could easily polish off a box of the plain butter ones, but the lemon ones are divine. The lemon zest lightens and brightens the rich sweet taste of the butter cookies. And trust me when I say this. You MUST try these at home. If you like baking, make these soon. If you don't, learn to bake and make these anyway!

Cookie time 

These lemon butter cookies require just FOUR ingredients that you probably have at home anyway. I made these for the first time long long long time ago. Probably one of the first few things I ever baked. 

This recipe makes roughly 20-25 cookies, not a large number at all, if you consider how fast these will disappear into the dark depths of your tummy (big goofy grin)! Double if you want more. The dough can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a couple of days wrapped in cling film.

Enjoy with a cup of milk tea or coffee, or as a snack to kill those mid-day hunger pangs. 

What you need

125gm butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup icing sugar 
1 cup flour
Zest of 2 lemons

How to

Ideally you will need an electric mixer for this recipe but if you don't have one, it's still doable. It will take a wee bit longer though, and a bit of arm-work but, hey, it's totally worth it! 

Start with the butter at room temperature. If it's too warm or too cold where you stay, you can do what I do. Microwave and refrigerate until the butter is nice and soft, but not entirely melted.

Use the electric mixer to cream the butter with the lemon zest. Do this until pale and fluffy.

Once this is achieved, add the icing sugar. Mush it around with a spatula before you turn on the mixer again - you don't want icing sugar flying all over your kitchen! Continue beating the butter and sugar, until you have the consistency of a rich buttercream. 

Stir in the flour and combine well with the buttercream. You will have a very soft dough at this point. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

Take equal sized balls (roughly a teaspoon) of the dough and press down gently with the back of a fork for a criss cross pattern. Line them on a baking sheet with some space in between. They spread a little as they cook. 

These look tiny but as they cook
they will spread and rise

Bake them in a preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until they are a slight golden colour. Remember that they will harden as they cool, so don't worry if they seem slight springy when you take them out of the oven.

Cool completely. These are best after a couple of hours of cooling. Store upto two weeks in an airtight container. 

I love the criss-cross
pattern on these cookies