Carrot Top-ped, nothing funny about this one

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A white rabbit with an orange carrot and we all think of Alice in Wonderland and childhood attempts at finding the rabbit hole.

Come winters and carrots flood the market. All 3 colours, orange, red and black. Sometimes the yellow ones as well. In india one of the most sought after winter desserts is carrot halwa. Carrots slow cooked in milk for upto 3-4 hours and finished off with some dry fruits, ghee and cardamom and a dash of sugar. Most households don’t make it anymore. The corner sweet shop caters to this childhood nostalgia.

Not to forget the love for carrot cake though. Slathered with a generous cream cheese topping and warm cups of tea. I use a small carrot always in my fresh tomato soup, or tomato pasata. It adds some sweetness which masks sour tomatoes if any.

While we all know that carrots are a rich source of beta carotene and vitamin A, carrots can be a boring vegetable, especially if you plan to feed the children or the carnivores who don’t find vegetables interesting at all. I am not a carnivore, neither a child but this vegetable I only enjoy, combined with my orange juice in the morning, carrot cake loaves or sometimes like this Roasted Baby Carrots with Herbed Yogurt Dressing with the flavours of dil all the way

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Roasted Baby Carrots with Herbed Yogurt Dressing

1/2kg          baby carrots
4-5             cloves garlic
1bunch      fresh dil (I love dil, especially with roasted potatoes)
2tbsp         olive/ sunflower/sesame oil
2tbsp         lemon juice
1pinch       salt
1cup           greek yoghurt

  1. Wash and clean the carrots. I hate grit in the mouth and therefore I keep the heads with the leaves on only if the baby carrots are from my own vegetable patch, freshly uprooted and cleaned. If brought from the market I remove all the greens. Here too the baby carrots are whole (sans any greens), they have not been beheaded and they have been very thoroughly washed.
  2. Prep the carrots. Spread the carrots on a large tray (line the tray with parchment if not using a non-stick tray). Drizzle oil, lemon juice and mix it all on the tray, ensuring that the carrots are coated with the oil and the lemon juice. Sprinkle a few sprigs of dil and garlic on the tray
  3. Roast the carrots. Put the tray on the top shelf of the oven at 190 degree centigrade and roast for upto 40 minutes. The outer skin on the carrots will shrivel and will make them sweeter.
  4. Prepare the dressing. Mince the roasted garlic from the carrot tray into the yoghurt. Chop finely a handful of dil and add to the yoghurt. Season with a pinch of salt.
  5. Serve. Tumble the roasted carrots on a platter, I used a wooden slab. Pour the dressing on top of the carrots and enjoy.

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Puffed Rice and Popcorn Crunch Balls

fullsizeoutput_a68It is that time of the year when you are around friends and family and if you are anywhere not near the beach you might probably be wanting to cozy up with some warm milk and something sweet. Not a gingerbread or a cookie, something crunchy perhaps.

Or you might have children around the house and post their playtime what do you give them. Children, adults and grannies and grand dads are alike in the festive season, looking for a reason for an additional treat.

So this is a really simple thing to make, crunchy, caramel flavoured, a little salty and the hint of cinnamon to make it that much more Christmas-y.

These rice crisp and popcorn crunch balls are quick to make. They involve sugar work so its best to keep children away while preparing.

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Puffed Rice and Popcorn Crunch Balls

Ingredients:

50gms Popping Corn
50gms Salted Puffed Rice (if you have unsalted ones add a generous pinch of sea salt)
200gms Jaggery
1cup Water
1tsp Cinnamon

  • Pop the popcorn. Take a heavy bottomed pan with a lid. Heat the pan and then when it i s hot add the popping corn. Keep stirring. In a few minutes the popcorn will start to pop. Cover with lid. Once the piping has stopped, remove from the pan. In this way finish popping all the pop corn. You can use the microwavable popcorn as well. But i just wanted to avoid the butter altogether.
  • Boil the jaggery in a pan with 1 cup of water. Once the jaggery starts to boil, start stirring. Boil the jaggery till it reaches hard ball consistency (120 to 130 degree centigrade). Add the cinnamon, rice puffs and pop corn to the mixture.
  • Quickly stir the mixture through and pour over a sheet of parchment paper. Quickly work them into balls, add a little water to your palms if the mixture is too hot.
  • Once these crunch balls are done, store in a jar. They wont last anyway.

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There ain’t no such thing as too much fruit

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Banana Fruit Cake

I have forever had the 5 O’Clock hunger. PM of course! Always. Whether as a child when this was around the evening play time or now when its time to slow down in the day over a cup of tea or coffee.

Most of the times I reach for the usual almonds, fruits, rice crisps, chips, the works. but there are times when I crave Cake. For me though its never, ever, very very rarely about the creamed cakes. Its usually about a flavourful tea cake. Barely sweet and usually resounding with the season’s fruit.

And top among the list of loves is the banana bread. Almost fool proof and always perfuming the house with the most splendid aroma of cinnamon, banana and vanilla. Sometimes an added touch of coconut.

The more stale it goes, the crumblier it gets. I think I could say that its different in flavour when sliced through warm straight out of the oven, different if had cold with warm coffee or milk, very different when slightly toasted through with a dollop of butter as morning breakfast, great as a post work out energy slab (of cake of course, why else do we work out, to eventually indulge ourselves).

So here is the version that I make and it is basically to reduce all guilt, the flour is blended with whole wheat flour, the sugar is packed brown and very less making the most of the natural sweetness of the bananas. For this specific time I also made some cherry compote to go with it, probably because i wanted to just try out my new cherry pitter, or for want of a tart contrast the cake. If you have the cherry compote left over, use it on toast, pancakes, crepes etc. I finished mine on the cheese board, served with some crackers and Camembert.

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Banana Bread:

125 gms butter
150 gms dark brown sugar (if you like yours sweeter make that 200gms)
2 eggs
6 mashed bananas
100 gms all purpose flour
155 gms whole wheat flour (atta)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Vanilla extract
100 ml thinned yoghurt (whisk a little water, about 20ml to 80ml yogurt)
150 gms dry coconut powder (optional)

Cherry Compote:

250 gms pitted cherries
50 gms sugar
1 lime (zest and juice)

  • Mash bananas. Thats simple, peal and use a fork to break the bananas. Line a 3 inch deep 10X3 inch loaf tin with parchment paper. and preheat the oven at 180 degrees centigrade.
  • The wet ingredients first. Cream the butter and sugar, which is about a 2 minute whisk job. Add in the eggs one at a time and whisk again. Add the vanilla extract and the thinned yoghurt and whisk again.
  • The dry ingredients. Run everything through a sieve. Both the flours, the baking powder and the baking soda along with the cinnamon.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Do not whisk too much but ensure that you combine thoroughly. As we have added yoghurt to the cake batter, it will immediately activate the baking powder and backing soda. So we will have to work quickly without over working the mixture. Use a spatula and pour the mixture in the lined loaf tin.
  • If you are using the coconut powder then sprinkle it on the top after you have evened the cake mix in the tin with the spatula. This coconut forms a heady aromatic flavourful crust on to of the cake.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in a 180 degree centigrade oven. Ensure it is cooked through by checking if a knife passes through the cake and comes out clean with no ingredients sticking to it.

Enjoy the smells wafting in the house and take out your favourite tea and china for the afternoon treat if you will. And while you are at it

  • Macerate the cherry. Add the sugar to the cherries and let it sit for an hour or so.
  • Gently cook. In a heavy bottomed pan, tumble the sugared cherries. Add zest of the lime. Simmer. Cover. And allow the fruit to release its juices and bubble away. Cook for about 10 minutes or so and then add the juice of 1 lime and let it simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn off the heat but continue stirring till the pot starts to cool down. The compote is ready.

Once the cake is done. Let it rest and cool off slightly. Thats the toughest part though but don’t loose patience, you don’t want to break the cake so wait for 15 minutes.

Serve. There are many ways. But best thing, serve warm with butter and the cherry compote. Coconut cream works well too.

Enjoy!

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Fruit of Summer

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Jamun Bellini

Summer! to the temperate region of the world, a time to be outdoors; to me, living in the hinterland of India (in some parts of the year), means air-conditioning in full swing, stepping out only after sundown, heat-wave, keep that hat on and save yourself some unwanted heat kind of time. But then there are watermelons and cantaloupes, mangoes, lychees and stone fruit and as the monsoons approach and the humidity increases, this gateway to the himalayan foothills gifts us with a bountiful harvest of blood red to maroon plums, velvety yellow peaches, pink spotted yellow nectarines, apricots, fresh almonds, cherries and jamuns.

Jamuns are these rich purple stone fruit, very popular in the hinterland and very different. It is a tropical fruit and it has very little flesh despite being a big berry, kind of like an oblong California grape, only with a big stone. Another peculiar thing about jamuns is its taste; it is very different. Tans different downplays its uniqueness.

Ayurveda says there are 6 inherent attributes of food. Bitter being the most important and least consumed. The Jamuns fall in the same category, only that its not completely bitter, starts sweet and ends by leaving the tongue numb for a fleeting moment, or till you pop the next one.

It is known to have medicinal properties like the Indian Gooseberry. A great fruit which can prevent diabetes.

What enticed me to this fruit in the first place was the rich intense colour and the surprise in the flavour, and guess what I took upon my self to give it some flare. Chefs in India are doing desserts with it. So I thought why not an aperitif. Remember a great bottle of prosecco and some peach juice and how they come together like magic. Bellini anyone? Well how about jamun juice instead of peach?

It works and works very well. Just that it might leave a few purple stains on that favourite dress or tshirt, so keep the oldest apron handy.

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Jamun Bellinis
50 grams of jamuns
20 grams of sugar cooked into a syrup
1 bottle of Prosecco

What to do:

  • Make a fresh syrup. Add sugar to less than half a cup of boiling water and stir till the whole mixture comes to a boil. Let it cool.
  • Deseed the Jamuns. Now this will be tricky. How I did it was by taking a sharp knife and slicing the jamuns into two. Now lightly scoop out the seed and the seed shell. And watch your french manicure disappear.
  • Puree the pulp. Run the chunks of jamun through a blender and puree it to a fine pulp.
  • Sieve the pulp. Run the puree through a fine sieve to save you from floating fine fragments in the finished drink.
  • Mix the sugar syrup and the jamun puree.
  • Spoon the mixture cleanly into 6 champagne flutes.
  • Just before serving top up the glasses with chilled prosecco
  • Clink glasses

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