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Kheer Pana Cotta with saffron sauce

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Kheer Pana Cotta with saffron sauce

It will be one year since I auditioned for Master Chef India. It has been an incredible journey and I loved every minute of it. It started with just a casual conversation with friends, them pushing me to go for the audition. I never in my imagination thought that one simple audition could lead me to the most exciting time in my life.

When I got selected from San Francisco and reached India for the next rounds, I met so many wonderful people and little did I know that we will friends for lifetime.

I am so thankful to God for this wonderful opportunity. This post is dedicated to all that I am thankful for, my family, friends, food on the table, and here is many more such amazing opportunities to come!

I always have loved the traditional recipes, the history behind them, the love you feel when you eat them, all the memories they bring back. I feel it is up to us to preserve them and pass them on to the next generation.

But there are always new things to learn and expand your horizons. New spice, new technique, new way of plating or a new ingredient, it changes everything about the dish completely.

So today’s recipe is a new take on a age old recipe, Kheer. Made in many ways, but it always signifies celebration, joy, festivities. Rice, Milk and sugar cooked together, it is that simple and yet that comforting. So many cultures have variations of this, Isarel, Syria where its called ‘Roz Bhaleeb’, Iran and even Mexico where you get to eat ‘Arroz con leche’ which is flavored with cinnamon.

Its amazing to see how food connects people, does not matter what is your nationality, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. One of my favorite books ‘Korma Kheer Kismet by Pamela Timms. It is a fascinating chronicle of the author who lived and experienced five seasons in Delhi and her food memories

Korma,Kheer and Kismet; Five seasons in old Delhi by Timms (2014-07-01)

Just like her I fell in love with Old Delhi. Old Delhi is a walled city established by the Mughal Emperor Shaha Jahan in the early 1600s. You must visit old Delhi if you want to some of the best delicacies. Especially during the festivals like Ramdan ( Eid-ul-Fitr), the whole area is filled with aroma that is so inviting. Fried chicken, samosa, Jalebi, Faluda and so much more.

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When I visited Old Delhi, I had to visit the Kheer shop, Bade Miyan ki Kheer. I must say that by far is the most delicious thing I have ever had. The shop only sells Kheer, and it is to die for.  My insta story says it all.

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Today I decided to take that Kheer and present it in a little differently. I have tried to keep the essence of the dish intact, I hope you all enjoy it.

Kheer Panna Cotta

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Ingredients

Panna cotta

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-4 star Anise
  • 3-4 green cardamom
  •  3/4 cup rice
  • 1 tsp agar agar powder

Syrup

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • water as needed

Method

Panna cotta

  • Take 2.5 cups of milk and whipping cream, sugar  and warm it in a sauce pan.
  • Slightly crush the star anise and cardamom and add to the milk mixture, until it almost comes to a boil. Turn the heat off
  • Let the mixture cool for a few hours.
  • While the milk mixture is resting, take 1 cup of milk and rice, and cook on low heat for at least 40 mins. You don’t want to rush this step and this is what gives you a creamy texture.
  • Stain the milk cream mixture and discard the spices
  • When the rice is almost cooked, add the spiced milk and cook more
  • While the rice is cooking, take 1/2 cup of Milk and warm it up to 100 F
  • Mix agar-agar in the 1/2 cup warm milk and mix thoroughly
  • Add the agar mixture to the cooked rice
  • Pour it in glasses and set it in the fridge

Syrup

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, use water if need to thin it to a pouring consistency

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To serve

When ready to serve, keep the glass in warm water to loosen it. Pour the sauce on a plate and gentle put the unmolded pudding/kheer on the plate.

I garnished it with dried rose petals and a pistachio tuile with rose. I will share that recipe soon.

Enjoy!

Eid Mubarak!

 

 

 
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Borani banjan- Eggplant in garlic yogurt sauce

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Borani banjan- Eggplant in garlic yogurt sauce

Let me confess, I love eggplants in any shape and form. Stuffed, roasted, pan- fried with chick pea flour, I love them all. So for me saying that this is one of the favorite ways to cook eggplant is a big deal.

A friend of mine had made this when I had dinner at her home a few years back and since then I make it at least once a week.

For the past 2-3 years I have been very mindful of what I cook. I have been trying and making an effort to eat only organic whenever possible. I also have been trying to buy only local produce and majority of that from the farmers market. I love going to the farmers market. I love the vibrant colors, the freshness in the air.


I love it when I get to interact with the person who has worked on bringing such great produce to me, I love chatting with them as it gives me a feel for where my food comes from and provide a connection. It also gives me a great sense of appreciation when I learnt that they load up the trucks at 5:00 in the morning to bring the fruits and vegetables to the market.

I love to make things with that produce and share it with them. Last few weeks I have been making yummy strawberry roll ups, I brought some to the vendor whom I buy my strawberries from, it was so nice to be able to share it with them.

So back to my eggplant , I ate this first time and I fell in love with it. I love yogurt, I love mint and I love eggplant, so it was no surprise that I love this recipe.

It is very simple and you can make the two parts ahead of time and assemble it as you are ready to serve.

Borani banjan

Ingredients

  • 1 Large eggplant, sliced
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 1 large tomato , sliced
  • 2 green chilies
  • a few mint leave
  • a sprig of Cilantro
  • Sauce
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried mint leaves

Method

Cut the eggplant in 1/4 inch thich uniform slices. Sprinkle with some salt and set aside for 30 mins.


In the meanwhile slice the onions & tomatoes  in  slices, slit the green chili and remove the seeds if the chili is very spicy.

After 30 mins, the eggplant will give out some water. Sprinkling with salt  removes any excess bitterness the eggplant might have.

Heat some oil in a pan and shallow fry the eggplant slices until they are cooked. Make sure the heat is not too high, we want the eggplants to cook but not get crispy.


Take the cooked eggplant on a plate. In the same pan, heat some more oil and layer the onions in a single layer, saute till they are soft.


Top them with the slices tomatoes and slit green chilies. We don’t want the tomatoes to get browned but instead sort of get stewed. Add the chopped mint leaves and cilantro as well.

Top the tomatoes and onions with the cooked eggplant and let it cook for about 10-15 min on a low flame.

For the sauce

Mix all the ingredient for the sauce in a bowl. Keep the bowl in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

When you are ready to serve, make sure you bring the eggplant to room temperature. I feel it tastes much better that way.

To serve

Take the cooked eggplant mixture, mash it ever so slightly and top it with the yogurt mixture.

Today I served it with Mejadra, Turkey kabab. More on that later.

Mother’s day Challah

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Mother’s day Challah

My mom is an amazing woman. Strong, caring, intelligent and yet loving. She is the strength of the family and we are so lucky to be born to her.

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She is my inspiration in so many ways. She manages home while handling the business just as well. I still remember to what lengths she would go ( and still does to make things for us. Be it a dress for a play in school, be it packing tiffin with special treats for the school trip, be it helping with math homework to be it helping us with the babies, she does it effortlessly.

She is a great cook, a great entrepreneur and so many more things, but the biggest things that stands out is her unconditional love towards her family. She brings every one together. So today;s recipe is dedicated to my Aai( Thats what I call her).

 

She always pushes us to challenge ourselves. As you all know I cook a lot but have not been much of a baker. So this birthday resolution was to learn baking.

Today I have made Challah. Challah is a jewish bread( said like halla). You would typically see this in a braided form. Since I am making this for mother’s day I wanted to incorporate something that is significant to my Mom. My Mom not only loves us all very much, she has also created a family where all of us love each other very much.We are four siblings and we are like a tight fist.

Today I decided to make a round challah with four ropes and top it with four different seeds. This represent how my Mom’s love has brought us together and sort of her arms around the four of us.

Mother’s day Challah

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The recipe comes from a very famous book, Breaking breads .  I am in love with that book and you will be seeing many more recipes soon. I love how he not gives step by step instructions but also tells a bit of a history as well.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1000 grams ( about 7 cups) flour sifted well
  • 400 grams room temperature water
  • 15 grams Active dry yeast
  •  100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tbsp oil
  • 15 grams salt

Egg wash and toppings

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup different seeds, I have used Nigella, Poppy, Fennel and sesame seeds

Mix all of these together to make an egg wash

Method

Make the dough

  • In a stand mixer, add water and yeast, whisk it till combined
  • Add flour, eggs, sugar and salt
  • Mix the dough on low speed till the ingredients are combined. Stop and sracpe the flour if needed to avoid dry flour patches. It should take about 2 mins for the dough to come together
  • Now increase the speed and knead the dough on medium for about 4 minutes.
  • Now take the dough on a lightly floured surface
  • stretch and fold the dough  for about a minute as shown in the picture below 

     

  • Rest the dough for about 45 mins. It should be about 70% risen
  • Heat the oven at 425 F
  • Shaping the dough-Today I am going to shape it in a circle with 4 ropes, representing my Mom’s four kids. 
    • Take the risen dough and gently put it on a floured board.
    • Make it into a rectangle, make sure you do not deflate the dough
    • Cut the rectangle into 2 pieces.  Keep one piece aside.
    • With one half of the rectangle, make four parts.
    • Roll each part into a 14 inch cylinder
    • Weave the four ropes as I call them into a round
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  • Cover and let it proof for at least 40 mins. To check if the dough has risen enough , when you press the dough surface with your finger, the indentation should fill up about 1/2 way. If your dough is not risen, the indentation wont fill, if its over risen, it will fill up to fast
  • Decorating
    • Now comes the fun part, decorating the challah
    • Brush with challah with egg-wash
    • Sprinkle with seeds of your choice.
  • Here I have used four different seeds to decorate

 

  • Bake at 425 F for about 25-30 mins
  • Serve with butter & honey. I served it with a Apple -Honey Jam

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Churros

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I love Mexican food, in fact the whole family loves it very much. Sometimes I wonder if I was Mexican in my previous birth, because just as much Indian food, Mexican food is a constant feature in my kitchen.

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It’s Cinco de Mayo and I love to celebrate it. I never need an excuse to make something tasty, but when it’s fiesta time, it’s so much more fun! Such celebrations remind us that we live in the land of the free where many cultures have blended so well.

Anytime I visit a new place, the first thing I do is visit the local markets. I feel like I can learn so much more about the culture and the people of that country. Sometimes, people outside a country get a very limited view of that country’s cuisine. There were so many things in this Mazatlán market that I had never seen in the US! I ate these amazing churros in that market. They were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the cinnamon sugar that they were dipped in was at the perfect level of sweetness to make you crave for just one more! Ever since I had those churros, I have been meaning to try them in my own kitchen.

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Most of the recipes for churro call for eggs, but the street vendor didn’t use eggs in his dough. So I am taking that vendor as inspiration and bringing you an eggless churro recipe. Seriously, this comes together in an hour from start to finish (including the cooldown time).

Today I am planning to pair these churros with something yummy. When you think of summer, the first thing that comes to mind is ice-cream, right? Today I am making an ice-cream to go with our churros. The contrast of crunchy churros with creamy ice-cream is just yummy.

I make a weekly trip to my local Mexican store and that’s where I picked up a can of ‘dulce de leche’ (which translates to sweetened milk). Dulce de leche is a smooth, gooey goodness that I can eat with a spoon directly from a can. It goes great on your ice-cream sundaes, you can make flan with it and so much more.

Today’s ice-cream is a Dulce de Leche Ice-cream. It is a super simple recipe. Also, just like the churro, this is also an egg-free recipe.

Back to our churros. Typically, churros are a straight stick but today, since I’m planning to use them to make my ice-cream sandwich, I am going to pipe them in a spiral. I have decided to use a gadget which is very common in a Indian household, a chakli/murukku maker. It is used to make many savory snacks as well as fresh rice noodles. I love it because it’s very easy to use and clean. It comes with many discs which help you make different shapes.  I have a video on youtube which show I made it.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 2  tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour

Oil for frying

For

  • 1/2 cup white sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder

Directions

  1. In a small pot, heat  water, 2 tbsp sugar, salt and oil on a medium flame. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in flour until mixture forms a ball.
  2. Let the dough cool down till it’s ok to handle.
  3. While you are piping the churros, heat the oil on low heat. I have used regular vegetable oil for frying.
  4. Now it’s time to pipe out the churros. Since I am planning to make the cookies, I will be making churros with a smaller diameter. However, you can use a pastry bag with a large star tip if you are making big sized churros.
  5. Pipe out 3″ spirals onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (I like my ice-cream sandwiches to be bite-sized, so I won’t make them huge.)
  6. If the weather is hot, you can stick these piped spirals in the freezer for a few minutes. This helps the spirals stay together, or you might end up with a long churro in your pan.
  7. Fry the churros until golden brown. Make sure you don’t fry them on high heat, otherwise they will stay doughy inside and burnt outside.
  8. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, ancho chili powder and cinnamon. Roll drained churros in the mixture.

Notes:

  • I made the churros two ways:
    • The ones I fried right after I piped them were soft
    • The one I froze before I fried stayed much crispier

Til-Gul Babka Jewish Indian bread

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Nothing is more appetizing than the smell of freshly made bread. Be it the fresh roti that is made right on the stove top or a loaf of bread baked in the oven.. it calls everyone to the kitchen and around the dining table. I am not much of a baker, I do bake cakes occasionally but it does not come to me naturally. I feel cakes are way easier than the breads, when you start baking breads, you are going closer to the science than art.

After MasterChef, one of the goals has been to bake more often and since my family is not too much into the cakes, and I like to challenge myself, I am planning to bake more breads and try new techniques.

January is one of my favorite months. This is the month of resolutions, new beginnings and many more things. One of the things is Hurda, its my most favorite thing on this face earth, and this is the time we celebrate Sankranti. This is the only festival in Maharashtra that is based on a Solar/Gregorian calendar, rest of them are all lunar calendar based. Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of Jan, and other parts of India celebrate this festival with different names, Pongal in southern India, Bihu in Eastern India, Uttarayan in Western India and Lohri in Northern India.  The common theme is great food and happiness and most of the  sweets  are made from Sesame seeds and Jaggery. Both these foods create ‘heat’ in the body and hence eaten during this winter season.

Going back to my baking breads, as you know, I love combining flavors. I had seen this sesame bread recipe on pintrest and that is also my source of inspiration today.So I decided to make this bread which is fit for the Sankrant and something new. Here it comes;

Til Gul Babka

 

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I know right, it sounds crazy but tasted yummy, if you are into sweet breads, you might want to give it a try. This recipe is quite versatile and can be easily made into a savory bread as well, all you have to change is the filling and you are good to go.

I had read about this technique of ‘Tangzhong‘ and decided to try using it with this bread. I think it definitely helped keep the bread very moist. Tangzhong is a a Japanese technique, it makes for a very sticky dough that is very tricky to handle, but thats what makes for the very soft final product.

Tangzhong is nothing else but a paste made with flour and water, you cook it to almost a roux like consistency. You cool it and mix it in the dough.It sounds so simple and it is, but let me tell you, it created incredibly soft almost pillowy bread.

I think I am so in love this technique that I think I will end up using in everything I bake. 🙂

Back to the recipe

Ingredients

Tangzhong

  • 50 g  Flour
  • 1 cup milk

Bread dough

  • 350 g Bread Flour ( about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 65 g sugar ( about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup warm Milk
  • 2 tsp Yeast
  • About 1 cup Tangzhong
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Filling

  • 1/2 cup Crushed Jaggery ( you can use dark brown sugar if you can not find jaggery)
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanut
  • 4 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 4-5 Tbsp ghee ( or softened unsalted butter)

Method

Making Tangzhong

  • Mix in the water and flour to form a good slurry
  • Cook it on low flame till it thickens. It should be a little less thick that a mashed potatoes. One way to check is if you stop stirring, does the mixture stays in circles and you can see the bottom of the pan
  • Take it off the heat, cover with a plastic wrap, making sure it touches the surface of the paste. This will ensure that no crust forms
  • Cool the Tangzhong to use later

Making the filling

  • Grind all the ingredients except the ghee and molasses
  • Mix the powder in ghee and molasses to make a paste

Making the dough

  • Warm up the milk and add the yeast. Leave it aside for 10-15 mins for it to foam up
  • Until then mix, Flour, Salt, sugar, sesame seeds
  • Add an egg and mix
  • Now add the yeast and milk mixture and mix for 30 secs
  • Add the tangzhong that is cooled
  • Now knead the dough in the stand mixer for 10-15 mins
  • Keep adding softened butter while the mixer is running
  • The dough will be a very wet dough, don’t worry. If the dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl, don’t worry
  • Take a greased bowl and transfer the dough.Let the dough roof for at least 2 hours.
  • I like to proof my dough in the fridge, so I can use it when I am ready
  • The dough should double in size

Assembling it together

  • Punch and deflate the dough
  • Roll it into a reactangle
  • Spread the filling evenly

Shaping the bread

  • Take the rolled log and cut it along the length with a sharp knife
  • Twist the two parts together to form a braid keeping the cut side up
  • Take a bread loaf pan that is greased and lined with a parchment paper
  • Add the dough in it and let it rest for at least 60 mins

Baking

  • Heat the oven at 350 F
  • Brush the dough with egg wash and bake for 25-30 mins in a 350F

Note:

  1. This dough was a little more than a standard bread loaf can handle, so I removed about 1/3 cup dough before shaping it
  2. If you can not find molasses, you can substitute with honey

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Cardamom-Pistachio cookie

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Cardamom-Pistachio cookie

I am not much of a baker. I love making desserts but baking is another beast which I hope to tame at some point. I make cakes, simple ones and I am always thrilled when they come out good. 🙂 I love trying new recipes if I get some inspiration. I love going to different ethnic grocery stores and looking for ideas, I am always amazed at the various new things I learn each time.

One of my favorite grocery store near my home is a Persian/middle eastern grocery store. Any time I go there, I come back with something new and that starts my experimentations.

It is holiday season and holiday means cookies and cakes and all those yummy treats. I wanted to make cookies but did not which one to pick, they are all so tempting. Traditional chocolate chip, oatmeal resin, Italian biscotti, indian nankhatai, german spice cookie to name a few. So I thought why not a take help from everyone and took  a poll on my facebook page.

And majority of you said that they wanted to see a recipe that is ‘something different’ or with ‘innovative flavors’. I thought of many ideas but somehow this one seemed perfect for the time.

Here I present my first Xmas Cookie ( there are man

Cardamom- Pistachio shortbread with orange blossom glaze

Pistachio-orangeblossom

It stole my heart and the whole house smelt like heaven ( and  a lot like Haleh Bakery).

It is so easy yet looks very fancy and eclectic, you can make the dough ahead of time, keep it wrapped in the fridge. When you want, 15 minutes and you will have fresh batch of cookies.

Ingredients:

Cookie:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup natural unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted, chopped
  • 1 large egg yolk ( you can use chilled milk instead)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom

Glaze:

  • 1  cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white ( you can use 1 tbsp milk instead)
  • 3/4 tsp Orange blossom

Method:

  • In a food processor pulse the pistachios, cardamom and flour till the nuts are a little chopped
  • Add powdered sugar and pulse more
  • Add the butter and pulse till you get breadcrumb texture
  • Add the egg yolk/cold milk
  • Keep pulsing till the dough comes together

 

  • Take the dough and roll it into a log
  • Keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours for the dough to harden
  • Slice the log into about 1/4 inch thick pieces
  • Bake for 15-17 mins in a 325F
  • Let it cool completely

Glaze:

Mix all the ingredients to make the glaze.

Assembly

Take the cooled cookies, top with a small amount of glaze, decorate cookies with sliced pistachios, dried rose petals, saffron strands.

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