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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Shaak Wali Dal

I had cooked other dishes for this week but somehow ended up posting regional dals prepared with moong. Today's comforting and simple flavored dal called 'Shaak wali dal' comes from Gujarat. A lentil dish where you can sneak in all those 'not so favorite' kind of veggies and no fussy eater would figure out. And so this 'mixed vegetables' based dal is especially for those picky eaters or when one needs to finish off those last bits and odds from the refrigerator. Here dal and vegetables are cooked together and mashed to invisible bits to mask any vegetables used and tempered with ghee and spices. Any vegetable other than bitter gourd for the obvious reasons can be used. Onion, potato, tomato, carrots, peas, cauliflower, pumpkin, chayote, bottle gourd, zucchini are some of the vegetables that can go into this dal. Greens / Beets would be a nutritional addition if you don't mind the green/ red looking dal.  I used potato, carrot, peas and tomato and made it on a thicker side by not adding any extra water other than needed for pressure cooking. Also I added more toor dal than moong in my dal.

Recipe source: Here
Ingredients:
1/2 cup moong dal / skinned and split green gram
1/4 cup toor dal / split pigeon peas
3 cups of diced vegetables 
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
For tempering:
2 tsp. ghee / oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 red chillies
a Pinch of asafoetida
1 sprig of curry leaves
Lemon wedges to serve

Directions:
* Wash and rinse the dals in two exchanges of water. Pressure cook dals adding vegetables, turmeric powder and 1.5 cups of water for 4 whistles.
(Soak dals for about 30 minutes in case not using a pressure cooker for any reason. Cook dals and vegetables together in a sauce pan on medium flame adding water as needed until the dals are cooked well. Keep stirring in between.)
* When the valve pressure is gone, mash the dal and vegetables well with the back of a ladle or potato masher or a churner, until the mixture becomes homogeneous. Add the spices and 1/2 cup (or more) of water and bring it to a boil.
* Heat ghee / oil in a small pan and add cumin seeds and red chillies. When the red chillies start to brown add curry leaves and asafoetida. Turn off the stove and add the tempering over the dal and give it a stir. (Garlic can be used as well for tempering.)
* Garnish with chopped coriander leaves if preferred.
* Serve with rice or rotis, with lemon wedges on the side. 

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Bookmarked Recipes' Theme.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Moongdal - Green Mango Rasam / Pesarapappu - Mamidikaya Chaaru

Chaaru / Rasam / Saaru whatever the regional name maybe, happens to be a staple dish in south Indian cooking and is a thin, spicy lentil broth served with rice. It is served in many homes for every lunch / dinner and considered a comfort dish by many. It aids in digestion and is light enough to serve even to the sick. The classic and the most common rasam uses the pigeon peas - tomato combo. Or lemon juice in lieu of tomato. There are different variations nowadays in the rasam preparations and I happened to see this one on a television cooking program. Rasam powder aka the spice powder used to prepare rasam is a pantry staple in south Indian homes and if you have rasam powder (either homemade or store bought - I would recommend MTR brand) handy, the preparation becomes a simple and easy one.

I prepare rasam / chaaru on a regular basis in my home though I don't have the basic rasam recipe posted here on my blog so far. I am quite good at rasam preparation while not being so in  photographing it. I admit it without any embarrassment that my 'rasam' photographs usually don't do justice to the dish itself.  I see many bloggers beautifully capturing rasam in their images. In my case, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom including the tempering and clear liquid topped with drops of grease remains to be captured and I usually give up. I wasn't happy with today's image too but the green mango rasam is so flavorful that I could not let go without posting it.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup moong dal / skinned, split green gram
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
3/4 tsp. salt or as needed
1 and 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp. finely minced cilantro
Ingredients to toast and grind:
1/4 tsp. pepper corns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp. coriander seeds
or
1 tsp. homemade or store bought rasam powder
Ingredients for tempering:
1 tsp. ghee / oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 dried red chillies, broken into bits
2 green chillies, sliced lengthwise
6 - 8 curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida powder
1/4 cup grated green mango 

Directions:
* Wash and rinse the moong dal in two exchanges of water and drain. Pressure cook moong dal adding 1/2 cup of water and ground turmeric for 3 whistles. (At this stage, one can also add mango pieces along with dal and cook instead of grating and frying later). When the valve pressure is gone, finely mash the dal and mangoes (if used) with the back of a ladle and keep aside.
* Meanwhile, toast pepper corns, cumin and coriander seeds without burning them. Let cool and grind fine. (Skip the step if you have rasam powder.)
* Heat oil / ghee in a pan / pot and add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds starts to splutter add red chillies, green chillies and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. Next add asafoetida powder and grated mango (in case if you haven't pressure cooked green mango in the first step.). Fry for few minutes on low flame until the mango appears cooked. Then add pureed moong dal, salt, ground spices (or rasam powder), minced cilantro and about 1.5 cups of water (or as needed to get the desired consistency.) Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn off the stove.
* Serve piping hot rasam with rice and dollop of ghee or as a part of a south Indian meal.

Notes:
* I usually don't use green or red chillies in a rasam recipe since the red chillies and black pepper used in my rasam powder lend enough spicy kick. However I used MTR rasam powder while preparing this rasam and recommend the usage of red chillies and mildly spiced green chillies unless if the rasam powder being used is very spicy by itself. The sourness from the green mango cuts down the spicy level. 
* The mango can be cut into pieces and cooked (and then mashed) along with moong dal if desired instead of grating and frying later.
* Basically I use the same ingredients to prepare my own rasam powder but not in the same ratio. The recipe link to my rasam powder is given below.

Other Rasam recipes posted here.
Carrot Rasam
Drumstick Rasam
Pineapple Rasam
Rasam Powder / Charu podi

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Bookmarked Recipes' Theme.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Kerala Cuisine ~ Parippu Curry

A dal served with rice / roti is equivalent to a comfort meal to an average Indian. That 'dal' happens to be a legume preparation served in millions of Indian homes everyday and the kind of legume used varies regionally. Today's dal comes from the southern state of Kerala, and is prepared using moong dal and/or toordal. This parippu curry happens to be a simple dal flavored with coconut and mild spices. It is an essential part of sadya meal (Vegetarian festive meal). The use of onions in the recipe is optional and skip them if serving on festive occasions. 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup moong dal
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. ghee / coconut oil
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
2 dried red chillies, broken into bits
Few curry leaves
1 big onion, sliced or chopped (optional)
1/4 cup coconut
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 green chillies
Salt to taste

Directions:
1. Rinse the dal with two exchanges of water and drain. Pressure cook moong dal adding turmeric and a cup of water for 3 whistles. When the valve pressure is gone, mash the dal well with the back of a ladle.
2. Meanwhile, heat ghee / oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add red chillies, curry leaves and onion if using. Fry the onions until they turn golden brown and translucent.
3. Grind coconut, cumin seeds and chillies to a smooth paste adding water as needed. 
4. Add the ground paste from step 3 to the cooked dal. Add salt and about 1/2 cup of water or extra if needed and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the stove.
5. Pour the sauteed onion mixture from step 2 over the cooked dal and serve warm with rice and a dollop of ghee. 

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Bookmarked Recipes' Theme.
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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sweet Potato Fry (Air Fryer Version)

Here is a quick and guilt free sweet potato fry, Indian style. My recipe uses air fryer though sweet potato cubes can be fried even in a convection oven though it takes a little longer to roast. The fry is done traditionally in a kadai / saute pan and consumes extra oil than the quantity I used here. I don't go roasting the vegetable until it resembles sweet potato fries or until it is browned but just enough to be served as a curry, slightly crispy from outside and tender inside. Serve it warm as a part of Indian meal.

Ingredients:
1 big sized sweet potato (About 2 cups cubes)
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste (I used about 1 tsp. of less spicy powder.)
1.5 tsp. oil
Directions:
* Peel and cut sweet potato into cubes or small pieces.
* Add sweet potato cubes, salt and chili powder to  a bowl and toss well to coat. Add oil next and toss again so that the cubes are coated well with oil.
* Add them to the cooking pan of the fryer and cook according to the manual instructions. 
I set it at 400 deg F and toasted for 13 to 14 minutes, tossing the sweet potato cubes occasionally. (My Gourmia air fryer setting includes 3 minutes of preheating in the above mentioned cooking time. I am not sure but if there are air fryer models which require preheating before the addition of vegetables to the fryer, then the cooking time should be around 10 minutes.)

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Easy Dinner Recipes' Theme.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Karela Batata Nu Shaak ~ Bitter Gourd and Potato Curry

Bitter gourd, a vegetable despised by many and loved by a few actually happens to be a healthy gourd and in fact is quite beneficial for diabetics. It is a commonly consumed vegetable in India though the vegetable does complete justice to its name and everyone at home may not be fond of it. Today's recipe is an interesting and a different kind of bitter gourd preparation from Gujarati cuisine. Give this recipe a try if you happen to like the vegetable. 

I happened to see this recipe here while looking for a different style of bitter gourd preparation. At least, it was different to me who uses bitter gourd in south Indian style preparations at home. My husband loves both bitter gourd and potato and this one seemed right in his alley and I decided to try it. The addition of cashews and sesame seeds lend an interesting touch to this delicious curry. This curry is very easy to prepare and bitter gourd lovers would definitely love it. We felt that the addition of onions would enhance the taste further.

Check out my other bitter gourd recipes' links below if you are interested.
Microwave bitter gourd crisps
Kaakarakaaya Podi
Haagalakaayi Gojju
Haagalakaayi Gojju (Version 2)
Bitter Gourd Curry (Andhra Style)
Bharwan Karela
Kaakarakaaya Pachadi

Ingredients:
3 big sized bitter gourds (3 cups cut pieces) 
Salt to taste
1 potato (1 cup cut cubes)
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 cup broken / coarsely crushed cashews
2 tbsp. toasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. chili powder or to taste
1/4 tsp. dried mango powder / amchur
1 tsp. sugar (optional)
2 tbsp. minced cilantro + extra for garnish


Directions:
* Wash and trim the edges of bitter gourds. Quarter them and discard the center pith and seeds if mature. Cut each quarter lengthwise into 3 pieces and cut again into 1 inch strips. Add the cut bitter gourd pieces and about a tsp. of salt to a bowl and toss well to coat. Keep it aside for about 10 to 15 minutes.  After the resting period, squeeze out the excess water from the bitter gourd. (This step is done to cut down some of the bitterness.)

* Heat oil in a non stick pan and add cumin seeds. When they start to brown, add asafoetida, turmeric and squeezed bitter gourd pieces. Mix well, cover and cook on low flame for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice in between.
* Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into cubes or strips.
* Add the potato pieces and continue to cook stirring occasionally,  until they are done and the bitter gourd have turned crisp, about another 8 to 10 minutes.
* Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and cook on medium flame for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
* Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Easy Dinner Recipes' Theme.
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dahi Papad ki Subzi

The arid climate and scarcity of fresh vegetables  have greatly dictated traditional Rajasthani cooking. Various kinds of sun-dried spicy lentil wafers and sun dried vegetables replaced fresh produce  whenever necessary owing to the harsh climate of the region. Food that can last for several days and food that does not need heating were preferred. In spite of all that, the state's cuisine is one of the  finest ones in the Indian culinary world and the signature dishes of the state are enjoyed through out the nation. 

Today's dahi papad ki subzi aka a side dish prepared with lentil wafers (papad) and yogurt (dahi) is a fine example of the region's culinary creativity. This is a simple dish prepared without any vegetables, yet a delicious one with a fine balance of flavors coming from simple spices used. It sounds similar to a kadhi from the other regions of India but the addition of papad and boondi elevate the dish. There are variations to this recipe and some include onion and tomato as well. Adding boondi is optional. I saw a Sanjeev Kapoor's version where boondi was included and so, I added them to the subzi. The version I am posting today is a very easy and quick one to prepare and do not have onion or tomato. It can be prepared in under 10 minutes. 
Ingredients:
1 cup yogurt
1 tbsp. chickpea flour (besan)
About 1 cup water
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. finely chopped / grated ginger
A pinch of asafoetida
2 red chillies, broken into small bits
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. red chili powder
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. garam masala
2 - 3 medium sized papads / Indian lentil wafers
1/4 cup plain boondi (fried, chickpea flour drops) - optional
Minced cilantro to garnish

Directions:
* Whisk yogurt and chickpea flour together to an even consistency. 
* Toast papad in a microwave or on a tawa and break them into about 2 inch sized pieces.
* Heat oil in a non stick pan and add cumin seeds. When they start to brown, add ginger and saute for a minute. Next add red chillies and asafoetida and saute for about 20 seconds. 
* Add the yogurt mixture, water, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and salt. Stir well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Lower the heat and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. If the mixture appears too thick, add extra water. Add broken papad pieces and boondi to the yogurt mixture and cook for another two minutes. Add garam masala, stir well and turn off the stove.
* Garnish with cilantro and serve warm.

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Easy Dinner Recipes' Theme.
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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Eggless Moroccan Semolina - Almond Cookies

I had come across these Moroccan cookies at New York Times online edition which in turn were adapted from"Dorie's Cookies" by Dorie Greenspan.  These cookies are made with a combination of semolina flour and almond flour and I made them eggless. In case if you don't have almond flour, it can be made at home by grinding the almonds with the skin on if you wish or after drying the blanched and skinned almonds. Semolina flour adds a sandy texture to cookies while the almond flour adds richness. These are a version of crinkle cookies if not for the thumb impression. These cookies though look plain are delicious with a hint of citrus flavor and a lingering aroma of orange blossom water.

I halved the original recipe and gave the measurements below. However I quartered the ingredients from the original recipe for my cookies. (I  guess it is not confusing. That means I further halved the ingredients from the below recipe.)  I baked them on a lined, large cookie sheet for 16 minutes and got around 16 cookies.  

Ingredients: (Yield around 30 cookies)
1 tbsp. flax meal + 3 tbsp. water
3/4 cup + 3 tbsp. semolina flour 
1 cup almond flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Zest from a lemon
2 tbsp. any flavorless oil (I used canola oil.)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange blossom water (optional)
Confectioner's sugar for dredging

Method:
* Combine the flax-meal and water in a small bowl and keep aside for five minutes. 
* Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
* Whisk together semolina, almond flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. 
* Add sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment or to a bowl in which one use a hand mixer. Grate the lemon zest over sugar and rub them together until sugar is moist. Add flax egg and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Next add oil and continue beating for another 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla and orange blossom water if using. Turn off the mixer. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix only until dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick.
* Grease your palms and roll out about a tbsp. sized dough between your palms to a ball and coat in confectioners' sugar. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. If your hands get sticky in between rolling the dough balls, wash and grease your palms again and start rolling.
* Place balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Push down the center of each cookie with thumb, pressing firmly enough to make an indentation and causing the edges to crack.
* Bake until cookies are lightly colored, about 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back after 8 minutes. They will be golden at the bottom, puffed and cracked and just firm to the touch. Carefully lift the cookies off sheets and onto racks. 
* Store them in a covered container.

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Recipes from Southern Hemisphere' Theme.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Caakiri ~ African Pudding

Caakiri is a pudding from Western Africa prepared using a grain and a local version of fermented milk. The word 'caakiri' refers to the grain from which the dish is made and as well as the finished pudding. It also goes by other regional names of chakery, chakrey, thiacry, and tiakri. The preparation is similar to a rice pudding though it do not contain eggs. This can be eaten both as a snack or a dessert, though it is on the sweeter side. 

It was traditionally made using local African grains such as fonio which happens to be a super grain like quinoa, millet, maize or even black eyed peas. The modern version uses couscous though I used millet here. If using couscous, cook according to package directions. It is speculated that the modern version sweetened caakiri might have it's origins in a similar unsweetened dish that once might have been served as a main course. It might have evolved into the modern version with the passage of time and the easy, increased available ingredients like sugar. The dairy combination used here is a substitute for the African version fermented milk used to prepare the caakiri. I got the info and recipe of caakiri from the congocookbook. I have tried few recipes from this site before and the site offers a wide variety of everyday African recipes that are traditional and rustic. 

Ingredients:
1 cup of millet
A pinch of salt (optional)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup plain / flavored yogurt (I used Greek yogurt.)
1/2 cup sour cream
3 - 4 tbsp. sugar (adjust the quantity as needed.)
Any preferred flavoring (like vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon or any others.)
Optional garnishes - Raisins / Crushed pineapple / Mint

Method:
* Wash millet in two exchanges of water and drain. Pressure cook millet adding 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt for 3 whistles. If not using pressure cooker, add millet, salt and 3 cups of water to a sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover and cook until all the water evaporates, about 17 to 20 minutes. Let cool a little and fluff with a fork. 
* Combine evaporated milk, yogurt, sour cream together in a bowl. Next add millet and mix well. Add sugar according to taste and mix well. Add flavoring of your choice.
* Scoop caakiri into serving bowls and garnish with raisins / crushed pineapple / mint. 

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Recipes from Southern Hemisphere' Theme.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Brazilian Fried Bananas

Here is a simple and easy fruit based dessert from Brazil. Bananas are toasted in butter until golden brown and flavored with cinnamon sugar and all it takes is less than 10 minutes. I usually associate apple in this kind of dessert but definitely not bananas. And I was not expecting it to taste so good that I ended up making two batches of fried bananas on the same day. My daughter, whom I was not even counting to do the taste testing decided to try it as soon as she entered home and smelled something cinnamon. The girl who acts like she is food-phobic decided that she was going to have them again at dinner. They were that good. 

This is a recipe one can try when they have bananas in surplus. However bananas that are going to be used should be ripe yet firm, not the overly ripe and mushy kind. I think these fried bananas would taste extra good if prepared with sweeter variety bananas. The regular bananas would have a tinge of tanginess after the roasting. They can be served as it is warm or with ice cream if preferred. 

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 big sized bananas or 4 - 5 small bananas
2 to 3 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Directions:
* Heat a griddle pan and melt butter over it. 
* Peel the two bananas and cut each banana lengthwise. Now again cut each banana piece into two. (There are totally 8 banana pieces now.)
* Place the banana slices over the griddle, cut sides down. Fit as many banana slices as the griddle can fit without overlapping.
* Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and keep aside.
* Toast the bananas until the bottom side turns golden brown, about 3 minutes or so. Tilt the pan once or twice if you notice the butter moving towards the edges so that bananas are browned nice and even. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar generously over the banana slices and flip them with a spatula, taking care not to break them. (Actually I noticed that using two plastic knives was more convenient to flip the bananas.)
* Toast the bananas for another 2 - 3 minutes, until the flip side turns golden brown as well. Sprinkle the bananas with cinnamon sugar again.
* Serve the fried bananas warm as it is or with ice cream.

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Recipes from Southern Hemisphere' Theme.

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Orange Cranberry Walnut Bread

Time for some tidbits. Do you know what high tea and low tea are? Good for you if you are acquainted with the terms. If clueless about those words, join the club. I didn't know what they were either until last week and my guesses in fact, would have been quite the opposite to their real meaning. What started as a simple online search this week for elevenses menu turned into somewhat like I was going through a copy of 'English tea traditions for Dummies', (if such a book exists). 😵

One can easily misinterpret the terms 'low and high' teas, associating them with the social class. The 'afternoon tea' of the aristocrat ladies where one needs to mind their dress code and etiquette was called 'low tea' because they would sit in low armchairs in a sitting room while enjoying their tea and cakes set at low level tables. Low tea, a light snack was intended to tide someone over until dinner and usually used to be a ladies 'get together' or a social event. Think of scones, tea sandwiches, pastries, and cakes when talking about low tea. Here, a meal of tea, scones and cream is called a 'cream tea' and it is the simplest form of afternoon tea. If more sweets are added along with tea, scones and cream, then one would have a 'light tea'. If savory stuff is also included in the menu, then it becomes elaborate and constitutes a 'full tea'.    

Ironically, 'high tea' originated among the lower classes of the society and it is the meal served at the end of a working day. During 1800's as I mentioned in this post, dinner was a midday meal and the working class did not have the luxury of a lunch break. They instead had tea/meal right after their work with a hearty meal like cold cuts, cheeses and meat pies. This evening meal was served at at a high table - a proper dinner table and hence the name.

If I am not wrong, a formal afternoon tea time meal is a almost a thing of the past in most of the English households owing to the modern day busy lives. Unless if it is a special occasion or one is visiting classy hotels / tea rooms of England to partake in the afternoon tea which provides the tourists an opportunity to experience the age old English custom along with the locals who drop in to enjoy a relaxed afternoon with a nice cuppa with treats.

Now from those afternoon tea sessions to mid morning breaks. Elevenses, a colloquial English expression that started in the mid 18th century in Britain means a light refreshment taken at about eleven in the morning. I guess the timing had and has been flexible and the food served must have been highly variable. It is obvious  that people who eat an early or no breakfast crave for some light refreshment during mid mornings irrespective of their time period in history or their location on the map. The coffee or tea breaks of the modern world is a proof that the institution of elevenses still exists everywhere though maybe not on an elaborate scale or with the same frequency as during the previous centuries. And for that matter not even under the same name, depending upon where you live.

I am one of those who eats an early breakfast which is usually on the lighter side and feel the hunger pangs mid morning. Today's orange bread is perfect for such situations. A small cup of milk and a slice of this bread would suffice until lunch break. Bread served with butter and small cakes were a usual feature of elevenses and so, I made a quick bread which was kind of cross between the two though the yeast breads were the norm during the 18th century. The other elevenses posts this week are ginger biscuits and classic scones.

This bread which is on the sweeter side turned predominantly orange flavored one since I upped the liquid ratio in the recipe. The original recipe uses cranberries but I opted for the dried, sweetened ones since no one at home is a fan of tart cranberries. The bread tasted delicious, slightly warmed and slathered with butter. Walnuts add slight crunch while the sweetened, dried cranberries lend a sweet - tart touch. I made two mini loaves and the small slices do the portion control and are great for snacking. I guess the sugar quantity can be reduced if not looking for a sweet bread. 

Ingredients:
1 flax egg or any substitute for one large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 or 2 tsp. grated orange zest
2 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. hot water
1/2 cup orange juice *
1 cup fresh / frozen cranberries (I used dried and sweetened ones.)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

* I had to use extra juice since the batter was not coming together. I used over 1/4 cup. Start with 1/2 cup mentioned in the recipe and go on adding in small increments until bread batter is formed. The final batter should not be of neither a dough consistency nor a runny batter. 
Directions:
* Preheat the oven to 325 deg F / 165 deg C.
* Combine 1 tbsp. flaxmeal and 3 tbsp. warm water in a small bowl and keep aside for about 5 minutes. 
* Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
* Combine flax egg, orange zest, melted butter, hot water and juice in another bowl and beat to combine. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Gently fold in berries and nuts.
* Transfer the batter to a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, about 60 minutes. This can also be baked in 4 mini loaf pans but the baking time would be less.
* Cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
* I served the slices warm slathered with butter generously.

This goes to Blogging Marathon under 'Elevenses' Theme.
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Friday, January 4, 2019

Classic Scones

Chinese started drinking tea way before the English caught the fancy. However the afternoon tea which started during 18th century is considered an quintessential English tradition though it is relatively new and started centuries later. The English just didn't drink their cuppa during evenings. Instead the ladies made it into a tradition, a fashionable social event which demanded dress code and etiquette. The afternoon tea which was served in drawing rooms between 4 and 5 pm was a small meal, not a drink. It included an array of snacks which in guise were calorie inducing and mouthwatering treats like rich teacakes (which are not cakes by the way), dainty sandwiches like cucumber ones, small sweet pastries, freshly baked scones served with cream and jam and so on. However the ladies were expected not to eat their heartful, which otherwise would have been impropriety. 

Elevenses on the other hand was a simple affair compared to the evening tea and was a simple refreshment served at around 11 in the morning. It would include tea served with a snack or two which were less savory. Muffins (the English kind and not the American ones), simple bread and butter, biscuits or scones and so on were mostly served. Scones was the common theme of both the tea times, I noticed while looking for elevenses recipes. Tea and freshly baked scones served with cream and jam is known as cream tea. I wanted to try a classic version English scone for quite some time now but the American counterpart always wins when the time to bake them comes. This time, I decided to stick with the English version for my Blogging Marathon - Elevenses theme and tried these classic scones that I had bookmarked from Newyork Times.
These traditional scones are barely sweet since they are eaten with sweet jams and clotted cream. I made them today and served them with strawberry spread to accompany our evening tea and chocolate milk. We noticed that more jam is needed compared to what we spread on our toasts. They were lighter, and flakier than American versions as the recipe suggested. 

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. flaxmeal for flax egg
2 cups cake flour + extra as needed
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. sugar (divided)
5 tbsp. cold butter, cut into pieces (or grated)
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream + extra for brushing (Milk can be substituted.)

The original recipe suggests to bake at 450 deg F but the reviewers of the original recipe suggested to lower the temperature and I baked them at 425 deg F. If you don't have cake flour on hand, combine 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour and use instead. If eating eggs, skip the flax egg and substitute with an egg. Heavy cream can be substituted with milk. Start with 1/4 cup cream or milk and go on adding in small increments until dough can be formed. I had to use about 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. milk and the dough was easy to work with. The original recipe mentions that the dough should be sticky but not messy. Add 1/2 cup of currants or raisins if preferred. I think they will add a little sweet punch to these barely sweet scones. 

Directions:
* For flax egg, combine 1 tbsp. flaxmeal and 3 tbsp. warm water in a small bowl and keep aside for about 5 minutes.
* Preheat the oven to 425 deg F.
* Add flour, salt, baking powder, and 2 tbsp. sugar to a food processor and pulse to combine. Next add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
or
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and grate the butter which was frozen beforehand, directly into the bowl.
* Add egg and enough cream to form a slightly sticky dough. If the mixture appears too sticky, add a little flour. The final dough should be a little sticky to hands.
* Turn the dough onto a slightly floured surface and knead the dough once or twice. Then press it into a 3/4 inch thick circle and cut it into 2 inch rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Gently reshape the leftover dough and cut again until all the dough is used. Put the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. (I lined the baking sheet with aluminium foil. I made 3 inch rounds of 1/2 inch thickness and got 8 scones.) 
Or 
Pat the dough into a circle of 3/4 inch thickness directly on a greased or lined baking sheet and cut into 8 wedges with a sharp knife.  

* Brush the top of each scone with bit of cream and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
* Bake for about 9 to 11 minutes or until the scones are golden brown.

* Serve the scones warm with jam, mascarpone, clotted cream, or creme fraiche.
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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Ginger Biscuits

Wishing all my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. May all your wishes come true this year and hope you get to create a collage of wonderful memories with your near and dear ones. 

I have read enough novels set in the Victorian period to know a thing or two about the popular tea tradition and tea rooms of Britain. However I always associated it with the afternoon tea sessions. A ritual which doubled as a light meal and was meant to ward off the hunger pangs between the lunch and dinner periods. A Duchess named Anna Maria, a lifelong friend of queen Victoria is credited with the creation of the afternoon tea ritual, during mid 1840s. 

There were only two meals served prior to 18th century - a breakfast and a dinner, the main meal of the day that happened around two or three in the afternoon. Somewhere during the 18th century, dinner was slowly moved to somewhere between six to eight in the evening. During this period, a very light midday meal called 'luncheon' started to get served in wealthy homes, to fill the gap between breakfast and these new fashionably late dinners. However these luncheons were lighter and the long afternoons with no refreshments kept everyone feeling hungry. Anna found that a light meal of tea (usually Darjeeling) and cakes or sandwiches was  perfect to beat the hunger pangs before dinner and soon started inviting her friends to join her during the teatime. This post-lunch tea ritual became such a hit that the practice spread in aristocratic circles.

Now, there is another little teatime tradition called 'elevenses' which also happens to be my theme of blogging marathon this week. Elevenses is a short break taken for light refreshments at eleven in the morning, a couple of hours before the midday meal. This is like a second breakfast that comes between a proper breakfast and before lunch. It was not as formal or fancy as the afternoon tea but light snacks which are usually sweet were served with a tea. 

I read somewhere that not the fancy kind but simple ones like these ginger biscuits were a norm for the elevenses. I found the perfect recipe here to suit my purpose and tried it. I was baking a small portion and so, rather than running to grocery store, I substituted with the things I had in my kitchen. Golden syrup was replaced by honey and maple syrup combo, margarine by butter and self rising flour by a combo of all purpose flour, salt and baking powder. Also I baked them a couple of minutes more and left them in the oven for a few minutes. The extra time in the oven makes them perfect 'dunkers' for tea or coffee.
I was taking care of hundred other things while baking this and kind of messed up with my liquid measurement and so, I might have added more flour than needed. I am guessing that's why my cookies were thicker and did not spread as thinner as the original one. However they taste really good in spite of all the substitutions. As I mentioned above, I made them a little on the harder side to use them to dunk in tea / coffee.

Ingredients: (Yield about 30 - 32)
110 g / 4 oz margarine
110 g / 4 oz caster sugar
110 g / 4 oz golden syrup
225 g / 8 oz self rising flour
2 tsp. ground ginger

Directions:
* Preheat the oven to 180 c / 350 deg F. Grease a baking sheet.
* Melt the margarine, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over medium heat. Remove the pan from heat as soon as the contents are melted and allow it cool slightly. Add the flour and ginger and mix to form a dough.
* Once the dough is cool enough to handle, roll the dough into about 30 small balls with floured hands. Place the balls onto the prepared baking sheet with space in between to allow them to expand while baking. Mark the top of each ball with a fork. 
* Bake them until the biscuits are golden brown, about 10 minutes. (Mine were not done at 10 minutes. However remember that they harden a little, while cooling.)
* Remove from the oven, let them cool down a bit and transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.
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