Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Malai chomchom...

Through the ages Bengalis have proved their irreplaceable love for sweets. In Bengal, sweets occupy an important place in the diet and also at social ceremonies. So last weekend when I was invited to my friend's Grihopravesh (House warming ceremony), I made Malai Chomchom for her.

Chomchom ('ch' pronounced as chair) is a very popular sweet from Bengal (Eastern India). Chomchom are made from homemade cottage cheese (Chana), cooked in sugar syrup. Chomchom can be served various ways, with grated coconut, chopped nuts or with cream (malai).They are sometimes translated as 'pleasure boats'. Indeed they are. The soft, sweet Chomchom, soaked in syrup and accompanied with some cream (malai) is truly a pleasure to your taste buds. 

Things needed to make Malai Chomchom:

For Chomchom:

  • Whole Milk: 1/2 gallon (1.89 ltr)
  • Lime Juice: of a whole large lime
  • Semolina /Suji: 1 tbsp
  • Sugar: 2 tsp
  • Saffron: few strands

For sugar syrup:

  • Sugar: 3 Cups (divided)
  • Water: 5 cups + 1/2 cup
  • Green cardamom: 7-8

For Malai (cream):

  • Heavy cream /double cream: 200 ml
  • Mawa/ unsweetened milk powder: 1/4 cup
  • Sugar as per taste
  • Saffron: few strands
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Rose water: 1 tbsp (optional)

To garnish

  • Finely chopped pistachio
  • Saffron

Steps of making Malai Chomchom:

1. Boil milk in a heavy bottom pan. Stir in between, so it do not scorch to the bottom of the pan.

2.As the milk boils gradually add lime juice and keep stirring, till whey separates and the milk curdles.

3. Line a colander with cheese cloth or a piece of muslin, drain the curdled milk.

4. Tie up the cheese cloth and wash the cottage cheese under cold water, till it feels cold to touch.

5. Hang the cheese cloth bag with the cottage cheese over the sink or a bowl, to drain out excess water. Keep the cottage cheese like this still you see no more water is dripping from it. Give the cheese cloth bag a big squeeze to drain out any extra water.

6. Take the cottage cheese or chana in a flat plate or tray. Add semolina, sugar (2tsp), saffron and mix well, for about 2 min. Make a smooth dough.

7. Knead the dough with the heel of palm, till no lumps, for about 5-6 min. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts, from each part make 6 balls. Shape the balls into cylinders of 2 inch length.

8. In a large deep pan boil 2 cups sugar and 5 cups of water. Add green cardamom to the syrup. As the sugar syrup starts to rolling boil, add the prepared chomchom pieces one at a time. Do not over crowd the pan. As the chomchom will be double the sixe while cooking, so use a bog enough container to fit all. Otherwise cook them in batches. Cover the pan and cook the chomchoms over medium heat for 30-35 min. In between lightly stir the chomchoms. Add some hot water to the syrup to keep the consistency right. Make sure the syrup does not overflow. After 30-35 min, take out the cooked chomchom in a large bowl along with half of the syrup, cover and keep aside.

9. Add 1 cup of sugar in the remaining sugar syrup and boil till the syrup thickens a bit. Switch off heat. Take out the chomchom from thin syrup with a slotted spoon and add to the thick syrup. Cover and keep it in the syrup for 6-8 hrs. You can serve the chomchom this way also, after cooling down to room temperature. Sprinkle chopped nuts, or grated coconut, or grated mawa. I made it a little special, adding some thick malai (cream) to it.

10. To make the Malai: In a heavy bottom pan add heavy cream and mawa (unsweetened milk powder), cook over low heat till mix well. Add sugar as per taste. I like to keep the malai less sweet, so it does not overwhelm the taste of chomchom. Add green cardamom, saffron, and rose water(if using). Mix well. Cook till it thickens, but it should be of pouring consistency. Let the Malai cool down to room temperature, keep it in the refrigerator. The Malai will be thickened as it cools down.

11. You can just spread the malai over chomchom. I used a star nozzle to pipe malai on chomchom.

12. Garnish with chopped pistachio and saffron strands. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Raw jackfruit kebab..

A good vegetarian starter..!!!!  A typical situation that usually leads to lot of head scratching for a meat-o-saur  like me.  I am sure, I am not the only one, we all go through this while planning for a party or when we have guests for dinner or lunch, specially when there is one or more vegetarian on the guest list.

Yes, there are plenty of options for vegetarian snacks and starters, and we usually plan for a veg starter and a non-veg one for such occasions. Yes a double task for us. So what about something that can be served to both and something that tastes like meat yet a vegetable. 

Remember unripe or raw jackfruit, a popular Summer vegetable in India. Few days back I posted a curry recipe on that (click here for jackfruit curry recipe). While discussing over that curry in a food forum on Facebook, one of the  member of the group, Papia Roy told us about jackfruit kebab recipe. The recipe was so good. I couldn't help myself but made some for me and my family. And it was an instant hit. I used canned raw jackfruit for this, you can use fresh raw jackfruit as well. Thanks to Papia di for such a lovely recipe.

Try this with some hot tea and enjoy the rain. This post is going to the Monsoon Special event of Kolkata Food Bloggers.

Things needed to make Raw Jackfruit Kebab:

  • Raw jackfruit: 1 cup
  • Chana dal / Bengal gram: 1/2 cup
  • Onion (roughly chopped): 1 tbsp
  • Garlic: 1 clove
  • Cinnamon: 1/4 stick
  • Green cardamom: 1
  • Cloves: 2
  • Black peppercorn: 3-4
  • Onion (finely chopped): 3 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tsp
  • Green chilies (chopped): 1-2 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Kasuri methi /dried fenugreek leaves: 1/2 tsp
  • Sat to taste
  • Oil: 2-3 tbsp

Steps of making Raw Jackfruit Kebab:

1.  Soak chana dal for 2 hrs. Wash the canned jackfruit well by changing water*. In a pressure cooker put jackfruit pieces, chana dal, roughly chopped onion (1 tbsp), a clove of garlic, whole spices, add water and cook for 3 whistles. Switch off heat, wait till pressure releases.
*click here to know how to process fresh and canned jackfruit

2. Take out the whole spices. With a back of a ladle mash the boiled jackfruit and dal. You can use a food processor to coarsely ground the mixture.

3. In a pan add 1 tbsp oil, When the oil is hot add finely chopped onion. Cook till the onion becomes soft and pink. Add garlic paste and ginger paste, cook for 1-2 min. Add the jackfruit and dal paste, mix well. Add cumin powder, chopped green chilies, salt, mix well. Cook till the mixture comes together and all the excess water evaporates. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. Add garam masala powder and kasuri methi, mix well. Switch off heat and let the mixture cool down.

4. Make flat round discs, kebab like shape with the mixture. You can make 10-12 kebabs from this. Heat oil in a flat heavy pan, shallow fry the kebabs till nicely brown on both sides. Serve hot with mint-yogurt dip.

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Mango fruit leather... 'amsotto'

'Amsotto' is a word very close to every Bengali's heart. It is nothing but sun dried mango pulp mixed with sugar. In some parts of India it is known as 'Aam Papad'. I have seen my mother-in-law make 'amsotto' using fresh home-grown mangoes. The process is very simple. Mango pulp is spread in a thin even layer over a flat plate or tray and then left to dry under hot Summer sun. When the first layer dries, another layer of mango pulp is spread over the previous one. This process is repeated till the desired thickness is achieved. She makes mango pulp from both sweet and sour mangoes, and that brings an unique sweet sour taste to the end product and it is the best 'amsotto' I have ever tasted. But when you stay thousands of miles away from home, these homemade delicacies are mere memories.

Though the mangoes here do not taste or smell anywhere near the mangoes back home, still during Summer mango is a must have fruit for me. Few days back I bought a big box full of mangoes from a local store. We ate few, made salsa and lassi with them, but still two large one were left. So before they turn bad, I tried my hand on making some fruit leather.

Yes, fruit leather, homemade dried fruit rolls, are made from fruit pulp. Exactly the way 'Amsotto' is made. It is called fruit leather because when the fruit pulp is dried, it looks shiny and has a very tough texture like leather. Commercially fruit leathers are made in dehydrator designated for this process. I did it in the oven and am so happy to see the end result.

Things needed to make Mango Fruit Leather/ Amsotto:

  • Ripe mango: 2 large (or canned mango pulp)
  • Honey: 1/4 cup
  • Lime juice: 1 tbsp
  • A baking sheet
  • Parchment paper

Steps of making Mango Fruit Leather/ Amsotto:

1. You can use either canned mango pulp, or make fresh fruit pulp. If you are making fruit pulp from fresh fruit, use fully ripe mango. After making the pulp using a food processor or blender strain the pulp to remove any fiber. Do not add any water while making the pulp or straining. The mango pulp should be thick but a pouring consistency.

2. Mix honey and lime juice to the mango pulp. If you are using sweetened canned mango pulp then avoid adding honey. I added honey to sweeten the pulp, as the mangoes were not that sweet. Taste and adjust the amount of honey to be added. You can use sugar in place of honey. Mix well.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. For the pulp from 2 large mangoes I used a 15inch X 11inch baking sheet. Pour the pulp on the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the mango pulp with a spatula or back of a knife. Spread it as evenly as possible.

4. Pre-heat oven to WM or 140F or the lowest possible temperature possible in your oven. Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature, it should not exceed 140F. You need to dry the fruit pulp, no cooking is involved here. Keep the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven. If you find (or feel) the temperature is too high then switch off the oven for 30 min, and again switch it on. Let the fruit pulp dry inside the oven for 8-10 hrs.

5. How to know the fruit leather is ready? If you touch a dried fruit leather, you will feel a smooth leather like texture and you can peel it off from the parchment paper easily. If fruit pulp sticks to your finger and you find it difficult to peel off then it needs to dry more. I kept the baking sheet at WM mode in the oven for 8 hrs, I switched off the oven in between to keep the temperature at 140F. It was almost done after 8 hrs. I left it inside the oven(switched off) overnight and next morning it was perfectly done.

6. Peel off the parchment paper, cut the fruit leather into pieces, roll and store in an air tight container. You can wrap the fruit rolls with parchment paper before storing.

This post specially posted to celebrate mango festival  organised by Kolkata Food Bloggers (KFB)

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Homemade burger bun...

Lot of people have asked  me, why do I need to make bread at home when they are readily available in stores. My answer is unless you try your hand at it you will never know. First of all, I love baking, though a late starter, I have fallen for it completely. And it gives me an immense pleasure when all the effort comes together and I end up with a perfect well done bread.

And  the second reason, which I feel far  more important that the first one. Just go through the ingredients list of the bread you have bought. I'm sure you will need to Google for a lot of them, as you probably haven't heard of them before. Unfortunately most of them are preservatives to increase the shelf life of the bread.

Like most of the kids  of her age, my daughter loves burgers. Every-time we pass by a burger joint, she feels hungry, even if it's just after the lunch or dinner. So when on Mother's day my little one surprised me with a beautiful ceramic paper weight shaped like a star fish and  a few pretty  looking cards saying "Mom I love you", I promised her the best burger as her treat.

I followed the braided bread or challah bread recipe to make the dough. This dough, can be used for making several different breads, like burger buns, dinner knots, sweet cinnamon rolls etc. Today it was burger buns time.

Things needed to make Homemade Burger:

For the Burger Bun:

  • Bread flour: 4 cups and more to dust
  • Dry yeast: 2.5 tsp
  • Sugar: 1/2 tsp
  • Water (warm): 1 cup
  • Salt: 1/2 tbsp
  • Honey: 1/4 cup
  • Eggs: 2
  • Butter or olive oil: 1/3 cup
  • Egg wash: 1 egg + 1 tbsp water
  • Sesame seeds to sprinkle (optional)

Steps of making the Burger Buns:

1. Proof the yeast: Take the yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, sugar in a deep bowl, mix well. Cover and let the yeast stand at room temperature until foamy (about 10 min). The water should be just warm to touch, not hot.

2. In a large, deep mixing bowl add 1 cup bread flour, eggs, honey, butter (or oil, whichever you are using, I used butter), and rest of the water, mix well with a dough whisk (a ladle also works good) till no lumps.

Add the yeast and mix well. Add the remaining bread flour 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough is formed that pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.  As I do not have a stand mixer, I used my hand to make the dough. You can use a heavy duty stand mixer like Kitchen Aid, in that case use the paddle attachment.

3. Lightly flour the kitchen counter or any work surface ( I used a large wooden chopping board), turn the dough on the floured work surface. Knead the dough, stretch it, fold it, turn it 90 degree and repeat. Knead for 7-8 min by hand. Keep dusting the work surface with flour to prevent the dough from sticking to hand and to the work surface.

4. Grease a large and deep container, place the dough and turn once to grease the top. Cover the container and let the dough rise at room temperature until double is size, about 2 hrs. Punch down the dough and cover the container and let the dough rise again for 1 hr. If you are in hurry you can skip the second rise, but for a better flavor let the dough rise for the second time.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal halves.

6. Divide each half into 6 equal portions. Make balls from each portions. Roll the dough with cupped hand until smooth and perfectly round. Place the shaped dough on the baking sheet, with smooth side up. Repeat the same for other portions of the dough and place them at least 2 inches apart from each other. Flatten each dough with the palm. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 20-25 min at room temperature. Halfway through the rising press the dough balls very gently to flatten a bit.

7. As the shaped dough are rising, place the oven rack to the center position and preheat oven to 350 F. The oven should be preheated at-least 20 min before baking. Mix the egg and water for egg wash.

8. Brush the rolls with egg wash with a pastry brush and sprinkle sesame seeds. You can skip the sesame seed part.

9. Bake in the preheated oven, in the center rack for 18-20 min or until golden brown in color and firm to touch. Transfer to cooling rack.

I used only half of the dough to make 6 buns. With the rest of the dough I made few dinner knots and mini challahs. The dough recipe is same, but you can make various other breads from this dough.

For the Patty:
  • Minced meat of your choice: 1 lb/ 425 gm
  • Onion (finely chopped): 2 tbsp
  • Garlic powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Dried parsley: 1/2 tbsp
  • Worcestershire sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Smoked Tabasco sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Egg: 1
  • Bread crumbs: 1-2 tbsp
  • Freshly ground black pepper: 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste

For making the patty you can use any minced meat of your choice. Even vegetarian options like falafel, or minced soy-granule patty or mixed veggie patty are also good. You can make the burger patty as per your choice. This time I used minced chicken and following is how I did it.

Steps for making the Patty:

1. Mix minced meat, finely chopped onion, garlic powder (or minced garlic), dried parsley, Worcestershire sauce, smoked Tabasco sauce, salt and pepper well. I used smoked Tabasco to bring the smoky flavor as well as increase the spicy level, you can use liquid smoke and chili powder instead. Liquid smoke is readily available in shops like Walmart or Target. For kids, you can avoid chili powder. I added frozen corns and grated carrot to the kid version patty I made for my daughter. An easy way to add some veggies to your kids diet.

2. Now shape the patty into round disks around a diameter of 3 inches or the size to match your burger buns. To shape the meat patty quickly and easily I found out something very simple. We always have different sized lids of jars in our kitchen. Take any lid that matches to the size of burger bun.

3. Line the lid with plastic wrap.

4. Drop the patty mix on the lid.

5. With the help of spoon level the mix and spread it on the lid. Press a little so it takes the shape of the lid.

6. Take a piece of parchment paper, and holding the plastic wrap flip the meat mix to parchment paper, voila you have a perfect round patty ready to cook.

You can grill the patty on an outdoor grill or just shallow fry them on a pan, like I did.

So we are ready with the bun and patty, now the burger needs to be assembled.

To assemble the burger: (these are few suggestions)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mustard sauce
  • Tomato slices
  • Lettuce
  • Guacamole
  • Onion
  • Pickled jalapeno
  • Bacon
  • Cheese slices
  • Grilled mushrooms or bell peppers

 Etc & etc....

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