Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kushka | Indian Rice Recipes

Ever in a thought of what to make to go with your spicy curries for lunch? When you are making a rich curry for your weekend lunch a simple white rice to go with it may sometimes be bleh.. Dress up your rice with this flavorful Kushka aka empty biryani. It is called empty briyani because it has all the flavours of the briyani without the meat or veggies in it.
I got a recipe request for this kushka from my friend through FB. I had wanted to make and post this sooner but things got in the way. Laptop issues being the primary one. Finally I got some time to sit and compose the post, pictures and all. Hope you like it N..
Basmati rice - 2 cups (see notes)
Ghee - 1 tsp + 1 tbsp
Cloves - 3
Cinnamon - 1" piece
Bay leaf - 1
Star anise - 2
Cashew nuts - 5
Shallots/Pearl onions - 10, peeled, sliced
Ginger garlic paste - 1 tsp
Green chillies - 2
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp 
Coconut milk - 1 cup (freshly made or from can, anything works)
Water - 2-1/2 cups
Mint - a fistful
Cilantro/Coriander leaves - a fistful
Salt - to taste

Wash and soak the rice for 15 mins. Drain the rice in sieve/colander with tiny holes. Heat a tsp of ghee and fry cashewnuts. Remove the nuts and add the drained rice, fry until dry. Spread on a plate to cool. Heat oil and the remaining ghee in a pressure cooker and add the whole spices. Add the green chillies, sliced onions and cook in medium heat until the onions are golden. Add the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute or two. Add half of the mint and coriander leaves and mix. Add the coconut milk and water and allow it to boil. Add the rice and cook covered for 10-12 minutes or pressure cook for one whistle. When done, sprinkle the remaining mint and coriander and mix with a fork. Serve hot with a spicy curry. I made this egg curry to go with the kushka.
The best rice to use for any south Indian pulao/briyani is Jeera Samba (seeraga samba). I couldn't find this rice in the indian stores in the area I live so the closest alternative would be basmati.
Pearl onions are a best component for any briyani recipe since it yields a mild sweetness. Regular onions may be substituted per wish.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Kesar Pista Cookies (Eggless) | Christmas Cookies

Christmas went by pretty well. We had loads of fun with friends, went to a movie, not to forgot a bunch of cookies I baked along with the Christmas Rum Cake. I also tried something new with the condensed milk I had in my fridge leftover from making this Doodh Peda. These cookies are incredible easy to make and comes together in less than 20 minutes. Now, how easy it is for a homemade-from-scratch cookie.

Makes 18-24 cookies based on size
All purpose flour - 1 cup + 1 tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Baking powder - 1-1/2 tsp
Pistachios, raw - 1/4 cup
Butter, room temperature - 1/2 cup
Condensed milk - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 2 Tbsp 
Warm milk - 2 tsp
Saffron strands - 4-5

Sprinkle the saffron strands in the warm milk and set aside to steep. 
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Chop the pistachios into tiny pieces. Sieve 1 cup flour, salt and baking powder. Whisk the butter, sugar and condensed milk until well mixed. Add the milk and the flour mix and knead to form a smooth dough. If the dough is sticky, sprinkle the remaining flour as needed to make it smooth. Pinch 1 inch balls of dough and roll. Place in a lined baking sheet and bake for 9-12 minutes. When done allow to cool in the baking pan. When almost cool transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gingerbread Pancakes | Holiday Breakfast Recipes

Waking up in the morning to the smell of freshly cooked meal wafting from the kitchen is a boon. That is not available because of two reasons if you live elsewhere from your mom's or grandma's home. First, in the fast paced world, breakfast is often a convenience food like cereal or oatmeal. Secondly, you have to be in the kitchen in the (early) morning to make the meal :). 
But holidays are an exception. Having a relaxed morning with your family gathered around the breakfast table makes you want to make something special with the flavor of the holidays, like this gingerbread pancakes.

All purpose flour/Maida - 1-1/2 cups (see notes)
Baking powder - 1 Tbsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Ginger powder - 3/4 tsp
Ground Cloves - a pinch
Brown Sugar - 2 Tbsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Milk - 1 cup + 2 Tbsp (add 2 Tbsp more for thinner pancakes)
Egg - 1
Butter, melted - 2 Tbsp
Maple Syrup - 1 Tbsp (see notes)
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices until there are no lumps.
Whisk the milk, egg, butter, syrup and vanilla in a separate cup. Add the liquid to the flour and mix with a whisk until combined. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes. The resting time is crucial to help the gluten relax and give a fluffier texture to the pancakes.
Heat a non-stick or seasoned cast iron pan in medium high heat. A little spray of water should sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and pour a quarter cup measure to the pan. Allow to spread on its own. No need to swirl the pan. When bubbles form and burst on the surface, it is time to flip the pancake. Flip and allow it to cook a half a minute or more. Serve hot topped with a dollop of salted butter, maple syrup and fresh fruits. You could also top it with powdered sugar.
Authentic gingerbread flavor has molasses in it. If you want to use molasses, skip the brown sugar and maple syrup and add 3 Tbsp of molasses. Reduce the milk by 2 Tbsp as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Fruit Cake / Old fashioned Rum Cake

Last year this time I had posted the Christmas fruit cake (no alcohol no soak) recipe. And I made a mental note to try the real version soon, the all out caramel-alcohol fruit soaked plum cake. And I did. Well, it wasn't easy. I scoured my cookbook collection, referred a few trusted sites and arrived at my recipe. I made a small test batch (1/4th of the below recipe) before a few months for recipe testing and was happy with it.
Here I am sharing the all famous Old fashioned Christmas Rum cake sold in bakeries across Indian during this season.
The color of the cake depends on the sugar used and the dry fruits you use. The more darker dry fruits you use, like raisins, dates the darker the cake will be. I used a good mix of dark and light colored dry fruits and hence the honey golden cake.

For the Fruit Soak:
Dry Fruits - 4 cups
(I used a mix of the following
Candied fruit and peels - 1 cup
Raisins - 1/2 cup
Golden raisins - 1/2 cup
Dried Cranberries - 1/2 cup
Dates - 1/2 cup
Dried Figs - 1/4 cup
Dried Apricots - 1/2 cup
Candied ginger - 1/4 cup)
You could use the dry fruits based on your liking to a total of 4 cups.
Dark Brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Orange juice - 1/2 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Rum - 1/2 cup (Can substitute whisky)

For the cake:
All purpose Flour (Maida) - 2 cups + 1/2 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1-1/4 tsp
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Ginger - 1 tsp
Cloves - 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Butter - 1 cup (softened)
Dark brown sugar - 1 cup (see notes)
Eggs - 4 (room temperature)
Vanilla - 2 tsp
Nuts - 2 cups, roughly chopped (Use a mix of almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds)

Before a day of making the cake, make the caramel fruit soak. Heat the dark brown sugar in a saucepan stirring occasionally to let the sugar caramelize and become darker. Remove from heat and add water, orange juice. Add the 4 cups of dry fruits and allow it to come to a boil. Remove from heat and mix the rum. Allow it to cool completely and transfer to a non-reactive storage container (no plastic or aluminium or non-stick), glass or steel is a better option. It can be stored for 2 weeks to 2 months. Don't forget to give a nice mix with a clean, dry spoon every 2-3 days. This can be stored in room temperature and need not be refrigerated. The alcohol in the fruit mix acts as a preservative.
On the day of making the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease several ramekins with butter, this recipe makes 8, 2 cup size cakes. 
Drain the soaking liquid from the fruits and reserve separately. 
Sieve the dry ingredients, starting from flour (2 C) to nutmeg several times until well mixed. 
Add 1/2 cup of flour to the fruits to coat well. This makes sure the fruits are evenly suspended in the cake and does not sink to the bottom.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and the reserved liquid from the fruits alternatively to the butter mixture and mix lightly after each addition. You should mix just until no streaks of flour remain. Add the fruits and the chopped nuts and mix with a spoon. Divide equally into greased ramekins and bake for 40-45 minutes.
When the cakes come out of the oven brush a little rum over the top when it is still hot. This brushing with rum step is optional though.
Allow to cool the cakes in the pan. When cooled completely, remove from the pans. If you are gifting to friends and family, bake in a aluminium foil pan and pack it in for gift giving.
This cake can be made ahead and stored. It is like banana bread, the taste gets better the next day.
This cake recipe is not glaringly sweet. It is mildly sweet with the sweetness coming from the soaked fruits.