{How to Series} De-mystifying Parsi Cuisine- Guest Post by Perzen Patel

For quite a while, Parsi Cuisine to me was much like the mystical world of Narnia. Something that we could see from a distance, enjoy it while it lasts and then reminisce about it. I never missed an opportunity to drop by to my favourite Parsi restaurants and enjoy hearty meals. But that was about it. A few attempts to cook Dhansak went put. I then decided not to experiment; it was too sacrosanct to be messed about with. I had a few Parsi friends, but they (I’m told) don’t share their recipes. I got  lucky a few months ago and  through FBAI, I got introduced to Perzen Patel (twitter: @bawibride) who blogs at http:bawibride.com and is passionate about evangelising Parsi cuisine, as it is made in Parsi homes. And, the icicing on the cake is her catering service for those intense Bawa cravings. Do check her website for further details. The how to cook that series would be incomplete if I didn’t invite Perzen to guest blog.  So, over to the Bawi Bride.

Just one thing, don’t simply go through her blog. Savour each post, let it speak to you and that is when you will thoroughly enjoy what makes this cuisine so special.

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Growing up, you at times get accustomed to a few things. Toys, books, friends, and food. These things become part of you. Your being. Almost an indispensable part of your living. For me, that something was and is food. I was born and bought up into a foodie family and the passion for food continues till date. Food and fun are two most important elements of the Parsi way of life. So, when Elson asked to me to blog on Parsi food I jokingly told him one post was not going to be enough. For me the challenge was to say everything and yet retain the sanctity. But, for the sake of the cuisine I so love; I’ll try and sum it up.

Parsi cuisine has a huge focus on meat and finding a vegetarian Parsi is like hunting for an endangered animal. Even then, most vegetarians are eggtarians and replace the meat with eggs as a protein replacement. We love eggs in any form, so you would have salli- par eedu, pateta par eedu, tameta par eedu and almost anything par eedu and even eedu par eedu
– Parsis love their sweets and in my household we have almost a 3 course dessert each night – jelly, dessert like custard/fruit/icecream/cake which is then followed by chocolate or dry fruits. It’s for this reason that am constantly trying out new dessert recipes so that I can keep impressing the in-laws 🙂
– Most of our Parsi desserts are variations of their English cousins as Parsis are quite ‘anglicised’ so to speak and consider Queen Elizabeth as “aapri Queen” – Hence the caramel custards, cakes etc. We do give most of our desserts an Indian twist though by adding Cardamom and Nutmeg which is a staple in both the Lagan nu Custard as well as several other desserts such as the Badam  nu Custard, Gajar no Halwo, Mawa Cake, Chapat etc etc.

Since I’ve started this blog and the Bawi Bride Kitchen, my Lagan nu Custard has been one of my signature recipes. Made with milk, eggs, sugar and condensed milk, this dessert is a true indulgence and as mentioned previously a staple in many Parsi households.

While many would argue that classic dishes shouldn’t be messed around with – I am of adifferent opinion and feel that they give us a sound base through which we can explore our creativity. One such experiment for me was the Lagan nu Custard icecream for example which became such a hit with my fellow food bloggers that I actually introduced it onto my menu as a regular dish!

So, over a couple of emails and phone calls that Elson and I went through discussing what we recipe to post, we decided to share another variation on the classic Lagan nu Custard – the Badam nu Custard. The Badam nu Custard is the richer cousin between the two but won’t be seen often at weddings due to the high cost involved with all the almonds required. Nevertheless, it is a great treat for the tastebuds and definately a Parsi dessert that you should try your hand at!

9. Badam nu Custard Ready

Badaam Nu Custard

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almonds blanched
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 1.5 litres milk
  • 1.5 cup sugar
  • 1/3 tin condensed milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg and cardamom powder
  • butter for greasing the baking dish
  • 1/2 cup almonds blanched and rose petals for garnish

Procedure

• Start by placing the milk in a large heavy bottomed vessel and bring it to a quick boil.

1. Heat Milk

• While this is happening, boil and peel the almonds.

2. Blanch Almonds

• Grind these almonds along with the rose water.

3. Grind Almonds with Rose Water

• Once the milk has come to a boil, add in the sugar and cook it over a medium flame. Stir the milk continuously until almost a quarter has evaporated. Remove from the fire and add in condensed milk. Stir and cool. Also, at this point, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

4. Reduce Milk

• Next, whisk the eggs and add in the nutmeg-cardamom powder. Add this egg mixture as well as the almonds to the milk.

6. Mix Eggs and Elaichi

• Pour the custard mixture in a large baking dish and bake at 200 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Garnish the custard with some sliced almonds and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

8. Bake for 45 mins

• Chill the custard prior to serving. Enjoy it with some vanilla ice-cream or just by itself.

9. Badam nu Custard Ready

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{How to} Bake- Guest Post by Riddhi Sharma

My good friend Riddhi Sharma (twitter: @cookbybook ) has threatened to pull my ears if I address her as ‘Bake Queen’. Each time she publishes one of her awesome baked recipes, I offer her the title and she politely declines 🙂 ; but one look her blog (http://cookbybook.wordpress.com) and you’ll know what I’m saying. Riddhi is a dentist  based in Bangalore and is a baking enthusiast. Personally, I have drooled over some of her bakes and tried a recipe that had me asking for more. No surprises then that I invited her to guest blog on ‘how to bake’. I’m sure you will all be pre- heating your ovens much before you finish of reading the post.
Caveat: Please do take a look at her lovely blog; but i will not be responsible for the calories you pile on only ogling at the pictures :p
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Raspberry Banana Bread_edited
Hello new readers!!

For many of you, baking can be quite overwhelming at first. A lot of beginners will burn a few (or a lot) of cookies, flatten some cakes or over bake brownies. So when Elson asked me if I could do a post on baking basics, I was anxious (this post is my attempt!) and excited. If you spend enough time in the kitchen baking, you quickly begin to pick up the dos and don’ts. I am far from a professional pastry chef or even an expert baker but with these tips and tricks, I’m hoping to make baking an easier, more enjoyable experience for you all.

1. Take your time and read the recipe thoroughly from beginning to end before you start. Many baking failures come from not reading and understanding the recipe, not from poor recipes! Remember, cookbook authors and bloggers REALLY want to help you bake masterpieces. They know and understand the limitations of home kitchens. So have faith in the recipe and read the notes.

2. Get your mise en place started. Measure out all the ingredients mentioned in the recipe to exact amounts first before you proceed further. There is nothing worse than reaching halfway and realizing you’re out of an important ingredient. Prepping is very very important.

3. Unless otherwise stated, use ingredients at room temperature. If something is meant to be used cold then a recipe should state that, otherwise make sure your eggs, butter, yogurt etc. are at room temperature.

4. Buy salted butter for your toast but unsalted butter is what you need for all the baking you plan on doing. You want to control the amount of salt going in your baked goods. So unsalted is the way to go!

5. Always preheat the oven. This might sound amusing to some of you but this step is of utmost importance.

6. Preparing baking pan – Grease and/or line your baking tin. Use paper liners for muffin tins (unless stated otherwise). Always grease a Bundt pan with butter and dust the insides with flour. Do not grease the cookie sheet unless the recipe states you should; just line it with parchment paper.

7. It is always better to sift the dry ingredients to avoid lumps. This step will ensure that baking powder, baking soda or salt are equally dispersed among flour. Also, measure the flour after it’s been fluffed up a bit with the help of a fork. Lightly spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off (weighing flour is of course more accurate but I’m more accustomed to cup-method).

8. Use baking powder and baking soda no more than 5-6 months old. Dud ingredients will make your recipe dud. Also, baking powder and baking soda are different ingredients and not interchangeable! So pay attention. They serve the same purpose but do not react the same way in baked goods.

9. When baking cakes, cupcakes and cookies, take your time creaming the butter. Beat/cream for at least 3-5 minutes (preferably with the electric mixer’s paddle attachment) to aerate the butter.

Check if the recipe calls for any herb or fruit zest. If so then rub the herb/fruit zest into the sugar which will release the essential oils and then add this sugar to butter and beat/cream really well again. A trick I have learnt recently from Joy The Baker is beating the spices along with the butter and sugar to enhance the flavor much more.

10. When mixing the batter, gently fold the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients – you don’t want to lose all the air. Over-mixing will especially ruin your muffins and makes them tough and rubbery.

11. Keep in mind that all ovens are different. Do not rely on the time in the recipe to work for your oven. It is usually provided by a time range which is just an estimate for you. Set your timer for several minutes before it says it will be done just to make sure you don’t overcook. Check the doneness by inserting toothpick in the center of the baked goods. Trust the process and trust yourself.

12. Make it your own! Just because baking is all about science doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with the ingredients that only affect the flavor. Change up the extracts, spices, and other add- ins that only affect the flavor of the baked goods to make it your own. Have fun in the kitchen and it will all turn out amazing!

The more you bake, the better you will become. But remember… “When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.” – Laiko Bahrs J

*Recipe*

This recipe is a no fuss, too easy even for beginners sort. So after reading the tips and tricks mentioned above, get your baking mojo on and try this basic, classic banana bread made a tad bit healthier. Vegetarians and vegans are going to be much much happy.

This recipe is eggfree and oil/butterfree. Yes! Can you believe?!! For sweetness, I have used date syrup in part which lends a beautiful depth of flavor to the bread. The other part comprises of brown sugar. Brown sugar + banana = a match made in heaven! Brown sugar gives a caramelized flavor but you can make the bread refined sugar-free too by using coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar. It would be wonderful too! The bread is light, airy and moist (in a good way). Yes! Not a crumb in sight, my friends. Perfect for toasting and if you’re not skinny-minny types then slathering it with some butter. If you are not into healthy baking then feel free to use all-purpose flour completely. Don’t have date syrup? Use liquid jaggery or maple syrup or honey. All works brilliantly. Don’t have raspberries? Use strawberries or may be toasted walnuts. Change the ingredients as per your convenience and make the recipe yours. Add a dash of cinnamon if you like. Just have fun! So brew yourself a cup of coffee, preheat the oven and get baking. Your quest for that perfect banana bread ends here.

Enjoy!

Raspberry Banana Bread Edited

Healthier Raspberry Banana Bread – Eggfree & Oil/Butterfree {can be made refined sugar-free too!}

Yields: 1 8×4-inch loaf, about 10 slices | Prep time: 10 minutes | Bake time: 60 minutes | Total time: 70 minutes

Ingredients:

• 1 cup whole wheat flour

• 1/2 cup all purpose flour

• 1 tsp baking soda

• 1 tsp salt

• 1/3 cup yogurt

• 1/3 cup date syrup (or liquid jaggery or maple syrup or honey)

• 1/3 cup brown sugar (to make it refined sugar-free use coconut sugar)

• 3 large over-ripe bananas, mashed (I used heaping 1 & 1/2 cups purée)

• 1 tsp vanilla extract

• 1 cup chopped raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven at 170°C/350°F. Grease the 8×4-inch loaf pan with oil and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, date syrup and brown sugar until completely incorporated. Whisk in banana purée and vanilla extract.

4. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and slowly stir in wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until no flour pockets remain. Do not over-mix. Fold in chopped raspberries.

5. Pour the batter in your prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with few moist crumbs. Let the bread rest in the loaf pan for about 10 minutes before inverting it on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing. Serve warm as is or slathered with butter. You may toast the slices too.

Store the bread in an airtight container up to 1 week in refrigerator. It freezes well for up to 3 months.

*For a more classic twist, substitute raspberries with toasted walnuts.

How to cook that series- An Introduction!

Inquisitiveness is a part of children’s psyche. They want to know, know and know. Why? What? When? How? Form a main part of their vocabulary. But I was different. I barely put my parents’ mental abilities to test. For them, I had just 2 simple questions, “What’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner?” Once I was served the meal, the question changed “What is this and how did you make it”? At that time, perhaps, I didn’t know that these simple, unwitting and many a times annoying questions would form the basis of my cooking.

It is not too surprising that we so want to know how something was cooked. Remember, how only that one particular aunty made the fish you want to eat almost everyday. Or, why the sweets made by your grandmother or mother can’t be replicated by anyone; no matter how hard they work on recipe? Yes, the fact that there is oodles of love packed in the meal is a given, but some secrets? Something that they did differently? We’ll probably never know or may be we will. Thankfully, google and youtube have sorted some part of problem, but nothing beats the sanctity of standing besides your grandmother and learning her secrets.

This insatiable hunger to learn is what prompted me to do this “How to cook that” series” on the blog. Then came the bigger challenge how to cover it all. Honestly, I am a self taught  cook and there is a lot of learning and unlearning yet to do. In such a scenario, this series would either have to wait till i learnt it all or probably be shelved. But the flashbulb moment came when I happened to read a guest blog on one of my favorite blogs. I decided to have this series curated by guest bloggers. These are some of my very dear friends both in the online and the real world; all of who share the same love and passion for food like you and me.

So then, whats coming in this series? A whole lot, I’d say. From someone who I have crowned “Bake Queen” primarily because she bakes some of the most delicious pastries, brownies, etc to another friend who is passionate about evangelising Parsi food. And if you always wanted to take some excellent pictures of food, a post to cover that as well. Well, lots more, but I’m not telling it all now 🙂

Just a big and heartfelt thank you to all my friends who have consented to guest blog most willingly and then spent time, effort and energy on the posts we all will relish..

Stay tuned my folks!!! This is going to be a fascinating journey… My word 🙂

Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia

Whole Wheat Focaccia

Life is made up of experiences; some sweet, some not so good, some which you just want to lock up in a treasure chest and keep close to your heart and some you wouldn’t want to touch even with a barge pole. These little and large, bitter and sweet memories come together and form the screenplay of life. We may not remember every one of our experiences but most of us have pretty vivid memories of the various ‘firsts’ in our life… the first crush, our first job/ paycheck, our first drive may be. Only the thought of them is enough to make you smile. This post is about one of my first experiences, my first attempt at baking bread.

I have always been a breads person. Give me bread and butter for breakfast and I’m sold. Bandra, where I grew up is famous for numerous bakeries where freshly baked bread is available round-the-clock. So, for all this self-professed affinity to bread, I never attempted to bake it. The reason?  Baking, my Achilles heel. Somehow, my baking attempts have not been satisfactory. I have a pretty decent oven who behaves himself most of the times, I grill, I toast, I even managed to get the perfect roast chicken but when it came to baking, a cake or muffin was only as far as I got. So baking bread which I was told was an experts domain, remained a distant dream. I always wanted to bake bread but somehow never got myself to do it. Much like the shy, introverted good guy in college who secretly aspires to ask his lady love for a date, but doesn’t have the courage to do so. Not that I didn’t try, I did make the occasional prep but backed at the end moment; just like the shy guy in college would have his fears what if she snubbed me? What if she refused? I had my doubts, what if it didn’t come up as well as it should?  What if it didn’t sound hollow when knocked. Amongst all this one thing was for sure, she was his lady love and he had to win her over.

The moment of truth came in when on a very lazy Saturday when I happened to walk to my kitchen and began to scan the cabinets to search something. There it was, yeast and flour cheekily peeping at me. Which One? Focaccia was the easiest to make. That was it. I will make bread I thought. I started kneading the dough; gently cajoling and caressing it. With each gentle caress, she responded more eagerly. I learnt to handle her. Handle her well. She moved from being a powdered mess to a a gentle dough. First part done. I was happy. Now it was time for her to respond. I gave her the space and time she needed. She responded by doubling in size. A few more gentle caresses later, she was ready for another rest, before the final test of fire. Literally. I gently laid her in the tin drizzled her with olive oil and Salt. Then, with a prayer on my lips, adjusted the settings of the oven. The wait would  be a good 35 minutes. I picked up a book from the shelf and started to read. The oven timer went off after almost an eternity. I rushed to the kitchen and there she was; resplendent in all her glory. Shiny crust, nicely risen and a very satisfying hollow sound when tapped at the bottom. I was ecstatic. My joy knew no bounds. That evening we had bread and chicken stew for dinner.  Pure sensory delight.

That night, I went to bed a very satisfied man. After a lot of time and effort, I had mustered the courage to approach my lady love. To my surprise, I got to know that she loved me back. We confessed our love and promised to be together. Forever.

Easy Whole Wheat Focaccia

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams, whole wheat flour (You could even use all purpose flour) + some more for dusting
  • 5 grams yeast (+ 2 teaspoons sugar and some lukewarm water)
  • 150 ml, extra virgin olive oil (please don’t use any other oil) + some more to sprinkle on top of the bread.
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • A generous helping of rosemary
  • salt to taste

Procedure:

  • Active the yeast by combining it with the sugar and warm water. Leave aside for 15 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt together. Now make a well in the center and add the yeast solution. Knead till it just about comes together.
  • Add the olive oil bit by bit and knead in stretching motions till the dough has formed a single smooth mass.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and leave it in a warm place to prove. This will need about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • One the dough has risen, knock it back gently, and deflate it. Then, give it a knead for about 8 minutes.
  • Grease a square or rectangular baking tin and put in the dough.
  • Gently create small dents in the dough and put in the tomatoes, garlic and sprinkle the rosemary.
  • Once again leave it in a warm place to prove for about 30 minutes. Your dough should have doubled by now. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes at 150 C
  • Sprinkle salt and olive oil in on the dough and bake at 180 C for 35 minutes.

Stollen Bread (Germany)- The World on my Plate series!

IMG_2358

In the concluding part of “The world on my plate series”, we travel to a land far, far away from India. Germany. What do I make? Stollen Bread. Let me tell you a little bit more about my fascination for breads.

If you have been reading my blog; you would know that I don’t bake much. I did try a butter cake sometime back but that was it.  Baking breads, seemed a distant dream. I was told its only for the professionals. But, I always loved eating breads, perhaps because I’m a Bandra boy;  and we all know how famous bakeries in Bandra are across Mumbai.  But I was wanted to make (or should I say bake) my own bread. It  was  very therapeutic I was told.  Sigghhh.. Didn’t work with me.. But, I knew I wanted to culminate the series with something sweet. Something that we all could cherish.

I happened to be reading on various breads made in different parts of the world which was when I came across the ‘Stollen’ made in faraway Germany. This bread bears an uncanny resemblance to the Christmas cake. The difference being this is Stollen is leavened with yeast, stuffed with candied fruit and baked. The bread is shaped to look like the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. I had found the bread I’ve always wanted to make. I decided to jump into the battle field and tame the proverbial yeast monster. It yielded quite easily. After a while the yeast did the trick and the dough had risen…first part of the mission accomplished. Next step followed suit and my confidence grew.. I knew this was going to be something good. Second proof too passed the test and then it was time to test by fire. Off she went into the oven to be baked. She was out after some 40 minutes. steaming hot like a lady fresh out of a sauna ;). Almost seducing you to have a peck :).  What did she taste like? Ummm… delight in every bite.. the soft dough provided a solid base to the candied peels and slight nudge from the spices right the down your throat. An experience that you need to have.

All through, I have thoroughly enjoyed bringing you this series. There has been much learning about the different cultures of the world and food. As you would have seen, there is no other universal language than the language of food. I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I did bringing it to you.

IMG_2362

Stollen Bread

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams all purpose flour
  • 150 grams (I used a mixture of Tutti –fruity, finely chopped glazed cherries, finely chopped dates, raisins) + some almonds hazelnuts and almonds for garnishing
  • 7 grams fresh yeast + some warm water and 1 and 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 125 ml warm milk
  • 80 grams caster sugar
  • 60 grams butter
  • 2 large tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Marzipan for garnish (optional, i skipped this)

Procedure:

  • Activate the yeast, by dissolving it in the warm water  along with the sugar. Leave aside for 15 minutes till frothy.
  • In a sufficiently large vessel, combine the flour, caster sugar, salt and butter and combine gently.
  • Now make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Knead with the milk to form a smooth, but pliable dough. Knead for some more time till the dough is slightly more softer and you are comfortable working with it.
  • Place the dough in lightly oiled vessel and allow it to rest till it has doubled in size. This should take approximately 40-50 minutes.
  • Once the dough has risen well, gently deflate it b y knocking it with your fist lightly.
  • Give it a another knead for about 5 minutes.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1 inch thick square
  • Place the mixed fruit in the center and roll up the sides and fold the dough to cover it. Seal the ends by pinching it.
  • Leave it for another 30 minutes to rise until it is double in size.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 100 C
  • Bake at 170 C for 35 minutes or till it has a golden crust.
  • Once done allow it to cool for a while. When cooled, roll out the marzipan (if using) on the bread.
  • Else, sprinkle with icing sugar and garnish with almond and hazelnuts.