Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Semolina Cake a.k.a Basbousa

Semolina Cake a.k.a Basbousa

There was a time when I used to bake everyday. Gone are those days and now it is a matter just about managing to make everyday meal from scratch. I found a pack of fine semolina in my pantry while doing the all important pantry stock taking task. I thought I will try this middle eastern dish a try and take it to friends who we were visiting that evening. The recipe is somewhat altered from Nestle's website. Here it is...

2 1/2 cups semolina
1 tin condensed milk
generous pinch of saffron steeped in 2 tablespoons warm milk
1 cup melted butter and bit more to grease the tin
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
dash of lemon juice

Bring all ingredients for the cake together but leave the baking powder to be added last. Mix together until combined. Add little water if needed to bring to thick batter consistency

Pour into a cake tin and bake in preheated oven at 170degC for about 35-40 minutes (until skewer comes out clean and top has browned)

In the meantime, add sugar and water in a pan and bring to boil. Allow it to reduce to make a syrup. You know it is ready when the sugar water is sticky to touch. If you reduce too much, you will not have enough for the whole cake. Add lemon juice to the syrup so the sugar does not crystallise

The syrup should have cooled down while the cake should be warm when you pour the syrup on the cake. I pour the syrup while the cake is still in teh tin but on teh cooling rack. I alo pierced some holes using the skewer. You can garnish with some chopped nuts. I used almonds and pistachios but wait till all the syrup has seeped through

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Homemade Yogurt (using yogurt maker)

We may live in a western country but my kitchen is very much an Indian kitchen. For the few years that I have been running my household, it is probably about three times that I have ran out of this commodity - yogurt. It is so important in my house that I stock a full rack of it in the fridge. Yogurt is not particularly cheap, especially good quality one. So one day we decided we should give making yogurt at home a try. We did it for sometime in insulated boxes (hot box) and also in ceramic dishes which I would keep in the oven at low heat. These worked ok but not consistently. We gave up at that point and revisited this later and decided to buy yogurt maker. It was about £20 so even if I made yogurt 20 times without buying 20 boxes of yogurt, we would have recovered the money spent. The math was quite simple so we went ahead and bought it from Lakeland. Later we bought a few extra containers so we did not have to wait to empty the container to make the next batch.

I have had success with it from day one but that did not stop me from trying various methods of making yogurt so we could replicate the same texture, taste and consistency that my mom used to achieve. Here are some of the ways I tried:
1. I added a couple of spoons of milk powder to increase the protein content so we could get thicker yogurt. Result was good but we did not want to continue this as it meant we added a processed ingredient i.e. milk powder
2. added a couple of spoons of sugar and set the yogurt. It worked well and was consistent. However, some felt it was a bit sweet. The extra sugar gives more food for the bacteria that eventually makes the curd.
3. Added salt and some sugar and set the yogurt. Again, this worked well but wanted to see if the salt and sugar could be avoided.

After all this, here are some simple steps:
1. Take a litre of milk (I use whole milk) in a heavy bottom pan and heat it. You want to heat slowly and until the milk rises up like a balloon
2. Cool this to nearly room temperature. I just leave it on the counter to cool. Then pour into the yogurt maker container. If the milk is still warm, it will kill the bacteria so you will not get good yogurt.
3. Add about three spoonful of good yogurt. I keep a pot of greek yogurt from the supermarket which I use as the starter. Stir well and put the container into the yogurt maker and turn it on. You could use the clock on the yogurt maker if it has one but it does not stop automatically. I usually leave it overnight or through the day depending on when I kickstart.
4. I take it out of the yogurt maker and leave it out for further time. About 24 hours after I start the process, I would put it in the fridge. You could use it straight away after the 8 hours that it typically takes to set in the yogurt maker but I found the texture improves if I leave it out a bit further.

It is normal for some whey water to get collected on top of the yogurt. It is perfectly ok to consume this. I must say some brands of milk set better than some others. So I would suggest you try a few brands that you get so you can find what works best wherever you live.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sweet potato pasta

Sweet potato pasta
Pasta is one of the dishes that both my kids will eat. My older one is usually not too keen on vegetables unless it is from a very small list of his favourites. I find pasta dishes an easy way to get the vegetables in. I make sauces using different vegetables so that when blended, he does not quite know what vegetable it is. This dish can be made using most root vegetables. I use sweet potatoes as it is one of five a day veggies and rather hard to get it into them otherwise and some days I also add carrots. As long as you can decide what colour what the sauce would be, choose vegetables accordingly. Here is the recipe

Boiled pasta, enough for two
1 medium sized sweet potato, cubed
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 onion, cubed
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 heaped teaspoon all purpose flour
1 cup milk
Oregano to season
Salt to season
Cooking oil

Heat some oil and add the onions and garlic 

Add the carrots and sweet potato and sauté for couple of minutes. Add enough water and cook the vegetables covered until soft

Allow it to cool and blend to smooth paste

To make the white sauce, heat a heavy bottomed pan and add the butter. Once melted, add the flour and keep stirring and do so until the flour gets a sandy consistency

Add milk and keep stirring until sauce consistency is reached (it will turn shiny)

Add blended vegetables, salt and oregano and then add the pasta. Allow to boil very briefly and serve!

1.      1. Make sure you do not brown the flour while making white sauce as you will end up making brown sauce

2.     2.   If you do not keep stirring the milk, it will form lumps and you do not want that

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Biscuit Pudding

Biscuit Pudding
While doing winter de-cluttering and organising, I found a few packs of biscuits. Although biscuits do not tend to get wasted, I wanted to try some dish with them. I chose biscuit pudding and when looking up recipes, I learned that it is rather popular in SriLanka. I have adapted Tarla Dalal’s recipe here...

1. some people who do not like coffee may prefer to have he biscuits dipped in milk rather than coffee
2. replace dark chocolate with milk chocolate if you prefer

12 Rich tea biscuits or Marie biscuits
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
5 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoon custard powder
1 ½ cups milk plus 3 tablespoon milk
100g dark chocolate, melted
Grated nuts for garnish

Dissolve coffee powder in hot water. You need enough water to quickly dip the biscuits in it. Dip the biscuits very briefly then break them into pieces and put in individual serving bowls

Dissolve the custard powder in 3 tablespoon milk

Heat the rest of the milk until it is just about to boil. Now add the dissolved custard powder and make sure you stir well. Cook on low flame until it coats the back of the spoon.

Now add the sugar and melted chocolate and stir well. It will thicken but still be of pouring consistency.

Pour this on the biscuit and garnish with chopped nuts