Beet or Carrot Cake

October 5, 2007 at 2:53 AM (beets, carrots, cheese, cream/Philly/hung yoghurt, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, sugars-sweets, USA, various nuts like me, vegetables/ fruits, walnuts, pecans, and hickory-nuts, wheat)

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Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes is continually making me envious by her beautiful parade of cakes, and no wonder: she has a keen interest in cakes and cake-decorating, and has greatly expanded her talents by studying the subject hands-on with local masters. Despite her self-criticism of the final outcomes, she manages to astound me- and the rest of her readers- with her exquisite attention to detail and gorgeous design. Each time I view the latest one, I find myself wide-eyed in disbelief that she has just begun this hobby!

Let me be honest with all of you: I have never attempted to develop any skills with complicated frosting/icing work; instead, I seem to prefer finding myself in awe at weddings, birthdays, and other occasions when one of these beauties stands before me- silent and breath-taking to behold- and for now, that’s fine with me!  I’m far more interested in churning out edible ladoos and burfis to tell you the truth… So, you’ll have to excuse this little attempt with its rather messy frosting, and slightly-off-center arrangement of nuts…

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This is a beet cake. Apparantly, any recipe for carrot cake can be made with beets instead (is it just me or are there other people contemplating gajar halvah at the moment?), and I do find myself wondering if turnips, rutabagas and radishes would work as well- maybe not. What I do know is that for several years I have been searching for the perfect carrot cake recipe: one that would recall the good old days before the low-fat revolution of the 1980’s took place, one that is like the many slices that I’ve purchased and didn’t regret spending $3-4 dollars on, one that is sinfully-rich, moist, and flavourful, one that screams out: “chilly nights are upon us in Wisconsin”, “mulled cider or wine is in order”, and “tonight would be a great night to sit near the burning hearth”… But really, despite these very subjective images that I tend to connect to a fork-ful, this cake is enjoyable at at any time of the year, and in any weather. And thus far, this particular recipe is the best I’ve found, and yes…I would pay $3.50 for a slice!

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I have changed a few things with the original recipe. Mostly the spicing. (I also reserve the nuts for the filling and exterior and I greatly-disliked the icing recipe that accompanied the original cake recipe and thus found a much better one elsewhere to use). There are some of you that dislike cinnamon-flavoured sweets, but I assure you: if I am able to acquire a taste for cinnamon-infused savories, then it stands to reason that… well….what can I say? I played with the original author/creator’s spicing, so you can too! (But Pel is still thinking that his formula beats all others!)

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Beet or Carrot Cake

(inspired by this one from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook)

3 1/2-4 C shreds of peeled beets or carrots

1 C brown sugar,  firmly-packed

1 C ghee (hee-hee… ghee makes this cake most decadent with a rich, browned-butter flavour, but  vegetable oil (soybean, corn, canola, peanut) is the more usual choice. Don’t reduce it: this is divided by at least 20 slices of cake- so splurge a little!)

3 eggs

1 t vanilla extract

3 1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use a mix of true/Ceylon and cassia/Chinese cinnamon)

2 T chopped crystallized/candied”stem” ginger

1/4 t ground cardamom

1/8 t ground cloves

1/16 t ground nutmeg or mace

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 C raisins, soaked in hot water for awhile and then chopped*

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida (I suppose half-ata would be just fine)

1 1/2 C raw walnuts, pecans or hickory-nuts halves (I used pecans this time, but walnuts are most traditional)

ghee/oil for roasting nuts and greasing pan(s)

Icing-frosting (recipe below)

0)Pre-heat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and line the bottoms of 2  8″-9″ round cake-pans, or one 9″ spring-form pan with parchment-paper (use the bottom of the pan as a guide and cut to fit). Grease the top of the paper as well. I’ve tried it without the use of the paper: the cake tends to stick!

1)Roast the nuts in ghee/oil over med-low flame, stirring constantly until nicely-roasted and fragrant. Remove and drain. Reserve intact halves for decorating. Coarsely-chop the remainder for filling.

2)Mix the beet or carrot shreds with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.

3)Add the ghee and mix well.

4)Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.

5)Add the vanilla, spices, baking soda and powder and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins.

6)Add the flour in four parts, mixing just well-enough between each to blend. I try not to exceed 100 strokes of the spoon total.

7)Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (about 30 minutes for two  9″ pans, or 40-45 minutes for one  9″). Place on a rack and allow to cool completely.

8)Meanwhile, prepare the cream-cheese frosting/icing:

1/2 C butter, at room temperature

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 pound of confectioner’s/powdered sugar (plus more if needed)

A)Cream (beat well until fluffy and pale) the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla; add sugar little-by-little until stiff enough to hold a peak. (If you add too much, a sprinkle of milk will cure it)

9)Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s) and paper. If you baked a single, thick cake: carefully remove it from the pan and paper; slice it horozontally in half to form two layers/rounds.

10)Place one layer on a cake plate. Spread about 1/3 of the icing over the top. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over this and gently press them into the icing.

11)Place the second layer over the first. Press this layer gently, but firmly atop the other. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the surface with the remaining nut-halves.

12)Chill for a few hours if you wish (I prefer it chilled), slice and serve with hot tea or coffee.

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*I’ve also seen and eaten cakes that contain fresh/canned pineapple and/or coconut- very good. Other dried fruits might be nice too- instead of raisins- like apricots, prunes, etc.)

**P.S. Today is my birthday. I’m really quite old now…  I would like to extend warm gratitude to my dear  friend, June, for not only allowing me to photograph parts of her kitchen, but for the wonderful time I had at a dinner recently had there.)

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Back from China…

September 21, 2007 at 10:34 PM (Cantonese, China, chori/adzuki, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, legumes/pulses- whole or split, sugars-sweets, wheat)

 

Well, no…actually I was just browsing through one of my cookbooks and came across this recipe for steamed buns with a sweet red-bean filling(ma yung bao, for those interested). I recall making them a few years back for one of my ex’s, but perhaps you know how things like food become associated with past moments and people, and how you can find yourself “forgetting” certain dishes for awhile…well, I see no need to deprive myself of these any longer. Time goes on. Time heals all wounds, and, as my granny used to say, “Time wounds all heels…”

Unfortunately, granny wasn’t Chinese, so Confucious, you need not worry dear- your position is safe! But grandma-ma did take a Chinese cooking class several years ago, though I don’t think she was able to use her new-found skills much, as grandpa was a sworn “meat-n-potatoes”-kind-of-guy, but… I think she would have loved these! Truly. Perfect with tea, or an anytime-little-treat. Travels well too.!

Ma Yung Bao

(Chinese steamed buns filled with sweet red-bean paste)

For the red bean paste:

1 C adzuki/red chori (more info here)

3 lumps of gur/jaggery, crushed- or any sugar of your preference to taste

a pinch of salt

1) Take the adzuki/chori, rinse them in a few changes of water, then cover well with water and soak for 4 hours or so (this step can probably be skipped). Place beans and water to cover an inch or so in a pressure cooker and cook (at 15 lbs of pressure) for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and the pressure to fall.

2)Then, remove the cover and bring to a gentle boil and evaporate as much water away as possible, stirring gently now and then. When it begins to catch, remove from heat.

3)Puree the beans in food processor until a smooth paste is achieved, or, if you like, you may take small portions and bang away in a mortar-and-pestle or sill-batta to achieve a paste.

4)Return the paste to a pan, set it over low heat and add the sugar and salt. Stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely*. This can be stored for a very, very long time in the refrigerator without spoiling.

5)Alternatively, sweet red bean paste may be purchased in a can, but I’ve tried it and trust me, this is way better and not too difficult.

For the buns**:

1 t active dry yeast

1 T sugar (some recipes use more- up to 1/4 C)

1/4 C lukewarm water

3 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida

1 T solid fat (I used ghee, but Chinese recipes traditionally use lard)

3/4 C lukewarm water

1)Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 C of water. Set aside.

2)Rub the fat into the flour until crumbly and well-mixed, then add yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 C of water to form a slightly sticky dough. Adjust with flour/water as necessary.

3)Turn out onto a floured work-surface and knead for 5 minutes. Dust more flour if it is too sticky. At the end it should be smooth and springy. Set in a large bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and place in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours- until it has doubled in size.

4)Punch the dough down and re-cover it for about 30 minutes to rise and double in size again. At the end of this return the dough to the work-surface and knead 5 minutes again.

5)Take the dough and roll it into a long “log” about 2″ wide. Cut this in half, and then cut each half into portions that, when rolled into a ball, will be about 2″ in diameter. I didn’t do this… I just pinched off balls of dough; you get a feel for the appropriate size.

6)Take each ball of dough and flatten them between your palms and then roll out to about a 4-5″ circle, dusting top and the rolling surface with a pinch of flour.

7)Place a heaping tea-spoon of filling in the centre.

8)Then, make pleats along the outer edge as shown, pinching each to seal; gather the set of pleats and pinch while turning and slowly releasing the dough as you go. It takes some practice; I didn’t really get it right until the last few were produced, but no matter how they look, they’ll taste fine in the end!

9)Set these on grease-proof/waxed paper, laying the damp cloth gently over, to rise for 30 minutes or so.***

10)Line a steamer tray (or heat-proof plate within a steaming apparatus) with a damp cloth and place the buns within, leaving ample room around each to allow for furthur expansion during steaming. Steam for 15 minutes.****

11)Remove the steaming container from the steam underneath (carefully to avoid steam-burns) and allow the buns to cool and the remaining steam to escape before lifting the lid. (A sudden temperature change will cause the buns’ surface to crack). Then remove and serve. These can be made ahead and re-heated in the steamer for a few minutes if you wish, though I find they are still delightful at room temperature.

Here are pics of the rolling and filling:

*Some recipes for this paste require heating a small amount of roasted sesame-seed oil (3 T) in a pan before adding the paste, and also adding preserved cassia blossoms (2 t) as a flavouring, but I am unable to locate this in my city.

**This seems to be the preferred dough for this, but when I made these previously, I used a “quick” method that incorporated baking soda or powder instead of yeast. Some writers even suggest ready-made, refrigerated ”Parker house roll” dough (such as Pillsbury brand) as a quick substitute, but you know me…

***Some recipes invert them- pleats down- after this point.

****Some recipes brush the buns with roasted sesame-seed oil.

Oh! And before I forget…I discovered a very good way to use spent coffee-grounds and the juice from salted cucumbers! It’s my own little invention. [assumes a smug expression]

Take a large spoonful of moist coffee-grounds, add some juice that was squeezed from salted cukes, and a little yoghurt…voila!

A chemical-free, energizing facial-scrub! Just be careful not to get any in your eyes, as it doesn’t feel very good. (I know this from experience, perhaps.)

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Banana Puris and a Pineapple Stew

August 20, 2007 at 6:43 PM (bananas and plantains, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, India, Karnataka, pineapple, vegetables/ fruits, wheat)

Well, on the third day of trying, I finally achieved fully-inflated puris! Yay!

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The day before, I finally had the oil hot enough; apparently puris shouldn’t sink to the bottom of the oil when frying- they should immediately rise up to the surface and start inflating. I then took another tip from a learned commentator: don’t roll them too thin… so, I backed off from the rolling-pin a bit and voila! I had balloon after balloon floating in the oil. Let me tell you: that was a thrilling moment for me! A BIG thank you to everyone for helping me out! I now know exactly what thickness they should be and how they ought to react in oil at the proper temperature, and that’s a lovely feeling, knowing that I can “whip these out” at whim now. And, perhaps most of all, thank you Anita for suggesting all of this puri-making madness in the first place! What a fitting way to celebrate 60 years of Indian Independence!

Here’s a thought: I used the same dough, prepared on the first day and stored in the refrigerator, for all of three days of trials. So, I’m not sure about that fear of letting the dough rest too long; the final puris seemed to be very nice and soft, but really I wouldn’t be a fair judge, because I’m new to puris, and also those I made on the first day were most definitely like cardboard- edible and tasty cardboard though! 😉

Sunday- yesterday- was overcast and drizzly here in the bay of green, a day for sane people to stay indoors (which is why I had urges to slip on my rain-coat). I called up my friend James, and told him about my struggles with this fried flat-bread, and my eventual success. James is not terribly interested in the details of cooking… however, his curiousity about how they might taste was; a half-hour later found the two of us sitting at the table, stack of banana puris on one plate, a large bowl of freshly-made pineapple stew in a nearby bowl. My mother kept coming in and of our conversation to tear and swipe puri-halves and bits of pineapple from the bowl with her fingers. I kept offering a katori and thali, but she insisted that she was just nibbling. James had his own thali and katori, but got up and reached for himself a fork when he realized that flatware was absent from our casual coffee-meal. [sighs] One person doesn’t sit down to eat by hand, the other sat, but preferred to stab his food. Oh well… Umrikans.

The banana puri decided, after fully-blooming into maturity, that she would have nothing more to do with her promised peanut-y husband. He was too complex, he totally outshone her, cut off her sentences mid-stream to babble in unrelated topics and generally made her feel withdrawn and invisible. So, she dumped him entirely… and her kind parents then introduced her to a swarthy, passionate, Karnatakan dish called Coorg Pineapple Curry (at least it said so on his ID card).  This man from Madikeri could finish her sentences, and she his. They were able to walk down the street with neither stepping on the other’s toes. He soon felt so close to her that, after a particular afternoon together by the sea, the air dappled by gentle breezes, he found himself whispering his true name softly into her ear. Bedazzled and star-struck, she blushed a darker shade of turmeric, looked into his pineapple-eyes and gave him a warm banana-scented embrace.

The dish with peanuts sat quietly nearby, watching for a bit, then shrugged his shoulders and strolled away. Before long, he found himself a quiet bowl of plain rice sitting with head on hands: downcast, because that groovy-gravied pineapple had cast her aside. With so much already in common, she sat quietly, content to let Mr. Peanut prattle. He beamed as she listened to his every word.

(Yeah, Gopi-inspired… 🙂  )

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Coorg Pineapple Curry

 (from Premila Lal’s Indian Recipes. Ingredients followed with a “P” are my additions, compiled over dozens of times of preparing this dish- do try them!)

1 T ghee or oil

1/2 t mustard seeds

1 large onion, minced very finely

1 t ginger paste (P)

1 large ripe pineapple, peeled, cut into eighths lengthwise, then across in 1/2″ wedges

1 t coriander seeds, ground

8 dry red chiles, ground- or to taste

1/4 t ground black pepper (P)

2 tej patta or a small piece of Chinese/cassia/hard cinnamon(P)

3″ of whole true/Ceylon cinnamon (P)

8 whole cloves (P)

1 egg-sized lump of jaggery/gur (3-4 pieces)

1 pint or so of water

salt to taste

 

1)Heat the ghee or oil, add the mustard seeds and onions and fry, stirring continuously, until the onions are lightly-browned. Add the ginger paste and fry 30 seconds more.

2)Add the pineapple pieces, the dried spices, gur, water to almost cover and simmer, uncovered, stirring every few minutes, until the pineapple is tender and the gravy reduces. Add salt to taste. Serve with puris or rice.

Before I opened my own blog, I had sent this recipe to Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes to try. I was very honored and suprised when she posted it exclaiming her enjoyment- as well as her commentators- of this dish as well. It is quite delicious, and popular with everyone I know who has tried it. 

 

Banana Puris

(from Premila Lal’s Indian Recipes as well…. with a few changes in procedure)

makes about 18-20 puris

3 ripe bananas

1/4 t gur/jaggery or sugar

3/4 t whole cumin seeds

3/4 t ground red chiles

1/2 t turmeric

1 T ghee or oil plus more for deep-frying

a pinch or two of salt

1 C maida/all-purpose white flour

3/4 C besan

1/2- 1 1/2 C or so of ata (Indian whole-wheat flour), plus more for dusting

4 green chiles, seeded and minced finely

 

1)Mash the bananas with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in the dried spices, 1 T ghee/oil and salt.

2)Sift and add the maida and besan; stir well, then add enough ata to make a stiff dough. Knead for several minutes, adding more ata as required. (I used about 1 1/2 C, but it totally depends on the amount of banana paste)

3)Incorporate the green chiles into the dough.

4)Divide the dough into small balls- about the size of key limes- and roll each into 5″ rounds, dusting top and bottom with ata as necessary.

5)Fry in hot ghee or oil on both sides; drain and serve immediately.

 

Trust me, the combo of these two are unforgettable!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

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Feta-and-dill-stuffed Pide

July 2, 2007 at 5:15 PM (cheese, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, Turkey, various greens, wheat)

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This is one of the most delectable things I’ve ever eaten, and as fresh dill is now widely available locally here, I put some of it to good use. I found this recipe several years ago in a Turkish cookbook by Ayla Algar entitled Classical Turkish Cooking– definitely one of the most-treasured volumes in my collection!

Although I’ve already posted a recipe for filled pide, the filling for this one is by far my favorite, and therefore I only make it 2-3 times a year, and share it; otherwise, I’ll eventually nibble my way through every loaf!

The directions for making the dough, filling and shaping it can be found here, but I offer this filling for you to try. Oh, and this time, I replaced a cup of the white flour with ata (Indian, fine whole-wheat flour) and it came out splendidly!

Also, I have made a few adjustments to the original filling, but these will be noted.

Feta and Dill Filling (for small, stuffed, pide)

2 1/2 C (about 1 pound) crumbled feta (this means Turkish feta, which is milder than Greek-style…the author suggests replacing part of this stronger feta with Italian ricotta (which I did- 1 C) or cream/Philly cheese)

3 eggs, lightly beaten

6 T unsalted butter at room temperature (I used 3 T)

2/3 C finely-chopped fresh dill

I also have begun to add the following 3 things:

freshly-ground black pepper

the green part of green onions or chives- a handful

green chiles, minced (2) or powdered, dried chiles 1/2 t or so

Mix the butter and dill together, add the eggs and mix until blended, add the crumbled feta (plus the etc.)

Shape and fill as directed here.

I have one more thing to share with you in this little post…well, two things maybe. The first is that a very talented cook named Connie, with whom I loved chatting with at a former place of employment, was so enraptured by the combination of flavours in this filled bread that she designed a pasta salad using similar ingredients…I hope my memory is intact enough for me to share it:

Boil pasta until tender/al dente (I believe she used farfalle…butterflies/bow ties), drain and cool quickly in cold water.

Then she added crumbled feta, dill, olive oil, green onions 🙂 , perhaps some salt, pepper, and ground chiles to taste… toss well……lovely for a light summer feast!

Happy Independence Day to all of you…(though the original day was so long ago that now it’s a day to watch firework displays and get a little tipsy… 😀  ) But, maybe we ought to take a moment to consider those living in turmoil and fear, and send a prayer to them for peace.

 

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Danish Almond Puff Pastry

June 12, 2007 at 3:36 AM (almonds, butter, Denmark, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, grains and grain-like, milk and milk products, sugars-sweets, various nuts like me, wheat)

    This pastry is a very standard recipe with little variation, and can be found in many places- online and tucked away in recipe files- to be brought out and utilized for something impressive, fairly-quick and easy, a few hours before company is expected. There is nothing healthy or nutritious about it- save the nuts; it is a total, melt-in-the-mouth carbohydrate and butter fest

    When my sister and I were young, my mother would make this -once in a great while. We always loved it, but it was my mother herself who would slowly nibble her way through most of it. Though it has been a few years since she has made this (that I know of),  she still has an unquenchable sweet-tooth, so I thought I would make this and set aside some just for her. She appreciated it very much! (though I am sure her waistline didn’t!) 😀

    This pastry is not made of French “puff-pastry” (pâte feuilletée) as the name would suggest(multiple layers of dough and butter)…I don’t even know if it truly is Danish in origin- it might be, but it is very common in my area of the U.S., and once in a while will show up on dessert trays of large gatherings. It is composed of three layers: 1) short-crust pastry (pate brisee), 2) choux pastry (pate a choux), and 3) butter-sugar icing or sometimes cream-cheese icing, plus almonds.

Danish Almond Puff Pastry

makes 16, 1″x 3″ pieces

1 C All-purpose flour

1/2 C unsalted butter, chilled and firm

2 T cold water

Step one: Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry-blender or fork, until the largest “grains” are the size of peas. Dribble the water over the surface and, using your hands, gently press the water into the flour/butter mixture (most of it will come together, but by no means knead it!). Press this gently into two long rectangles- 3″ X 12″- on an ungreased baking-sheet. You can use a knife to gently tap the sides to straighten them.

1 C water

1/2 C unsalted butter

1 t almond extract

1 C flour

3 eggs

Step two: Bring the water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the almond extract and immediately turn off the heat. Add the flour all at once and stir quickly until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is well-blended until the next is added. Spread this mixture over the two short-crust rectangles. Bake for one hour- to one hour 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours or so.

2 T unsalted butter, softened- room temp

1 1/2 C confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

1-2 T water

2 handfuls of chopped or sliced roasted almonds

Step three: Cream the butter until fluffy. add 1/2 C of the sugar, mix well, then add remaining cup. Add the vanilla extract and enough water to make a spreadable consistency (be careful not to add too much, if you do, adjust with sugar). Spread over the top. Sprinkle with almonds and lightly press them into the surface. Allow an hour or two for the icing to set before cutting into 1″ X 3″ strips. Serve with coffee or tea.

    I think it would be interesting to experiment with this recipe, not only in various flavourings- I have made a peach version (slice carefully through the choux-pastry layer and spoon in peach preserves; replace the top)- but also to incorporate whole-wheat flour somewhere for added fiber and nutrients. The butter content can’t be fooled with: these are age-old formulas to achieve definite textures. In lieu of this, it is best made for special occasions or the bulk given away to neighbors…

 

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Chocolate shrikhand, almond pooris, and an answer to the baffling battiness…

June 7, 2007 at 4:44 AM (almonds, chiroli, chocolate, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, fusion, grains and grain-like, Gujerati, India, Maharashtra, Mexico, milk and milk products, seeds, singhara, sugars-sweets, various nuts like me, wheat, yoghurt)

    Some of my food-blogging friends and I have had discussions of yoghurt-cheeses and their appearance in several cuisines, including America’s- where cream cheese/Philadelphia cheese and “neufchatel” (though this does not resemble the true French cheese of the same name) are made in a very similar way… It is delectable when paired with fruit- there is no debate of that- but the “chocoholic” in me is continually searching for new ways to express itself, and I am certain that in no way could I be the first to dream up this concoction…

    Chocolate, as a bitter drink, was well-known and used by the Aztecs back to antiquity, as was vanilla. The conquering Spaniards combined this with their passion for cinnamon-flavoured sweets (an assertion of the Moorish influence and Arab trade with India) and milk. It is not difficult to see how Mexican-style chocolate was born, and indeed, all other chocolate confections “born” afterward…

    In this recipe, I have combined chocolate with a touch of vanilla, and the familiar combination of cardamom and cinnamon- prevalent in Indian coffee and tea preparations- with the milk-become-yoghurt-become-chatta sweet known as shrikhand in Gujju and Marathi -cinnamon being the tie that binds the hands across the world to create this delectable fusion. Mexican drinking chocolate often contains ground almonds as well, so… an appropriate accompaniment, to my mind,  had to be freshly-fried almond pooris; I make a final bow to shrikhand’s origin by gracing the chocolate shrikhand with roasted chiroli-nuts…

Resist if you must!

 

I extend a big thank you to Madhuli of My Foodcourt for her assistance in helping me name the chocolate shrikhand. 

Chocolate Shrikhand with Almond Pooris

Chocolate Shrikhand

(4 servings) 

4 C yoghurt (I used homemade 3%, but any richness may be used)

1/3 C sugar, more or less to taste (I used raw cane/ turbinado)

1 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/4 t ground true/Ceylon/soft cinnamon

the seeds of two cardamom pods, ground

1/2 t pure vanilla extract

1 T chiroli-nuts

1)Tie the yoghurt in a double-thickness of cheesecloth and suspend it somewhere, with a bowl underneath, to drain most of the whey for at least 3 hours;  some, like me, prefer the texture be a little thicker and therefore let it hang longer 5, 8, 10 hours… I leave it up to you. This plain cheese is called chakka.

2)Empty the contents into a bowl, and add the sugar, mixing well. Allow it to stand for an hour or more to dissolve the sugar, then pass this mixture through a wire sieve for maximum smoothness.

3)Melt the chocolate in a small, metal dish over hot water, or use the microwave (keep a close eye on it to avoid scorching). Take a spoonful of the sweet-chakka and mix it with the chocolate, add this to the bowl. Take another spoonful and mix it with any chocolate that still clings and again add. Mix the chocolate with the sweet-chakka thoroughly. Taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary.

4)Add the final flavouring of ground spices and vanilla; combine well.

5)Chill this mixture well for at least an hour to allow the flavour of the spices to marry with the others.

6)Heat a little ghee/oil in a small pan and fry, stirring continuously, the chiroli, until lightly roasted (mine are a bit too dark) and fragrant. Remove to a cloth or paper towel to absorb excess oil and cool.

7)Serve the chocolate shrikhand in small bowls, sprinkled with chiroli, and freshly-made almond pooris (below) on the side.

Almond Pooris

2/3 C Ata (Indian whole-wheat flour) plus more for dusting

1/3 C ground raw almonds

tiny pinch of salt

water

oil for deep-frying

1)Mix the flour, almond-meal, and salt together well, then add enough enough water to form a soft, yet workable dough. Knead for 10 minutes, replace it to the bowl and cover with a damp towel to rest for an hour or so. (or place in a plastic bag)

2)Heat the oil over a medium-low flame. Divide the dough into into 8 equal portions, and taking each, roll into an ball and flatten into a patty, with your hand, onto a floured board. Sprinkle some more flour over the top and roll thinly into a 5″ round. Set each on a plate, overlapping the next, and keep covered with a damp dish-towel. Take each poori and gently set it on the surface of the hot oil (hold it with both hands loosely and rest the center, then release the sides. (if it sinks, the oil is not hot enough). Fry for a second or two, and using a pair of tongs or other utensil, push the edges gently under the oil until the top surface changes colour; it should puff up. Turn to the other side, fry until golden, turn back to the other side for a few seconds. Lift out the poori and place in a cloth or paper-lined bowl, leaning against the side to allow excess oil to drain and cover with a lid. Serve immediately.

Makes 8

NOTE: An Umrikan acquaintance just tasted this; although the pooris are now stale and should have been re-fried, still, she didn’t find it sweet enough…..so perhaps you may add more sugar than I did to the shrikhand, or shake sugar over the pooris as they come out of the oil…..I found the light sweetness quite refreshing however…and the whole crispy-soft combo addictive. Anyone who makes this, feel free to give me your input…

    And what about those black, bat-like creatures? A nut! Known in Hindi as singhara, in Bengali as paniphal, in Sinhalese as ikiliya, in Chinese as ling or ling jiao, in German as singharanuss, in French as chataigne d’eau a deux cornes, in Japanese as hishi or tou bishi, in Nepalese as singadaa, and in English as water caltrop, bull-nut or singhara-nut; the latin botanical name is trapa bicornis, although other species of the genus are similar and are also known by these names. Hard to believe it’s vegetable eh? Nature is more fascinating than fiction…

    The winners? Well… Richa (As Dear as Salt), Anita (a Mad Tea Party) and Linda (Out of the Garden)answered correctly the name of the nut. Congratulations! But, there is a hidden code in the exclamation marks in the title of the post. The marks follow what is known as the Fibonacci sequence.  Each member of the sequence is formed by adding the two preceding it. And, also, each adjacent pair, as the sequence continues, approaches a particular relationship known as the golden ratio or divine proportion…this fascinating number is represented by the greek letter, phi; it appears all over nature- in the path of Venus across the heavens, in plants, animals- even in the human body! Using the measurement from our feet to the top of our heads, the golden ratio appears at our navel; also the wrist is at this marking point between our elbows and tips of our fingers…the list goes on! The Fibonacci sequence itself appears in nature as well. Good example? The spiral pattern of gobhi/cauliflower and the seeds at the center of sunflowers follows two such interlocking sequences. Also strands of DNA appear to form this pattern as well…

    So, who noticed this cryptic code in the title? Two people…. The Cooker, and Anita (a Mad Tea Party)….great job both of you!!!

Obviously there is only one common element in both sets, and that is Anita… 

Congratulations and a serious sashtaang pranam.. [bends down and touches her feet]

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