No churn coffee ice cream on my blog’s one year anniversary

DSC_1011I believe great people are born in September. To give you an idea, I can provide a small list. I was born in September, as were my dear husband, my mother and also my blog. Oh! and some of my friends as well. Now you know that I am celebrating the birthdays of all great things including my blog (which, like me, was born on Sept 28th). After procrastinating for ages, last year I finally started this food blog. It was a treat to myself, a birthday gift you could say. And here I must mention Sandeepa from Bong Mom’s Cookbook. On a whim, I sent her a recipe, which she accepted and posted on her blog. Somehow, this broke my long-standing mental barrier and acted like a push button. I’ll be ever grateful to her.

For my blog’s birthday, I decided to give it an ice cream treat. Some of you might be thinking why ice cream, now that summer is almost gone in most parts of the world? The reason is simple. I have been meaning to make the ice cream ever since I had it at my friend’s house. It was rich, creamy, and delicious. On top of that …it was coffee flavored. If you know anything about me, you know how much I like coffee. Let alone the beverage, I have a love affair with the word. I can eat or drink it in any form or fashion. It’s been almost half a year I had it and I was hoping to make this ice cream every weekend but somehow never got around to it. In fact, I went through three boxes of cream without actually making it, one frozen (was about to expire), one trashed (plain laziness) and then a third one waiting to be rescued in the fridge. 

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As birthdays are very special to me, I wanted to make something new on my blog’s birthday. Something that I like but never made it. So, I had every excuse to put the heavy cream where it was meant to be, which is inside the ice cream. I have to warn you, this recipe is very rich and creamy. But if you are an ice cream or coffee lover, you will inevitably fall in love with it. The best part is, you don’t even need an ice cream maker to make it. That’s like icing on the ice cream. Serve it with hot chocolate sauce, bits of coarsely ground coffee, shaved chocolate or drizzle a little bit coffee liqueur on it. Your call. Of course, it tastes delicious just by itself.

The recipe is borrowed from Nigella Lawson and I am copying the entire recipe here.

Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

cup sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

2 tablespoons espresso liqueur

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Whisk all the ingredients together until soft peaks form, and you have a gorgeous, café-latte-colored airy mixture, and then fill 2 x 500ml / 1 x 1-pint airtight containers, and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Serve straight from the freezer.

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PS: If you do not have coffee or espresso liqueur, do not worry. Just dissolve the desired amount in hot water and then use it instead. I used Nescafé instant coffee powder instead of espresso powder. You can reduce the coffee powder to one table spoon and it will be nicely balanced. Two table spoons will give it a very strong flavor. But if you like it that way, go for it. I did.

You can whisk the heavy cream with a hand blender. If you do not have a hand blender, just whisk it with a fork or a whisk. You will have good biceps later on.

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Digging up new potatoes and old memories…Stir fried new potatoes with fried onion

DSC_0402I have no clue why this dish is called Bihari bhujia not Pakistani bhujia as it’s eaten mostly in Pakistan. I am not even sure if it’s eaten in Bihar or not. I have been eyeing this recipe for a while but was not comfortable with the deep-fried onion part of it. I am very bad with deep-frying. Not everything comes out crispy, especially batter-fried stuff. They wilt in no time and so does my enthusiasm. A few weeks ago I made a kabab (recipe coming soon) which needed deep-fried onions (aka beresta in Persian). In the process, I finally figured out how to make the onions stay crisp. As a bonus, I also gathered enough courage to make this potato stir-fry (I used the new potatoes I harvested few weeks ago).

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In the neighborhood where I spent my childhood, potato picking was a yearly ritual. Our neighbor had a small plot of land in front of our house where he planted vegetables a few times a year. After school, I couldn’t wait to cross the tiny alleyway from our house to his field and start helping Joya jethu/Uncle Joya. As I was a tiny kid, I couldn’t help much physically but I think he appreciated my enthusiasm and energy. I used to get really excited when it was notun alu/new potato season. Of all the vegetables he grew, I found the potatoes especially exciting, although I don’t know exactly why. The moment Joya jethu dug up the potatoes, I would start taking them back to the basket, saving him a bit of effort I guess. The golden tubers hanging from the roots always made me happy in the anticipation that I might get a few of them to take home. After a hard day’s work, I would fold my frock to make a makeshift sack and Joya jethu would put a few potatoes in there. I would rush to Maa and she would make something simple with them, maybe aloor dum (potato curry with a dry gravy). The fresh-picked potatoes always tasted delicious.

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Anyway, more than two decades later, I harvested potatoes for the first time in the US a few days ago. It brought back so many memories. I am using my new potatoes sparingly. I want to eat them but keep them at the same time. I wanted to make something special with them. The stir-fried potato dish I am sharing with you today is very unique in taste. The beresta (fried onions) adds a smoky flavor to the dish. If you keep a box of beresta in the freezer, it will take just a few minutes to make it. I had them both with roti/paratha/flat bread and rice and daal, but with it tasted best with paratha. If you have to eat it with rice, try it with a slightly sour daal like aam daal.

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Recipe: (courtesy Madhur Jaffrey)

Ingredients:

Potatoes: around 2 pounds (best done with new potatoes)

Vegetable oil: ½ cup

Onion: one medium cut into very thin half rings

Dried round chilies: 15 nos. (any other variety of dried chilies will do as well)

Cumin seeds: 2 tsp.

Red chili powder/cayenne pepper: 1 tsp (or more if you like it hot)

Turmeric: 2 tsp.

Salt to taste

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  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into halves lengthwise (if you are using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling part. I didn’t peel them)
  • Put them in a bowl full of water.
  • Heat up the oil in a deep bottomed wok/kadai.
  • Bring the flame to medium high and then put the sliced onions. Do not overcrowd the wok as it will bring down the oil temp. down and the onions will not turn out to be crispy.
  • Drain the potatoes in a colander.
  • Keep frying the onions until dark reddish brown in color. Do not burn them. You might have to put the flame down a little bit if you see the onions are going dark very quickly.
  • Spread them on a paper towel for few seconds and then put them in a bowl. Do not keep the onions on the paper towel for a long time as they will soak the oil back from the towel and end up soggy (lesson learnt from experience).
  • Fry all the onions like this and reserve them to be used later.
  • Add the chilies in the same oil and fry them until they are one or two shades darker in color. Take them out from the oil and save them too.
  • Take out almost all the oil and keep a couple table spoons in the wok.
  • Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle a little bit.
  • Add the sliced potatoes, turmeric, chili powder/cayenne pepper and saute them well on high heat for five minutes. Add salt.
  • Bring the heat to very low and then cover the pot. Let the potatoes cook for another 10-15 minutes. Stir once or twice in  between.
  • Once the potatoes are done, crumble the onions and the chilies and add them to the potatoes. Stir for another minute or two and serve hot. You can use the chilies whole as garnish as well for a milder taste.
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What does a food blogger eat?….sometimes just roti and eggplant raita

DSC_0794Before I started blogging, I used to always be jealous of other food bloggers. I thought they must be eating gorgeous meals everyday for lunch and dinner. I was naïve; I didn’t realize that they are all human beings. Some of them have full time jobs, some have kids and some are (un)fortunate enough to have neither, like me now. Before I left my job, I thought I can cook all the dishes in the whole wide world and check off every box on my “to cook” wait list. Again, I was either being naïve or unrealistic. Even as a part-time volunteer, I struggle to cook more than one thing for dinner, pack leftovers for lunch. Sometimes I just give up and go to the NIH cafeteria where I buy bland sushi or sometimes “edible enough” Indian food. So where is the hidden monster that is eating up all my time? I still do not have the answer. I am not usually a lazy type but I do work better under pressure. If I have less time, I’ll perform better and more efficiently. If I have more time in hand, I’ll be lazy and do almost nothing. I am weird, I know.

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Long story short, I have a few quick-and-dirty dishes I find very handy on a busy (read lazy) day. One of them is baingan raita/eggplants topped with spiced yogurt. This is a pretty new addition to my culinary collection. A few months ago when I bought some cute-looking white eggplants and asked for a probable recipe, my fellow blogger, Chitrangada suggested that I make baingan raita. I was immediately attracted toward the idea and decided to make it. I didn’t need a specific recipe as I had a basic idea of how to make to which I added a few little twists of my own. This is a very simple but delicious dish. It takes very little time and goes well with any kind of Indian bread. I cannot give you any measurement because I didn’t use any myself. It’s  just a few ingredients thrown in based on whim and fancy.

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What you need:

One medium-big, firm purple eggplant. Fresher the better.

Turmeric

Salt

Sugar

Red chili powder/cayenne pepper

Yogurt

Garlic

Curry leaves

Whole black mustard seeds

Dried whole red chilis

Oil for shallow frying the eggplant

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How do I do it:

  • Wash the eggplant and cut the eggplant in half (in length) and then cut them 3/4” thick slices (they will look like half moons).
  • Coat the eggplants with salt and turmeric and let them marinate for 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat up the oil in a shallow frying pan. Pat dry the eggplant pieces and then slide them into the oil. Do not over crowd the pan.
  • Cook the eggplant pieces until both sides are nicely brown (nor burnt).
  • Take them out on a paper towel and finish the entire batch like this.
  • Keep around a tablespoon (may be more or less, will depend on the amount of yogurt and eggplant) of oil in the pan.
  • Beat the yogurt real smooth. Add very finely chopped garlic, red chili powder/cayenne pepper, salt and sugar to it. Taste for seasoning. If you do not like garlic, you can omit it.
  • In the remaining oil, add few mustard seeds and let them start popping. Once they refuse to stay in the pot and starts jumping out of the pan, add the curry leaves and the dry red chilis. Let the curry leaves curl and darken a little bit.
  • Add the seasoning to the yogurt and immediately cover the pot to trap the flavor. Chill it in the fridge.
  • Right before you serve, mix the seasoning with the yogurt and either pour the yogurt over the eggplants or lay the eggplants over the yogurt. Your call.

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** If you do not have access to curry leaves, skip the seasoning step and add finely chopped cilantro while serving. Or just add the mustard and the red chilis. You can broil the eggplants if you are a health freak.

Here is another version of eggplant raita which also looks very interesting.

I am sending this entry to Srivalli’s Cooking4allseason’s “Side dish mela” event.