Third World Baker

I live in India and I love baking. This for me is a process riddled with substitutions and inventions. This is how I make things still taste great. (Now featuring non baked food as well, as the mood strikes.)

In which I am butcher

I cooked a rabbit! York recently had a food and drink festival. There was a beer tent and so many stalls of gooshy foods, both raw and cooked – venision burgers, baked goodies, deli stuff, pies, preserves and condiments and meat meat meat. I was mostly attracted to the meat – there was so much I had never even seen in my life! Partridge, grouse, pheasant, venision, veal, hares and RABBIT. While reading through all of Chez Pim earlier in the summer, I had come across a recipe for braised rabbit and it had stuck in my head. So when I saw entire rabbits for sale, I just couldn’t resist! I ended up with a rabbit, teeny tiny venision steaks, oxtail and rabbit liver (for the rabbit). The cooking of it kept getting pushed back for one reason after the other but today I finally got hold of the last of the ingredients and gave it a go! The results are beautiful. Rabbit isn’t as dreamy as venision but it’s still really really good! The disconcerting part was the butchering of it. I had naïvely thought that since it was all vacuum packed in a plastic wrap it would be all neutered and boneless like all meat in this country, but it turned out to be merely skinned and gutted! I had the onerous task of playing butcher to it. Yes, I snapped its bones with my hands and bathed in its blood. I am a relentless carnivore but this made even me feel a bit ambivalent. It occurred to me after I had done it how easy it is to kill a small, defenceless animal. I don’t think I’m going to turn vegetarian after this though, no chance of that, but I now have a better sense of how really disturbing it is to butcher an animal.

Braised rabbit

Ingredients

1 rabbit

 3 to 4 rabbit livers

2 large onions

3 big cloves of garlic

Generous sprinkling of dried rosemary or 2 sprigs of fresh

2 big bay leaves or 4 small

Olive oil

500 ml red wine

250 ml stock

Tub of green olives or half a bottle

Directions

If your rabbit is pre butchered then all well and good, otherwise chop it up into 7/8 pieces. Reserve the liver. You will need additional liver but it’s always good to bulk it up.

Chop up the onions and garlic.

In a big dutch oven, heat a generous measure of olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic, bay leaves and rosemary along with the rabbit until it turns from red to brown.

Deglaze the pan with red wine.

Add the stock.

Add the livers.

Let this simmer away for about 45 minutes with the lid on. At the end of this time, add the olives and let simmer for another 15 minutes.

Serve with mash or crusty bread! 

In which I rage against cooking blogs

When I saw this recipe for these lovely lemony yellow cookies I knew I had to make them! I am obsessed with lemons at the moment and am trying to master the art of lemony desserts. However the recipe turned out to have been written by a moron and called for too little flour as opposed to butter. Consequently the first batch of my cookies was ruined. They spread out into a liquid on top of the cookie sheet as soon as I put them in the oven and I had to bin the whole lot. I was incredibly annoyed. I mean I don’t have fancy crockery and backgrounds and am equipped with only two rusty cake tins and an oven bottom for a cookie sheet and an absence for 90% of common baking ingredients, but I can bake. I can bake like a fucking mofo. You would think that someone who runs an actual fancy cooking blog could do better, right? 

In the end I had to bring the cookie dough to room temperature and add flour to it in spoonfuls, trying to stir it as little as I could. I got lucky. I was rewarded by a soft yet firm cookie with a very fine crumb, filled with lovely lemony deliciousness baked in. And here comes the sad part. I don’t have a recipe for the cookies! Since I added in flour after baking  a part of the dough I actually have no idea how much flour it ended up with. I will have to do this again and see. So until then, have a recipe for lemon curd, as adapted from David Lebowitz. 

Lemon Curd

Ingredients: 

Juice of 4 small lemons. Note, I am using these lemons. They are the size of golfballs when big and the size of, er, small golfballs? when small.  They are thin skinned and yield a lot of juice. 

85 g butter

3 small eggs

3 small egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, powdered

Process: 

Blend together all the ingredients except the butter. 

In a bain marie* heat the blender mix with the butter until the butter has melted. Keep stirring continuously until it thickens and becomes the consistency of runny jam. You should be able to see the bottom while stirring it and it should form ribbons when dropped onto itself. (This thickens in the fridge later.)

* Guys, guys I have discovered how to make the PERFECT bain marie! You have to find two utensils, like a large pan and a bowl that fit right on top each other! Today I discovered a deckchi and a bowl that fitted exactly on top of it and thus this was a breeze. Just make sure the bottom of the bowl dows not touch the water in the pan. 

In which I go back to my (South Indian) roots

India being the huge country that it is, there is a lot of variation between people in different parts of it. That way you could almost call me mixed race. Or mixed culture at any rate. My parents belonged to widely varying parts of the country, and although I grew up in Calcutta in the heart of Bengalhood, I still have a South Indian heritage. I love the food at any rate! My South Indian father has been living here, in Calcutta, for the better part of the last 30 years and he misses the food. A lot. So I decided to give him a treat by cooking him something from his native state. The bonus would be that I would get to have it too! Yum. 
Ennai Kathirikai or Andhra aubergine curry
Ingredients: 
4 small purple aubergines

Section 1:
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ginger paste

Section 2: 
2 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
10-12 curry leaves

Section 3: 
2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
2 teaspoons powdered red chillies
2 tablespoons powdered coriander

Process:
Cut the aubergines in to 2 inch pieces. 
Make a paste of all the ingredients in section 1. 
Now take all the ingredients in section 2 minus the curry leaves and powder them in the blender. 
Take all the ingredients in section 3 and make a paste with 2 cups water. Be careful to take out the tamarind seeds. 
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven. Err on the side of generosity because aubergines soak up a lot of oil. 
When the oil is hot, release the ground spices into it along with the curry leaves. 
Fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. 
Now add the onion-ginger-garlic paste and fry till the oil separates out. 
Add the aubergine and coat thoroughly with the spice-onion mix. Fry till they change colour and shrink somewhat. 
Now add the tamarind water and wait for it to boil. Once it  boils, reduce the heat till it comes to a gentle simmer. 
Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the water has evaporated and the gravy has thickened. Adjust seasonings. 
Serve over a bed of hot rice. 

In which I go back to my (South Indian) roots

India being the huge country that it is, there is a lot of variation between people in different parts of it. That way you could almost call me mixed race. Or mixed culture at any rate. My parents belonged to widely varying parts of the country, and although I grew up in Calcutta in the heart of Bengalhood, I still have a South Indian heritage. I love the food at any rate! My South Indian father has been living here, in Calcutta, for the better part of the last 30 years and he misses the food. A lot. So I decided to give him a treat by cooking him something from his native state. The bonus would be that I would get to have it too! Yum. 

Ennai Kathirikai or Andhra aubergine curry

Ingredients: 

4 small purple aubergines

Section 1:

1 large onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon ginger paste

Section 2: 

2 dried red chillies

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

10-12 curry leaves

Section 3: 

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

2 teaspoons powdered red chillies

2 tablespoons powdered coriander

Process:

Cut the aubergines in to 2 inch pieces. 

Make a paste of all the ingredients in section 1. 

Now take all the ingredients in section 2 minus the curry leaves and powder them in the blender. 

Take all the ingredients in section 3 and make a paste with 2 cups water. Be careful to take out the tamarind seeds. 

Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven. Err on the side of generosity because aubergines soak up a lot of oil. 

When the oil is hot, release the ground spices into it along with the curry leaves. 

Fry for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. 

Now add the onion-ginger-garlic paste and fry till the oil separates out. 

Add the aubergine and coat thoroughly with the spice-onion mix. Fry till they change colour and shrink somewhat. 

Now add the tamarind water and wait for it to boil. Once it  boils, reduce the heat till it comes to a gentle simmer. 

Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the water has evaporated and the gravy has thickened. Adjust seasonings. 

Serve over a bed of hot rice. 

In which I bake my last pie for the time being
I broke my pie dish. I was in the middle of baking a spinach, mushroom and homemade ricotta pie when I banged it against the door and dropped it and that was the end of everything. Pies in my opinion are the best comfort food along with custards (and being south Asian, all combinations of rice) and I am in a situation where I need a lot of comfort food. There is something supremely comforting and serene about rolling out the perfect buttery crust and filling it in with buttery, creamy, eggy goodness and putting it in the oven to condense and become the perfect pie. And then there is the eating of it. Not as comforting, but still. I am one of those cooks who love to give away all the food they make because once it is made it loses all its allure for me. There have however been a few things I have baked in my life which I have loved eating as well and this pumpkin pie is one of them. 
Comforting pumpkin pie
Ingredients:
For the filling: 
1 kg pumpkin plus 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cream
50 g butter
3/4 cup sugar put through a blender to make it superfine 
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks (I use small/ medium eggs) 
1 tablespoon mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) 
For the pastry shell: 
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar blended to make it superfine
1 egg
100 g butter cubed and frozen 
Ice water, if required
Process: 
When it occurs to you to make this pie, start a day earlier. Cube some cold butter and bung it in the freezer to harden overnight. This needs at least a few hours. 
In the morning when it is still cool, take out the butter and put it in a blender alongwith the flour and the sugar.
Pulse a few times until the mixture looks shaggy and there are small pieces of butter coated with flour in it. 
Empty this in the bowl you’re going to work the pastry in. 
Beat the egg and add it to the mixture making a well in the middle as you do so. 
Gently bring together the buttery floury bits, mixing with the egg, taking care to not overknead. There should be whole bits of butter in the prepared dough. Add a bit of ice water if necessary. The aim of this is to not get the butter to melt. 
If you feel the butter is melting, put the dough in the freezer for 10/ 15 minutes before taking it out and working it again. 
Once the dough just comes together, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate (not freeze) for two hours. It is very important to not knead this dough because that will melt the butter. You need the butter to be whole and solid so it can melt in  the oven and help the pastry puff up. 
Coat the pumpkin liberally with the two tablespoons butter and bake in a 190C oven for an hour and 10 minutes, or until a knife goes in without any resistance. Wait for it to cool, and when it is cool, scrape off the flesh using a spoon, a fork and a knife. 
Purée this in the blender along with the butter, cream eggs, sugar and mixed spice till pourable. 
At the end of two hours, preheat the oven to 165 C, take a large piece of wax paper (if you are in India tracing paper does fine) and flour it liberally. Seriously you cannot have enough flour. 
Take your pie dish and cover it with aluminium foil. 
Take out the dough and put it on the floured surface and coat it liberally with flour. 
Roll it carefully and don’t worry if it cracks. Just push it back in and roll again. 
Upend the prepared pie dish on the rolled out pastry and using the paper as backing flip over the pie dish along with the pastry. Peel off the paper. If you have used enough flour, it should not be a problem. 
Lift the pastry a little bit from the edge using your hands, a bit at a time and push it in towards the inner edges of the pie dish, so as to not leave any gap between the pastry and the pie dish. 
Using a knife cut off the overhang. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. 
Now cover it with another sheet of aluminium foil and fill the dish with pie weights. (I used red kidney beans. You can use any kind of beans or coins). This is to help the pastry to not puff up or shrink. 
Blind bake this in the oven for 15 minutes and then take out the pie weights and the aluminium foil and bake for another 3 minutes or so.  
Pour in the blender mix, taking care to not overfill the shell. 
Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling jiggles slightly when nudged. 
Let it cool in the oven for 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour before taking it out and cooling it. The pie bakes in its own heat so it is not advised to cool this in the fridge. 
Once cooled completely, demould and eat with whipped cream. 

In which I bake my last pie for the time being

I broke my pie dish. I was in the middle of baking a spinach, mushroom and homemade ricotta pie when I banged it against the door and dropped it and that was the end of everything. Pies in my opinion are the best comfort food along with custards (and being south Asian, all combinations of rice) and I am in a situation where I need a lot of comfort food. There is something supremely comforting and serene about rolling out the perfect buttery crust and filling it in with buttery, creamy, eggy goodness and putting it in the oven to condense and become the perfect pie. And then there is the eating of it. Not as comforting, but still. I am one of those cooks who love to give away all the food they make because once it is made it loses all its allure for me. There have however been a few things I have baked in my life which I have loved eating as well and this pumpkin pie is one of them. 

Comforting pumpkin pie

Ingredients:

For the filling: 

1 kg pumpkin plus 2 tablespoons butter

1 cup cream

50 g butter

3/4 cup sugar put through a blender to make it superfine 

4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks (I use small/ medium eggs) 

1 tablespoon mixed spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) 

For the pastry shell: 

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar blended to make it superfine

1 egg

100 g butter cubed and frozen 

Ice water, if required

Process: 

When it occurs to you to make this pie, start a day earlier. Cube some cold butter and bung it in the freezer to harden overnight. This needs at least a few hours. 

In the morning when it is still cool, take out the butter and put it in a blender alongwith the flour and the sugar.

Pulse a few times until the mixture looks shaggy and there are small pieces of butter coated with flour in it. 

Empty this in the bowl you’re going to work the pastry in. 

Beat the egg and add it to the mixture making a well in the middle as you do so. 

Gently bring together the buttery floury bits, mixing with the egg, taking care to not overknead. There should be whole bits of butter in the prepared dough. Add a bit of ice water if necessary. The aim of this is to not get the butter to melt. 

If you feel the butter is melting, put the dough in the freezer for 10/ 15 minutes before taking it out and working it again. 

Once the dough just comes together, wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate (not freeze) for two hours. It is very important to not knead this dough because that will melt the butter. You need the butter to be whole and solid so it can melt in  the oven and help the pastry puff up. 

Coat the pumpkin liberally with the two tablespoons butter and bake in a 190C oven for an hour and 10 minutes, or until a knife goes in without any resistance. Wait for it to cool, and when it is cool, scrape off the flesh using a spoon, a fork and a knife. 

Purée this in the blender along with the butter, cream eggs, sugar and mixed spice till pourable. 

At the end of two hours, preheat the oven to 165 C, take a large piece of wax paper (if you are in India tracing paper does fine) and flour it liberally. Seriously you cannot have enough flour. 

Take your pie dish and cover it with aluminium foil. 

Take out the dough and put it on the floured surface and coat it liberally with flour. 

Roll it carefully and don’t worry if it cracks. Just push it back in and roll again. 

Upend the prepared pie dish on the rolled out pastry and using the paper as backing flip over the pie dish along with the pastry. Peel off the paper. If you have used enough flour, it should not be a problem. 

Lift the pastry a little bit from the edge using your hands, a bit at a time and push it in towards the inner edges of the pie dish, so as to not leave any gap between the pastry and the pie dish. 

Using a knife cut off the overhang. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. 

Now cover it with another sheet of aluminium foil and fill the dish with pie weights. (I used red kidney beans. You can use any kind of beans or coins). This is to help the pastry to not puff up or shrink. 

Blind bake this in the oven for 15 minutes and then take out the pie weights and the aluminium foil and bake for another 3 minutes or so.  

Pour in the blender mix, taking care to not overfill the shell. 

Bake for 30 minutes, until the filling jiggles slightly when nudged. 

Let it cool in the oven for 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour before taking it out and cooling it. The pie bakes in its own heat so it is not advised to cool this in the fridge. 

Once cooled completely, demould and eat with whipped cream. 

In which I am a cheesemaker
When I saw this recipe for homemade ricotta on Smitten Kitchen I was immediately entranced. I HAD to have homemade ricotta, no matter how many gallons of milk I wasted in the process. There was just one snag. I didn’t have a candy thermometer. I had been meaning to get one for ages (mostly because of caramel candy) but hadn’t got around to doing so. When I saw this recipe I immediately went and bought one, so great was my desire for homemade cheese. But I simply couldn’t wait for 2/3 weeks for it to arrive (international shipping, MEH). So I decided to forge ahead nonetheless. I found this recipe by searching for ‘homemade ricotta without a candy thermometer’ and it proved to be extremely helpful. It took just 20 minutes, at the end of which I was rewarded by rich creamy goodness. Cheesemaking is not easy but some things can certainly be made at home. The process is incredibly similar to the Indian chana or paneer except this is creamy and soft instead of hard cubes. I f you have balked at making your own cheese, I urge you to try this because really, nothing can be simpler. 
Homemade ricotta
Ingredients:
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
Juice of 1 1/2 small lemons
A large square of cheesecloth (if you live in india and don’t have a cheesecloth, use one of your mum’s or grandmum’s old cotton sarees, the really thin white ones) 
Pinch of salt 
Process: 
Blend together the milk and cream and pour into a large dutch oven or a pot with a thick bottom. 
Once the milk starts foaming, add the lemon juice and the salt.
Wait for it to curdle and then turn down the heat to the lowest it will go.
Keep it like this for a couple of minutes before taking off heat.
Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth into a large bowl, bring together the edges of the cloth and tie it with a strip of cloth that you have torn from the main piece earlier. You can also use a heavy duty rubber band. 
Hang this to drip on the tap of your kitchen sink.
Once this has cooled down enough to handle, squeeze out the whey with your hands.
And your beautiful ricotta is ready.  

In which I am a cheesemaker

When I saw this recipe for homemade ricotta on Smitten Kitchen I was immediately entranced. I HAD to have homemade ricotta, no matter how many gallons of milk I wasted in the process. There was just one snag. I didn’t have a candy thermometer. I had been meaning to get one for ages (mostly because of caramel candy) but hadn’t got around to doing so. When I saw this recipe I immediately went and bought one, so great was my desire for homemade cheese. But I simply couldn’t wait for 2/3 weeks for it to arrive (international shipping, MEH). So I decided to forge ahead nonetheless. I found this recipe by searching for ‘homemade ricotta without a candy thermometer’ and it proved to be extremely helpful. It took just 20 minutes, at the end of which I was rewarded by rich creamy goodness. Cheesemaking is not easy but some things can certainly be made at home. The process is incredibly similar to the Indian chana or paneer except this is creamy and soft instead of hard cubes. I f you have balked at making your own cheese, I urge you to try this because really, nothing can be simpler. 

Homemade ricotta

Ingredients:

2 cups milk

2 cups cream

Juice of 1 1/2 small lemons

A large square of cheesecloth (if you live in india and don’t have a cheesecloth, use one of your mum’s or grandmum’s old cotton sarees, the really thin white ones) 

Pinch of salt 

Process: 

Blend together the milk and cream and pour into a large dutch oven or a pot with a thick bottom. 

Once the milk starts foaming, add the lemon juice and the salt.

Wait for it to curdle and then turn down the heat to the lowest it will go.

Keep it like this for a couple of minutes before taking off heat.

Strain the mixture through the cheesecloth into a large bowl, bring together the edges of the cloth and tie it with a strip of cloth that you have torn from the main piece earlier. You can also use a heavy duty rubber band. 

Hang this to drip on the tap of your kitchen sink.

Once this has cooled down enough to handle, squeeze out the whey with your hands.

And your beautiful ricotta is ready.  

In which I recreate a favourite dessert
Since I have acquired my pie dish, I have been on a baking spree. Pies, tarts, custards - you name it. My first crème brulee was last winter at a Cafe Rouge at Canterbury with my then boyfriend. It was delectable and I told him that I would do him serious harm if he tried to steal any. Then I relented and gave him a spoonful. But only a spoonful! Creme brulees also always remind me of Amelie. When I first saw the film at 18 I had no idea what that was, except that it was something wonderful. Now that I (mostly) have all the equipment, I thought I would recreate this at home. Caramelising sugar without a blowtorch is a pain, and as you can see, it wasn’t evenly caramelised. Next time, I will just make the caramel by hand and pour it in instead of sticking the whole thing under the broiler. I always thought things this delectable would be hard to make but this was super easy. Just blend together eggs, sugar and cream and bake for 45 minutes. That’s it! 
Creme Brulee
Ingredients:
 1 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar, put through a blender to make it superfine
1 tsp vanilla essence or if you can get hold of it, the seeds from 1 vanilla pod
1 tablespoon more sugar for the caramel
Blend together the first 6 ingredients and pour into a pie dish or individual ramekins if you are rich and fancy. 
Bake in a water bath for 45 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do not worry if the top begins to brown, it will be covered in caramel anyway. 
Cool the custard completely in the fridge before sprinkling it with 1 tablespoon sugar. 
Stick it under the broiler for 10 minutes or so, or again, if you are rich and fancy, use a blowtorch. 
Alternatively, make the caramel yourself by heating some sugar till it caramelises (be very careful, it’s extremely easy to burn this) and pour it over the custard. Wait till it sets before cracking  open the shell with a spoon and devouring. 

In which I recreate a favourite dessert

Since I have acquired my pie dish, I have been on a baking spree. Pies, tarts, custards - you name it. My first crème brulee was last winter at a Cafe Rouge at Canterbury with my then boyfriend. It was delectable and I told him that I would do him serious harm if he tried to steal any. Then I relented and gave him a spoonful. But only a spoonful! Creme brulees also always remind me of Amelie. When I first saw the film at 18 I had no idea what that was, except that it was something wonderful. Now that I (mostly) have all the equipment, I thought I would recreate this at home. Caramelising sugar without a blowtorch is a pain, and as you can see, it wasn’t evenly caramelised. Next time, I will just make the caramel by hand and pour it in instead of sticking the whole thing under the broiler. I always thought things this delectable would be hard to make but this was super easy. Just blend together eggs, sugar and cream and bake for 45 minutes. That’s it! 

Creme Brulee

Ingredients:

 1 cup cream

1/4 cup milk

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar, put through a blender to make it superfine

1 tsp vanilla essence or if you can get hold of it, the seeds from 1 vanilla pod

1 tablespoon more sugar for the caramel

Blend together the first 6 ingredients and pour into a pie dish or individual ramekins if you are rich and fancy. 

Bake in a water bath for 45 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do not worry if the top begins to brown, it will be covered in caramel anyway. 

Cool the custard completely in the fridge before sprinkling it with 1 tablespoon sugar. 

Stick it under the broiler for 10 minutes or so, or again, if you are rich and fancy, use a blowtorch. 

Alternatively, make the caramel yourself by heating some sugar till it caramelises (be very careful, it’s extremely easy to burn this) and pour it over the custard. Wait till it sets before cracking  open the shell with a spoon and devouring. 

In which I invent the best recipe of my life. 
After the lemon tart was made, we had enough pastry left for another one. We proceeded to get high and while so we had a plan of truly Jane F. proportions. White stoned we would bake the …mango tart! This is the height of mango season in Calcutta. And the mangoes here really are the best in the world. I have always wanted to incorporate this fruit into things I bake and I  could not think of a better way to do so than mango tart. And the results are sublime. My best friend who hates fruity desserts said that this is the best fruit dessert she had ever had, even better than our favourite mille feuille at Mangio. High praise indeed. 
Sublime Mango tart
Ingredients:
6 small mangoes or 3 large ones (Himshagor is the best, that is what we used)
100 g butter
5 eggs
Sugar is optional (seriously these mangoes are THAT sweet)
One pastry shell as in this recipe
Icing sugar for dusting
Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 165 C.
Blend together the first four ingredients. 
Pour into pastry shell.
Bake for 25 minutes for a 6” pie dish and 35 minutes for a 9” one. 
Once cooled, demould, dust with icing sugar, and DEVOUR! 

In which I invent the best recipe of my life.

After the lemon tart was made, we had enough pastry left for another one. We proceeded to get high and while so we had a plan of truly Jane F. proportions. White stoned we would bake the …mango tart! This is the height of mango season in Calcutta. And the mangoes here really are the best in the world. I have always wanted to incorporate this fruit into things I bake and I  could not think of a better way to do so than mango tart. And the results are sublime. My best friend who hates fruity desserts said that this is the best fruit dessert she had ever had, even better than our favourite mille feuille at Mangio. High praise indeed. 

Sublime Mango tart

Ingredients:

6 small mangoes or 3 large ones (Himshagor is the best, that is what we used)

100 g butter

5 eggs

Sugar is optional (seriously these mangoes are THAT sweet)

One pastry shell as in this recipe

Icing sugar for dusting

Directions: 

Preheat the oven to 165 C.

Blend together the first four ingredients. 

Pour into pastry shell.

Bake for 25 minutes for a 6” pie dish and 35 minutes for a 9” one. 

Once cooled, demould, dust with icing sugar, and DEVOUR! 

In which I bake my first pie. 

First of I would like to state how easy this was. Undeceptively easy. Way too easy, given how much I was dreading it. I had always been slightly intimidated by pies and tarts because of dun dun dunnn - PASTRY but in the end the pastry turned out to be incredibly easy as well. Assembling this takes a bit of time, but that’s about it. This is certainly not the most labour consuming dessert I have made (the honour for that goes to the pumpkin cake) and it has certainly been one of the most rewarding. So if you have been scared of pastry and avoided pies for this very reason, give this one a try! I am confident that you will succeed just like I did. 

Lemon tart (adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

For the pastry

125 g butter cut into 1/2 in cubes and frozen

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 sheet of wax paper (in India this is called tracing paper and is available at any stationery store) 

For the filling:

3 small lemons, one with the skin on and two with the skin off. I put in all three of them with the skin on and the end result was slightly more bitter than I would have liked. In future I am going to use the skin of one lemon only. 

5 medium eggs

125 g butter (room temperature) 

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch or cornflour

For the pastry: 

Blitz the sugar in a blender till it is superfine. Add the flour and blitz. 

Add the butter and blend, ocassionally taking off the top of the blender jar to stir the butter around. Don’t worry if the butter melts a bit. The end result should look shaggy with chunks of butter in it. 

Add the egg and blend till clumpy. 

Then dump the mix on a clean work surface and knead till the dough comes together. Try to knead this as little as possible. 

Cover the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least two hours. 

For the filling:

After two hours, preheat the oven to 165 C and butter your pie/flan dish. Line it with foil and butter the foil.

Now roll out the pastry on a sheet of wax (tracing) paper which has been generously floured. 

Gently roll out the dough taking care to not tear it. I tore mine quite a few times. 

Now upend the prepared flan dish on the dough and using the paper as backing, turn it the right way again. Peel off the paper.

Cut off any overhangs and pat the dough into the flan dish.

Prick all over with a fork and cover with another sheet of foil.

Now you need to blind bake this. I used pie weights even though it was guaranteed that this pastry shell would not shrink. And it didn’t!

For the pie weights, fill up the foil lined pie dish with beans of some description - I used red kidney beans.

Bake in the pre heated oven for about 20-25 minutes. The take off the foil and bake it for another 5 minutes. I used the top element of the oven for this so it would be nicely browned.

While the pie crust is blind baking, make the filling.

Purée the lemons, one with the skin on, and two with the skin off in a blender.  Make sure to remove all the seeds. 

Add the butter and the sugar and blend. 

Now add the eggs one by one and blend. The end result should be quite pourable. 

Once the pie crust is baked, pour the filling in. Take care to not overfill the pie, otherwise it will be difficult to demould. 

I used a small 6 inch pan, so baking the tart took me about 20-25 minutes. A larger 9 inch pie dish will take longer, about 10 minutes longer. The tart is baked when it only jiggles slightly when shaken and the top is beginning to brown. 

Take out of the oven and cook completely before demoulding. Dust with icing sugar and eat! 

Note: This recipe is for a 9 inch pie dish. I had only a 6 inch one so I made two pies! And had some pastry left over with which I plan to make jam cookies. 

In which I give the blog over to my best friend.

When I first met Arijita she wasn’t sure how to boil water. However times have changed and she is now a quite competent cook. This is the first thing she cooked for me, and it was so spectacular I asked her if she would make a post on this blog about it. So here it is. 

I’d like to begin by saying that I am not in fact a cook. My association with cooking-baking-turning –raw-ingredients-into-mouth-watering-things-by sheer-awesomeness-what-have-you has been confined to the realm of eating, until recently. Inexperienced is the word I’m looking for. This recipe however, is so simple and so easy that literally anyone can do it. It’s for poor people who have no cooking-skills whatsoever, but want to have delicious mouth-watering pasta sauce ready whenever. This sauce has been talked about in many exalted circles of cooking-bloggery for its simplicity and depth and both qualities were apparent from the first taste. So without further ado (always wanted to say that) here is the recipe for Tomato-Butter-Onion pasta sauce:

Best tomato sauce

Ingredients:

Tomatoes, nice red ripe ones – 1Kg

Butter, we used a stick so about 125gms

A large Onion

Basil –dried  2 tsp (if you have fresh then about a handful)

250 g grated parmesan

Pasta (as much as you want to eat)

Prep:

You need to blanch and peel the tomatoes and chop them up coarsely. I found out to my chagrin that peeling tomatoes without preparing them can be a frustrating and humiliating procedure. So the thing to do is take a couple in a strainer and dip them in boiling water for about 25 seconds (you can count in your head), then immediately put them in a pot of ice-water. Cut a light slit along the equator of each tomato and the skin comes off almost by itself.  Then take all the tomatoes in a big bowl and squish them all into a sort of handmade puree.

Also peel and cut the large (the larger the better really) onion in half along its equator.

Recipe:

Take a heavy-bottomed pot, turmn the heat on medium and melt the butter. When its all liquid, put in the onion halves cut-side down. Then put in the squished tomatoes around the sizzling onion halves and wait for it to boil. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat so that there are only a couple of bubbles intermittently and leave it to cook uncovered for about 30 minutes.

At the 30 minute mark, stir the sauce around a bit and squish the tomatoes against the sides of the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Leave it on the heat for another 10 minutes or so. Turn off the heat and add the basil, be it dried or fresh.

Boil the pasta according to instructions. I usually let a pot of water come to a boil (with a little salt added in) and once it is boiling I add the pasta and cook for exactly 10 minutes. This will be al dente.

To assemble, spoon a couple of ladlefuls of sauce on the pasta and stir to incorporate. Then add one more ladle on top and sprinkle with cheese.

Feeds 4. 

In which I finally succeed! 

I have been trying to make toad in the hole, without success, for the last month or so. This is the third attempt. I think I finally got it right this time, even though it was still a bit undercooked. The trick as I have found out now is to use a large baking dish, and to not overcrowd it with sausages. The first couple of times it remained doughy in the middle because I was using my round cake tin and all the sausages crowded in the middle there, but using my glass baking dish has eliminated the problem. I made the onion gravy using only onions, oil and water, which produces a quite passable gravy but I am going to share with you the secret to the best onion gravy which I discovered a couple of years ago by trial and error.  The recipe for the mash was discovered by my bestie back then as well (we ate a lot of sausage and mash back then) and the trick mostly is to use a lot of the good stuff. 

Toad in the hole with mash and onion gravy 

Ingredients:

For the toad in the hole:

4-5 sausages

As much eggs as flour and milk. I used half a cup of eggs, half a cup of milk and half a cup of flour. 

A few tablespoons vegetable oil or dripping. 

For the onion gravy:

3 large onions 

4 - 5 rashers of bacon (for the dripping)

Splash of red wine

2 cubes of good dark chocolate

Water/ beef stock

For the mash:

4 large and one medium potato

100 g butter

75 ml heavy cream

(This recipe feeds 4 easily) 

Make the batter first because this needs to rest for a while. 

Blend together the eggs, flour and milk in a blender and leave to rest. 

Peel the potatoes, cut into cubes and set to boil. 

Make the gravy. 

Fry the bacon till it has rendered its fat and become crispy. Set aside. 

(You can do whatever you like with the bacon because you are not going to need it for this recipe. It’s bacon! Make a bacon buttie or something.) 

Set aside all but a couple of tablespoons of the dripping. 

In the couple of tablespoons of dripping, fry the onions over very low heat till caramelised and turning brown. Remember to keep the heat as low as possible otherwise the onions will not release their sugars. 

When the onions have been cooking for 20 minutes or so, set the oven to heat at the highest temperature (240/250 C) and put in your baking dish with the sausages and rest of the dripping in it. 

Once the onions are turning brown (about 25 minutes to half an hour) deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine. Grate the cubes of dark chocolate into the onions now. This will lend it a wonderfully smoky flavour.

Let the onions cook in the wine till it has evaporated. 

Now add the water/stock and let it bubble away till it reaches a gravy like consistency. How much of this you’ll need is entirely upto you. I like to put in a bit more water/stock and let the onions cook it in a bit. You will probably not need flour to thicken this but if you do, sprinkle a couple of pinches of flour to thicken. 

Your potatoes will probably be done by now. (They’re done when the edges look smudged and it falls apart when poked by a fork.) Leave them in the hot water, you need them to be warm when you mash them. 

Make the toad in the hole. 

Once the oil is hot and the sausages are sizzling, take out the baking dish and pour the batter into it immediately. Make sure that the oil is as hot as it can be, almost to the point of smoking. Close the oven door as soon as possible.  Now, don’t even think about the pudding for the next 15-18 minutes or so. DO NOT open the oven door. Yorkshire puddings fall very quickly once they are in the presence of a draught. Your pudding is done when it is high and fluffy and brown on top.

In the meantime, while the pudding is cooking, make the mash. 

With a fork break apart the potatoes and mash them with the butter. Put the butter in first because it needs to melt. Add the cream in degrees. I like a creamier mash but if you like it fluffier, add a little less cream or leave it out. 

Assemble onto a plate and eat immediately!