January 31, 2012

Playdate #3, Kerala chicken stew Ann Arborized!

Kerala Chicken Stew

 (picture courtesy of: Nicole)

Look at the beautiful table Nicole set for this meal! When I look at this picture, I can still remember all of us trying to savor the meal, talking to each other and tending to the little ones all at the same time. It felt like a busy evening, but a great one spent in the company of friends.

Nicole and I had set a big goal for this evening. We were going to make a chicken stew and bake bread to go with it. I selected Sailu's Chicken stew recipe and made some adjustments, and for the bread we chose Susan's Laziest Loaf. I look forward to these cooking dates when we can chop, cut and cook together and exchange stories. I never realize when a couple of hours have gone by and hungry husbands, and children re-enter.

I made the chicken stew a few more times after the playdate and it came out great every time. It's perfect for cosy evenings when you want to catch up with friends and family and have a hearty bowl to go with it.

For the chicken stew, we decided to add some more vegetable and stick with low fat coconut milk.  I also ground half of the garam masala with the fennel and it gave a wonderful aromatic smell to the stew. For a milder flavor I used white peppercorns instead of the black ones. Here is my tweaked recipes.

Kerala Chicken Stew

Ingredients:
(recipe courtesy of Sailu's Kitchen)

2-3 lbs chicken cut into bite size pieces
2 medium onions, finely sliced
2-3 medium potatoes, cubed (I left the skin on)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
12-15 green beans, cut into smaller pieces
8-10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp ginger paste
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
3-4 green chillis, (I didn't slit them but you could)
4-5 cloves
1″ cinnamon
2 cardamoms
8-10 white peppercorns
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tpsoon fennel powder (I ground some fresh fennel seeds)
1/2 tsp garam masala pwd
2 cans light coconut milk

salt to taste
1 tbspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 tbspoon oil
1 tbspoon butter
chopped mint and cilantro mix (optional)

Kerala Chicken Stew

Method:
Heat oil and butter in a heavy bottomed vessel, add curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper corns and saute for few secs till you start smelling the garam masala. Add garlic slices and saute for a minute. Add ginger paste and green chillies and saute for a minute. Then add the sliced onions and fry for 4-5 minutes.

Add turmeric powder and combine. Add the chicken pieces and cook over medium heat for 7-8 minutes.

Add 1 can of coconut milk and salt and combine. Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add garam masala powder, fennel paste, potato, carrots and green beans in the pan. Add the rest of the coconut milk and let it cook and the chicken and veggies are cooked and soft.

Kerala Chicken Stew
 
Turn off heat. And serve warm. I leave the lemon wedges and the mint cilantro mix in the bowl so everyone can customize their own.

Serve warm with rice or bread.

French Laziest Loaf

We ate ours with a French Bread that we baked using Susan's @ Well-Seasoned Cook's recipe. We followed it exactly and it worked well. The bread turned out soft and delicious as well and was perfect to soak up the last bits from the bowl.

Thank you Sailu and Susan for these wonderful recipes.

January 19, 2012

Strawberry birthday cake

Strawberry summer cake

 (photo courtesy: Venky Rao)

My little one recently turned 2. He is officially a toddler. How time has flown! I remember holding him, seeing him crawl, learning how to walk and now he is running around proclaiming his independence. He wants to do everything "self" and of course it takes twice as long. He recently tasted cake and has shown a preference for cake without icing.

So for his birthday I decided to make a simple cake. Since he has been going around asking for pink ice-cream, I though a strawberry birthday cake will pair well with it. I came across a recipe for strawberry cake at Smitten Kitchen which looked delicious. I baked the cake and it got rave reviews from everyone. Aswin's niece declared it as "divine" and "super delicious". Ameya ate a few bites as well. Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this wonderful recipe!

I made a few tweaks adding a couple of t-spoons of olive oil along with butter and used brown sugar instead. And like she described, the edges were faintly crisp and gave a wonderful flavor to the cake. This is probably one of few cakes that uses only 1 egg in the ingredients. Here is how to make it:

Strawberry summer cake


Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups  flour (I used whole wheat and barley flour mix)
1 1/2 tspoons baking powder
1/2 tspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbspoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter a  9-inch cake pan and flour and keep it aside. Strain flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy for about 3 minutes. The butter shouldn't be liquid, just soft. I melted mine and had to put it in the fridge again. Once it's fluffy, mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined.

Once it's done, add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.

Pour into cake pan. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake for 10 minutes at 350 deg F then reduce oven temperature to 325 deg F and bake cake for 50-60 min till the toothpick comes out clean.

Strawberry summer cake
(photo courtesy: Venky Rao)

Let cool in pan on a rack. 

Strawberry summer cake
 
Cut into wedges and serve with ice-cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!

January 03, 2012

Custard and pudding cravings resolved!

Chocolate and Vanilla pudding


Welcome 2012! The last couple of months of 2011 were busy, sick, busy, and then some more. But we got a good break, changed our pace and relaxed with family and friends. That rejuvenated and energized us. Here is a picture from our trip to Marquette in the Northern Peninsula Michigan.

marquette


We also did a few dinners: for playdate #3, with some old friends and made some new. And for one of the dinners I made this chocolate and vanilla pudding dessert. The pomegranate and the blueberries cut the sweet and provide the right amount of sharpness in this. The best part you can make it ahead and cool it!

I made the chocolate pudding from scratch using the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and took a shortcut with the vanilla pudding using Brown and Polson custard powder.

1. Chocolate Pudding
Adapted from Smitten kitchen
Ingredients:
2 tbspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 ounces chocolate (I used bittersweet chocolate bar) - chopped
1 tspoon pure vanilla extract

Method:
Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a pan on low (I didn't do the double boiler. Instead I kept the heat on low and used a thick bottomed pan to do this and stirred often.)

Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula and keep stirring.  After 15 to 20 minutes, the mixture start to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate pieces. Keep stirring here as the chocolate melts and mixes well with the rest of the mix.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Vanilla custard

Ingredients:
1 cup milk
2 tbspoon vanilla custard powder
1/2 tspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar.

Method:
Heat milk in a thick bottomed pan. Take a few tspoon warm milk out and make a smooth paste with the custard powder. Melt the sugar in the milk and once it comes to a boil, take it off the heat and add in the custard powder and stir well. The milk will start to thicken immediately. Put it back on the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes and keep stirring.

Take it off the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Chocolate and Vanilla pudding

Assembly of the dessert:

You can assemble it in any order.  Here is what I did.


Take 3-4 tbspoons of chocolate pudding in a dessert cup, then layer it with 3-4 tbspoon of vanilla custard. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and blueberries and chill for atleast 30 minutes before serving. 
 
Here's hoping that your new year will be as sweet and tangy with the right amount of satisfaction. :)

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