Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Coconut, Chocolate and Saffron Squares !

"Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word." --Goran Persson, former Prime Minister of Sweden

Diwali and Christmas done ! Bidding adieu to 2014 with only few hours to go now for 2015 !

I feel like I write same post every year that another year is knocking on our door and it's already upon us! But seriously now, how quickly has this year gone by!? I swear the older I get, the time flies faster and faster..!

This past year saw a surge of selfies and brought us the ice bucket challenge perhaps making some of the best and worst memories of 2014! Whether your 2014 had its fair share of laughs, mishaps or regrets, now is the time to set the reset button and start 2015 afresh.

Counting my blessings, wishing you more. Hope you enjoy the New Year in store. Have a joyous New Year ! Thank you for all your support and best wishes.

This past year that went by was such a mixed bag. Since 2013 December I've been suffering from frozen shoulder, my shoulders became very stiff and painful, and that is making me very uncomfortable. Because of limitation in moving my shoulders I almost became bedbound, I had to leave cooking and blogging for a long time and I stayed away from social media too. With various treatment I am a little better, but still waiting for more treatment in coming months in the new year. Keeping my fingers cross for a total recovery and hoping for a new me! Thanks everyone who kept checking on me, for your love and best wishes, I missed being here!

My family were here for me, they looked after me and fed me day and night, whatever I asked, I got it, either cooked by them or bought by them :) If one good thing came from this, they at least perfected their cooking! I have many funny memories of my husband and daughter arguing in the kitchen over how much masala should go into the food!! The end product was always yummy though :)

After I felt a little better, I decided to thank them by making these lovely Chocolate and Coconut Squares. They are also for everyone who have been my well wishers this year!!

A soft and chewy filling of coconut coated with silky chocolate ends this year on a sweet note and welcomes the new one the same way! Be cautious, these little squares are dangerous, it's very difficult to resist. They would be great presented at parties or even given as a thoughtful gift :) .. or just eat them all yourself ;)

You will need :-
  • 400 g desiccated coconut
  • 1 can condense milk
  • 8-10 strands of saffron
  • 2-3 tbsp. icing sugar
  • 50 g dark chocolate
  • 50 g white chocolate
  • 20 g butter
  • two tbsp. finely chopped pistachio  
Method :-

Line 20cm square tin with baking parchment paper.
Dry toast desiccated coconut in a heavy bottom pan without burning or browning  on a very low heat.
Take out one tablespoons of  toasted coconut and leave it aside for decoration.
Add condense milk, icing sugar and saffron, mix well and switch of the heat.
Spoon the mixture  in the base of the tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.
Leave it to set for at least 8-10 hours or overnight in a cool place before cutting into squares or your desired shape.
To make the chocolate coating put the both chocolate in a different bowl, add 10 g butter in each bowl and gently heat until melted.
Allow to cool slightly, then dip the squares into melted chocolate then roll into toasted coconut or pistachios or decorate how you like.
Allow to set on cooling rack.
Enjoy !!
Thank you for stopping by and see you all in 2015 :)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Matcha ( green tea ) Shortbread Cookies !

"May your Christmas sparkle and shine. Celebrate this holiday like a child. Have a great and magical Christmas!"


Since beginning of December kids are relishing the chocolates each day, from the advent calendars counting up to the actual Christmas day. Christmas cheer,spirits and preparations are at their peak in JCO family, I can sense surge of happiness within the family, everyone has put their effort into decking up the Christmas tree with glittering baubles to sparkly ornaments. House is looking more beautiful, also I could not help decorating a few bare branches with a few decorations by putting in the jug and leaving it on my kitchen counter to keep our festive spirits alive.

Christmas cards are already delivered to friends and families, in neighbourhood, we hand it personally to them and everyone is making frequent visits to town, secretly buying gifts, wrapping them and searching few corners in the house to hide the presents and gifts! Christmas menu is planned, desserts are sorted and plenty of entertainment already in place - Is there anyone who wouldn't love the Christmas Spirit !

For us Christmas is as important as Diwali and is celebrated equally, having four generations in our family in the UK there is little to differ from Christmas and Diwali. Our family have gladly embraced British culture and customs through the generations, lucky to get best of both worlds and why should we hold back ? One common thread that can easily be identified is that people do not hold back from enjoying and bringing lots of happiness and on the use of butter, cream and sugar that make for a rich, decadent dishes and life !

We love all the Christmas spirit, feelings and celebrate elaborately as much as any British person does, everyone is looking forward to the holiday break for relaxation, to indulge in great feasts, company and lots of festive programmes on television like The Snowman. There hasn't been a Christmas in years where we haven't missed this show!

While Christmas season spreads joy and to be merry, it's perfect time for cooking, baking and special treats for your near and dear ones ! As Christmas day is approaching very fast to us, I am brushing up on my baking skills and cooking and baking hearty meals to yummy treats. Around this festive season baking your favourite cookies with the family and to make the most of the special holiday treat gives you total satisfaction and joy.

Seems this year I am on a baking spree, I have baked Italian delicacy Panforte, and one of Britain's favourite festive treat Mince Pie where I have deviated from the traditional Mince Pie and gave my own twist and prepared Amranth and Oats Mince Pie. Today, I am sharing rich, crumbly and melt in the mouth Matcha Shortbread, which is once again deviated from the classic Scottish version to Oriental version and added Match tea for a different flavour. Past few years I have been using green tea for myself  and wanted to introduce matcha powder to my kids and I thought of matcha Cookies might be the perfect place to start.

These Matcha cookies were on my long list of "to make things" and this holiday season is a perfect opportunity for me to try them out. Although I was preparing them, there was a sense of uncertainty as I was using bitter ingredients but I was proved wrong. The first batch of matcha shortbread cookies were gobbled down by kids there and then and I baked another batch today to feed my blog :)

 Delicious and yummy homemade matcha cookies which we all can enjoy either with tea or milk, in front of a crackling log fire or wrap them in a festive box and give as an edible gift to friends and family.. true Christmas atmosphere !

You will need :-
  • 1 tbsp. good quality matcha ( green tea )
  • 115 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 155 g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp. corn starch or rice flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Method :-
Beat butter until fluffy, add matcha tea and mix well.
Now add sugar and vanilla extract and beat until you get a creamy mixture.
Slowly add salt and both flours and mix well to form a soft dough.
Cover the dough with cling film and chill the dough for 30 minutes in a refrigerator.
 Pre heat oven to gas mark 3.
Take out the dough, dust the work surface with little flour and roll out the dough into 1/2 inch thickness.
Cut with any cookie cutter you fancy, I used a Christmas tree cookie cutter.
Pierce with a wooden toothpick.
Place them on a non stick baking tray and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes.
Remove them from the oven let it cool completely.
Store them in an air tight container.

Thank you for stopping by :)

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Cranberry and Fresh Turmeric Pickle with Panch Phoran Mix

Deep red jewels, sharp and woody bog plant cranberries, available everywhere during winter season. They remind me of CHANI BOR fruit, juju berries in English, similar taste and texture we used to get in India. Cranberries are a winter berry that has become synonymous with the Christmas table for many in Britain. Their tart flavour lends itself well to both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as drinks.

Typical cranberry sauce or chutney, I make many times, crazily easy to make and it is delicious. This year daughter wanted to try her hands on making cranberry sauce, as she has planned to cook Christmas dinner for us, she and her friends had Christmas dinner at her university flat and since she is excited to treat us on Christmas, I can not wait for it either :)

I nicked handful of cranberries from her and prepared this pickle, we are not a huge fan of pickles, like many Indians do, however fresh and instant ones are appreciated once in a while.  I tried cranberry pickle, Indian version with extra kick and it came out totally different flavour but exciting !

In Gujarat, many households prepares BOR pickle which stays good up to one year, but I've never tried it. While I was preparing for pickle, daughter suggested that I should use Panch Phoran for the vaghar ( tempering ), she loves panch phoran, and I thought of including fresh haldi instead of using ginger as we didn't wanted over powering spicy pickle. In a jiffy we prepared the spicy cranberry pickle. The mild warmth of Chillies, Panch Phoran and achaar masala toned down the tartness of the pickle and spice it up a touch. Also a tiny bit of sweetness from the palm sugar, complemented the cranberries beautifully.

The time it took to make this pickle, that's how it quick as well it was consumed, we loved it! Family asked for more, sadly I didn't had any cranberries left, next day brought more cranberries and made more pickle to satisfy our tummies :)

You will need :-

100 g fresh cranberries
25 g fresh mango turmeric ( amba haldi )
2-3 fresh mild green chillies ( I used pickle chillies )
1 tbsp. panch phoran mix
2 tbsp. oil
3 tbsp. achar masala ( Indian Pickle Masala )
1 tbsp. palm sugar paste, Jaggery or soft brown sugar ( optional )
Salt to taste
Pinch of hing ( asafoetida )

Method :-
Wash and thoroughly dry fresh cranberries and cut them into halves.
wash fresh turmeric and chillies and cut into length wise .
Mix cranberries, chillies, fresh turmeric, salt and achaar masala and leave it aside.
Heat oil in a pan or kadai, add panch phoran mix and let it crackle, add hing.
Now add cranberry mix into kadai and mix.
Just cook for less than one minute, and add palm sugar paste and once again mix.
Switch off the heat.
Remove kadai from the stove.
Let it cool completely and store in a air tight container.
It will stay good up to 8-10 days in the fridge.
This pickle is a perfect accompanied with any Indian meal.
Enjoy !

Thank you for stopping by :)

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Amaranth and oats mince pie

It's less than a week away from Christmas day, it's hard to believe.  As much as we all are doing lots of planning and preparing for Christmas day, I bet Santa Claus is planning for his mission too, to spread happiness to all the children out there!

Santa and his reindeers, both will be very busy on Christmas eve, Santa has to put everyone's postcodes in his SANTANAV. There are billions of presents to deliver to young and grown up kids, and I am one of them ;) Obviously Santa will check first if I have been in naughty or nice !

Santa and his reindeers have to travel all around the globe, lots of landing on dingy rooftops and travelling through harsh and cold night, Santa you will be tired, sorry, but still I want my presents :)  Let's make a deal, I leave out for you Amaranth and Oats mince pie and glass of hot milk to fly across fields and oceans , because all that brandy and sherry makes driving the sleigh a bit tricky ;)

Santa has to eat lots of mince pies. In UK as every house will leave a one or two mince pies for him, there is no surprise why he is getting bigger and bigger. Here, during Stuart and Georgian times, mince pies were the status symbol at Christmas. Wealthy families liked to show off at their parties having pies made with different shapes which contain  shredded meat addition to the mixture of dried fruits rather than just dried fruit mix as they are today. Also there are few superstitions that you will get all the luck if you eat one mince pie twelve days of Christmas. ( very lucky ) !
The mincemeat mixture should be stirred only in a clockwise direction.

Mince pies can be consumed cold or warm with custard and cream. Classic mince pie filling mixture contains of dried fruits like raisins, sultanas, apricots, glace cherries, candid citrus peels , various nuts and spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. Also there is  luxury mince meat  available with brandy and port.Traditional mince pie pastry is made with plain flour and butter, but today I prepared mine on a little healthier side as I have used oats and Amaranth flour, partially plain flour and coconut oil for pastry and used a sugar free mincemeat, it turned out yummy and delicious.There was hardly any taste difference, lightness was as it's made with plain flour and everyone enjoyed as much as we normally enjoy shop bought ones.

Made one batch with classic mincemeat for us and for husband,( our Santa ) prepared with luxury mincemeat which he enjoys a lot !
"Dear Santa" if I leave you luxury mince pie and custard this year, will you leave me better presents ? ;)

yaaaaaaaaaaaaa !

You will need :-
  • 1 jar of sugar free mincemeat
  • 125 g amaranth flour
  • 125 g rolled oats
  • 75-80 g self raising flour
  • 125 g castor sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 150 g coconut oil or butter or any baking spread
  • Icing sugar to sprinkle
Method :-
Dry roast oats and amaranth flour separately in a pan, grind oats till you get coarse  flour.
Heat up the coconut oil and add honey, switch off the heat.
Add all the flours and sugar and knead a dough and divide the dough into 1/4 and 3/4 part.
Preheat the oven to gas mark to 4 or 180C and grease a pie tin.
Roll or press out the 3/4 dough mixture in the pie tin and pour mincemeat on it, roll out other 1/4 dough mixture and cover the mincemeat.
Press lightly to seal.
Bake in the oven for first 40 minutes then check and bake further 10-15 minutes or till light golden.
 Keep checking in between the baking the pie.
Let it cool for 4-5 hours, I left it to cool for whole night.
Slice it and serve with custard or cream.
Enjoy !

Thank you for stopping by :)