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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Last Bite

A Black forest German Gateau Cake ‘Schwarzwälder Kirsch torte’with Cherries from Kashmir, Baked in Bengal

This was his last bite. My Father, he tasted the little portion of the black forest cake that I cut for him n served him on a tea saucer. Back at that moment I had no idea that this was going to be the last thing he will eat, made by me. So for me this is his last bite of any food cooked by me and it is special in that way but it will always have sadness n gloom attached with this memory. Now that my Father has left his body, I run the pictures in my mind of the moment when he looked at the piece of cake in the little saucer, cut into it n very carefully, with a little shaky hand he transferred into his mouth, so that it doesn't fall off the spoon. I was looking for any signs of expression on his face and I find a little sign of satisfaction as he went through the cake. I am just re-running that subtle expression of Dad in my mind.

                            I wanted to do this black forest gateau cake for a long time, sometimes the doubt of eating so much whipped cream halted me, sometimes the doubt of whipping up huge volume of cream by hand made me pause, and sometimes I didn't get the cherries. But then with love that stayed on n upon consistent demand from my cute nephew, I did whip up large volume of cream by hand, whip up eggs with sugar till I reached the ribbon stage, pitted the cherries all by hand n I bake the cake!

                                                     The black forest cake or gateau has its origin in Germany, though the name doesn't come from the Black Forest mountain range in south-western Germany, rather it comes from a special liquor of that region called ‘Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser)’ n it is distilled from tart cherries. The liquor has a distinctive cherry pit flavor and alcoholic in nature that gives the cake its distinctive smell n flavor. So ‘Kirsch’ is what makes it special although other liquors are also used such as rum, which is used in Austria and co-incidentally which I also used, red rum.

                                                                                             Making the chocolate sponge for this cake requires a bit of whipping, first eggs n sugar r heated in a water bath until warm while constantly whisking, when the temperature is achieved the mixture is removed from heat and then further whisked until the mixture fluffs up and becomes almost triple in volume. When the whisk is lifted we can see ribbons falling off from the whisk and a figure of 8 made the ribbon stays for a second to be visible. No baking powder is used for this cake and the light volume is achieved by incorporating air in the egg n sugar mixture.

                                                                                                                The touch of Kirsch or rum gives the cake it’s special touch, but then you can always skip it if you want to, in my case my nephew kept away all the cherries from his piece! He likes the black forest cake without the cherries!

I have to tell you this, if you want to eat this cake tomorrow you have to begin today, the cake needs rest for several hours after baking, preferably overnight, also the cherries in soup which is treated with cornflour, need overnight time in the freeze to set, so keep that in mind.

                     So I guess it is now time to tell you about the recipe, here we go to have a walk in the Black forest cake.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Chocolate Sponge:
Powdered Sugar- 200gm (I used 180gm)
Coco powdered- 45gm
Plain Flour- 90gm
Butter, melted n kept warm-60gm
Salt-1/4 tsp, skip if butter is salted

For the Cherry layer:
Cherries-350gm, pitted and separated from the syrup
Syrup in which the cherries were preserved-1 cup
Lime Zest-1/2 tsp, roasted, dried out then whizzed with sugar
Cinnamon- ½-1/4 tsp, roasted slightly n powdered
Cornflour-1-1 ½ tbsp
Sugar-1 tbsp+1 tbsp (optional)

For the Whipping Cream:
Whipping cream/double cream-500ml
Fine powdered sugar-4 tbsp
Vanilla essence- 1 tbsp

For the Rum syrup:
Red rum- 3 tbsp
Suagr-2 tbsp
Syrup from the cherries-4 tbsp

For the Chocolate Layer n Chocolate shavings:
Dark chocolate-50-80 gm

Save a few whole cherries for decorating the cake.

1. We will begin by making the cake which will need to rest overnight. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius n butter one 8 inch cake tin. So begin by cracking the eggs in a big airy bowl n add the powdered sugar on them. Prepare a water bath or bain-marie, as the water comes to simmer, place the bowl with egg n sugar on top of it making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk continuously as the mixture warms up, test it by placing a little of the mixture with your finger on your inner wrist, it will take 3-5 minutes to get warm, on your wrist it should feel comfortably warm, not something that is beginning to get intolerable for skin. So when the mixture feels warm enough remove it from the water bath and now either with hand whisk or electric whisk or stand whisk, whisk it until the mixture fluffs up becoming almost triple in volume. If you are whisking by hand it will take about 20 minutes, otherwise it will take about 5-8 minutes, when you will lift the whisk it will fall off smoothly making ribbons on the surface, if you try to do a figure of 8 you will be able to see the figure 8 for a moment before it vanishes, when you can do that you are at the right consistency.

2. Now sift the coco powder n flour alternatively in 3 stages and gently fold in with a spatula, first sift one-third coco powder, then one-third plain flour in 3 stages, until the flour n coco powder has been incorporated. For folding rotate the bowl while you lift up the mixture gently with the spatula and fold in slowly, keep rotating the bowl as you do so. After that add the warm melted butter and gently fold in again. Then carefully place the batter gently into the buttered cake tin which is layered at the bottom with perchment paper, then smooth the surface with a spoon or scraper. Then give one tap on the table before you place the cake tin in the oven, bake for about 20 -25 minutes, when a toothpick inserted comes out clean and you will see the cake will start to shrink from the sides. Then take the cake out of the oven, rest 10 minutes, take it out of the cake tin and place on a wired rack to cool overnight.

3. Now well prepare for the cherry syrup. Take a lime, with a sharp knife cut the peel lightly so that you don’t get the white part under the peel, when you have taken off the zest of the whole lime like that, put them in a baking tray and in a very low oven of around 100 degrees Celsius roast them but keep the oven door slightly open, give them about 5-10 minutes, shake the tray in between until they get brown but not burnt. When this is achieved take them out and cool them and they will crisp up, after that in a mortar n pestle powder them with 1 tbsp of sugar, keep aside.

4. Take 1 inch cinnamon stick and roast it slightly in a frying pan, tossing the pan often for about 1 minute, then crush it to a powder in a mortar n pestle, keep aside.

5. Take 4 tbsp of the cherry syrup and mix the corn flour, lime zest powder, cinnamon powder, 1 tsp of sugar until it is smooth. Then put the cherries with 1 cup of syrup in a pan and let it come to a boil, then add this mixture stirring constantly, very soon the cherry syrup will begin to thicken, taste it, add a little sugar if you think it needs a bit, then take it off the heat, pour it in a bowl, let it come to room temperature, when it is there, cover it with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator overnight and it will settle and almost become like cherry jam.

6. So next day we are ready to put it all together. Mount the cake on a high platform, make it by placing a plate on a deep high bowl, you can rotate it also, now with a serrated long knife cut around the edges of the cake to get 3 layers of the cake. Turn the cake slowly as you cut through the cake. Obtain 3 layers.

7. Melt 40 gm of dark chocolate in a water bath and pour that chocolate over the 1st layer of the cake, make that surface almost coated with the liquid chocolate, after that place that cake layer in freeze until the chocolate solidifies.

8. Now we will whip the cream, freeze the whisk, the bowl for whipping for around 30 minutes. The cream should be very cold, around 0 degrees Celsius, then with an electric beater whisk it, when the cream starts to thicken add the vanilla essence, powdered sugar bit by bit and beat it until it just begins to hold the peak when tested with the whisk. Don’t over beat or your cream will be grainy and if using dairy cream it will turn into butter. Just when the cream begins to hold the peak, stop right there.

9. Dissolve the sugar in the water n red rum mixture. Get the cake layer with chocolate and the cherry mixture out of the freeze, with a spoon spread the cherry mixture on top of the chocolate layer which is now solid, cover that surface completely with the cherries. Now take whipped cream and spread it over the cherries until you cover them completely with cream. Place this layer on a round piece of cardboard so the cake will have a solid base and it will easy to move the cake further.

10. Now take 2nd layer of cake and sprinkle the rum syrup with a spoon or brush over both the sides of the layer. Then carefully place that layer on top of the cherry layer, then on top of this layer spread a layer of whipped cream. Then you place the 3rd layer on top of this cream and again brush the rest of the rum syrup all over the surface. Then cover this surface with whipped cream. Now we have to cover the whole cake with cream, so cover the sides carefully with cream. When it is done, put the rest of the whipped cream in a piping bag and pipe on top of the cake the way you like it, I made small spiral rounds around the edges.

11. Now we will make chocolate shavings, get a bar of chocolate, take sharp knife, hold the blade of the knife between you two hands so it is parallel to your body, then resting your hands on the chocolate bar, putting some weight on the bar so it doesn't slip, drag the knife towards you and the chocolate shavings will appear. Be careful when you do this, do it slowly, get around 1 cup of shavings.

12. Take a handful of chocolate shavings and press it lightly around the base of the cake. Go around the cake until the cake is covered with the shavings around the base. Now place whole cherries on top of each cream round you have made on the top, then fill the middle portion of the top of the cake with a handful of shavings. Now see how beautiful it looks! Isn’t it just so amazing? You just did that!

And now we are ready to cut into the black forest gateau cake! Look at the cake for some time and absorb the beauty; let the cake settle a bit also, and then approach with love and with a knife. Bon appétit.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Orange Evening salad

A crunchy salad of Orange, Mexican Turnip n Pomegranate for the winter

First of all I will tell you about Mexican Yam/Mexican Turnip/Jicama/Yam Bean. It is the name of a native Mexican vine, the plant has tuberous roots which are edible, and it is these roots with which we are about to make this salad. In India we know it as ‘Shankhalu’, literally because of the similar shape of them with white conch/shankha. In Hindi it is called ‘Mishrikand’. This plant belongs to the bean family. The flesh of the tuberous roots is eaten mostly raw or sometimes cooked, the flesh is crunchy, slightly sweet n creamy and the flavor reminds us of some apples. It is sometimes also called ‘Chinese potato’, ‘Mexican potato’.

                    Though it is native of Mexico, it got spread perhaps through the hands of the Spanish into many countries of Asia like China, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and many more. In Mexico the Jicama is popular in salads with other fruit combination. The same is true for Philippines, Myanmar; however in these countries they are also stir-fried along with herbs n spices. 

                                                               Here in India, we get this around the winter, now that it is winter it is abundantly available in the vegetable market.  At the end of January there is a special puja of goddess Saraswati, who is the goddess of music n learning, in that occasion of worshiping her when people prepare an offering with fruits they often include this ‘shankhalu’. The shankhalu is simply peeled, the inner crunchy white flesh is diced into cubed and simply eaten like that, they are subtly sweet, slightly aromatic and the smell of them seems very calm when I have to describe that smell. Back home we eat in the same way, sometimes my dad would sprinkle a touch of red chili powder, a bit of pink rock salt or normal white salt and it is so fun to eat. These days sometimes I add a slight hint of chaat masala on them.

                                                                                                This year when Saraswati puja will come, things will happen the same way but my dad won’t be there, since he has left his body he won’t be able to taste it like before and I will have a bundle of memories of this time of the year with my father.

Yesterday I discovered one big Mexican turnip under the table hidden in the dark, it got unnoticed for some time but the good thing about them is that they keep very well for a long time, so when I peeled it was just as fresh. So I picked oranges, a pomegranate, a few roasted peanuts and this delicious fruit salad was born. It looked so wonderful, the crunch from the Mexican turnip, its slight sweetness, the citrus sweetness of oranges, the crunchy pomegranate and the touch of pink rock salt, chaat masala and the burst of colors made me feel better in the evening.

So now I must tell you about how to make this winter fruit salad. Eat it specially facing the sunlight, you will feel better.

For The Recipe:  You will need

Shakalu/Shankhalu/Mexican yam/Mishrikand- 1 big, peeled n diced into 2 inch thin sticks
Orange- 1 big, peeled and sliced breath wise n get the seeds out
Pomegranate- one handful of pomegranate seeds
Chaat masala- ¼ - ½ tsp
Pink rock salt- 2 pinches
Black pepper- freshly ground, some pinches
Red chili powder- 2 pinches (you can skip it also)
Salt- a pinch
Peanuts- roasted n take off the outer skin

1. First peel the shankhalu with a peeler, the outer layers will be fibrous, so once the fibrous layer comes off, peel it a little more until you reach the crunchy white flesh. Half the shankhalu from the middle along its length then halve each half. Then slice each quarter along the length into thin slices, keep some slices intact for the shape, then with the rest, slice them into thin sticks.
2. In a bowl keep the sticks together, sprinkle pink rock salt, red chili powder, black pepper, chaat masala and salt, toss them with the spices. Check for the salt now because chaat masala is a mix of salt n spices, so we have to balance, add in little amounts and check until the seasoning is right. Take some pomegranate seeds and crush them in your hands and let the juices fall on the sticks, mix.
3. In a plate arrange first the whole thin slices of shankhalu, then arrange the orange slices on them, crush some pomegranate seeds on them so that the juices fall on the shankhalu and orange segments, then in the middle put a handful of the flavored shankhalu sticks, sprinkle more pomegranate seeds all over them and last sprinkle the roasted peanuts over them. Now you see how beautiful it looks!

So now it is time to serve, eat with a smile and the salad will make you smile even more. Bon appétit.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

For the love of winter: Fantastic Fenugreek n Coriander Shortbread

Crumbly Methi n Coriander shortbread topped with a limey mashed potato n fresh green coriander chutney

The season has changed again and so has our lives with the turn of the wheel of time, for some of us the change is slow n unnoticeable at times, for some it is drastic! For me it has been drastic, I have lost my father, forever on December the 30th night. I don’t know how to go by it or what to say.  What just comes to my mind once again is that line ‘nothing is ever constant, everything is always changing, the change is the only constant’. Now that I know to be true.

                                We are in the middle of winter; there is abundance of greens n oranges n reds n purples in the fields and in the vegetable markets. A walk in the morning or the afternoon through such markets can make us quietly peaceful n content about our lives. Here in this part of India the temperature is fluctuating between 10 to 20 in a day, India is a huge country, so while some people are coming back travelling from places where roads got block because of severe snow-fall, people from the other parts are having a very pleasant atmosphere while some are still sweating! As strange as it sounds, it will be a pleasure to watch the variety of new food showing up across the length n breath of India only during the season of winter.

                                                              One green that is very special about winter is the Fenugreek, known as ‘Methi/ Methi ke Saag/Methir Saak’ in India. It has a unique savory flavor n it comes with the touch of bitterness; this bitterness makes it extra special. The fresh fenugreek greens or ‘Methi ke saag’ as they are called are often stir-fried in ghee or mustard oil with a few flavorings like garlic, small cubed potatoes, sliced egg-plant,  cumin seeds, chili powder, onions, tomatoes, as we travel across the land this combination keeps altering.

                                                                                           The flavor of the Methi goes so well with the savory dishes; in fact I have never encountered a sweet dish with the flavor of methi excepting my own kitchen! There is special snack called ’Suhali’ in India which is a crisp flat round shaped biscuit of flour n ghee n dried methi leaves also called ’kasoori methi’. It tastes fantastic, at first bite I didn’t like it but then once it grows on you and then you want more of it. Right now in the snack n sweet shops of India packets of suhali are being sold.

                                                                                                            Why I mentioned suhali is because the shortbread that I made with fenugreek n coriander is similar in flavor with suhali. The big difference was in texture, while suhali is crisp n hard to bite; this shortbread is crisp n crumbly like sand.

In the beginning of December I was in Mumbai, while I was roaming on the roads during the afternoon in Powii n Marol, every day I watched vendors sitting with bundles of fresh methi. Back home I so wanted to do this shortbread of methi n coriander n so I did. I baked them until they were just very lightly brown, then I top them with a smooth mashed potato with the tang of lime in it and fresh coriander chutney. But even if you don’t make the mashed potato you know what will go so well with this shortbread! Tomato ketchup! Or Tamarind chutney! Next time I am already imaging small methi shortbreads with tomato ketchup on them and topped with diced cucumber, it will be sensational.

                           This methi shortbread was wonderful, I will advise you to eat them after a day, you will love them even more after a day when they are cold n crumbly, pair it with a coriander chutney or mango chutney or yogurt or tomato ketchup or just on their own.

Now it is time for me to tell you the recipe. Here we go, let’s make them.

For The Recipe:  You will need

For The Shortbread
Fresh Fenugreek /Methi leaves- 100 gm /1 cup, the leaves picked from the stalks, discard stalks
Fresh Coriander leaves- 4 tbsp, chopped
Butter unsalted-75gm
Plain Flour-112gm
Baking powder-1/4 tsp
Salt-1/4 tsp (skip if using salted butter)
Sugar- ½ tbsp, powdered
Black Pepper- ¼ tsp freshly ground
Red Chili powder-1/4 tsp

For The Mashed Potato
Potatoes- 3-4 medium, boiled till soft n skinned
Butter – 2 tbsp
Salt- to taste
Black Pepper- freshly ground, few pinches
Milk- about ½ cup
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp, slightly roasted then ground into powder
Lime juice- 2 tbsp
Kashmiri chili powder- ½ tsp
Vegetable oil-1/2 tsp
Parmesan cheese- 1 tbsp grated (Optional)

For The Coriander Chutney
Coriander leaves- chopped 1 cup
Garlic clove-1 medium, peeled
Lime/lemon juice-2 tbsp
Yogurt- 1 tbsp
Sugar- ¼ tsp
Pink rock salt- a pinch
Black Pepper- Freshly ground, few pinches
Green Chili- 1 chopped
Water-1 tbsp

1. Take a frying pan, add a blob of butter n 3 tbsp of water, add the methi leaves, put the pan in low heat, cover and give it around 7-12 minutes. Stir in between and add some more water when the pan dries up, after 12 minutes the leaves will soften, take them out into a mortar n pestle, when they cool slightly smash them with the pestle and make a coarse paste.

2. For the shortbread, lightly butter a baking tray; dice the butter straight from the freeze, put it in a mixing bowl to soften for 30 minutes. Sift the flour, the corn flour, baking powder on top; add the black pepper, red chili powder, the powdered sugar and fenugreek paste n the chopped coriander leaves. Rub together gently between your fingertips, as the mixture coheres, form it into a ball.

3. For the shortbread rounds, shake some plain flour on to the work surface, cut the dough in half, and then shape into balls on that surface. Put each ball into a tart tin and gently press out into an even layer, make them slightly thicker at the edges and crimp between finger and thumb. With a fork prick the surface all over and with a knife make 4-6 bisecting shallow cuts like the spoke of a wheel. When the shortbread will be baked it will be easy to divide it along those lines you draw with knife.

4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes -1 hour before baking. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, bake for about 18-20 minutes, when the surface will be slightly colored and just firm to touch, take them out and let them cool.

5. For the mashed potatoes, boil 4 cups of water with salt, cut each potato in half, put a cut cross mark at the top of each half, then add to boiling water, give them 15-20 minutes. Check with a knife in between, if it can be inserted easily they are done. Drain them, cool them slightly, then peel and with a fork start smashing the potatoes while they are still hot, add the butter, roasted cumin powder, salt, black pepper, lime juice, parmesan cheese, milk and mix well until it is completely smooth. Divide the mixture in half, keep one half covered n warm, take a frying pan, heat ½ tsp vegetable oil, when the oil is hot add the Kashmir chili powder, toss for 20 seconds, then add the rest half of mashed potato, mix well until it attains a uniform red color. Take out and cover.

6. Take a piping bag, stable it by placing it inside a glass, then fill the first half of mashed potatoes in one side with a spoon, then fill the other half of red mashed potato with a spoon, then close the top of piping bag and press it only a little from outside haphazardly.

7. For the coriander chutney put everything in a blender and whiz until you get a smooth to coarse chutney, that’s all. If not using a blender do it in a mortar n pestle.

8. Take the cold methi shortbreads, then pipe the mashed potato in a spiral pattern on top of them, sprinkle some coriander chutney over them and around the plate, add a dash of tomato ketchup if you wish. And now it is time for the bite! Bon appetit!