Saturday, April 27, 2013

Back to basics: How to roast garlic




Garlic is something that I have grown up eating.....something that I can never imagine my pantry without! I use garlic extensively in my cooking and am a sincere believer of - 'anything with garlic just tastes that much better'! I almost feel a tinge of pity for people who either do not eat or do not like garlic. I feel like they are truly missing out on something wonderful in life. My maternal grandmother does not eat garlic (she has gone without it her entire life). For her, it is a personal choice and has nothing to do with religion. Even though I've asked her the reason a million times, every time any conversation to do with garlic comes up, I ask her - "why is it again that you don't eat garlic"? She must be so fed up of me asking! 

Used in several cultures as part of their cuisine, garlic is an integral part of the culinary world. Apart from its unique flavor, garlic is also know to have many medicinal properties. Yet it also suffers a notorious reputation due to its pungent odor. This 'stinking rose' is used to ward off vampires and evil spirits. I don't about you but with awesome flavor and the power to drive away evil spirits, who cares about the odor? A pack of breath mints and I'm good to go! :D

Whenever I've used garlic in the past, I've always used it either in its raw form or by stir-frying it with other ingredients. Roasting garlic in the oven is something I had never considered doing. Watching cooking programmes on tv made me realize how roasted garlic could be used in a multitude of dishes (not to mention how absolutely amazing it looked!). You can use it as a spread on bread like toast or bruschetta, use it in pasta, soups, mashed potatoes, aioli, hummus, sauces, dips, to infuse oils and anytime you want to add extra flavor to certain starters and snacks. Roasted garlic has a much more milder and sweeter taste compared to raw garlic. The process of roasting, takes away the overpowering effect of the garlic which can sometimes be a good thing :)

Here is the procedure to obtain beautiful oven roasted garlic. It is ridiculously simple so if you have never done it before, why not give it a try? 
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Recipe of the month: Poori and Punjabi Chole


I've posted a Poori - Dum Aloo recipe before. Pooris are not something I make very often because these calorie-ridden, deep fried flatbreads are a guilty indulgence that will literally weigh you down! But me and hubby love them so much that those rare occasions that I make them turns into a special occasion :)

After I got married, my initial attempts to make pooris invariably ended up in disaster (pooris not puffing up/collapsing too quickly/soaking up too much oil) but after I started following the method I've mentioned here, I've never had any such issue. I make pooris when I have guests at home too because I'm confident with the realization that I won't be battling any kitchen demons!

One of the most common side dishes I make with poori is chole. Me and hubby both love chickpeas and at any given point of time, my pantry always has at least two cans of chickpeas. We use it in hummus, salads, dry side dishes, gravies and biryani. Usually the chole that I make is no fancy affair. I use store-bought Chole Masala and like I mentioned, I use canned chickpeas (it makes life so much easier!). These short cuts contribute to the chole being ready within 15-20 mins flat. However this time I wanted to take a break from my usual recipe and do something different. I always get inspired when I look at my masala dabba (which is a compartmentalized spice box and the heartbeat of any Indian kitchen). I have always wanted to make the authentic style of Punjabi chole so armed with my precious masala dabba, I got cracking!



Ok....so maybe it would be wrong of my to say that I ended up making something authentic because neither am I Punjabi nor am I capable of faithfully sticking to a recipe! I always incorporate some of my own changes however minor they may be :) From the original recipe, I doubled the amount of chickpeas, blended a portion of the chickpeas to thicken the gravy, reduced the amount of dry mango powder and incorporated sugar. Me and hubby  thought the final product was delicious and was of ideal consistency for dunking the hot pooris. 

This recipe is not only vegetarian but also vegan-friendly. It doesn't contain garlic either so it is ideal for people who do not like or eat garlic.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Baker's Corner: Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce


Anytime I think about dates (the eating variety!), I invariably think about my early life in the Middle East. I love this exotic fruit so much yet I think it is odd that I don't eat them very often. There was a time when I would eat oatmeal very frequently for breakfast and add a handful of chopped dates and other dried fruits and nuts into it to make it more palatable but my oatmeal days have long gone flying out of the window! The only other time I eat dates is in India where the relentless festivals and functions ensure that I have them in the form of sweet dishes such as halwa or kheer.

Last Christmas, I was at P.S Cafe at Palais with a bunch of girlfriends and one of them suggested that I try the Sticky Date Pudding because that was one of their specialties. Even though I was bursting from the main course, I didn't want to miss the chance! It was absolutely divine and worth another (or several) trips to P.S Cafe in the future. Mmmmm.....the thoughts of that tantalizing pudding lingered in my mind for several days after that, so much so that I made a mental note to learn how to make it at home. However with other things on my mind, I soon forgot all about it.

Recently, I happened to spot a package of Medjool dates at the supermarket during my weekly grocery shopping round and memories of the Sticky Date Pudding came flooding back. I hadn't settled on any particular recipe yet so I fervently hoped that I had the rest of the ingredients in my pantry to make it! Me and hubs were invited to one of my friend's home for lunch over the weekend so I thought I would make it for her and her family. I've always been fascinated with the idea of taking home-made baked goodies as a gift (à la Bree Van de Kamp of Desperate Housewives). Before doing so, I obviously set aside a huge chunk for the two of us in the fridge  

The recipe that is given in this post is an adaptation of Poh's (runner-up of Masterchef Australia) Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce. I have tweaked it a little especially the procedure for the butterscotch sauce because I felt the outcome would be better. I feel the term 'pudding' is a bit misleading because this dessert is more cake-like. It didn't taste exactly like the Sticky Date Pudding I had at P.S Cafe but it still was pretty darn good!

So what are you waiting for....get ready for date night!