Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


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Snacky Paneer from the Fake Tandoor

Don’t you love Paneer? Don’t you just love that chewy goodness called Paneer, a close cousin of ricotta and just the perfect replacement to meat in most dishes that roll out of a Tandoor kitchen? Um, I don’t like it all that much. True story. But when I was young(er), I used to have dreams about devouring huge amounts of Paneer Butter Masala and Paneer Tikka and miraculously escaping the indigestion that was sure to follow. That phase passed and fortunately-erm, for Kishore, really- I make Paneer exclusively for him these days.

Paneer Tikka is one of those appetizer dishes that holds a permanent place on any Indian restaurant menu. It is a breeze to make (without the Tandoor, of course), an ultimate favorite with the hub and my round two recipe for a frozen piece of Paneer that was sleeping in the freezer. I cooked it in the oven and finished it on a pan because with a sleeping child in the house on a scotching Alabama summer day, the broiler was something I wanted to avoid switching on.
Paneer tikka
Paneer Tikka

Ingredients:

To be diced into huge pieces-
A slab of Paneer

Half an onion

One tomato

Half a green bell pepper

For the marinade-
One cup thick yogurt

Two Tbs gram flour (or AP)

Half tsp chili powder

Half a tsp turmeric powder

One tsp Garam Masala

One tsp Chat Masala

One Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

One tsp salt

Method:

Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Marinate the Paneer for two hours. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Lay the Paneer pieces on a foil lined sheet. Dunk the veggies in the marinade and lay them out. Bake for twenty minutes. When done, heat a pan, transfer the Paneer and the vegetables and toast till brown on both sides. Serve with green chutney.


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Flaky-Dense Chocolate Cooker Cake

Long long ago, one of my aunts made a chocolate cake. I was around seven at that time and ovens were practically unknown to mankind… in India. I got to taste this delicious cake, which was eggless, on one of my cousin’s ninth birthday and life was never the same again. I craved this dense, rich cake over the years but never really got to taste it again. Years went by and the memories of that fun party, primarily highlighted by the wonderful cake, kept coming back to me.

cooker cake2

So the last time I did remember it, I decided to find out the recipe. My aunt was not reachable but I did remember one vital part of the recipe: she made it in a pressure cooker. We use the cooker rather extensively in Indian cooking so sourcing one was not a problem. The problem lay in figuring out what to put under the batter to heat it up. I know my aunt used sand but where do I go for sand, so far away from the sea? A quick research online gave me two options: steaming it or heating it directly. I was afraid that the latter would probably damage my rubber ring (that thing we call gasket in India) so I opted for the former method.

I ended up with a wonderfully moist, dense and flaky cake that I am in love with. Though it lacked the rather earthy flavor of the cake using the sand method, it was good! And who knew something as easy as steaming could yield such a rich dish?!

This is how I made it:

Chocolate Cooker Cake

Ingredients:
One and a half cup all-purpose flour

Four Tbsp dark cocoa powder

Three quarter cup sugar

One tsp vanilla essence

One cup yogurt (or replace with buttermilk. You could also use soy/almond milk for a vegan version)

Half tsp baking soda

One and a half tsp baking powder

Half cup vegetable oil

Method:
Mix the dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Add the dry to the wet, while whisking it. I used the KitchenAid but a whisk or a hand mixer works equally well. Fill the bottom of the cooker with water (incidentally, salt, raw rice and beans work too) and place a steaming plate in the bottom. Grease and flour a container well. Transfer the batter and make sure it is sealed well. Use a perfectly-fitting lid or aluminum foil. This is key: *Make sure it is tightly sealed* While steaming, water has chances of entering the cake container, making the cake soggy and, well, gross.

Close the lid but do not use the weight. Steam the cake on medium-low for 45 minutes, until completely done. You can check the doneness by inserting a knife or a fork.

This cake is not overly sweet, primarily because of the dark chocolate. If you want a sweeter cake, add one cup sugar. I “iced” it with Nutella so the sweetness was perfect. If you want something fancier, I would suggest a chocolate ganache icing. But then, I, as everyone knows, am partial towards ganache so I feel that works the best. I am sure a simple buttercream frosting works really well too.

If you don’t have a cooker, you can steam it in a large container with a tight lid too. Finally, 45 minutes is a ballpark. It could take you longer or lesser time. It really depends on the size of your cake container.

cooker cake


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Jammin’

You know those random weird cravings you get sometimes? I had that a couple of days ago. For tomato jam. Not any ordinary tomato jam but my dad’s special stash that he used to make on very rare weekends. The last time he made it was a year before he passed and that batch is, well, long gone. This time, I decided to make some but I had a little problem: I did not know the recipe. I called my mother and she gave me a vague and very easy recipe. Though I was skeptical (sorry, Amma. Less sass from now, I promise), I decided to try it out. What could really go wrong with boiling tomatoes and sugar, really?

Nothing. So after an hour of letting it boil and splatter in a pan under a lid, I let it cool and gingerly scooped it with a spoon to taste. If it had been an Indian movie, nostalgic background music would have played. I would have had a montage of childhood scenes rolling on the screen. Instead, I let out a deep sigh and went back to the pan for more. Appa’s spirit was probably smiling down on me 🙂

Here is the short recipe

Ingredients:

Ten Roma tomatoes chopped

Two cups sugar

Two Tbsp lime juice

Method:

Saute the tomatoes until they start getting mushy. Stir in the sugar and lime juice. When the sugar dissolves, turn the heat to medium-low. Stir regularly as the mixture cooks and comes together into a jam-like consistency. As it thickens, the jam will splatter so closing the pan with a lid is the key, unless you want scotch marks all over your arms and a stick cook top.

*I used the tomatoes and two Tbsp of tomato paste for color.

*This makes a semi-solid jam.

*If you like it to be smooth, give the tomatoes a whirl in the blender before you transfer them to a pan.

This recipe can also be used for canning. The lime acts as a preservative.

This is nothing but a basic, unadulterated, tomato jam. It doesn’t have an underlay of other flavors or the kind of depth you expect exotic recipes to have. I can eat a whole jar in a week and come back for more. But I wont… I shall resist.

 


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Éclair au Chocolat

I admit it. I did not believe in myself when I set out to make this. French pastries freak me out when I am making them. But did I fail? I will tell you, actually, show you in a bit.

I have dreamed of eating eclairs since I was young and spent so many hours reading Enid Blyton’s books. For the uninitiated, this British author was the queen of children’s fiction. She reigned over children’s literature from the 20’s to the 60’s but I know children loved reading her books even her peak years. My sister and I were introduced to Blyton by my mother and I have childhood memories dotted with holidays solely dedicated to reading Famous Five, The Five-Find Outers and Mallory Towers and lusting after all the delicious food they eat in the books. Believe me, there were lots of ’em!

Apart from dreaming of bacon and eggs (and not knowing that bacon was meat) and Joanna’s (the cook in Famous Five) famous ginger cookies, I used to wonder what chocolate eclairs tasted like. They sounded delicious whenever the Find Outers ate them at their local swanky cafe near the railway station, especially in Mystery of the Missing Man. In my later years, I remember Googling all the food featured on Enid Blyton’s books just to know what they looked like.

Though I am not all that new to baking, I have always thought Eclairs was a dish I would shy away from making due to the complicated process it involves. But today, I had all the ingredients I needed to make this pastry and a very empty schedule for the day. Moreover, Julia Child gave me the confidence I really need to “buck up” as Blyton’s characters would say. This recipe is an adaptation from the foodnetwork website and Child’s book, The way to Cook. You can follow the link for the former and as for the latter, I promise to type out and publish soon.

I was pretty scared of making the pastry primarily because I ended up with flat dough, although I followed the recipe to the T. Thankfully, I decided to let my oven judge it. Within five minutes of baking it, the pastry puffed up and roughly twenty minutes later, I had two beautifully light, meringue-ish pastry in my hands. Needless to say, the Mister fell in love with it and wished I had made more than two (we are on a diet as always). Ah well, there is always the lazy weekend!