Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Renewed Taste Reference

There are many foods for which I do not have a taste reference; either I never had one or have forgotten it.

Mawa cake is one such food. This cake is available in most bakeries across India but I do not remember the last time I ate one.
A friend had recently baked mawa cupcakes which she shared hoping to know how close they were to the real thing; for she too had no taste reference! Though the cupcakes were good no doubt, we couldn't vouch for the authenticity of the taste.

Moog daal halwa falls in the same category. I no longer remember how it is supposed to taste.
This halwa started showing up in wedding buffets in the lates 80s and was usually served with vanilla ice-cream. This trend of serving gajar halwa, moong dal halwa, or gulab jam with vanilla ice-cream was quite annoying.
Why would you want to mix gulab jam with vanilla ice-cream? Enjoy them separately. Clearly I'm in the minority here as several have (unsuccessfully) tried to convince me that they taste fantastic together. Oh well!

As I had lost the taste reference, how would I know if it turned out right? Fortunately my Aai (mom) is here with me right now and it turns out that is halwa is a favourite of hers. My great grandparents lived in Jaipur for several years and as a child Aai enjoyed this halwa when visiting them.

Armed with the recipe (courtesy Simran and Lata) we set out to make it. While I planned to stick to the recommended proportions of sugar and ghee I chickened at the last minute: ¼ cup ghee!
I roasted the daal before soaking which I think resulted in a nuttier taste.
The halwa was rich and needless to say rather tasty and was enjoyed by everyone at home.

Here is the recipe that I followed:
1 cup moog daal
½ cup ghee (I didn't use as much ghee.)
1 cup (or less) sugar
½ cup milk
Cashews/ raisins roasted in ghee for garnish. (I skipped these and instead added a pinch of powdered cardamom.)

Roast the moog daal till it browns just slightly.
Soak in water.
Grind the soaked daal to make a smooth-ish paste.
Heat a heavy pan add half the quantity of ghee and the moog daal paste.
Stir continuously. The daal eventually thickens.
Start adding the rest of the ghee, a little at a time.
After a while, the ghee will will start separating from the daal.
Heat the sugar and milk and stir till the sugar dissolves.
Add the sugar & milk to the (still cooking) daal.
Continue cooking till the colour of the daal changes and acquires a distinctly dark hue.
Stir in the cardamom (or raisins and cashes, if using).

More information on Indian Cooking challange (ICC), see this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Plated Dressing

Last week I had met some friends for a potluck lunch. Along with a few other things I had volunteered to take along a salad. The main reason for offering to bring along a salad was the hope that I'd venture to make something other than my usual basil dressing. Unfortunately the days leading up to the potluck were rather hectic and I ended up taking along my same boring dressing.

As I was getting ready to get a picture of the dressing my daughter asked if she could plate the dressing for me! (Clearly too much food tv). Talk about an offer one can't refuse.
So here is her handiwork:

Basil Dressing

The proportions are a mere guideline.
1 cup basil leaves, packed
¼ cup olive oil
¼ white balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves
¼ tsp (or more) red pepper flakes
¼ tsp (or more) crushed pepper
Salt, to taste
pinch of sugar (not optional)
water, if you want to thin the dressing

With the food processor motor running drop in the garlic cloves.
When they are roughly chopped, slowly pour in the oil and then the vinegar.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

This dressing stays well in the fridge for up to 10 days, more if you freeze it.

Variations/ Additions
Too many!
Here are some of my favourite:

  • sauteed onions.
  • nuts always welcome! Any kind as long as they are lightly toasted.
  • zest of one lemon.
  • one tbsp peanut butter.

Boring it may be to me (only because I make it too often), it's versatility cannot be denied.
We've enjoyed it with just about everything: salad, pasta, sandwiches, parathas, you get the drift.
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