21 November 2014

Recipe for Cranberry Orange Loaf with Chocolate Chips

Thanksgiving is round the corner and Pinterest is so full of Cranberry recipes. Apparently, this was one of the three fruits growing wild in North East America and beyond its edible uses, it was also used to dye rugs, clothes. It was clearly a part of the diet of the Native Americans and that's how it has become an inherent part of Thanksgiving dinners since the 1600s. Cranberries lend a burst of sharp sourness to any sweet bake, adding a totally new dimension of taste, not to mention, a gorgeous red colour, that is pleasing to the eye.

My generous neighbour left me a big stash of groceries when she was moving out from Bangalore to Dubai, stuff she had been saving in her freezer, brought in from different parts of the world. Among other things, there was this bag of frozen cranberries. It has been staring at me in the eye, each time I open my freezer compartment and I've been wondering how to put them to good use. I have only eaten cranberries in dried form. The fresh berry in frozen form is MUCH tarter, something that will make you screw your eyes shut as your tastebuds tingle.

Cranberry pairs well with white chocolate, as the latter is intensely sweet and the sour of the berry adds such a perfect contrast to it. Orange is also an excellent partner to cranberries, bringing to the table, a mellower tartness and a beautiful citrusy fragrance. 

This loaf can be made with rehydrated dried cranberries or with any other berries you can lay your hands on. Strawberries are in season in Bangalore now and you can chop them into bite sized pieces and use instead of cranberries.




The house was filled with the most amazing aromas when this loaf was baking. Who needs room fresheners, when you can bake your cake and have it too, really! 
A bite from one slice had the right level of sweetness. The tartness of cranberries mellows down considerably after baking and the coating in a little sugar surely helped that along. The sweet bursts from the chocolate chunks felt so complimentary to the sour bursts of fruit. It made a perfect bite, beautifully balanced in flavours and boy, was it gorgeous to look at! These are my favourite kind of bakes, simple and delicious :) Do bribe one of your friends travelling abroad to get you a pack of cranberries or try them with what you find locally, you won't be disappointed at all!





Cranberry Orange Loaf 
Makes 12 slices

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar

1 egg
3 tbsp oil
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of one orange
4-5 drops of orange oil flavouring (optional) or Use Vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, roughly chopped and tossed in sugar
1/2 cup mix of milk chocolate and white chocolate, chips or roughly chopped

Directions
Grease a loaf tin and keep aside.
Preheat oven to 175 C.
In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients until combined.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg with the oil. Add the orange juice, zest and orange extract and whisk well together.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir gently to combine, finally stirring in sugar coated cranberries and chocolate chips. 
Scrape out the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake at 175 C (350F) in the middle rack, for 50 minutes to an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from oven,allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Carefully, loosen the sides and turn it out on a cooling rack. Let it cool. 

Slice and serve with a cup of tea. 

20 November 2014

Cooking with kids: Milk popsicles

Remember "Pepsi Cola"?? If you were a kid in India in the 80s, I'm sure this weird term brought back fond memories. 

Pepsicola - Image source: https://mehtaworld.wordpress.com

For the uninitiated, it was neither Pepsi nor Coca Cola. They were these deliciously icy sticks available in various eye catching colours and myriad flavours, all 100% artificial, I assure you. The ones made with water were 25-50 paise a stick and the one made with milk were 50 paise - 1 Rupee, depending on whether you got a half sized one or a tall one. It was nothing but a slim pencil like plastic casing filled with liquid and kept frozen, so it could be eaten like a portable popsicle without the worry of the melting ice spilling on you. The melted remains inside the plastic case were slurped up in the end. Walking back from the school to the public transport bus stand in the hot afternoon sun, this was something to look forward to. 

It was always had on the sly as my grandpa would never approve me eating foods whose hygiene standards were quite suspect. Also, any cough or cold I'd fall prey to, would be instantly blamed on the cold stuff eaten, so I had to keep my affair with Pepsi cola a secret. What started in high school last well into junior college days. Conveniently, there would always be a mom and pop kinda store selling these cheap treats near every school and college, fully knowing the lure they were presenting to their young target audience. Oh yeah, we did 'graduate' to 2 rupee a piece stick kulfi in the later years, and 'pepsi colas' became a forgotten thing, that had provided some sweet excitement to those hot summer days.

A few days ago when my son said he wants to make popsicle with milk and his regular malt, my childhood love of all things icy came back to me. Freezing anything in childhood, even a cube of ice was something fraught with much fascination and naughtiness. Forbidden fruit and all that. So when he said he wanted to mix LOTS of Bournvita into milk and pour into molds* and make popsicles, I felt like a kid myself. 

The idea is my son's, who will turn 6 shortly. He did confess that the idea was not entirely his own and that he had watched this in an ad on TV. Do we see a pattern here? His instructions to me were - "Take some milk, mix in 4 BIG spoons of Bournvita and pour into popsicle molds. We'll eat it once it is frozen." 

Where to buy Popsicle Molds - These could be available in the Plastic section of your local supermarket, or they are also available on Amazon - regular and Mickey.

If your kid is not a fan of milk, trust me, you will see them slurping these popsicles with no further nudging. 




Recipe for Malted Milk Popsicles
Makes 2 

Ingredients 1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp custard powder (vanilla or butterscotch) 
2 tbsp malted beverage of choice
2 tsp sugar

Directions
Whisk the custard powder into cold milk and bring to a simmer with sugar and malted beverage. 
Once it coats the back of a spoon, and a line drawn on the spoon stays intact, bring to cool in a sink or big bowl of water. 
Very lightly oil the insides of the popsicle mould. 
Pour the mixture into 2 moulds, cover with lids and freeze for 6-8 hours. 
Remove when frozen and slurp, one for your kid and one for you :)

Variations
You can also make thick milkshakes using bananas, chikoos, custard apples and fill them in the moulds, with some frozen berries thrown in for colourful healthy frozen treats.

17 November 2014

Tips for a winter kitchen garden

So you want to have a little kitchen garden? Don’t let the word ‘garden’ discourage you. A few pots on a sunny window sill, a foot wide soil around your compound, or even a bunch of pots on the waterproofed terrace can all turn into a productive little ‘garden’. The most important thing is to start small, with easy to grow plants.

A few thumb rules apply for kitchen gardening. Soil used to grow any vegetable should be well aerated, neither too loose nor too compact. The depth of the soil needs to be more than one foot. The soil should retain moisture, for example, a mix of red soil clay, small pebbles, vermicompost and once the seed has germinated, cover the top layer with dried leaves. It is worthwhile to do a germination test before sowing. Soak seeds in water for 4 hours, discard floating seeds (these wont germinate) and sow the others. The best time to sow is when there will be three hours of sunlight post sowing, so around 9-10 am in most places would be a good time.

You can start with either seed or sapling. For newbie gardeners, saplings cut down on the waiting time and also the chances of the seed not germinating or getting affected by pests in the early stages and leading to disappointment.


Lavender

HERBS


I personally started my kitchen garden experiments with a few herbs in my tiny Bombay apartment balcony. The joy in garnishing a dish of pasta with a freshly plucked leaf of Italian basil was unparalleled. That’s the magic of herbs. A little goes a long way, and they are most flavourful when they go straight from pot to plate. Be it basil, rosemary, thyme or mint. Also, unless you are making a pesto (in which case you need lots of basil) you need just a few leaves, for which you don’t need to buy a big expensive bunch from the supermarket.
Don’t ignore the Indian favourite, Tulsi or holy basil. It is excellent in teas to prevent or soothe a bad throat. A sprig of tulsi in a jug of water imparts a delicate flavour and subtle health benefits. Mint easily grows from sprigs that you have bought from the market. It covers ground very quickly, so it is best grown in pots. Curry leaves, a South Indian favourite, grow best in the soil as the roots go quite deep. Curry leaf sapling is available in most big nurseries.
When you buy lemongrass from a supermarket, choose one with the root end intact. After you use up the leaves, keep the root immersed in a jar of water for one week. Once new rootlets develop, this can be sown in soil and soon you’ll have lemongrass leaves sprouting out. These can be used in Thai curries and also to flavour masala chai.


My mum plucking chillies


CHILLIES

While there are different varieties of chillies, kandhari is one that grows well in winters. We got nearly 3-4 kilos of this one from one plant in season. Obviously since they can’t all be used at once, we allowed them to ripen, dried them out in sun and now use it in daily cooking. These can be grown in pots, but the yield will not be as much as when grown directly in soil. You can use the seeds from any dried red chillies at home, to grow that particular variety.


Lettuce patch


OTHER GREENS

Sow garlic cloves in soil and in a few days you’ll find green garlic shoots, which can be snipped and used in chutneys, curries etc. Salad greens like lettuce, rocket etc also grow well in shallow trays. Seeds are available in most online gardening stores. Celery is also easy to grow, both leaves and stems can be used in stocks, soups and salads.



Just harvested carrots

Red radish is a delight to grow as it is ready to harvest in 30 days. Don’t sow too many at a time, as you can eat all of them together. Also, don’t sow the seed deeper than 1-2 cm.
To grow turmeric and ginger, bury a piece in the compost pot, sprinkle water every day and after few days bury it in soil along with some of the compost. This has better success rate. Turmeric leaves lend a delicate aroma to foods steamed by wrapping in them. Of course, it is used to tie around the pongal pot so it is the perfect time to put one in soil before the onset of winter.



Red radish <3 td="">


For inspiration, join relevant Facebook groups such as Grow Your Own Veggies, Organic Terrace Gardening which have many enthusiastic kitchen gardeners, ready with advice, suggestions and support.

Attend local farmers markets, events like Oota from your Thota in Bangalore, or attend seed and sapling sharing events where you can buy seeds, saplings and get inspiration from the rest of the kitchen gardening community.


Start small and bask in the joy of cooking with home grown herbs and vegetables. [With expert inputs from Alladi Mahadevan, organic farmer - theorganicfarm.in] 

Originally published in Hindu Business Line

[Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links are provided for ease of browsing through relevant seeds available online. Purchasing through the links will support the saffrontrail blog. Thank you]

12 November 2014

Savoury Carrot & Herb Muffins {eggless}

Hello y'all! Back from a fun fun fun weekend at Pondicherry with the UrbanLadder team, where I was asked to do one of my salad workshops for their offsite, as a small step to making people cook and love healthy food! The 5 teams amazed me with their resourcefulness and creativity. We didn't have any cooking implements which made the participants put on their creative caps. One of the girls actually crushed peanuts using the side of a bowl, and someone foraged some Thai basil growing wild, while the others ran into their rooms and got some fruit from the complimentary fruit bowl to add some punch to their salad. All in all, a wow experience and I enjoyed it a lot. 
So if you are looking for something along these lines for your workplace, then do get in touch with me. Check some of the photos from the trip /workshop on my Facebook Page.


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Our youtube videos are back in full swing and we aim to release 3 new videos a week. Last week it was tips to make a kickass Dosai, its partner in crime-the molaga podi. This week has kicked off with a kiddie lunchbox special - Spinach pesarattu. So make sure you subscribe and stay tuned to get every new video fresh into your mailbox or your youtube feed!


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We all love muffins, but the sugar and butter that goes into most commercial muffins makes it as unhealthy as a decadent cake, all the time pretending that they are a healthier option. Muffins when made at home easily lend themselves to all kinds of healthy modifications, make them sweet or savoury, add fruits or veggies, add bran or millets, it's totally up to you. This recipe I put together this morning for my son's lunchbox and I did sneak in one for my breakfast and boy, they are good!




These savoury muffins combine the goodness of carrots, protein from the paneer and cheese. Using a mix of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour, keeps it soft and springy. You could also try it with other healthy flours like millet or corn meal. 
The grated carrots also keep the muffins moist despite minimal oil in the recipe.
Try it out for a tea party or for your kid's lunchbox. You can also double the recipe, and refrigerate in an airtight box, makes for a super healthy after school snack.





Recipe for Savoury Carrot Herb Muffins (eggless) 
Makes 6 medium sized muffins

Ingredients
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp or a pinch of baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 tsp mixed herbs (I used Keya)
3 tbsp grated paneer
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup whisked yogurt + 1 tsp vinegar
3-4 tbsp water (if required)

To top:
Grated cheese
Few pieces of chopped walnuts

Directions
Preheat the air fryer to 180°C.
Keep 6 silicone cupcake molds ready.
In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients with a whisk. Keep aside.
In another bowl, mix the grated carrot, paneer, herbs, vegetable oil, yogurt - until they are well combined. 
Make a well and add the dry ingredients. Stir gently to mix through. Do not over mix, any small lumps can be left alone.
If you think the mix is too dry, add water 1 tbsp at a time, until it is of the right consistency.
Divide the batter into 6 cupcake molds. Top with a little grated cheese and walnut bits. 
The airfryer will fit in only 4 at a time, so you need to do it in 2 batches. If you are baking in an oven, then by all means, use a 6 cup muffin tin and bake as per instructions.
Place the filled molds in the airfryer basket. Close it in and bake at 180°C for 7 minutes or so.
Remove, allow to cool for 2-3 minutes, unmold and serve warm.