Made by you and I

Orange Flower Water Filling

Many different fillings, the favourite was homemade frappe. By itself orange blossom was the most elegant, but with inclusions pecan and white chocolate were divine.
Many different fillings, the favourite was homemade frappe. By itself orange blossom was the most elegant, but with inclusions pecan and white chocolate were divine.

Many different fillings, the favourite was homemade frappe. By itself orange blossom was the most elegant, but with no added flavourings pecan and white chocolate inclusions were divine.

First tier (you must use)

  • 500 grams of white sugar
  • 500 grams corn syrup or glucose (to prevent crystallisation)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 200 grams egg white OR 100 grams egg white powder, 50 grams orange flower water and 50 grams water.***

Third tier (optional)

  • chopped white chocolate (cold from the refrigerator)
  • roasted pecan carefully filtered to remove dust
  • clear flavouring of your choice

Method:

In a large mixing bowl put dried egg whites, orange flower water, water and stir to mix. Leave to hydrate for 30 minutes to one hour. Or, put 200 grams fresh egg whites in a bowl.

In a medium pot boil sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tarter with one cup of water. When the temperature reaches 110 Celsius (230 Fahrenheit) start whipping the egg whites on medium speed. When the sugar syrup reaches 116 Celsius (241 Fahrenheit) take off the heat, turn the mixer to high, and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites. Beat until the temperature drops to 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). Just before turning off the mixer add whatever liquid flavouring you are using, if any. If using nuts, fold in by hand with a rubber spatula. If using white chocolate add after the frappe reaches room temperature, or it will melt into the frappe.

This will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

frappe recipe

*** By using dry egg whites (a.k.a. meringue powder), you can add flavour by replacing the plain water used to hydrate the egg whites with any flavoured water. You can also make a weak tea with flower such as lavender, but you risk tinting the colour of the frappe. Your only limitation is that the liquid must not contain oil, or the egg whites will not whip. For this reason, always clean your bowl and beater with vinegar before using. The vinegar will remove any hidden oils. 

(You may flavour with vanilla extract but it will colour the frappe. Vanilla seeds are a better option.)

Love and tip your Indian Chef!

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A Whoopie Pie

Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Orange Flower Water and White Chocolate filling
Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Orange Flower Water and White Chocolate filling

A moist, light, airy Chocolate Whoopie Pie with Orange Flower Water Frappe and flecks of White Chocolate mixed in the filling. 

Orange Flower Water Frappe, the recipe is here. 

Bolognese Sauce (with vegan option)

The backbone of any western dish.
(recipe follows)
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Japan has slowly tortured all the affection I had for Italian food out of me by reducing it to PASTA.
_
A: Let’s go out!
B: Where?
A: Italian.
B: (Pasta!)
___
If you’re out looking for a restaurant
_
A: I’m hungry. Oh look, Italian!
B: (Pasta)
__
Even when you’re at a Japanese restaurant
_
A: Hey, look! They have tuna on the menu.
B: (It’s served over pasta! )
_

None of it is any good. It’s almost always overcooked spaghetti with watered down tomato sauce containing no seasoning and served as the main dish.

The backbone of any western dish.

So I got a request last month to have lasagne for new year — a first in my home.  I took the Japanese way: I chose to silently rebel.

I went online and researched Bologonaise to learn how to make a bold and flavorful sauce with what I have to work with. I  refused to make lasagne in the American way, with layers of  melty cheeses. Instead I bought a large wedge of Parmigano Riggliano to do it the Italian way, with a flavorful white sauce. So on December 31st, with the TV on in the background, I spent a full day over two burners in order to pull a lasagne from the oven before midnight — and it was delicious.

The red wine in the sauce and the layering of flavours from slow cooking made the dish complex and flavourful. A couple of weeks later I was ready for more, made the vegetarian version, and played with presentation.

Here are both recipes.

Tier one (you must use)
  • 1 head of celery, leaves and tops removed, white trimmed
  • 8 to 10 onions
  • 4 to 6 large carrots
  • 2 or 3 tins tomato paste
  • Garlic cloves to your taste
  • 4 tins of tomato OR 4 cups fresh Marinara Sauce
  • White wine (1/2 to 1 cup)
  • Red wine (2 cups to a full bottle)
  • Good olive oil
Tier two (suggested ingredients)
  • Ground pork (up to 500 grams)
  • Ground beef (up to 500 grams)
  • Italian sausage (up to 250 grams — contains a lot of fat and spices, correct your seasonings if using)
  • Bacon, several thick strips
Tier three (optional)
  • Herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram (to taste)
  • Salt, pepper
  • White leek
  • Shallot
  • Orange peel
  • Saffron
  • Mushrooms, esp shiitake
  • Veg soy balls or vital wheat gluten
  • Bay leaf

Chop the onions, celery, carrots, shallots, leeks, bacon into roughly the same size and fry in a very large stockpot with a generous amount of flavourful olive oil. The oil is to prevent the initial sticking and for flavour. If you use flavourless oil like canola, then use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

You start off with a pan full of vegetables and over 2 hours they will reduce to barely one cup.

You start off with a 12-litre stockpot full of vegetables and over 2 hours they will reduce to barely one cup.

You start off with a pan full of vegetables and over 2 hours they will reduce to barely one cup.

The more it sticks to the bottom of the pan — without turning black — the more flavour you impart into the dish. The first hour to 90 minutes requires almost no stirring as the juices are enough to prevent sticking or burning.

You start off with a pan full of vegetables and over 2 hours they will reduce to barely one cup.

Notice how all of the bits which had been adhering to the pot melted back into the dish when liquid was poured in. That liquid should contain flavour and so is most often wine but can also be stock. 

Do not use cookware with a non-stick surface. The bits which stick to the pan add flavor. It took 90 minutes before this began to stick. When it does, scrape it off with a wooden spoon or spatula back into the vegetables. When you can no longer scrape it off, add white wine to melt those brown bits back into the vegetables. (If you’re making a vegetarian version and not using wine, use a salt free broth or mushroom juice to impart flavor.)

To the deglazed vegetables add tomato paste and reduce until it starts to stick to the bottom again — you build flavours this way — then add your meat and cook just until the pink goes away; then add your Marinara Sauce, or canned tomatoes, garlic, and optional seasonings.

If your making the vegetarian version add your Marinara Sauce after the tomato paste starts to stick to the pan, or add canned tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings.

Add Marinara Sauce

If you’re using canned tomatoes in place of homemade Marinara Sauce you will need to add garlic and spices such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram. Some enjoy basil and oregano. These are personal choices. Myself, I enjoy saffron and orange peel, a tip I got from Julia Child. 

If you’re using meat, the sauce will no longer stick to the bottom of the pan. Either way, you want to reduce the liquid to take the edge off and blend the flavours from the herbs and spices you’ve added — taste constantly. When you’re satisfied with the flavour profile add the red wine, turn it on low, and reduce to the consistency you need for your dish — then add salt***. Keep tasting. If you’re making the vegetarian version add the soy or gluten proteins now then correct for the consistency you want.

For vegetarians, soy and wheat proteins for texture and nutrition,

The dish needs time. There are many, many, many quick versions of Bolognese, but only a careful browning of the vegetables, deglazing with white wine, reducing with tomato paste and the flavor of good red wine will produce the “Wow!” of Italian cuisine. From start to finish this sauce took about four hours.

lasagne made with vegetarian Bolognese sauce

The sauce improves with time and excellent with other types of pasta, especially spaghetti.

*** Note about salt: In my cooking I add salt near the end so to allow all the other flavours to develop first. From my point of view salt is the accent, not the main seasoning.

Dosa, a recipe

Dosa and Sambar.

I received a bilingual Indian cookbook about seven years ago, English and Japanese — I ordered every single ingredient.

Two years later I was attending cooking school in India. The first day I had to study in the library, which was packed with Asian, European, African, and Indian faces — every one of them were Indian — their culinary traditions as varied and in harmony with each other.

In southern India Dosa is ubiquitous and varied like the faces in India. It is made with urad dal and rice, or semolina, or with an egg or without. It is stuffed, dipped, rolled, made long, made round, made thick. It is breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner and even  a sweet. The only ingredient which is consistent is the name, but most everyone can agree that Dosa can be defined as urad dal and rice ground up, fermented, and cooked on a hot surface.

I wanted to learn how to make Dosa, but Chef refused, “They are made at home, for home.”

The apartment I lived in had a cook, a teen from a lower caste in West Bengal. He spoke his local dialect and some Hindi. He made me breakfast every morning and every morning I helped him. He taught me how to make idli — and dosa.

Dosa with mango chutney and sambar.

Dosa with mango chutney and sambar.

Step one: Find a ratio of beans to rice, and chose a rice.

I’ve come to like the texture from 1 cup beans to 3 cups uncooked rice. Dosa can be made with only beans and upwards to 1:5 beans:rice. The more rice, the fluffier the end product. I’ve met people who insist dosa is made from parboiled, jasmine, short grain and sometimes long. Myself, I’ve even made it with brown rice.

In Indian cuisine there are dosa and dosa like foods which are made from chickpeas, garam, mung beans, lentils. Dosa in this post uses urad dal because it will ferment producing something akin to a sourdough flavor. Use the technique to experiment at home.

Step two: Soak your beans and rice.

Urad dal has a bacteria which will ferment, so it is imperative that you do not wash the beans if you want the ferment. You can soak the beans and rice together, or apart, but soak at least 8 hours.

Some say that soaking apart makes the dosa lighter, but with what machine you grind, how long you soak, how thick the batter is, and how much rice you use will all will contribute to how to how light your dosas are.

Vitamix filled with dosa/idli mixture.

Vitamix filled with dosa/idli mixture.

Step three: Grind the beans and rice together.

Drain the beans and rice. For a faster ferment, use all or some of the water to grind the beans and rice. My young friend used a blender, I use a Vitamix, some homes use a Mixi, the shops in India use a stone or industrial wet grinder. The consistency should be like pancake batter. You can always add water to your batter later, so it’s okay if your batter is thick.

Dosa batter before and after ferment.

Dosa batter before and after ferment.

Step four: To ferment or not.

Fermenting will give the dosa a sourdough like flavour and lighten the batter. Simply cover and leave in a warm place overnight. If the ferment doesn’t take, put a ladle of the batter in a bowl and add 3 or 4 tablespoons of whole fenugreek seeds, which share the same bacteria as the urad dal. Pour the cup of batter back into the main batter through a strainer (to remove the seeds), stir and cover. If your home is too cold, try placing the batter in the oven or near a heater.

Well fermented dosa batter. Notice the texture. The air bubbles will make your dosa light.                Personal note, this batter is a bit thick because I prefer thicker texture.

Well fermented dosa batter. Notice the texture. The air bubbles will make your dosa light. Personal note, this batter is thick as I wanted thicker dosa.

Alternatively, you can add citrus acid and baking soda — plop, plop, fizz, fizz. It’s a short cut some people use, but only just before you use the batter.

Step five: Making dosa.

Indian peoples use a tava, restaurants a wide griddle. You can use a flat surface like a crepe or fry pan. Add a ladle of the mixture and spread across as thin as you can. When it turns brown, flip it. A skilled person can make paper thin dosa.

My batter is thick, so it's not as thin as it could be.

My batter is thick, so it’s not as thin as it could be.

You can also ladle onto a pan and with the ladle make concentric circles pushing the batter outwards into a disk. You can make it as thick as you like. You could also use a crepe spatula to spread the batter.

Dosa before and after turn. Notice the colour is uneven. That's because the heat is localised under two burners. If I use a tava or pan I can make the colour even all over.

Dosa before and after turn. Notice the colour is uneven. That’s because the heat is localised under two burners. If I use a tava or pan I can make the colour even all over.

To personalise Dosa think about these questions during each step:

Step one: Soaking.

  • Do I need a complete protein? Adjust my ratio of beans to rice.
  • What texture do I want? Lighter and crispier, more rice. Softer? More beans.

Step two: Liquify the beans and rice.

  • Do I want a thin dosa? More water.
  • Do I want a thick dosa? Less water.

Steps three and four: Grinding and fermenting.

  • Do I want it sour? Ferment it over night. Keep the fermented batter in the fridge for a week, it will keep indefinity and the sourness will icrease.
  • I don’t want to ferment, but I want a sour flavor. Add yogurt or whey in place of some of the water when blending and don’t ferment.
  • I want it light, but without the ferment. Use fruit salts (it’s sold as an antacid, but used in the kitchen for an artificial ferment).
  • I want it to be flavorful: Add one or two tablespoons of a different kind of bean when grinding. Or, mix in a powdered bean or spice just before using.

Step five: Cook

  • I want it soft. Fry without oil on a non-stick surface.
  • I want it thin: Use a spatula to spread it out.
  • I want more texture:. After you pour the batter sprinkle on minced herbs like cilantro or minced onions or chilies.
  • I want it crispier, use oil or ghee when you fry.
Dosa and Sambar.

Dosa and Sambar.

This post is long and detailed, which might dissuade you from making Dosa. That is my error in trying to be thorough. My larger point is that the formula and technique for Dosa can be modified. By going into detail I hope you do try Dosa in the usual Indian style — it is wonderful, full of flavour, and healthy. But I also hope you experiment in your kitchens, especially if you’re vegetarian. Myself, I’ve used dosa to make “crepe layer cakes”, faux-enchiladas, psudo-blitzes, and mock-quesidillas. 

A sense memory: Portuguese Cod Soup

I recall eating soups in huge, deep bowls with a piece of rustic bread floating on top. To stretch they added kale, cabbage, and lots of potatoes, but it was digging in to find the fish and pieces of hard boiled egg I remember best.

(recipe follows)

I really enjoy reading other peoples blogs. Last week I came across this post which reminded of the soups my aunts would make when I was boy. They were immigrants from the Azores and we all lived in a little community in Artesia. The ingredients depended on what grew in the garden, how much money was left after expenses, and how many people were staying. So salted cod was on my mind.

Yesterday I walked by the Korean section of the market — packaged dried cod.

My morning ritual is to look in the fridge to see what I need to use. The cod was hydrated… On the way to work, in my minds eye, I pieced together what I remembered of cod soup.

For flavour cook the tomatoes until they begin to stick to the pan and the oil resurfaces.

For flavour cook the tomatoes until they begin to stick to the pan and the oil resurfaces.

At home, I had half an onion in a ziplock bag, potatoes, canned tomatoes, eggs. I sliced the onion, crushed two cloves of garlic and sweat them in a drizzle of olive oil in a Dutch oven. I added 1/2 a can of crushed tomatoes. To develop flavour I reduced the tomato until it started to stick to the pan and the mass glistened with oil. To melt the flavours seared onto the enamel into the soup I poured a jigger or two of white wine and stired hard.

For seasoning my aunts used what was at hand: bay leaves, whole allspice and black pepper pods. I was out of allspice, so I substituted grains of paradise.

Add a layer of potatoes. My aunts would have laid kale, sliced hard boiled eggs, and if they could afford them olives or capers.

Add a layer of potatoes. My aunts would have laid kale, sliced hard boiled eggs, and if they could afford them olives or capers.

I added water, layered the fish over whole potatoes — I left the skins on for that little bit of extra flavour and bite. No hard boiled eggs! I put two eggs in their shell into the pot, covered with water and simmered on low for half an hour.

I tasted. Not flavourful enough, but the fish didn’t dominant. I added the rest of the tomatoes, salt, two springs of fresh thyme and just a pinch of saffron

I bit into the fish first. The flavour transported my mind from my little kitchen in Japan into the eyes of that little boy looking up at apron strings and weathered hands. Moments like these are one of the pleasures of cooking.

I recall eating soups in huge, deep bowls with a piece of rustic bread floating on top. To stretch they added kale, cabbage, and lots of potatoes, but it was digging in to find the fish and pieces of hard boiled egg I remember best.

I recall eating soups in huge, deep bowls with a piece of rustic bread floating on top. To stretch they added kale, cabbage, and lots of potatoes, but it was digging in to find the fish and pieces of hard boiled egg I remember best.

Portuguese Cod Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Tier one — you must use

  • Dried cod hydrated overnight (if you’re using salted dried cod, you’ll need to change the water several times)
  • Potatoes (my aunts always peeled, but our generation has new traditions and ideas)
  • white wine (to your taste)
  • olive oil (to your taste)
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 – 3 cloves of crushed garlic (they provide a burst of flavour if ladled in your bowl)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 5 – 10 whole allspice and black pepper pods

Tier two — suggested

  • Parsley stems, thyme, marjoram (optional) to taste.
  • A leaf of kale

Tier three — optional

  • a pinch of saffron
  • cabbage (to stretch the soup and for flavour)
  • a slice of rustic bread (to float on top when serving)
  • olives and capers to your liking (a flavor option)

Method: Drizzle olive oil in the pan, add onion and garlic and sweat for five minutes — do not brown. Add tomatoes and cook until they stick to the bottom of the pan and the oil comes out (they glisten). Degrease with white wine and stir vigerously to loosen the caramelised bits and evaporate the wine. Add a little water to stop the cooking so you can layer potatoes, slices of hard boiled egg, olives, capers, fish. Add enough water to cover the fish. Put your spices in, bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes and taste. Adjust the seasonings.

Note: If you use the kale or cabbage, add it the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Sweet as you like, apple pie unlike any you know: Apple Pie Your Way

Foodies can be elitist. If your macaroon — or pasta, or x, or y, or z — isn’t exactly as so, it doesn’t count; so follow me they say, mine is The Way, the only way that’s right. That approach to food keeps people out of the kitchen. I’m going to show you what I mean by teaching you a different way to make Apple Pie Your Way. (The recipe is at the very bottom of this post.)

But first, what is Apple Pie?

The reasons why I can't have nice thighs.

The reasons why I can’t have nice thighs.

The universal ingredients are apples and crust, which I’ll call top tier. Often they’ll include sugar and a starch, like flour or corn starch, which I’ll call second tier. And sometimes flavourings, most commonly cinnamon, third tier.

To bake or not to bake?

Since crust is one of the two main components of apple pie, it’s important that it come out flakey, so for this pie I’m going to pre-bake the crust, waterproof it, the place a cooked filling into the shell.

We can talk about the mechanics of pastry here (with recipe and tutorial), but for now chose your crust. Mine is 3:1, white all purpose flour:butter. To achieve a golden brown color I add a one teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. I only pierce the bottom with the prongs of a fork so the side bulges and flakes even more. To prevent the bottom from rising during baking, I put a sheet of wax paper with cup of uncooked rice. I bake it in a hot oven for ten minutes, then remove the wax paper with rice and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it reaches the colour I want. I want to make sure the crust is waterproof, so at this point I have some options:

Mould the leftover scraps of pastry in a muffin tin.

Mould the leftover scraps of pastry in a muffin tin.

1) Whisk and egg white it a teaspoon of water and brush that over the inside of the hot crust and bake for five more minutes.

2) After the crust is cool, melt cocoa butter and brush it all over the inside of the crust. Inexpensive cocoa butter is better as it has no cocoa fragrance, but it must be cocoa butter because it melts at body temperature and will not affect the mouthfeel.

Place a sheet of wax paper with some rice to keep the shape.

Place a sheet of wax paper with some rice to keep the shape.

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3) Almonds are a perfect match for apples, so roll a sheet of marzipan as thin as you can and place it inside the shell of the cooled crust. The oil in the almonds will repeal the moisture in the apple filling.

Fillings

Standard apple pie fillings have you pour a mixture of peeled apples, sugar and flour into a raw pie shell and bake. But apples, even in the same variety, are different: Some have more juice, others take longer to cook — and sweetness varies. To make a fool-proof apple pie filling try making it on the stovetop. After the filling has cooled you can clearly see, and taste, what your pie will be like and adjust. Here’s how:

Peel, core, and slice four to eight apples and arrange them in a nonstick fry pan or skillet. (Peel and slice your apples so that one apple yields eight slices.) (you can also slice the apples into halves or quarters, if you like.) Taste a slice. Think about how tart the apples are and how sweet you want the finished pie to be then pour a measure of white sugar over and around the apples with several nobs of butter. A good starting point is 1/4 sugar per apple, which you can adjust later.

The top, sliced apples in a pan; the bottom, brown and white sugar over the apples.

The top, sliced apples in a pan.                                                                              The bottom, brown and white sugar over the apples.

Think of the flavour profile you’d like. A stick of cinnamon or a split pod of vanilla, either are a nice addition just before cooking, but not liquid extracts or alcohol which will evaporate

Cover the pan and turn the heat on low so that the juices in the apples release, liquifying the sugar, and cooking the apples. This will take between 30 minutes to one hour depending on the apples. (If you’ve never done this, every 15 minutes taste one of the apples to see how the flavours develop.)

As the apples start to become translucent uncover, taste and decide. Do you want the pie less sweet than it is? Then remove the apples and caramelise the sugar. Is the pie not sweet enough? Add more sugar, starting with 1/4 cups. (note: if you want to cut back on the calories but keep the sweetness use liquid stevia — always start with drops.) Add your flavourings, turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool.

Here, I've layered the cooked apples atop a thick layer of quince.

Here, I’ve layered the cooked apples atop a thick layer of quince.

In the morning arrange your filling in the pie and refrigerate. Congratulations! You’ve just made an Apple Pie Your Way.

I like crust to be flakey.

I like crust to be flakey.

Notice the crust.

Notice the crust.

This piece is after three days in the refrigerator. The crust is still flakey.

This piece is after four days in the refrigerator. The crust is still flakey.

Try serving it with creme fraise.

Recipe

Tier one: You must use

  • 4 – 8 large apples

Tier two: Suggested ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white sugar per apple (for a less sweet pie, or for caramel notes use 50% brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt

Tier three: Optional ingredients

Any one of the following flavour combinations personalises the finished product

  • 1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise (added at beginning of cooking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (added at the beginning of cooking)
  • marzipan to seal the crust, raisins and 1/4 cup Armangnac  (near the end of cooking)
  • raisins and 1/4 cup rum (near the end of cooking)
  • crushed praline, creme fraise, or whipped cream on top of the pie

Method:

Peel, core, slice the apples and place in a non-stick fry pan with the sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 – 60 minutes. Adjust sugar. Add third tier flavourings. Taste, adjust, taste again. Take off heat and let cool. When cool arrange in baked pie shell. Refrigerate.

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