Peach Crumble

My first food film! I find food to be gorgeous. The process of cooking is my biggest stress buster, my version of meditation- a relaxation technique. I love everything about cooking- the gorgeous colors, the variety of textures, even the mess that it creates in my kitchen. This is a film about me making a crumble with some nature made gorgeous peaches.

Directed, Photographed and Edited by Neha Deshmukh
Background Score: Ballerina Platform Shoes (Set In Sand Remix) by Origamibiro http://www.origamibiro.com/

Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: canon 24-70mm

Some shots from the film.

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Indian Butter Biscuits (Naankatai)

I have been super excited about baking new recipes in my tiny new OTG! I baked a semolina cake last week and this week i baked some Indian Biscuits called ‘Naankatais’, a favorite tea time snack of my family. We had never made naankhatais at home, just always bought from the store because they are so easily available. But I wanted to make them at home, just for fun, and they turned out (almost) better than the store bought biscuits! I received tons of compliments on my biscuits! And so, obviously, I had to put them on the blog!

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Use What?

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, sifted

3/4th cup caster sugar, sifted

1/2 cup melted Ghee (Indian butter)

1/4th teaspoon cardamom powder

1/4th teaspoon nutmeg powder

1-2 pinches of salt

1 teaspoon pistachio flakes

1 teaspoon pistachio flakes (optional)

Do what?

Preheat oven to 170 degree C.

Mix all the ingredients (except for the optional pistachios) to form a soft dough.

Roll the dough into soft balls of 1-1.5 inch diameter, and place them on a baking sheet.

Press the optional pistachio flakes on the top of the dough balls and bake for 30 minutes

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Tip: We (Me, my family and a lot of other Indians) love having these biscuits by dipping them in sweet chai!!

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Lemon Semolina Cake

…and I am back from a short hiatus. I baked this Lemon Semolina Cake a few weeks ago and I don’t have any words to express how awesome it was. I came across this recipe by Kim Coverdale on taste.com and the cake looked so good that I had to try it for myself. And believe me, it turned out exactly the way it looked in the pictures! The cake tasted like something I would eat in a Brooklyn coffee shop. It’s kind of a super easy and fail proof recipe. The only thing I did different from the original recipe was that I increased the quantities of butter and milk to increase the moisture in the cake as I wasn’t going to serve it with any kind of syrup.

Things to remember: All the ingredients should be at room temperature. I only made a small amount of batter (using 1 egg) for my 15 cm diameter baking pan, so double the quantity of all the ingredients if you are using a bigger pan.

All Images © Neha Deshmukh

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My mom’s recipe for Asian clams (shimplya). Spicy, coconuty, slightly sweet and tangy masala.

Wednesdays and Fridays  are for seafood, Sundays for meat and the remaining days of the week are reserved for vegetarian food. My family has been following this simple rule of thumb since I was a little kid, or may be since before i was born. It’s not just my family but a lot of Indians I know follow this pattern regularly. In Hinduism, each day of a week is dedicated to a particular god in the Hindu pantheon. Monday is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Tuesday is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Durga, Goddess Kali and Lord Hanuman, Thursday is dedicated to Lord Vishnu- hence meat-free food is consumed on these particular days of the week. Now, my family isn’t strictly religious, but the habit has stuck. I believe that this simple habit has been great in balancing out our diets (veggies + meat) evenly.

Yesterday, was a seafood day, and my mom had cooked Clams (Shimplya) for lunch. Clams are used widely in Konkani cooking. Konkan region is a rugged section of the western coastline of India which includes the district of Mumbai. The ‘coconuty clam masala’ is one of my mom’s specialties! The slightly dry coconut masala is hot, spicy, tangy, and sweet all at the same time.

While using clams for cooking, the clams are opened carefully and the soft meat inside the shell is used in a variety of dishes. Usually one of the two shells is kept intact as the shell works as a container for the masala that goes along with the flesh.

All Images © Neha Deshmukh

Recipe @ My Mom :)

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Shimplya (Clams)- Opening & Cleaning

The cleaning process of freshwater clams is a lot different from the cleaning process of mussels. Unlike mussels, clams don’t clean themselves when they are soaked in cold water. They have to be opened, and cleaned individually! Thats right, individually! I have to admit, this process can be time consuming and could be a ton of hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s very important that the clams are cleaned thoroughly from the inside or else the grit will be terribly unpleasant and will ruin the dish. The grit, a lot of times, won’t be in the shells, but will be in the bodies of the clams themselves. Sometimes, there will be tiny crabs inside the clams that would be have to discarded as well.

Here it goes…

Wash the clams under running water, clean all the sand that is stuck on the surface of the shells. Put the clams in a large dish so that they are all spread out. Then, put them in the deep freezer for 20-30 mins. After sitting in the freezer for about half hour the clams should start opening their mouths a little (all of the clams won’t open their mouths at the same time though). Insert a knife or a fork to open the rest of the clams and check if there is any sand inside. Once opened, only wash the clams that have any dirt in them, not all of the clams are going to be gritty and dirty. Washing the flesh unnecessarily will rid it of it’s taste.

Once you open the clams, you will see that the flesh will be sitting in one shell while the other shell will be almost empty. Break off the empty shell from the flesh filled shell, we won’t be using the empty shell. So at the end of the cleaning session we should end up with a bowlful of clean singular flesh filled shells ready to be used in our recipe. Beautiful!

The above explained cleaning process is what my family has been using since I can remember, and it’s been passed down from generations. I researched a little bit on the internet and a lot of articles recommend using either cornmeal or oatmeal in the purging water, but I have no idea if that works or not. Let me know if you have tried it. :)

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup opened clams
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1- 1.5 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1/2 inch long piece of ginger root- grated
  • 3 amsul pieces (dried kokum)
  • 1/4th teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • coriander leaves for garnishing

Preparation

  • Heat (low heat) oil  in a pot, add grated ginger root to the oil and stir instantly or else the grated ginger will stick to the base of the pot. Keep stirring the ginger for 10-15 secs till it’s color changes to nice roasty brown.
  • Now add the chopped onions to the pot, and stir. Let the onion cook for 10 minutes till it turns translucent and soft.
  • Add clams, red chili powder, turmeric, salt to the pot and saute for 5 mins (till the moisture in the pan almost dries up)
  • Mix in amsuls, coriander powder and coconut with the ingredients in the pot.
  • Cover and cook for 10 mins on low heat stirring often.
  • When done garnish with cilantro leaves.

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shimplya

So what do we have this with?

This recipe goes really well with chapati or simple dal and rice. Sometimes I like having this dish as an appetizer along side my beer :) The drink in the picture is lemonade with ice.

Gorgeous red cherries and almond cake

The last few weeks have been crazy busy. My sister and her family flew down to Mumbai from Singapore to visit us and we spent a lot of quality time together- which included laughing, giggling, gossiping, drinking, and indulging in some buttery not-so-healthy food. I kept feeling guilty at the back of my mind for not having posted anything on the blog, but then there was too much chaos around for me to get some work done. Also, I only get to meet my 7 year old nephew once every year, and that too only for a week. How could have I missed this golden opportunity of playing with him and spoiling him?

All Images © Neha Deshmukh

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Just a few days before my sister arrived, my dad bought some fresh cherries from the food market in my town. The color of the cherries was a breathtaking red. They glistened in the daylight as my mom washed them clean and dried them in a cotton cloth. Some cherries carried shades of saffron and crimson. Some, were a gorgeous deep red. They tasted sweet and juicy, like nature had decided to add a hint of honey to them before we tasted them. They were absolutely perfect and inspirational. I googled some fresh cherry recipes and decided to bake a fresh cherry and almond cake.

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Fresh Cherries and almond cake

Recipe from: bbcgoodfood.com

    • 150g golden caster sugar, plus a little more to sprinkle on top
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 125g butter, melted
    • 175ml Greek yogurt
    • 200g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 100g ground almonds
    • 250g fresh cherries, pitted and halved

Heat the oven to 180C. Mix the sugar, vanilla, egg, butter and yogurt together. Sift the flour, baking powder and almonds into a bowl (use a wide mesh sieve), add the liquid ingredients and mix quickly (don’t worry if the mix is lumpy), add the cherries and mix.

Now, I made a couple of changes in this step. The original recipe asked for using muffin tins but i used a baking dishes instead. I own cupcake moulds, but i don’t own any muffin tins. So the baking process itself was a bit of an experiment for me. I used two 7 inch long,  3 inch deep baking dishes and baked the cake until the crust was a nice golden brown and the inserted knife came out clean. The baking time according to the original recipe using the muffin tins was just 20 mins, my baking time ended up being 2 hours! Which, btw, got me a bit freaked out and i started wondering if i was doing something wrong. I am new to the baking world, but to my surprise the cake turned out pretty good. Phew!

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The cake was nice and soft on the inside and had a nice crusty texture on the outside, similar to muffins. The slightly bittersweet cherries complimented the sourness of the yogurt and the sweetness of the sugar in the cake. I loved the texture that was added by the ground almond. It was a very delicious cake and went very well with freshly brewed coffee. I will definitely try making this recipe again, next time though, I am going to use muffin tins instead of baking dishes and see how it turns out.

 

Mangoes out, monsoons in. Fire Roasted Corn on the Cob (bhutta), the perfect monsoon companion.

It’s pouring cats and dogs right now while I am writing this post. Like many Indians, I love monsoons as well. Monsoons mean the much needed relief from the crazy summer heat, the start of a new school year and new beginnings, colorful raincoats, the bottom of your pants soaked dead in water and charcoal roasted Bhuttas!

Bhutta- pronounced bhoo-ttah is hindi for corn. Roadside ‘bhuttas’ roasted over charcoal furnaces are extremely popular in India.Roadside food in India can be tricky, but roasted bhutta is pretty safe to consume as there is no water involved in the cooking. Raw corn ear is roasted over a charcoal furnace and rubbed with salt, pepper, lime juice, butter and is eaten while still hot.

This is a recipe for home cooked bhutta. In my house we roast corn cobs over the stove, the way we roast roti fulkas. I wish we could own a grill but the apartments in Bombay are so tiny that there is no place to keep one, hence stove is a substitute.

Ingredients and preparation

  • Strip the husks, fibres away from the top of the cob to the base. Discard the husks.
  • Roast the corn over an open flame or charcoal furnace till the corn ears look like in the photographs underneath.
  • Rub a 1/2 teaspoon butter, a pinch of salt, a pinch of pepper and some lemon on the hot corn.
  • Sprinkle cilantro for garnish (optional) and serve hot.

How to check whether the raw corn is fresh.

Pierce one or two kernels on the cob. They should pierce easy and almost feel like a tiny burst of moisture. And the juice coming out of the corn should ideally be milky. The silk fibers at the top of a fresh corn are usually golden brown and slightly sticky. The stem of fresh corn is usually creamish yellow in color with no bruises. Hope this helps :)

All Images © Neha Deshmukh

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Banana almond milk ice cream topped with caramelized almonds & honey (Vegan)

Every year the Indian summer brings with itself memories of my childhood- school holidays combined with hot afternoons of dry winds; dark monsoon clouds slowly making their appearance into the otherwise clear skies; the afternoon-bollywood-movie sessions along with my mom and my older sister while enjoying a bowlful of homemade ice-cream!

That particular friday afternoon felt like a dog eared page from one of my memory books- filled with nostalgia and meant to be relived. So i headed off on an impromptu “i have to make some ice-cream asap” mission. I had some leftover homemade almond milk in my fridge, I googled ‘easy almond milk ice-cream recipes’ and pop! Gweneth Paltrow’s Banana ‘ice-cream’ recipe showed up.

The recipe is super simple and easy to make and only takes a couple of hours to get done if you have all the ingredients at home. The quotation marks on the word ice-cream in the original recipe though make a lot of sense, since it really is more of a substitute for an ice-cream.

Also, I had made the almond milk myself at home!! Why? Because it is so much fun! I had no idea how easy it is to make almond milk at home, and when i did discover it’s simplicity I had to try it out for myself! :)

Quick Tips and Thoughts before I get into the recipe

  • Most almond milk recipes found on the internet don’t recommend removing the almond skins before they are ground in the blender, but i found that the skins add a tiny bit of a pungent odor to the milk. I am very sensitive to smells and the odor kept bothering me. I tried making some milk without the skins on and I thought that it tasted and smelled fresh for a longer time.
  • I used butter in the topping because I love love love butter! But you don’t have to if you don’t have to.
  • Though i did like how the original recipe tastes, i made a few tweaks to it in order to fit my taste. eg- I added some sugar and some more milk to it as the ‘ice-cream’ turned out too banana smoothie-ish for my taste. So I would recommend you to taste the mixture before you put it in the freezer, see if it fits your taste :)

You will have to scroll all the way down for the recipe ;)

All Images © Neha Deshmukh

Recipe- Gweneth Paltrow, in NYT

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ROASTED ALMONDS WITH MAPLE SYRUP TOPPING

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons crushed dry almonds
  • 3 tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preparation

  • Heat butter in a pan.
  • When the butter starts to sizzle add crushed almonds and stir and roast for 3-4 minutes.
  • Stir in the maple syrup and heat the mixture for another minute or two.
  • Take it off the heat and let it cool down to room temperature so that it gets crunchy.

BANANA ‘ICE-CREAM’

Ingredients

  • 6 small bananas (ripe yellow ones that we call “velchi” bananas)
  • 350ml unsweetened almond milk (homemade or store bought)
  • 4-5 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 pinches of salt (to push the flavor of the sugar)

Preparation

  • Freeze the banana slices in a single layer on a tray or plate lined with parchment or wax paper.
  • Combine the frozen banana slices, the almond milk, sugar, salt and the vanilla essence in a blender and blend. Now taste the mixture to see if it’s sweet enough etc.
  • Transfer the mixture into a glass bowl and put it in the freezer. Let it sit in the freezer for two to three hours then stir the mixture. Put the mixture back in the freezer for another two hours and then stir again. Repeat this step a few more times in order to get that ice-creamy texture without the use of an ice-cream maker.
  • Once done, scoop it out into bowls and top it off with roasted almonds topping and a drizzle of organic honey.

ALMOND MILK

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups water, plus more for soaking

Preparation

  • Soak the almonds overnight in a bowlful of water.
  • Drain the almonds from their soaking water and rinse them thoroughly under running water.
  • De-skin the almonds and grind them with 2 cups of water to form a creamy paste in the blender.
  • Line a strainer with a cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Pour the almond paste into the strainer.
  • Gather the cheese cloth around the almond meal and twist close. Squeeze and press with clean hands to extract as much almond milk as possible.