salted roasted figs and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig cardamom ice cream

One of the hardest parts about moving this year, was having to leave my fig trees behind. My brown turkey fig tree had just begun fruiting last year and I was so excited (and I treated it like a child). A bunch of questions kept circling through my head, will the new people keep the tree and take care of it? Will the tree fruit plenty? Finally, last weekend, we took a quick trip to the nursery and I picked up a new black mission fig tree, a Meyer lemon tree and a Moro blood orange tree. Except for the fig tree, I haven't had much experience growing the others so I'm hoping they take off and I get some fruit. The lemon tree came with a several lemons so I'm not too worried but I hope the other two don't take too long to produce. I'm not planning on starting my own farmer's stand anytime soon but I'm a little impatient when it comes to my homegrown produce!

california black mission figs

I love fresh figs, they are fat and juicy and sweet like nectar when ripe. Every fig season, I make it a point to eat some on a weekly basis whenever possible. We had a couple of hot days this past week and I found another excuse to make some ice cream. I decided to use cardamom for the base because the spice has a wonderful cooling fragrant taste. Also, cardamom is to Indian cooking what vanilla is to Western cuisine when it comes to desserts, though I should add that Indian cuisine also uses this great spice to season meats and vegetables in dishes.

roasted salted fig and cardamom ice cream

If you never tried oven roasting slices of figs then you should give it a shot. For this recipe, I've lightly roasted the figs just enough to caramelize the sugars and drive out some of the moisture from the figs. The light dash of salt contrasts against the sweetness of the figs and cardamom ice cream which makes every bite wonderful. This ice cream is seriously amazing and if you're looking to make something fancy for a party or event, this is one ice cream that will impress.

Note: If you can't find Maldon sea salt flakes, use a good quality brand of sea salt crystals just make sure the crystals aren't huge as it will be overwhelming to taste. You can break the crystals using a mortar and pestle and then sprinkle them.

black mission figs
salted roasted figs  and cardamom ice cream

roasted salted fig ice cream

yields: 1 generous quart

ingredients 

12 black mission figs, ripe
1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes or kosher sea salt crystals
2 cups whole milk + 4 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground 
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) raw sugar
2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Wash the figs, wipe the dry with a clean paper towel or kitchen cloth. Trim the tops and bottoms of each fig and then slice them lengthwise into 4 sections. Place the individual figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle the salt flakes over the figs (it's fine if you don't salt all the fig sections) and bake them for about 10 minutes in the oven or until the figs begin to caramelize and turn slightly golden brown at the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet. Refrigerate the figs on the baking sheet until completely chilled. If the baking sheet doesn't fit in the refrigerator transfer them to a smaller plate but keep them individually separate.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, cardamom, and sugar on a medium-high flame. Stir to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil. Whisk the 4 tablespoons of milk and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add it to the boiling mix. Whisk immediately and continue to stir for about 3-4 minutes until the milk begins to thicken. It will acquire a custard like consistency and should coat the back of a spoon. Remove from stove and allow the ice cream to cool for about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the ice cream base to an airtight gallon ziploc bag and seal. Place the bag in an ice water bath and allow to chill completely for about 30 minutes. Transfer the chilled ice cream to your prepared frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn for about 30 minutes until the ice cream has formed. Alternatively, follow the instructions given by your ice cream maker's manufacturers. 
4. Transfer half of the ice cream into a freezer safe container (preferably airtight). Layer with half of the chilled roasted salted fig sections and then layer with the rest of the ice cream. Layer the top of the ice cream with the rest of the fig sections. Cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment paper and press gently. Freeze the ice cream for about 4 hrs or overnight before serving.

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake

berry lime cardamom cake

There are things that I have learned that I do as a blogger that normal people don't. For example, baking yourself a cake and then trying to figure out if it's more birthday, spring or Easter appropriate for the blog. You see April is my birthday month (though my birthday falls at the very end of the month) and this year it falls on one of the solar eclipses (perhaps it might mean something), Easter too tends to bounce around the calendar every year, so I fell into the blogging dilemma of when to make the cake and when to share it on the blog. The only thing I was surely certain of, was making it! Last year I made myself chocolate butter cookies but this year I wanted a big fat cake full of berries, I should rephrase that, I mean't to say LOADED with berries! 

a dozen eggs

I love angel food cakes because they are so airy and light yet so soft and spongy. I zested a couple of green limes into the batter and tossed in some ground green cardamom. Instead of a frosting, I slapped the cake layers with an extra generous amount of lightly sweetened Greek yogurt and stuffed the cake with fresh strawberries and blueberries.

cornflour

This is not a very sweet cake but when you taste the yogurt and the cake together, the yogurt brings out the sweetness of the cake and the fresh flavors of the lime, cardamom and berries. I'm very happy with this cake, it's a little less guilt-free and makes deliciously light dessert. Needless to say, to balance things out, I cut myself a huge fat chunk and ate  devoured it! So here's to happy spring, birthdays, Easter and celebrations of all sorts and for that matter any reason.

lime zest and meringue 

I adapted the angel food cake recipe from Great Cakes by Carole Walter.

Note: When sifting flour, I recommend taking out a leveled cup of the flour, then sifting it and remeasuring the sifted flour. You can store the extra bit that's left behind. Also, with the strawberries and blueberries, you can use less and I indeed did have fruit left behind after I put the cake together. Feel free to play around with the amounts of the berries. You might notice, that I've used cornstarch/cornflour here to make my own cake flour and yes, this kitchen hack indeed does work!

berry lime cardamom spring cake

These are some of the delicious and beautiful spring recipes and blogs that I'm definitely gearing up to try out from my fellow bloggers;
  • Sini of My Blue and White Kitchen made her version of Finnish Raspberry Meade that looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous.  I might need a few pitchers, just saying!
  • I came across a new blog called Kiss My Spatula and I've fallen in love with the rich and colorful photography. 
  • The talented duo, Alex and Sonja at A Couple Cooks made these Ricotta Scrambled Egg and Asparagus Tacos that looks perfect for a spring brunch.
  • One of my favorite inspirational bloggers, Linda of The Tart Tart made some amazing Black Sesame Macarons that I really, really want to taste!
  • Imen has a Rhubarb and Rosemary Syllabub with Poitin up on the Farmette. It's no secret that I love farms and I'm adore the photographs she shares of her family farm on Instagram because it reminds me of M's parents' farm in Virginia. 
lime berry cardamom cake

berry, lime and cardamom spring cake 

yields: 6-8 servings / one 10 inch diameter angel food cake

ingredients 

32 ounces plain non-fat/ low-fat greek yogurt
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sifted flour 
2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 1/2 cups fine sugar
1 1/2 cups (15 3/4 ounces) 12 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
3 limes
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) confectioners sugar
32 ounces strawberries, rinsed, drained, hulled and sliced in half 
6 ounces blueberries, rinsed and drained

1. Place the greek yogurt in a colander or sieve pre lined with a piece of clean cheese cloth or a kitchen towel over a large bowl. Allow the yogurt to drain in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours and discard any whey the collects in the bowl. Reserve the yogurt until ready to use.
2. Place a wire rack in the lower-third of the oven and preheat to 375F.  Take a 10 inch diameter angel food pan, trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper to line the base of the pan. There is no need to grease the pan. Keep the prepared pan aside until ready.
3. Sift the pre-sifted flour, cornflour and 1/2 cup of the sugar three times on to a sheet of parchment paper and keep aside.
4. Place the egg whites and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes or until the eggs get frothy. Stop the mixer and add the cream of tartar, salt, and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Whisk until the mixture begins to form soft peaks (ripples should form in the foam at this stage). At this stage, add the freshly grated zest of two limes and the ground cardamom and whisk for another minute .  Add 1 cup of the sugar, two tablespoons at a time from the side of the bowl and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes in total time. Remove the bowl from the mixer and transfer any of the white meringue mixture and lime zest bits that might have collected onto the whisk, back into the bowl. 
5. Sift 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients from step 2 onto the egg whites and using a large wire whisk and carefully fold the dry ingredients into the meringue. Do not overmix or stir the batter as it will deflate. 
6. Using a rubber spatula, carefully transfer and push the batter into the prepared cake pan. Gently press the cake batter with a clean tablespoon and flatten the top surface. Finally, run a knife along the edges of the pan in a circle to remove any trapped air bubbles and once again smoothen the surface with the tablespoon. 
7. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake is soft and springy to touch and becomes golden brown. Avoid over baking the cake or it will deflate. Spray a wire rack with a little non stick spray and then once the cake is done, immediately invert the cake onto the wire rack. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan. Once the cake has cooled, run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan and around the inner tube to loosen it. Transfer the cake on to a cake rack and remove the pan. Peel and discard the parchment paper from the top of the cake and discard. 
8. To prepare the yogurt "frosting", place the drained yogurt in a large mixing bowl, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Whisk the yogurt until the sugar is completely blended. 
9. To assemble the cake: Slice the cake in half using a sharp serrated bread knife. Remove the upper layer and keep aside. Spread a generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt on the lower half and place the sliced strawberries with the bottom surface onto the yogurt. Scatter some of the blueberries in the space between the yogurt. Layer the berries with another generous 1/2 cup of the yogurt and place and align the upper half of the angel cake on top. Layer the top of the cake with a generous amount 1/2 cup of the yogurt and fill the hollow center of the cake with the rest of the yogurt. Layer the top of the cake with some of the strawberries and blueberries and fill the hollow center with the rest of the fruit as desired. Just before serving the cake zest the last lime over the cake. Store the cake in the refrigerator. This cake is best eaten the day it is prepared but you can make the angel cake a day in advance and assemble the cake the following day.

turmeric spice-seed almond cookies

turmeric spice seed almond cookies gf

My earliest memory of cookies are not fond ones. I blame it all on my kindergarten "Sports Day" (aka worst time of the school year) where we'd have to run across the field and pick up a cookie off a bench, eat it and then run back to the other bench and eat another one, the vicious cycle would continue a couple of times, I can't remember for how long but I think it was long enough! It was something I dreaded (I was a very lazy kid) and worst of all the cookies were not at all tasty. Now, come to think about it, I don't think it made that much sense, run and eat a cookie, No, No, No! Thankfully, I don't run across any fields for cookies but I will definitely run to the kitchen to whip some up.

almond cookie spices

My grandmother would get a dozen or more cookies that were lightly spiced and flavored with fennel and cardamom. They were fat, round and fragrant with the aromatic spices that were blended into the dough. This is my take on those cookies she had happily pick up from her baker.

I take great pride in my heritage and love infusing the flavors of Indian cuisine in everyday cooking. These cookies are extra special because they also bring back wonderful memories with my late grandmother from whom I have watched and learned to cook from. I made these cookies with Bob's Red Mill almond meal/flour and then added some turmeric for color and a whole buncha seeds for flavor and spice. These cookies are deliciously crisp and thin, flavored with fennel, flax and poppy seeds and colored with turmeric. But there's also a delicate hint of black pepper for that extra amazing little kick. 

I had a really hard time trying to come up with a name for these almond cookies. The turmeric kept hinting at "Golden cookies" but I kept debating with myself, I finally settled for something a little less glamorous but hopefully does it justice. Either way, I hope you love the cookies as much as I do! 

turmeric spice seed almond cookies in can

I used Bob's Red Mill Almond flour in these cookies and the cookies turned out perfect. The flour has fine grains making it easy to work with. The folks at Bob's Red Mill are sponsoring a giveaway for one lucky winner, all you need to do is go to the Rafflecopter widget and follow the instructions. 

You can win a bag of their delicious Almond meal flour and a $20 gift card to their store. So go ahead enter and best of luck!!!

This contest will run from April 4th through April 12, 2014.

Disclaimer:

 I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions are my own unless stated otherwise.

turmeric spiced seed almond gf cookies

turmeric spice-seed almond cookies

yields:

30-34 cookies

ingredients

1 1/2 cups (5 1/8 ounces) almond flour (Bob's Red Mill)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 cup (7 5/8 ounces) sugar 

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons flax seeds

2 teaspoon poppy seeds

1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 large egg

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients from the almond flour to the black pepper with a whisk until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.

2. Whisk the egg lightly in a small bowl. Fold the egg into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until completely combined. Bring the dough together into a ball, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before baking.

3. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. 

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and take a generous teaspoon of the dough, mould it into a small ball with the palms of your hand and place it on the baking sheet. Bake 9 cookie dough balls at a time and space them around 2 inches apart from each other, for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. The cookies will rise during baking and eventually flatten. Once baked, allow the cookies to rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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masala chai ice cream

masala chai ice cream

A chai flavored ice cream post is way overdue here. For one, I love making frozen desserts and two, I'm a huge chai drinker. Actually, I drink some sort of tea every day, even if it isn't chai. Tea is calming and soothing and yes, delicious! There are so many things one can do with tea and with the wide array of flavors that keep coming out, I'm almost overwhelmed at times if I can even keep up. So instead of going too crazy, I'm sharing a simple and trusted way to make a chai ice cream.

chai prep

I infused the chai with the spices (masala), crushed green cardamom seeds and freshly grated ginger root. Of course, you can spice the chai with additional spices like I did in my Masala Chai Apple Cake but I added the masala (spices) to the chai just the way my mom does, her two special ingredients and nothing else. It made me a little nostalgic and brought back memories of drinking cups of hot tea while I dipped cookies into the fragrant hot milky brown liquid and watched my evening cartoon shows on the Cartoon Network. These days things are a little different, I normally just drink the tea and do the cookie thing occasionally, still watch tv, no cartoons though.

chai ice cream

I've adapted the basic ice cream recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. Also, just a little note here, I normally don't make chai with that much tea leaves in that small volume of water, I was going for a more concentrated flavor and did a reduction because the flavors and taste would ultimately get balanced and diluted out by the ice cream base. 

masala chai ice cream ginger cardamom

Here are some of my favorite posts that I drooled over this week,
  • Kimberly of The Year in Food made some amazing Cajun-spiced Sweet Potato Burgers that I need to make soon. 
  • Jennifer of Savory Simple made the most picture perfect fan-shaped gyoza stuffed with mushrooms. 
  • Marta of What Should I Eat for Breakfast made these killer green sandwiches that are topped with greens, pine nuts, cheese and poached eggs. How can you say no to that!  
  • Ashlae of Oh Ladycakes has quickly become one of my favorite vegan bakers, her dreamy raw citrus cakes are self-explanatory.
masala chai tea ice cream

masala chai ice cream

yields: 1 generous quart

ingredients

3/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons black tea leaves (Darjeeling tea - I specifically used orange pekoe) 
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons
1 1/4 cup half and half
2/3 cup (5 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon kosher sea salt
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cream cheese

1. Add the water, cardamom and grated ginger to a small saucepan and bring to a boil on a medium-high flame. When the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves and reduce the flame to medium-low. Allow the water to boil for another 2 minutes, remove from stove and strain the liquid to remove the solids. Transfer the tea liquid back into the saucepan and reduce the volume to a little less than 1/4 cup by boiling the liquid on a medium-high flame. Remove the liquid from the stove and keep aside until ready to use.
2. Mix the cornstarch with the two tablespoons of milk to form a slurry and keep aside until ready to use. In a large thick bottomed saucepan, add the reduced 1/4 cup of tea from step 1, the 2 cups of milk, half and half, sugar and honey and heat on a medium-high flame. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and cook for 4 minutes with stirring. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and quickly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the hot liquid.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook with constant stirring until the mixture thickens, this will take approximately 1 minute.
3. Place the sea salt and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl and whisk lightly until smooth. Add a little bit of the hot milk liquid from the saucepan and whisk lightly until smooth. Add the rest of the hot milk and whisk until the ice cream base is completely smooth. 
4. Transfer the hot liquid into a 1-gallon ziploc freezer bag, seal airtight and place in an ice cold water bath. Allow to chill for 30 minutes or until ice cold. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker and churn the ice cream for about 30 minutes or until the ice cream has come together and begins to come off from the sides of the canister. (Alternatively, follow the instructions of your particular brand of ice cream maker).  Transfer the frozen ice cream into a freezer safe container and layer the top of the ice cream with a piece of parchment paper, press gently to remove any trapped air bubbles and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

cardamom turmeric chia seed pudding

cardamom turmeric chia seed pudding

How much chia pudding can I eat? Clearly, as last week would indicate, a whole lot. Let's just say this pudding was made twice, once to test and the second time to confirm. I'll be honest, I love, love , love chia for its texture in liquids, however, the health benefits are always the last thing on my mind when I gorge on chia puddings. I'm simply just thinking about my spoon being full! 

turmeric chia seeds

Cardamom and rose water are probably one of the two most common ingredients used in Indian desserts and I have a particular fondness for both since they remind me of all my favorite childhood desserts. Chia too, occupies a special place in my food memories as it is commonly used in an Indian rose flavored milk drink called falooda. This particular chia pudding recipe combines all of those delicious flavors that I love with a hint of turmeric. There are two ways to gorge eat this pudding, raw or boiled turmeric, either way it is delicious and soothing and comforting. You can eat this for breakfast or serve it as a light chilled dessert after a heavy meal, just make sure the spoon is large enough to scoop a big bite, every time. 

cardamom and turmeric chia seed pudding

I love spending a few minutes of my day reading other food blogs and sites, these people inspire and teach me and also make me very hungry. Here are some of my favorite recent reads that I wanted to share with you; 
  • Izzy from Top with Cinnamon shared this amazing Coconut Milk Ice Cream that's adorned with a beautiful green pistachio crumble.
  • I recently discovered Sini of My Blue and White Kitchen where she shared a Pulla/Swedish Cardamom-Spiced Sweet Bun recipe. She put cardamom in it so don't think I need to explain why I love this so much.
  • Phi of Princess Tofu made this spectacular Wild Onion and Stinging Nettle Soup, she also taught me a wonderful new hashtag for artichokes.
vegan cardamom turmeric chia seed pudding

cardamom turmeric chia seed pudding

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup water (optional, see Note in step1)
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom, freshly ground
3 tablespoons sugar (adjust as desired)
4 cups almond milk, unsweetened
1 tablespoon rose water

1. Mix the turmeric and water in a small saucepan and heat on a medium-low flame for 2 minutes or until the water begins to just boil. Remove from stove and allow to cool. OR 
Note: You can also make the raw version of this pudding by skipping the heating step completely. Mix the turmeric in water and then proceed to step 2.
2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the turmeric water and the rest of the ingredients. Transfer the contents to a container with a lid, cover with lid and refrigerate overnight. Stir the pudding before serving and serve chilled.

rose petal and saffron ice cream

rose petal and saffron ice cream

Perhaps the hardest challenge of adulthood is attempting something you should have done during your childhood. This is how I feel about camping, I should have tried it as a kid so I could have been acclimated by now. Last weekend, a friend of mine was to cross his thirtieth year and being an avid camper, he asked a bunch of us to spend the weekend camping up in the mountains of West Virginia. I love the outdoors and nature so I was excited about that portion but not so enthusiastic about the parts related to personal hygiene (which I partially blame on getting my undergraduate degree in microbiology, it's made me a germ-o-phobe!). Consequently, I had my fears and I packed my bags with all sorts of antibacterial agents and bug sprays in my battle kit. When we reached our destination, the campgrounds were beautiful and we were right next to the river, I avoided the bugs and they avoided me, though some of my friends were not so lucky. Our tent was huge, with a little pseudo patio area  in the front and we had enough room to arrange our clothes neatly on one side (OCD craziness). The bathrooms were clean and the only thing I envied and highly missed was my treasured and now highly appreciated and valued daily showers. After "roughing it out" and doing all the crazy insane things that come with camping, I have to admit that my initial fears have been allayed and I can safely say that I would try it again (I'll still prefer a campsite with heated water amenities and clean bathrooms). But for now, I am going to go and check that important life experience off my list!

trickling

Now moving from the mountains of West Virginia and back to the streets of DC! I like to support our growing local  DC food scene which not only has several new eateries and restaurants but also a number of market spots that focus on and promote the use of local seasonal produce and dairy from the neighboring farms. One such place in the D.C. food scene is Union Market. Often on weekends, we drive down  to grab a quick bite at the many different fun food stations/restaurants and will also pick up our groceries. Over time our favorite booth has become the amazing dairy store run by the folks from the Trickling Springs Creamery that's based in the heart of Amish country around the DC region where they source their milk from local family farms. The first time we walked into their booth, we each got a scoop of their grape nut ice cream that was deliciously soft and creamy! Ever since then I migrated to using their dairy products at home. Their milk is fresh with that mild natural sweetness that made us both avid fans at home, so much so that if I don't have time to go down to Union Market, I'll run by our local Whole Foods (who also carry their dairy products) to pick up their milk. Plus they also offer an opportunity to recycle glass bottles which is such a rarity these days! Trickling Springs Creamery uses a special low-temperature small-batch pasteurization process to retain not only the high quality of their milk but also the benefits of the natural proteins and enzymes present in milk. Seriously, if there is anytime the freshness and high quality of milk is necessitated, it is in frozen dessert recipes such as ice creams and kulfis.

rose syrup

I know another frozen dessert recipe back-to-back but I felt compelled to share this recipe with you sooner than later. It's hot and humid and this ice cream fits in perfectly with the weather. It's rich and creamy yet soft and delicious with the scent of cardamom and yellow tint of saffron. But it's the fragrance of the rose petals and the lemon-rose syrup that make it so special and fitting for summer. I've used Gulkhand or Indian candied rose-petal preserves several times before to make cookies and cakes. You can find gulkhand and rose syrups at Amazon and in almost any Indian or Middle Eastern store (for the different varieties of rose syrups, I have previously listed the brands  that I've used here and they are available from Amazon).

icecreamprep

rose petal and saffron ice cream 

yields: 16 medium sized-scoops

ingredients

1 quart or 4 cups whole milk 
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/4 cup gulkhand (candied rose petals)
4 tablespoons rose water
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, strained to remove pulp 
1/4 cup rose syrup

1. In a thick bottomed saucepan, bring 3 cups of the milk and sugar to a boil on medium-high flame. Immediately reduce to a gentle simmer, add the saffron and ground cardamom and continue to cook with constant stirring until the milk reduces to 2 cups. This should take approximately 25-30 minutes. Just be careful to avoid scalding the milk.
2. Whisk the cornflour into the reserved one cup of milk (make sure there are no lumps) and pour it into the hot milk in the saucepan and bring the milk to a boil again. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook with constant stirring for another 10 minutes. At this point the milk should be thick with a custard consistency. 
3. Remove the milk from the burner. Fold in the gulkhand, rose water and heavy cream. Transfer to a glass bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. 
4. Pour the ice cream liquid into your ice cream maker and proceed as per your manufacturer's instructions (I used the Cusinart ICE-30BC ice cream maker for 25 minutes). Transfer the ice cream into a clean freezer proof dish and allow it to firm for at least 4-6 hours before serving.
4. Whisk the lemon juice and rose syrup together in a small bowl. Before serving, top each scoop of the ice-cream with the lemon-rose syrup as needed. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any financial compensation for this product and all opinions stated here are my own.

mango kulfi

Easy Mango Kulfi

My grandparents had a house in Goa on the West Coast of India that was located in an historic part of the capital city, Panjim (now known as Panaji). Practically every summer, the entire family including my grandparents, would take a trip down where we'd spend a couple of weeks by the ocean and relax in the warm sunny weather. The house was old, large and at times dark, which scared me a little but there were so many fun moments. I remember every morning, waking up to the sound of the horns and then running out out on to the tall balcony to see if I could stretch up to see the incoming ships that stopped at the dock. I remember my mom showing and explaining to me some of the antique china and  pieces of furniture (a big round white marble table with huge wooden legs, that I would love to own today) that had been collected over the years, of course at that time I displayed very little interest in these things (now it's a whole different level of fascination when it comes to antiques). There was a stack of paper, so old (I vaguely remember seeing a watermark imprint of the British Royal Family on it) and delicate that every time you tried to handle a sheet, it would crack and break (breaking rather than ripping paper was a strange and fascinating concept back thn to a kid back then). 

mangoes

The things that were much more fun to a ten year old back then, were the steep staircase at the back, the deep well (that was off-limits) and the garden that were enclosed at the back of the house. I remember the coconut, jackfruit and mango trees that adorned the garden and every summer we would eagerly await our bounty. My grandfather would hire someone to come and pick the fruit out and we would sit and watch with eager anticipation. For me, it was mostly the mangoes, they were sweet and juicy and delicious. 

mangoes and kulfi

I have not been back in more than a decade. The house has long since been sold, demolished and the ground now stands home to a large condominium/shopping mall but some of the memories are still stored up here in my head. This summer, the new boat has brought back some of those early childhood memories by the ocean and along with it a strong craving for mangoes. Last weekend, I decided to whip up some of the memories and freeze them in this kulfi recipe. I hesitate on calling kulfi an Indian ice-cream (thought it is described sometimes as such) because it is very different, it traditionally uses less fat and lacks eggs or corn starch as thickening agent when compared to a typical ice-cream. It also has a unique texture of its own, it is creamy yet not soft but firm with a very mild grainy texture that comes from the ground almond meal. Yet it is so simple to prepare but still so complex in flavors and textures that it remains a very popular frozen dessert in Indian cuisine during the hot summer months. I used freezer-safe cappuccino cups to set the kulfi but you can use the traditional kulfi molds (which you can find online or at your local Indian food store) or small conical tea cups or even popsicles molds. 

mango kulfi

India has several different varieties of mangoes and they are sweeter and much more flavorful than any other mango that I have tasted from elsewhere. The Alphonso variety are one of the sweetest, there are others that are simply not eaten by scooping out the flesh but rather sucked out because their meat is sweet but their texture too stringy to chew on. If you every get the opportunity to visit the Indian west coast during summer, I highly recommend trying one of the many mango varieties of the local region. When buying mangoes, press them gently they should be soft but not mushy. They should also give off a sweet fruity smell and the skin should be as yellow as possible with absolutely (preferably) no traces of green color. 

mangoes and kulfi1

mango kulfi

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1 quart or 4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands, ground
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 pint heavy cream, chilled
1 cup fresh ripe mango puree (I used Champagne mangoes but if you can try to use a much more sweeter and flavorful Indian variety like the Alphonso) 
a little fresh mango pulp, diced for garnishing

1. Bring the milk and sugar to a boil in a thick-bottomed saucepan, stir constantly with a silicone spatula to prevent the milk from scalding. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and add the honey. Continue to stir the milk and simmer for another 20-25 minutes until it reduces to approximately 3 cups. 
2. Stir in the saffron and cardamom and once again bring the milk to a boil.  Continue to stir and fold in the almond meal. Boil for 2-3 minutes and remove from the stove. 
3. Fold in the cream and mango puree.  Cool the mixture to room temperature. Pour into freezer-safe cappuccino cups (or kulfi molds). Cover the open end with cling film and freeze for at least 10-12 hours to firm. 4. Before serving, place the frozen mold into a warm water bath or running hot water from a faucet to release the kulfi from the mold. Stick a knife into the center of the kulfi (not all the way through, just deep enough to help you maneuver the kulfi) and rotate the kulfi to get it out of the mold. Garnish with freshly diced mango fruit pieces. 

cardamom and saffron olive oil pound cake

Cardamom and Saffron Olive Oil Pound Cake

Happy belated Easter everyone and I hope y'all had a good long holiday weekend. Instead of hosting an  Easter Sunday brunch I chose to host a dinner for the premiere of the third season of my favorite book/tv show Game of Thrones. Needless to say, there was plenty of food to represent the seven kingdoms though I might have overestimated on the amount of food this time. Still, leftovers are great because you get a couple of days off from cooking during the week and I am using the extra time to catch up with reading or any other activity that has been in desperate need of my attention. 

Eggs

I baked an olive oil pound cake for the dinner along with a few other desserts. This is a very simple cake recipe, the cake crumb is moist while the texture is light and airy. That is exactly the way I like my slice of pound cake, of course with a hot cup of tea or coffee. Pound cakes are what I think of when people say a rustic everyday cake or dessert. Though they were originally invented to clean up the pantry (equal quantities of flour, eggs, and sugar; hence the name "pound") they have come a long way and have become a lot more interesting. 

Olive oil and Eggs

I find olive oil pound cakes to be a little more fascinating than the butter based versions because the oil affords a lot more flexibility if you want to get adventurous with flavors. It's a good and heavenly marriage of flavors! A little bit of an herb or a spice seasoning can go a long way with olive oil and this remains true for most olive oil based cakes. This cake also has a slight nutty flavor from ground almond meal and uses skim milk (you can go with whole milk, if you prefer) This version of the pound cake, also uses a sprinkling of freshly ground green cardamom pod seeds and a pinch of saffron strands. The light fragrance of the freshly ground cardamom brings a sweet flavor to the cake while the saffron brightens the color of the yolks in the cake. What could be more wonderful than something so simple and delicious for an everyday cake. Of course you can skip the cardamom and saffron and add your own flavors. Feel free to experiment with other combinations, I've made this cake before with sage/rosemary and crystallized ginger bits just like my cookies.

Cracked Egg and Pound Cake1
Cooling Pound Cake

cardamom and saffron olive oil pound cake

servings : 2 cake loaves, about 20 slices

ingredients

a little olive oil for greasing loaf pans
2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom seeds
a pinch of saffron
5 cold large eggs
1 cup low-fat or skim milk
2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling on the surface of the cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and then grease with a little olive oil. 
2. Sift the flour, almond meal, and baking soda. Return any bits of almond meal that might remain in the sieve back to the flour mix. 
3. In a stand mixer, attach the paddle and beat the sugar, salt, olive oil, cardamom and saffron in the mixing bowl until smooth. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the entire batter becomes creamy and light yellow in color. 
4. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and beat until completely blended. Pour in the milk and the rest of the flour mix and beat until completely blended. 
5. Pour and divide the batter into the two prepared loaf pans. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the centers are firm or until a bamboo skewer or knife comes out clean from the center. Sprinkle the extra sugar on the top surface of each cake and put the tins back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in their pans. Slide a knife around the edges of the cake to release it and transfer it to a wire rack to cool. Slice the cakes with a sharp serrated knife at room temperature.

saffron and almond filmjólk

yogurt drink

Last week, I fell in love twice. Yes twice, the delicious first time happened when I sat down to eat at Little Serow. Even if you have to wait in a line to be seated (they only seat a few people every day and don't take reservations), it is every bit, well worth the wait. The restaurant's menu is inspired by northern Thai cuisine and every dish is a wonderful delight. The menu is fixed and every plate really does lives up to its expectation of being an explosion of flavors that will transport you to a delicious plane of spice, heat, and textures. We had a continuous supply of fresh crisp vegetables and sticky rice to go with our unique dishes that included a diverse variety of meats from fish (catfish and snakehead fish), chicken, and pork cooked. I am really not surprised that Chef Johnny Monis' Little Serow made it to Bon Appetit's America's Best New Restaurants in 2012. If you are ever in the Washington D.C. area, do try and make some time to visit this amazing treat in the city. Since I've learned that the menu changes often, it might have to become a monthly staple on my calendar!

Saffron Strands

Now on to my second love! I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of yogurts and I always make it a point to try some sort of new type of yogurt. I recently came across this amazing brand of Swedish yogurt called  Filmjólk by Siggi. According to the description on the bottle and the website, filmjólk is a traditional drinkable yogurt with a blend of different types of lactobaccilli. I love this yogurt plain, just a tall glass of the plain variety of filmjólk every morning is absolutely delicious. The plain version has a mild sour taste with a little tangy effervescence at the end which makes it so refreshing. It also goes great with a bowl of muesli and granola for breakfast. It goes great with almost  everything!

Almonds and Siggis

Here is a popular Indian drink known as kesar-badam or saffron-almond milk that is usually made with whole milk and sometimes a little heavy cream. However, I've used filmjólk yogurt for the base and then blended the rest of the ingredients in. I guess this a sort of Indo-Nordic fusion drink now! This recipe is way lighter in unnecessary calories, since it skips the cream and excess fat and sugar but also packs up way more protein, making it a fun smoothie that I will drink even before or after my daily workouts. The saffron strands add a beautiful yellowish orange tinge to the yogurt while the almonds add valuable fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to the drink. Almonds are probably one of the healthiest nuts available and have several important reported health benefits in heart disease and bone loss prevention making this is a win-win situation from every angle, I can think of. I tend to lightly sweeten this drink with a little agave nectar or honey but if you prefer it sweeter you can always add more (or less). 

saffron yogurt almond drink

saffron and almond filmjólk

yields: 2 servings

ingredients

20-25 whole almonds
4 tablespoons water
a pinch of saffron
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, ground
2 cups plain non-fat filmjólk yogurt, chilled
1 tablespoon agave nectar/honey
a few coarsely chopped toasted pistachios for garnishing

1. Cover and soak the almonds in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain the water and peel and discard the skin of the almonds. Keep the peeled almonds aside.
2. Heat the four tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe, heat-proof glass bowl in a microwave till it boils (about 45 seconds on high). Drop the saffron strands into the hot water and keep aside for 5 minutes to allow the saffron color to diffuse into the water.
3. In a blender, add the peeled almonds, the saffron water with the strands, cardamom, yogurt, and  agave nectar/honey. Blend until completely smooth.
4. Pour the drink into pre-chilled serving glasses and garnish with the chopped pistachios. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to drink. You can also add a little crushed ice to the drink before serving.

Disclaimer: I did not receive any compensation or gifts from Siggis  for this post.

the great food blogger cookie swap 2012: rose and cardamom cookies

Holiday Rose and Cardamom Cookies

When I decided to participate in the The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap of 2012, I had no idea that this would be a huge and useful learning experience on cookie issues that I normally do not think much about. I mean the part about what cookies are great for shipping, their longevity, and how to package and ship them. But first let me tell you a little about this amazing swap, fellow food bloggers, Lindsay and Julie are the brains behind this wonderful cookie exchange party that takes place on the internet. The swap is open to food bloggers and this year there were several hundreds of us that participated. The idea is simple with a few rules to follow, you basically sign up and at some point in the weeks to follow, you are sent the names and address of three random food bloggers to each of whom you must ship out a dozen of your cookies. The cookie recipe must also be new to your blog and you have to publish the recipe on a particular date. You will also receive a dozen cookies each, from three other random food bloggers. Believe me, it was fun to send the cookies out to three random people that I did not know but it was equally exciting to receive three surprising cookie bundles in the mail. And the best part of it all, you get to meet some new wonderful food bloggers.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012 Cookie boxes

This year the Cookie Swap was very special and the hosts had partnered with the Cookies For Kid's Cancer organization. This was a great idea for a totally fantastic cause to raise money and awareness for children's cancer. Then a few weeks ago, I was surprised to receive a cute orange colored silicone spatula in the mail, as a token for participating in the cookie swap from OXO (one of the sponsors). What a fun and creative idea for everyone involved in this awesome cookie project on every different level!

Cookie packing

The first part of this cookie swap was to select or develop a cookie that would stay fresh and of course travel well. I ruled out the delicate cookies that might crack or crumble during transportation such as tuiles.  Chocolate based cookies are quite popular during the holidays but still I kind of wanted to have something "holidayesque" and maybe with a little Indian flavor to it. Rose water is often used to lend a floral fragrance and flavor in several Indian and Middle Eastern desserts but trapping the rose notes in a cookie would be too hard. Thankfully, I recalled a wonderful sweet red syrup made from roses that we used to flavor cold sherbets and drinks with. Rose syrup has a more intense rose flavor and sweet floral fragrance and I felt that it would be a better ingredient to use than rose water in these cookies. If you can't find rose syrup at a store you can find several good brands on Amazon (Rooh Afzah, Darbur, and Kalvert brands are the brands I am familiar with and are all very good). To enhance the rose flavor, I used freshly ground green cardamom seeds after cracking the little green pods open. The cardamom and rose flavors pair very well in these cookies. 

Rose and Cardamom Cookies and Cookie Dough

Now that I had the flavors all worked out, I needed to find a cookie batter recipe that would result in a cookie with a relatively crisp yet slightly chewy texture, mainly because it would travel well and last fresher, just in case the post got delayed. I reworked an old cookie recipe that I used for my gingersnaps. After two batches of trial and experimentation in cookie manufacturing in the kitchen and a little frustration, I finally got the recipe ratios worked out and got the cookies to where I wanted them to be. I cut back a little on the syrup, added some extra refrigeration steps for the cookie dough to get the right texture that I envisioned my holiday rose and cardamom cookie to be, and reduced the baking temperature. 

Rose and Cardamom Cookies

Now came the final part, the packaging! Thankfully both Lindsay and Julie, had sent out several detailed instructions that were useful and informative on how to package cookies. I tried to personalize my packaging by using customized boxes for my recipients. I'd love to know what you think of them. The cookies were packed in little plastic bags before I put them into the boxes. I also tossed in a couple of edible dried rose petals into each box and then for an extra layer of safety put each box into an airtight Ziploc bag. Finally each cookie parcel was put into Priority mail boxes with some packaging peanuts and noodles. Since, I had some several cookies, I decided to share them with some of my friends, so I sent out two more shipments as surprises to two unexpected people. I love surprising people during the holidays, it is always so much fun! I hope that the three food bloggers who received my cookies, got them safe and sound.These are the three wonderful people that I sent my cookies to: Love U MadlySemi Homemade Mom, and What the Cupcake? The three amazing bloggers that sent me some delicious cookies were: Snappy GourmetStracciatella, and Kokocooks.

A boxful of cookies

rose and cardamom cookies

yields:  approximately 60 cookies

ingredients

2 1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and softened at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup rose syrup 
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (for tossing the cookie dough balls)

1. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda, cardamom, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients for 15 seconds and keep aside.
2. In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and the brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar for about 4 to 5 minutes with the paddle attachment of the mixer. Beat the egg into the creamed mixture for about 2 minutes until completely blended. At this point add the rose syrup and cream the batter for another 2 minutes until the rose syrup is completely blended. The batter will appear pink in color.
3. Add half of the whisked dry ingredients to the creamed batter and mix with the paddle attachment of the stand mixer for about 5 minutes or until all the flecks of the flour have disappeared. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix completely until all the flour has disappeared.
4. The cookie dough will be soft and sticky. Transfer the cookie dough to a clean glass bowl, cover the lid with cling film, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
5. The dough will become a slightly hard after refrigeration. Using a teaspoon scoop out a little dough to make balls that are about 0.5 inches in diameter using your palms. Place the balls about an inch apart from each other on baking trays that are lined with clean sheets of parchment paper. Refrigerate the dough balls for another 45 minutes to an hour (as they will have softened a little). If you run out of baking trays (like I did), prepare the cookie dough balls in batches and keep the rest of the dough refrigerated until needed. 
6. Heat the oven to 325F. Remove the chilled cookie dough balls that you prepared in the previous step. Toss each ball in the granulated sugar until completely coated. Place the balls back on the baking trays lined with parchment paper about an inch apart from each other (they will spread during baking). Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes in the center rack of the preheated oven. The cookies will be done when they start to appear slightly golden brown but will remain pinkish in color. Allow the cookies to cool in the baking trays and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool for another 10-15 minutes. The cookies should be crisp and slightly chewy in the center. Transfer the cookies and store in an airtight container for up to 2 to 3 weeks.