cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port

cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port | A Brown Table

I perpetually spend my time looking for shortcuts in the kitchen. Sometimes they're easier to find and sometimes things can get a little more complicated or drawn out than I'd like them to be. When planning a meal for a bunch of people, I usually compromise with this rule - if dinner is going to require more effort, then make dessert simple or vice-versa, I find that this little rule brings harmony to my crazy kitchen and I have time to do a whole lotta other things in life. Some of these things currently include: find time to sign up for a sourdough bread class, plant a couple of trees, pick bathroom tiles, teach the cat to walk on a harness, make the dog meatballs.

This dessert checks all those requirements for me. It's easy to prepare and looks and tastes fancier, it's all about making an impression when it comes to entertaining! You literally take an apple, core it out, then stuff the core with some more apples and raisins and then cook them in port wine. The green cardamom and vanilla bean tie the flavor components of the apples and the wine by giving it a gentle floral and sweet flavor. If you want to make it even fancier, I'd highly recommend a scoop of good vanilla or coconut ice cream on the side.  You can grab the recipe here!

The folks at Wolf Gourmet are giving away one of these gorgeous 10-piece cookware sets made from shiny stainless steel and contain an inner aluminum core for uniform heat transfer. Their stainless steel cookware is easy to maintain, foods cook well due to the smooth transfer of heat and they're easy to clean! To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me what is your one favorite meal that you love to make every spring and how you keep the preparation simple. Due to shipping reasons, this contest is only open to residents of the United States and subscribers. The giveaway will run for a week and end on April 14th, 2016 at 12pm. I'll announce the winner back on this page and contact them via email. Good luck and happy cooking!

cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port | A Brown Table
cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port | A Brown Table
cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these apples,

  • Use good baking apples that hold their shape well on exposure to heat.
  • The green cardamom and vanilla bean are the big flavor boosters in this recipe so skip the extracts in this one.
  • Use a good port wine, one that you like to drink.
  • If there's any leftover port sauce, I'll collect it in a jar and refrigerate to use as a sauce over plain vanilla ice cream. It's good!
cardamom stewed apples in vanilla port | A Brown Table

Disclaimer: Thank you to Wolf Gourmet for sponsoring this post and giveaway! All opinions expressed are solely my own.

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

I must make a confession, I'm not the best at naming recipes and at times, I struggle with what to call some of my recipes. Since most of the dishes I create and share are often not traditionally Indian and in some way are inspired by my environment and emotions, it's can get difficult. I don't like to name my dishes as "Indian ___" as it sounds odd. Those kind of names bug me as much as as I hear the word "chai ___" but when you go through the recipe there is no chai (tea) present. If I called this salad dressing as Indian spicy cilantro dressing, I'd be uncomfortable. I call this my "noun-adjective paradox" because it can .  So I usually defer to the much more simpler method of labeling my dishes with the prominent ingredients I use in them, I did it this time too. This delicious salad dressing today had me up for hours, wondering whether I should call it an Indian-inspired dressing or an Indian green goddess dressing. Whatever it might be called, this is one tasty and spicy green salad dressing to enjoy!

One of the best things I've finally tasted in 2016, is the pink lady apple. I'd heard of them before but never eaten one until recently. These ladies are a game changer, a life changer, they look good and they taste good. Their texture is crisp enough to dump it into a salad and if you slice them thin enough, it gives you just the right amount of sweetness and crispy texture to each bite you consume. Overall this salad is pretty "wintry", I put purple/red and regular good old green curly kale leaves, some cooked black lentils, avocado (not so winter) and the lady apples. It's a hearty salad and the dressing is very, very guilt free. I use Califia's unsweetened almond milk to make the base of the dressing, fresh cilantro leaves for flavor and color, add lime juice for acidity and fresh thai chilis and ginger for a kick. But to make it thick and give it body, this dressing needs some fat and plain almond butter does the trick here making it creamy enough to hold.

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this salad,

  • Any type of kale will work here, just shred it well and toss the midrib out. 
  • If you can't find lady apples use Granny smith apples the tartness works well.
  • If you cut the apples and don't want them to brown. Soak them in an ice cold water bath with 2 tablespoons of fresh lime or lemon juice. Drain the slices before you add them to the salad.
  • I like to presoak my lentils as it does make them cook faster when it comes to boiling. 
winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing | A Brown Table

winter black lentil salad with spicy cilantro dressing

yields: 4 servings


for the salad

1 cup cooked black lentils

4 cups shredded kale leaves (I used a mix red and green varieties)

1 large avocado, diced

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 pink lady apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. And toss to combine. Keep aside refrigerated until ready to serve with the salad dressing. Salad dressing can be added and tossed with salad or served on the side . 

spicy cilantro dressing

yields: about 1 1/2 cups


1 cup Califia unsweetened almond milk

4 tablespoons almond butter, unsweetened

1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 cup packed cilantro leaves

4 tablespoons lime juice, fresh

6 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon thai chili peppers, chopped

1 teaspoon fine grain salt

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Serve with the winter salad. 



Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms but all opinions expressed are solely my own.

dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie

dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table

Ashlae of Oh Ladycakes is one of the friendliest bloggers I know, she's fun and full of good energy. She's a whiz when it comes to baking vegan pastries and recently, she and her husband visited all the places in India that M's being wanting to see such as the Taj Mahal and the beautiful palaces of Rajasthan. At one point, we even talked about meeting up with her in India on her trip but then things got busy with house hunting and we had to skip any big trips for the year. However, I did get an opportunity to do something fun with her this year and it's all about pies! Ashlae organized a fun virtual pie party for which I've baked this apple and cranberry whole-wheat lattice pie that's infused the filling with dry mango powder and jaggery. 

Here's a confession: I've always avoided lattice pies on the blog because honestly, it is easier to show how to weave the framework versus writing how to do it.  I hope the large panel of photos below makes it a bit easier to see the weaving. Your basically draping a few strips of pastry in one direction and then you keep alternating and folding the other strips over each other. 

I've announced, the winner of the America's Test Kitchen cookbook giveaway on Instagram! Have a great holiday and stay warm. 

dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie |A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie | A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie | A Brown Table
dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this pie that you might find useful;

  • Use chilled ingredients and make sure even the equipment is cool. Anything that the pastry will touch should be cool to touch, that's my rule when it comes to making a flaky pastry.
  • Choose apples that are low in water and not too sweet when making an apple pie. Granny Smiths are great but this time I used Golden Delicious apples (you can also use a half and half ratio if you want to mix things up).
  • I've incorporated two ingredients commonly used in Indian cooking. Amchur, is a powder obtained by dry raw green mangoes and it balances the tart flavors of the cranberries and apples in the filling by giving it a mild hint of tanginess yet warmth. I use jaggery which is a type of raw brown sugar found in most Indian stores and even online. I advocate using jaggery because the filling doesn't end up being too sweet and it also gives the filling an earthy flavor, it's almost smoky (if that makes any sense). Brown sugar on the other hand though a good substitute can make the filling cloyingly sweet.
  • I've included step-by-step photos for the lattice prep process. It's easier than it looks and requires a little extra effort and patience. But it's worth it. I'm not the best 

I used Rose Levy Bernabaum's recipe from her book The Baking Bible . Her cream cheese technique is pure genius and the crust is flaky. I did make a few changes by using whole-wheat pastry flour which is low in gluten (so the pastry is flakier and made with whole grain) and I also incorporate a little sugar in to the pastry dough to give it a hint of sweetness.

dry mango spiced apple cranberry pie | A Brown Table

standard double crust pie dough (pastry recipe adapted from the Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

yields: one 9 inch double crust pie


12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks/170gm) unsalted butter, chilled

290gm whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 teaspoons fine grain sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

128gm cream cheese, cold

3 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk

1 tablespoon (15mL) cider vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar or sparkling sugar

1. Cube the butter into small chunks, wrap with plastic film and freeze for 30 minutes. 

2. Dry whisk the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder and freeze in an airtight container for 30minutes. Attach the dough blade to a food processor, then put the flour mixture into the bowl of the food processor. Cube the cream cheese into 4 pieces and add it to the flour. Pulse the mixture for about 30 seconds until it resembles coarse meal. Add the cubes of frozen butter and pulse until the butter cubes are reduced to the size of small peas. Add the cream (or milk) and cider vinegar and pulse until the entire mixture resembles chunky particles. Transfer this to a dry clean gallon ziploc bag. Remove most of the air from the bag and then seal it. Using the heel of your hand knead and press the mixture from the outside of the bag to bring the dough together. Open the bag and transfer the dough to a large sheet of cling film. Form a large ball of dough and then divide it into two-thirds and one-third. Wrap with cling film and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before using (you can make the dough up to 2 days in advance).

3. For the pie shell, use the two-thirds portion and for the 10 strip lattice use the one-third. To roll out the dough, either use a lightly floured cold surface such as marble stone or a silicone pastry mat. Alternatively, you can also roll out each pastry portion between sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough out from center outwards with uniform pressure to get a thickness of 1/8 inch. Add very little flour when rolling it out, just enough to prevent it from sticking. For a 9 inch lattice pie, roll it out to get a 12 inch diameter circle. Place the rolled out circle of pastry over the pie pan and fit it to the pie plate. Take care to avoid stretching the pastry or it might might shrink during baking. 

4. Fill the pie with the apple cranberry filling (at room temperature) and spread it out evenly using a large spoon or spatula.

5. Roll out the remaining 1/3 portion of pastry and any remaining scraps of pastry together to form 10 inch circle. Using a fluted pastry roller cut the pastry into twelve, 1/2 inch wide strips. Use the strips to weave a lattice as shown in the step-by-step images above in the instructional panel. Start by layering 6 strips across the length of the pie at equal distance and then weave the remaining 6 strips of pastry to form the lattice. You can trim the excess pastry strips hanging off the edges of the pie and then fold the pastry from the base to wrap the edges. Optional:If you have leftover pastry, you can also cut out small stars and glue them with a little water and line them along the edge of the pie to form a border and put one large star in the center.

6. Brush the lattice lightly with the remaining tablespoon of milk and sprinkle with the sparkling/granulated sugar. Refrigerate the pie for 45 minutes wrapped loosely with plastic wrap. In the meantime, place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 400F. Bake the chilled pie for 45 to 60 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving warm.

dry mango apple and cranberry pie filling

yields: enough filling for one 9 inch pie


3 lbs (1360gm) Golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch cubes

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups (300gm) fresh/frozen cranberries

1 1/2 teaspoons amchur (dry mango powder)

1/4 cup water

300gm jaggery

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Mix the apples and lemon juice together and keep aside. 

2. Place the cranberries, amchur, water and jaggery in medium thick-bottomed saucepan and heat on medium-low heat. Cover with a lid, stir occasionally and crush the cranberries with the base of wooden spoon, cook until the jaggery has dissolved. 

3. Fold in the apples and cover the saucepan with the lid. Cook for another 10 minutes until the apples start to get translucent. Stir in the cornstarch and cook for another 5 minutes until the mixture becomes very thick. The apples should be tender but not mushy. Remove from stove, cool to room temperature or refrigerate if preparing a day or two in advance. 

Note: Thank you to PieBox for sending me one of their gorgeous handcrafted pie boxes for this post! 


frozen apple halva

frozen apple halva | A Brown Table

Every year during apple season, I make an apple halva. But why I've never tried to freeze halva before is beyond me and I'm glad, that I finally did! Did I mention that this dessert has a little bit of booze in it? 

frozen apple halva | A Brown Tablefrozen apple halva | A Brown Table

This halva started off with a batch of ripe Fuji apples. I like these apples because they are great to bake with, they're sweet but not too tart like the Granny Smith kind. Now, let's get to the best part, two of my favorite ingredients that are quintessential to many Indian recipes, green cardamom and saffron. You already know about my love for green cardamom, I call it the "vanilla of Indian desserts" but saffron, saffron is special too! Those little thin threads that can with so much power when it comes to color and flavor.

Saffron is expensive to begin with but I'm always a little hesitant about using saffron powders because they can be adulterated with coloring agents and chemicals. When, I buy saffron I always buy the threads and pick it up from the Indian or Middle Eastern grocery stores. They are generally a little cheaper at these grocery stores and I prefer the color and flavor of the Persian and Kashmiri (Indian) saffron to the other types because they give a more robust color and flavor.

frozen apple halva | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips when making this frozen halva.

  • When you work with the apples be quick, as soon as they are peeled and exposed to air they will start to brown. As soon as the fruit is prepared, coat them in fresh lemon juice as soon.
  • There is also no need to soak the saffron in hot water because the threads will infuse and release their color as soon as the liquids in the baking pan heat up. 
  • This boozy part of this recipe calls for a sweet rosé. If you want to keep this non-alcoholic use apple juice that is not flavored with any spices. But don't use apple cider because cider is generally spiced and it will change the flavor of this dessert. 

I was tempted to label this dessert a sorbet but it retains the apple fruit texture and it just didn't feel right to drop it in that category. 

frozen apple halva | A Brown Table

frozen apple halva 

yields: 1 generous quart


1 lb fuji apples (or any apples good for baking)

1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (I used Persian saffron)

1 cup (250mL) water

2 cups (500mL) sweet rosé wine (or apple juice - avoid using cider)

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.

2. Peel, core and dice the apples. Place them in an oven-safe baking dish quickly sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples and rub them to prevent browning. Pour the sugar, cardamom, saffron and water over the apples. Mix with a spatula or spoon to coat and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the apples are tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

3. Once the apples have cooled, remove the apples and reserve the liquid that is left behind. Blend the apples in a blender with the wine until completely smooth, transfer the puree to a large mixing bowl.  Stir the reserved liquid saved from the bake apples with a spoon. Transfer this mixture to a gallon ziploc bag and immerse in an ice water bath and cool for about 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 40F. 

4. Pour the contents of the bag into a pre-frozen canister of your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturers instructions. The churning should take about 20 minutes until it comes together and freezes. Transfer the contents to an airtight container and cover the surface with a sheet of parchment paper. Freeze for at least 4 hours until firm. Serve as needed.