A lot's been going on here and at my column for the San Francisco Chronicle. I just got back from a day learning about my figs and how they're preserved by drying (but that we will deal with much later) For now, I wanted to share with you some of my recipes from the column that I've been cooking up, a little savory and a of course, a little sweet! There's a prawn and chorizo pulao inspired by Goan chorizo (and what I do since it is practically impossible to find outside India), a look back at San Francisco's Oyster Loaf with my special take with a bit of semolina, an easy toasted naan and tomato salad and of course, dessert, this roasted summer sweet corn custard tart with cardamom.Read More
I think I'm getting old, we hit 90 degrees which is a bit of a rare event in Oakland especially when we've crossed the line into Fall. It was hot enough to make me stay indoors at all times, I had most of the blinds drawn to keep the heat out but kept a few of the windows cracked open to let the air in. Of course, as one would expect there was no draft when it was needed the most. I survived on a diet of cold things that included iced water, lemonade, popsicles, and salads.
My inability to handle hot weather might just be one sign of old age, our cat is now testing my patience. Vesper has learned to pop open the wire mesh panel on our backdoor. He's an indoor cat and neither M nor I want him strolling the streets of the neighborhoods or picking a fight with another cat or raccoon (ya never know what's out there). But my little kitten is curious and intelligent which for a pet owner is a terrible combination (There was that one time when he opened the pet cabinet door to help himself to treats, so now we keep that door under lock and key). Thank goodness, Vesper is driven by greed because I quickly lured him back in to the house with treats because if he had jumped over the fence and run away, I'd go nuts. He makes Snoopy look like a saint!
An Indian summer and a crazy kitten have kept me crazy and consequently, I've been thinking of cooler fall desserts to eat. This pumpkin pudding is almost tropical with it's coconut flavors. It reminds me of being at the beach while fall is sneaking in. I used Califia Farms toasted coconut and almond milk blend to create the base for the pudding, it's heat stable which makes it really easy to thicken it over heat. I've added shredded coconut which gives the pudding texture while cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg brings in the warm fall flavors with a hint of sweetness.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this pudding;
- You can use toasted shredded coconut to create a richer coconut flavor in the pudding. Another option is to add a teaspoon or two of coconut rum or liquor.
- If you want more shredded coconut in the pudding you can increase the final amount to 1 1/2 cups.
- Butternut squash and pumpkin both work in this recipe.
- The pudding gets thickened at two stages, once with tapioca starch (cornstarch will ask work here) and then by the shredded coconut.
coconut and pumpkin pudding
yields: 4 servings
2 cups Califia Farms toasted coconut almond milk
one 15 ounce can unsweetened pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons coconut cream
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (preferably palm sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + a little extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1. Place all the ingredients from the coconut milk to the nutmeg in a blender and pulse until smooth and combined.
2. Transfer the contents to a medium-sized saucepan with a thick bottom and on medium-high heat whisk until you get a thick custard like consistency in about 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Remove from stove and fold the shredded coconut into the pumpkin mixture. Transfer to a container and place a piece of clingfilm over the surface of the pudding. There should be no air bubbles between the clingfilm and the pudding. Refrigerate for at least 4 to 6 hours, preferably overnight before serving. Garnish the pudding with a little powdered cinnamon just before serving.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia Farms, however all opinions expressed are solely my own.
To be honest, I don't eat doughnuts that often. It's rare that I make them at home but when I do it has to be a beignet. If I lived in NOLA, I'd probably try to eat a beignet every day, it would be a goal to achieve, one I'd happily strive for. When I think about it, the concept behind a beignet is so simple yet delightful, a yeasted dough, deep fried to crispiness and then sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. If you've been to Morning Call or Cafe du Monde in NOLA and eaten their beignets, you are also familiar with the hazard, powdered sugar poses. Don't wear black clothes and you might not only end up with sugar on your clothes but also in your nostrils which will make you sneeze. But at the point, it won't matter.
It's National Doughnut Day today. Now normally, I'm terrible at remembering such things (except for Pancake Tuesday because that is mentally ingrained by my mother in my head) but thankfully, Melissa decided to organize a little doughnut special. I decided to go with something closer to a beignet but with different textures, flours and flavors.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Medrich and she is one intelligent yet humble person. But she is also an amazing teacher and the class that I attended was full of information and tips on how to work with whole-grain flours beyond wheat. Her latest work, Flavor Flours is simply an amazing book to learn from. I took some inspiration from her recipe for beignets to create these rice flour and polenta doughnuts. Because the texture is a cross between beignets and doughnuts, I felt doughnuts would be a more appropriate way to describe them. There's a hint of nutmeg in these guys and I find that confectioner's sugar and/or honey are the best way to enjoy them. Of course, a little tea or coffee or even hot chocolate on the side would be a good way to wash them down.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing these doughnuts,
- Use regular rice flour but not sticky sweet rice flour when you make these doughnuts.
- The texture of the doughnut after frying, should resemble a crispy thin coat that encloses light ball of polenta.
- Nutmeg is a great spice here but green cardamom is also perfect in this recipe.
- Honey or confectioner's sugar work well with these doughnuts. Just make sure the doughnuts are warm when you eat them.
- These doughnuts are best eaten when made fresh and are hot to eat.
polenta and rice doughnuts
yields: approximately forty 1 inch doughnuts
100mL water (110F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant dried yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup (3 1/8 ounces/ 87gm) polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup (4 1/4 ounces / 117gm) rice flour
1 large egg at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder, fresh
30mL water, at room temperature
enough vegetable oil for frying (use a neutral oil with a high smoking point)
confectioner's sugar for dusting (or honey)
1. Place the water in a small bowl or jar, stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the water. Allow to sit aside for 10 minutes until it gets foamy. (If it doesn't foam after the 5 minutes, repeat this step with fresh ingredients).
2. In the meantime prepare the polenta. Bring the 1 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan on high heat. Quickly whisk in the polenta by pouring it in a thin and steady stream. Add the butter and continue to whisk for about 4 to 5 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated and the polenta is soft but not mushy. Remove from stove and cover the saucepan with a lid. Leave to cool for about 5 to 7 minutes before using.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour and make a well in the center. Add the polenta, egg, salt, and nutmeg along with the yeast from step1. Using a large wooden spoon, stir the ingredients with the water to form a thick dough. The dough will resemble a soft and sticky mixture. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes before cooking.
4. In the meantime, heat the oil in medium-sized wok or saucepan with a deep bottom on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (at about 350F) start to prepare the doughnuts for frying. Using a small ice cream scoop (or two tablespoons), scoop out a single ball of dough and drop it into the hot oil, allow the ball to rise and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until the doughnut is evenly golden brown. Place the doughnut on a sheet lined with absorbent paper towels to drain the excess oil. The outside portion of the doughnut should be crispy yet the inside soft. Immediately dust the hot doughnut with confectioner's sugar or drizzle with honey before serving. Prepare the rest of the doughnuts using the same method.
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Note: The pretty red Balti was a gift from Le Creuset.
Let's start this Monday with some exciting news! This Wednesday, October 8th, I will be co-hosting a Supper club in San Francisco along with my dear friends, Phi of Princess Tofu and Alanna of The Bonjon Gourmet! This is a first for me, I've entertained at home quite a bit but never on a professional level, so I am definitely a little enthusiastic and excited about this fun venture. Phi and Alanna were kind enough to ask me to join them and I leaped at the opportunity because it's all about sharing our love to cook and create new recipes.
The entire menu will be centered around fresh figs grown locally and we've come up with some fun and delicious way to use figs in every course of the menu. The girls went to Santa Rosa over the weekend and picked bucket loads of figs of all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes from the trees, my only regret is not being able to join them in their adventures because they had a blast! Do check out their respective blogs for more of their trip.
Fig season is a good one, full of fat and juicy figs that need to be eaten. Alas, this season is short but thankfully, someone figured out how to preserve figs by drying them centuries ago! This recipe that I am sharing with you today is a sweetened rice pilaf mixed with sautéed dried figs and nuts. I honestly, can't remember the exact first time, I ate sweet rice or "meetha chawal" but I do remember that I love it enough to make it a few times every year.
Basmati rice is fragrant to begin with but saffron and the other spices add a sweet aroma that makes this dessert truly comforting. One way to describe this rice dessert would be a sweet pilaf. I like to serve this as a dessert after a fairly light meal (and sometimes even eat it for breakfast).
Here are some of my tips on making this sweet rice,
- I can't stress the importance of using a good quality Indian variety of basmati. Not only is the grain long and fine, the starch content is different and the aroma will also be very fragrant.
- When cooking basmati rice, I like to wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of any starch that might result in stickiness during cooking.
- Ghee can substituted with any vegetable oil that has a neutral flavor.
indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts
yields: 4-6 servings
1 cup long grain basmati rice
3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 cup dried black mission/brown turkey figs (or any other type of dried figs), stalks removed and chopped
1/4 cup raw almonds, sliced
1/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped
6 whole cloves
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon saffron strands soaked in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 30 minutes
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1. Wash the basmati rice under running cold tap water until no traces of white starch can be seen. Soak the rice in bowl in fresh cold tap water for 1 hour.
2. While the rice is soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee or oil in a deep thick-bottomed saucepan ( a non-stick pan can also be used here) on medium-high heat. Once the ghee is hot, sauté the chopped figs for about 1 minute, then add the almonds and pistachios and fry them for another 1 minute. Remove the sautéed figs and nuts and place them on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
3. In the same pan, heat the rest of the ghee on medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and fry the spices for 30 seconds. Drain the excess liquid from the soaked rice and add the rice to the pan with the spices, stir and sauté for about 2 minutes with constant stirring. Add the saffron mixture, water and sugar to the rice, increase the heat to high and bring the contents to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook until the liquid evaporates. The rice will be long and tender once cooked which should take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool with the lid on for about 5-6 minutes. Fluff the rice up with a fork and stir in the fruit and nuts. Serve warm.