cracked wheat and coconut milk porridge

cracked porridge with coconut milk and goji berries

Breakfast during the week was and still remains really simple for me. As a kid, it had to be quick so I wouldn't miss the school bus and now it's a moment sandwiched between the gym and work. But I still keep it light and nutritious because breakfast is supposed to be one of the most important meals that sustains us through the day. I often get asked what a traditional Indian breakfast would include but the answer is not an easy one. You can have some many different options depending on which part of the country you visit, each meal reflecting the unique characteristics of that region and what is grown there. One might sweet jalebis (a fried funnel cake like pastry soaked in sugar syrup) served with milk in the North or idlis (steamed rice and lentil cakes) in the South, the options are as endless as they are diverse. You will also find eggs, like my North Indian style scrambled eggs that are spiced, cooked and served with freshly toasted slices of buttered bread.

cracked wheat

This is another one of my favorite breakfast items from the Northern region of India. Cracked wheat or daliya is similar to stone cut oatmeal in structure and shape. As the name suggests, the wheat kernels are cracked and fragmented bits of wheat. Cracked wheat is however different from bulgur, the latter being much finer and smaller in size. I remember large pots of the wheat kernels in paternal grandmother's kitchen being cooked with water till they were tender and then fresh whole milk would be stirred into it and lightly sweetened with sugar. Piping hot bowls of the porridge would then be served and they would be gulped down hungrily.  

cinnamon and goji berries

My recipe here is very different, I use lightened coconut milk to bathe the cooked wheat kernels and I flavor it with cinnamon. I also like to add dried goji berries but you are free to add whatever type of fruit or berry you desire. I personally prefer my porridges to be less sweet so feel free to play around with the amount of sweetener options listed in the recipe. I like the taste of both honey or brown sugar here, so you can use either depending on what you prefer.

cracked wheat and coconut milk porridge

cracked wheat & coconut milk porridge

yields: 2 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup (3 2/5 ounces) cracked wheat
1 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar / 2 tablespoons honey  
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1 can (403ml) of low-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons dried goji berries (unsweetened, preferably)

1. Place the cracked wheat and water in a medium-sized stockpot and heat on a medium high flame. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the wheat kernels are completely tender. Remove the stockpot from the stove. The mixture will become slightly thick.
2. Fold the rest of the ingredients into the cooked cracked wheat kernels. Taste and adjust the sweetness if necessary. 
3. Place the stockpot back on the stove and heat on medium-low flame to a gentle simmer for 2 minutes, do not allow the porridge to boil. Remove from stove and serve hot.

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

cinnamon spiced hot chocolate with whisky

What would the winter holiday season be without a cup of rich hot chocolate! There's something comforting when you sip into a cup of steaming hot and sinfully indulgent rich chocolate merged into creamy milk. This hot chocolate is decadent and every bit indulgent with the goodness of dark chocolate, the warmth of freshly ground cinnamon and a dash of whisky.

Christmas tree

Whisky is another flavor that I love to use as an ingredient during the holidays. It infuses an extra level of warmth and richness to foods and I find it excellent when added to barbecues, desserts and sweet cocktails. So yes, I added some whisky in here! Chocolate and whisky with cinnamon, it's the perfect combination of rich, earthy rustic flavors. The whisky here is just the right amount to give it flavor without being boozy. If whisky isn't your thing, you can leave it out. 

hot chocolate with marshmallows

Have fun with the garnishes, it's the holidays treat yourself a little! 

peppermint hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

hot chocolate with cinnamon and whisky

yields : 4 servings

ingredients

4 cups whole milk
1 cup (5 3/4 ounces) dark chocolate chips, unsweetened
1 cup (6 1/8 ounces) milk chocolate chips, sweetened
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground + a little extra for dusting
1/4 cup whisky
a  few marshmallows for garnishing (optional)
4 peppermint sticks (optional)

1. Place the milk in a thick bottomed saucepan. Heat the mixture on medium-low flame until the milk begins to steam with constant stirring. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer.
2. Add the chocolate and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the hot milk and whisk constantly by hand until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the milk from the stove and mix in the whisky.
3. Pour the hot chocolate into serving mugs and top them off with a few marshmallows and dust with the extra ground cinnamon. Serve with the hot chocolate with the peppermint sticks and extra marshmallows on the side.

banana cinnamon toffee/ "banoffee" ice cream

Banana ice cream with homemade cinnamon toffee chips

There's been a lot of banana activity in our house this week so I can definitely say it's been bananas here! Most banana recipes require you to use overripe bananas and I patiently waited for a little less than a week to get them all mushy and sweet. A few of the bananas are going to go into some banana bread that I need to take to a housewarming this weekend and one went into this banana ice cream that I think you will love.

Bananas

One of my favorite English desserts is the Banoffee pie that is made of bananas, cream and toffee. It's a simple yet decadent combination and definitely a delicious comfort food that is spectacular. This ice cream  is my spin on this wonderful dessert, there's fresh banana fruit mixed with whole milk and cream, a little sweet honey and vanilla to add flavor and then there are tiny bits of homemade cinnamon toffee brittle that give you a crunchy surprise of warm sweet flavor. 

Cinnamon toffee brittle

Yup, homemade toffee brittle flavored with cinnamon! Toffee brittle is very easy to prepare and all you need a couple of simple ingredients and a strong instrument to crack the candy. Having a candy thermometer does help to confirm that you've reached the hard crack stage of the brittle before you can take it off the flame. But if you don't have one, take a clean teaspoon and scoop out a small amount of the hot mass and spread it on a chilled plate or surface. If it solidifies into a hard brittle-like mass easily then you have reached the right temperature.

banoffee ice cream

For the banana puree, I simply mash the fruit with a fork till it is completely smooth but you can also use a food processor if you prefer. I crack most of the toffee brittle into tiny bite sized granules that are less than 1/8th of an inch in size, the rest I crack into larger bits to garnish the ice cream.

Banana ice cream with cinnamon toffee chips

banana ice cream with cinnamon toffee

cinnamon toffee brittle

yields: approximately 1 1/2 cups

ingredients 

3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup  (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Add the butter, sugar, water, and salt into a thick bottomed stock pot. Place on a medium-high flame and stir constantly till the temperature of the mixture reaches the "hard crack stage" or 300F. This takes about 15 minutes. The mixture will be brownish in color.
2. Immediately fold in the cinnamon and pour the hot liquid onto a clean ungreased baking sheet. Allow the mixture to spread by carefully moving the pan, you can also spread the mixture with an offset spatula. The toffee will begin to harden as it cools and sets. Allow the toffee to cool completely till hard for about one or two hours. 
3. Once the toffee brittle is set, you can crack it gently to form chips with a strong weighted object like a muddler or hammer. Store the candy in an airtight container. I make a few large chips to top the ice cream but the rest of the chips I will crack them to get tiny bits to fold into the ice cream.

Note: I like to remove the excess grease by blotting the completely cooled toffee brittle surface with clean kitchen paper towels. 

banana ice cream

yields: about 1 generous quart

ingredients

2 cups whole milk + 2 tablespoons 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup pureed banana, overripe 
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 tablespoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cinnamon toffee chips (tiny sized chips) - you can be a little generous here

1. Bring the 2 cups of milk, heavy cream, sugar, and honey in a heavy thick bottomed saucepan to a boil on a medium flame. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer. Add the pureed banana and cook for 2 minutes.
2. In a small bowl mix the cornflour with the two tablespoons of milk to form a slurry. Quickly whisk the slurry into the milk and bring the milk to a boil. Stir constantly and cook for 2 minutes until the milk begins to thicken like custard. Remove the saucepan from the stove and mix in the vanilla extract. 
3. Transfer the hot liquid into a clean gallon sized ziploc bag. Seal the bag and allow the mixture to cool completely in an ice water bath for at least 30 minutes. The mixture should be at around 40F before you can add it to the ice cream maker.
4. Pour the liquid into a pre-frozen ice cream maker canister of your ice cream maker. Churn until the ice cream begins to come off from the sides of the canister. This will take about 30 minutes. 
5. Layer half of the ice cream in a freezer-safe airtight storage container sprinkle with half of the toffee chips. Layer the remaining ice cream on top and then sprinkle the rest of the toffee chips. Cover the surface of the ice cream with parchment paper. Place the lid on the container and freeze the ice cream for at least 4 hours before serving. You can serve the ice cream with larger toffee chips atop each scoop.

cocoa cinnamon sea salt cookies "nankhatais"

nankhatais cocoa sea salt and cinnamon

I'm placing the pies on the side right now because it's really time to focus on baking cookies and cakes. I love Christmas for the food and desserts but also because it has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. Every year around this time, my mom would get together with her mother and sisters to prepare loads of holiday sweets. This is something they took very seriously and still do so much so that I know my mother would take time off from her job to bake and prepare tons of holiday desserts. 

sea salt crystals

We also had another tradition, where we'd take sweets to our neighbors and friends. This is something, I was never a big fan of and I always preferred sharing the sweets that were at the lower end of my "dessert-love scale". My mom on the other hand would reevalute the contents of the gift basket and undo all my hardwork, so the good stuff went back in. I am really not sure who benefited from this exercise but it clearly wasn't me! 

Salt sprinkling

These days, I make holiday desserts that I really, really love and make enough to gift to friends and family while keep enough to last us for a few weeks. These cookies are fall into this special category of holiday desserts that I must make every year. They bring back nostalgic childhood memories of baking with my mother and her family, memories laced with sugar, flour and above all things, love. Indian "

Nankhatais"

as these cookies are commonly known, are crispy and eggless. You will love them, the cookies are crisp all-throughout with a deep dark cocoa flavor with a hint of black pepper and cinnamon that will warm you up. The center of each cookie is topped with a generous sprinkling of sea salt crystals that will shock your tastebuds with a delicious amalgam of sensory wonder.

If you like the combination sea salt and chocolate, you will love my

mixed multigrain muffins

. They are a great addition to your breakfast table at Christmas.

cookies all salted
plate of cocoa cinnamon sea salt  nankhatais

This recipe calls for the use of Indian ghee or clarified butter. Ghee is super easy to make and has a wonderful fragrance and taste. You simply melt unsalted butter in a thick bottomed stock pot until all the fat has melted and the milk solids have separated. The butter is melted and cooked on a low flame to prevent burning of the solids (this is different from browned butter where you want to use the browned milk solids for flavor) but not boiled. The melted fat is then passed through a sieve lined with several layers of muslin/cheese cloth to filter out the separated solids. The resultant fat that is collected is ghee and stored in the refrigerator. It solidifies as it cools. I've been finding ghee in most grocery stores these days but if you need to prepare it at home, start with 3-31/2 sticks of butter to get around 2 cups of ghee using the instructions I just described. 

cocoa sea salt nankhatais

cocoa cinnamon sea salt cookies "nankhatais"

yields:

approximately 2 dozen 2 inch cookies

ingredients

4 cups ( 1lb 3/8 oz) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (2 ounces) dark cocoa, unsweetened

1 teaspoon instant dark roast coffee

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground 

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1 3/4 cups raw dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cup (12 ounces) ghee/clarified unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 to 3 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Whisk all the dry ingredients from the flour to the sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. 

2. Add the ghee to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture should acquire a fine crumb-like texture. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours. 

There is no need to bring the dough together to form one large ball, just store the dough in the crumb-like phase.

3. Before baking the cookies, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the baking rack in the middle section of the oven. Take some of the mix in your hands and press and mold together to form small one inch balls. The warmth from your hands will soften the ghee and help to bring the cookies together. Flatten the ball into discs that are about 2 inches in diameter. The cookie discs might crack a little on the edges so press and mold them gently. If they do crack a little, just push the cracked ends closer to seal the gap. (Personally, I don't mind a few minor cracked edges). Sprinkle a pinch of the sea-salt crystals over each cookie.

5. Place the cookie balls on cookie/baking sheet pre lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to get crisp and appear a little darker than the color of the cocoa. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and store in air-tight container for up to two weeks. 

cinnamon sapota kulfi

Cinnamon sapota kulfi

Something, I have missed eating for more than a decade is the heavenly sweet sapota that is commonly referred to as the chikoo fruit in India. As the weather would start to get cooler, the little round brown fruit begin to pop up all over the place. I've been told that you can find them fresh in California however, their presence here has definitely been elusive. Consequently, I reconciled with the notion of never having to eat it again, unless I visited either a warmer part of the country or India in the right season. But then something amazing happened last weekend, I found some in Maryland! Not the fresh fruit but the frozen peeled and sliced fruit in bags. I double-checked the bags to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me, it was akin to being dehydrated in a desert and imagining an oasis in front of you. I picked up a few bags, since I wasn't sure when the next time would be and I could stretch them out a little bit without having to eat them all in one sitting.

Brown sugar

I've recreated and updated one of my favorite ways to eat sapota and I think you will get to love it as much as I do. A popular and traditional way to eat sapota in India, is this delicious frozen kulfi dessert. I can vividly remember the sweet taste and texture of the thick frozen slices of sapota/chikoo kulfi that were served over banana leaves that we'd pick and eat with a spoon. The melting sapota kulfi would dribble milk from the sides and I would try to scoop up as much as I could. I'm definitely not one to waste dessert! 

Cinnamon sapota kulfi 2

So here I am folks, updating one of my popular childhood memories and desserts. Freshly ground cinnamon and brown sugar are perfect ingredients for fall cooking and also absolutely fitting in this kulfi. I love eating frozen desserts throughout the year and will definitely be making some more for you soon. I certainly don't think the weather should limit our options. 

Cinnamon

I still don't own kulfi molds and I've been using my cappuccino cups that I previously used to make my mango kulfi. It works fine and this is unfortunately the only action those cups have ever seen! 

Sapota kulfi

If you follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram you might have noticed some of the photographs of the ingredients, I've been sharing. Most of the time I post photographs of prepared food but I do love working with ingredients and will showcase them on a weekly basis. If you have any particular recipes or foods that you would like me to write about, do let me know at nikarama [at] abrowntable [dot] com. 

Dusting cinnamon on sapota kulfi

cinnamon sapota kulfi

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1 quart or 4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup almond meal
1 cup sapota fruit pulp, puree (remove and discard the outer skin and seed)
3 tablespoons fine sugar (for garnish)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground (for garnish)

1. Bring the milk, sugar, honey, and cinnamon 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. Fold in the heavy cream, almond meal and stir  constantly on a medium flame. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil for 2 minutes and then remove from the flame. 
3. Whisk in the pureed sapota pulp into the hot mixture. Transfer the mixture into a gallon size ziploc bag, seal airtight and place in an ice-water bath to cool for 30 minutes. Once the mixture has cooled, divide it evenly between six cappuccino or kulfi molds or any other freezer safe molds that you own. Seal the open ends of the mold with cling film to prevent the formation of ice crystals. Freeze and allow to firm for at least 6 hours. 
4. Just before serving remove the kulfi molds from the freezer and allow to sit outside for 5 minutes at room temperature. In the mean time, mix the fine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove the kulfi from the molds ( I insert a knife, a little less than halfway in the center of the kulfi, twist it a little to loosen it from the sides and pull it out)  and transfer to a clean serving plate. Dust each kulfi with a little of the cinnamon-sugar mix, you can also roll the kulfi in the mixture. 

spiced fig preserves


It's getting chillier by the day and something tells me this winter is going to be a little intense. Thankfully, I have some canning recipes in the works that are helping me stock the pantry up. Yes, I might be surviving on a whole lot of jams and pickles this cold season. I thought my previous post on the poached fig sauce would be the last, but I was so wrong! The last time I came back from my grocery store, a couple of figs magically popped up in my grocery bag. I could have just eaten the entire batch directly but then I knew I would miss them for the rest of the year. So what's one to do but stretch their presence out a little longer, perhaps till the next fig fruiting season? Since canning is my new culinary addiction, I turned to making a sticky and sweet fig preserve with bold flavors that would happily remind me of autumn.


This preserve uses whole figs that have their stems removed but I keep their skins because I like them. If you are not a big fan of the fruit's skin, then by all means peel them off with a paring knife. Use good quality dry spices for this recipe because they will make the preserve taste better. The cinnamon flavor is gentle yet warming but the dry ginger powder gives the figs a delicious and bold zing. Instead of using brown sugar in this recipe (which you most certainly can try), I find honey to be my preferred choice of sweetener for the fig preserve, somehow that marriage between honey and figs is truly blessed. Yeah, I also like to add a bit of booze to everything I cook, so here it is a cup of Riesling. It brings everything together in my opinion without taking away from any of the flavors of the figs. Serve this on top of some thick plain yogurt for breakfast or spread it over buttered bread. You can also serve this with some sharp cheeses at your parties for an appetizer. Remember with this preserve, a little of it goes a long way!


spiced fig preserves

ingredients 


3 cups chopped figs with stems removed
2 cups of a good quality honey
1/4 cup crystallized ginger 
juice of one fresh lemon
1 cup riesling wine (a good quality moscato would also be good here)
1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon ground ginger powder

1. Put all the ingredients together in thick bottomed saucepan. 
2. Heat on a medium to high flame and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil. Stir constantly. This should take about 10 minutes. Don't be surprised if the viscosity of the honey decreases and the hot liquid begins to thin, this is absolutely normal. 
3. Mash the figs with a potato masher to release the fruit's pulp. 
4. Reduce the flame to the low setting on the stove's dial. Cook the figs for total time of 1 hour. Stir the mixture once or twice every 5 or 8 minutes. The volume will reduce during the process.
5. Transfer the hot preserves to sterile four, 4 pint jelly jars and seal. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Cool for another 5 minutes in the water bath before removing to cool and store.



Here is the label that I designed for this set of jams, feel free to use them as needed. Click on the image to the right to download the label pdf.

Disclaimer: These labels are for personal use only. If you do use them or credit them, please post a link back to the related original recipe and not the file. © A Brown Table   

Update: The recipe has been updated to reflect the addition of the lemon juice.

cinnamon raspberry buttermilk shake


Random things are reminding me of the holidays, some more so than others. Beyond the decorated stores, the T.V. commercials and the fact that the advent of December is only a few days away, random things  around D.C. remind me that the holidays are here. Do you feel the same way ?



I find December to be the best part of the beginning of winter, after that it all appears depressing until Spring. Needless to say, Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. If Christmas could be legally extended for a lengthy period of time, I would be thrilled. However, I doubt this dream will be fulfilled in this lifetime. Though, this does make me appreciate and long for the holidays a little more eagerly. I realize that this makes me sound a little crazy.


With finals coming up and the school semester ending, I have another reason to look forward to December. The good news is that my thesis is coming together and I have a complete data set with some good preliminary results. A month of no number crunching and regression analysis looks like a nice break right now.


I don't know if a shake is the appropriate recipe for the holidays but I am throwing tradition out of the window with this recipe. In my mind it has all the essential components except for the cold buttermilk and ice cream components but the red raspberries and cinnamon with a shot of the elderberry liquor,St.Germain bring this drink together.


I used less ice cream because I did not want the ice cream to dominate and overpower the taste of this shake but feel free to add some if you wish. Serve this ice-cold of course and if you keep it standing for too long as with all milk based drinks especially those that contain acidic components like buttermilk or yogurt, it can separate, so you might need to shake it a little before you drink it.


cinnamon raspberry buttermilk shake


ingredients


3 cups low fat buttermilk (1%)
1/4 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup low fat vanilla ice cream
5 tablespoon St. Germain
4 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
Extra raspberries and cinnamon sticks for garnishing


Blend all the ingredients together in a mixer till smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh whole raspberries and a stick of cinnamon in each glass.