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.

quinoa kheer

Quinoa Kheer

Here's a different take on something traditional. I love kheer, when I think of desserts that are homely and comforting, kheer is somewhere up in my top five.  To me it evokes, simplicity and flavors that are characteristic of Indian cooking but that make. The best way to describe kheer, would be a sweetened porridge of milk and basmati rice with dried fruits and nuts served chilled. As much as I love it as a dessert, I have also been known to eat it at breakfast. Some people describe it as a pudding but I personally find it closer in texture to a porridge than a pudding. The rice is cooked till it is so soft that it breaks and almost falls apart to give that delicious soothing texture when you savor a bite. That is exactly what I've tried to do here with quinoa and the results are equally delicious.

Cooking quinoa Spanish Saffron

Cooked quinoa has such a delicate soft texture and works wonderfully well in this recipe. Just make sure you wash the quinoa thoroughly to get rid of the bitter saponin coating on the seeds (I can't stress this point enough). Believe me you don't need or want that nasty bitter taste in your dessert!

Medjool Dates

You could use whole milk here but I prefer skim milk. While the quinoa and milk simmer with the fruit and nuts, the bright and vibrant orange saffron strands will infuse their color into the white milk. There is something simply wonderful about cooking with saffron, a little goes a long way. magically. Try to avoid buying ground saffron or saffron powder, it is normally tainted with turmeric and there are some good quality varieties of saffron strands that are easily available today.

Quinoa Kheer and Persian Saffron Sugar Sticks

quinoa kheer

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ghee or butter
4 dried dates, pits removed and chopped
4 teaspoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon pistachios, unshelled and chopped (I used unsalted raw pistachios)
1 teaspoon slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
3 cups skim milk
a pinch of saffron (I used Spanish saffron)
3 tablespoons sugar (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter)
2 teaspoons rose water
a little extra toasted and chopped pistachios for garnishing

1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running cold water until the water turns clear. (I prefer to massage the seeds with my hands while rinsing to make sure that I get rid of the bitter saponin completely). Bring the quinoa and water to a boil on a medium flame, cook until the seeds become translucent. Drain and discard the liquid from the cooked quinoa and keep aside. 
2. In a thick-bottomed stock pot, melt the ghee or butter on a medium high flame. Add the dates, raisins, pistachios, almonds, and cardamom to the melted ghee and sauté them for a minute. 
3. Add the cooked quinoa to the nut and fruit mixture in the pot. Fold in the milk, saffron, and sugar. Bring the entire contents of the pot to a boil on a medium flame, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the liquid volume reduces by one-third. Stir frequently to make sure the milk does not burn. 
4. Cool the kheer to room temperature. Then fold in the rose water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled and garnish with the extra pistachios.

apple kheer


So far this has been a beautiful weekend. Warm and non-humid conditions are something of a treasure down in D.C. Another beautiful part of this weekend is the extra Monday off! There is nothing like a Monday off, though I have realized that professors plan well ahead in advance of how much work they will assign to you if they lose a class. I hate stretching these things out (though I mostly end up doing just that). We drove around the neighboring Virginia country on the weekend to see if the leaves had started to show signs of fall but alas it is still to early down here. We went down to Harper's Ferry to walk the trails one afternoon which turned out to be quite the walk back up the hill. I think I am going to try and shoot for the Shenandoah Valley soon.


I had a huge bag of red gala apples staring at me saying "use me soon". Several thoughts flipped through my head on what to do with them but I kept going back to one of my favorite desserts as a kid. Okay, so it even passed off for breakfast one several occasions. I love Kheer, an Indian milk custard traditionally made with broken short grain rice. I don't like to describe it as a pudding because to me a pudding should show a firmer texture than a custard. However, adding apples to milk could cause problems in curdling the milk to curds and consequently cheese as the milk would boil. Since I could not figure a way to neutralize the acid without compromising the apple flavors, stabilizing the milk without flour to thicken it would definitely help. I basically ended up combining a traditional kheer recipe with a halva recipe and a few other tricks.


apple kheer

servings: 4-6 

ingredients

2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
8 grated red gala apples (squeezed for any excess juices)
1/3 cup golden raisins or sultanas
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
chopped pistachios to garnish

1. Bring the milk and sugar to boil in a large thick bottom sauce pot and then let it simmer on a low flame. Add the grated apple, raisins, cardamom and saffron. Stir continuously and cook till the liquid volume reduces to half. Strain the liquid into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Keep the apple mixture aside. 
2. Whisk the flour into the boiling liquid and cook till its consistency thickens and the volume reduces again by half. Pour the hot liquid through a sieve to remove any clumps of flour straight onto the apple mixture. Garnish with pistachios just before serving. This dessert can be served either warm or chilled.