dragon fruit pudding

Pudding for breakfast

Fall's here and I'm already in the midst of planning vacations for Christmas, New Year's and the rest of winter. I've been busy drawing up lists of places I'd like to visit, restaurants I'd love to eat at and sight's I'd like to experience. A whole lot of planning that has me extremely distracted but happily excited. I never thought I'd say this but I am really looking forward to winter. This is how I have spent the past few weekend mornings looking at maps and eating this light and refreshing breakfast pudding. 

Dragon fruit

With a name like dragon you'd expect a little more of a blast in flavor but surprisingly the soft flesh of dragon fruit is mildly sweet with a fresh melon-like taste. I will give it this, if I had to imagine what a dragon egg would look like, a dragon fruit certainly has the exterior shape. But to me, it's all about the crunch in those little black seeds of the dragon fruit. Because of its mild sweetness, I tend to prefer dragon fruit as a refreshing fruit for breakfast, another reason why I decided to prepare this breakfast-themed pudding.

Dragon fruit pudding

To give the pudding a little bit of a flavor boost,  I've added a little bit of rambutan pulp that has a gentle floral sweet taste. Rambutans are related to lychees and longans, once you get past peeling the skin of you are left with the sweet juicy transparent flesh that has a delightful exotic floral taste. If you can't find rambutans you can use lychees which are generally easier to find at most places. 

Rambuttan
To bring everything together, I've added low-fat coconut milk and lightly sweetened it with a little brown sugar. Of course, if you prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar. You have a couple of options here when it comes to serving the pudding, you can either pour it directly into serving dishes and allow it to set or alternatively pour it into casting molds, set and then remove before serving. Which ever way you decide to go, make sure the pudding is served chilled, the flavors are delicious when cold. 

Tropical fruit

Now, it's time for me to go back and plan these holidays out and eat some more of this pudding!

Dragon fruit pudding served

dragon fruit pudding

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup water
1 sachet unflavored gelatin
1 dragon fruit
5 rambutans, peeled, seed removed, and finely diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 can lite coconut milk

1.  Add the water to a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Leave aside to allow the gelatin to bloom for at least 5 minutes. The gelatin will absorb the liquid and look like swollen translucent granules.
2. Add the sugar and coconut milk to a thick-bottomed saucepan and bring it to a gentle simmer on a medium-low flame.
3. Scoop the dragon fruit pulp into a bowl. Smash the pulp with the prongs of a fork.
4. Add the dragon fruit and rambutan fruit pulps to the coconut milk in the saucepan.
5. Stir in the gelatin and mix for about 1 minute. Pour and evenly divide the liquid into serving bowls or molds and refrigerate until the pudding is soft but firm to touch. This will take at least 4 hours. Serve chilled directly in serving bowls. If using molds, then place the outer surface of the mold in warm water for a few seconds to loosen, flip onto a clean plate, tap gently and remove mold. 

indian-style sweet and sour pickled rhubarb

sweet and sour rhubarb pickles

This is the season for fresh produce and I enjoy taking advantage of it whenever possible. Though it's the end of spring here and the start of summer, the temperatures have been a bit cooler than usual and I haven't really ventured out to the local farmer's markets in D.C. as much as I would like to. Rhubarb has quickly become a favorite in the kitchen and I always pick up some at the farmer's market. This time I decided that I'd do something completely different and work on a pickled recipe for this season, just to have a little stash tucked away for the cooler months to come. 

rhubarb
chipotle chili pepper

Indian pickles are very different from western pickles. They combine a complex mix of flavors and spices. The diversity in flavors can vary from super hot to mild, to sweet to tart, or a combination of all or some. They generally use a bit of oil and some acid and sometimes sugar to preserve the vegetable or fruit that's being pickled. This pickled rhubarb recipe incorporates all of those tastes and preserving agents. Honestly, I wasn't really sure how rhubarb would taste when pickled but amazingly enough it absorbed all the flavors making it very tasty.

Pickled Rhubarb

The end product was tender and sweet, sour, and mildly hot. The rhubarb stalks got soft as they aged and pickled in the vinegar and were ready to eat after a week. This pickle goes delicious in sandwiches with roast meat (beef and lamb), chicken, turkey and even vegetables. It also goes really well with simple meal of rice and fish. Feel free to adjust the recipe quantities, if you want to make more, I made two jars and will probably scale this up once I pick up some more rhubarb (I got a couple of requests to make some more).

Grape vines sprouting back in Spring sweet and sour rhubarb pickle

indian-style sweet and sour pickled rhubarb

yields: two 500 ml jars

ingredients

8 rhubarb stalks, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 dried chipotle chili pepper, whole
2 tablespoons ginger root, peeled and julienned
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup jaggery or raw brown sugar
2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Cut the rhubarb stalks length-wise in half and then cut them into 4 inch pieces. Divide them equally into two clean sterile canning jars. Keep covered with a clean sterile cloth or paper towel.
2. Heat up a thick bottomed-sauce pan on a medium-high flame. Add the olive oil and heat till the oil. When the oil is hot (but not smoky), slice the chipotle pepper in half and add it with the seeds into the hot oil. Reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and immediately add the ginger, cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek seeds. (If anything burns toss the oil out and begin again). 
3. Carefully add the jaggery and stir continuously. The jaggery will melt and being to caramelize a little in the oil. Slowly fold in the vinegar (be careful at this stage) and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Cook the liquid for another minute or two. Switch the stove off and add the salt (taste the liquid to make sure the salt and sweetness is enough and adjust accordingly. Do not add water at any stage, just add more vinegar). 
4. Pour the hot liquid along with the spices into jars containing the rhubarb. Place one chipotle pepper in each jar. Seal with sterile lids and process for 20 minutes to can. Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Let the pickles age for a week before opening. 

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.