The 2017 Food Books Roundup

I haven’t bought as many food books as I have in 2017 ever. So I thought I’d do a roundup of all the food-centric books I’ve bought (or been gifted) this year and tell you what I liked about which books and why.

2017 Cookbooks

Suraj bought me Cook Korean! for my birthday in January. I had just moved cities and was living with my parents for a bit (until I could find us a place). He moved a couple of months later and we cooked a couple of recipes out of the book together. Lots of pork, lots of vegetables… and recipes written in comic form. All in all, a lovely buy and definitely a book worth owning!

Bourdain’s Appetites was delivered in March, and I was thrilled when I opened the Amazon package that it came in. We did a cookbook club lunch using recipes from the book a few months later. Everybody had mixed reviews about the book. I remember Kala made a rich, golden saffron risotto and Priyanka’s chicken pot pie was crumbly and comfortably gooey all at the same time. My shrimp bisque tasted good when I made it but had taken on a slightly bitter aftertaste at the time of serving, so I was a little disappointed. And Sahil thought the flavours on his spaghetti just didn’t come together right. That was also the first time I realized that books written across the world probably need some sort of standardization for measures. Saying 4 cloves of garlic doesn’t really work when a clove of garlic in USA weighs about 4 grams, and one in India weighs a little under 2 grams. In that sense, dessert recipe books are written better because they call for more precise measurements – 45 grams of dark chocolate (72%).

April saw me open another Amazon parcel that contained Jerusalem. Why Suraj bought me this, I can’t remember. It’s also the book that found me a new friend in Priyanka. She travelled around Georgia a few months later and bought a copy of the book on her way back. She tweeted about a recipe she’d cooked from the book, and a few weeks later, she was a part of the cookbook club. I’ve cooked several recipes inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi this year, though I haven’t quite cooked from the book yet. I’ve based a lot of my Meditteranean cooking from the book though. I’ve read it a couple of times cover to cover and have gotten a hang of how to build Middle Eastern recipes, in general. Next up for 2018, Ottolenghi’s Sweet.

My parents, Suraj and I dined at Boteco in Pune sometime in April. And I loved the food so much that I ordered The South American Table on a whim. It’s really just a tome of recipes – one after the other, with no classification by country or no cultural references. And as someone who is completely unaware about the South American continent, the book was just so much information, it was almost a turn-off. I haven’t cooked from it. But I hope to begin a South American obsession once I’m done with my current obsession with all things Japanese.

In May came Ivan Ramen. It was really silly when the book arrived really. We’d been binge-watching episodes of Chef’s Table on Netflix and one Saturday afternoon, we were finishing the Ivan Orkin episode, when I told Suraj I’d read so much about him and that he also had a book. Sunday afternoon, the doorbell rang to an Amazon Prime order delivery for, yeah, Ivan Ramen. The book is one of my best reads of the year, to be honest. I’ve read it several times over. I’ve even made various components of a ramen bowl using recipes in the book. I’ve tweaked them, worked with locally available ingredients and referenced over a dozen recipes online to create some bowls of good ramen. Of course, my recipes still need some improvement, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how far I’ve gotten with my ramen game.

Then, I bought Gourmet Journeys in India by Pushpesh Pant for Suraj for his birthday in June. We’re both fans of his writing and his TV shows, so I was hoping it’d be a collection of stories centred around food and travel, just as good as the stuff we’ve watched on TV. Turns out, it’s a recipe book. With pretty standard fare. I’ll admit I was a tad disappointed. I also forgot to include it in this picture.

July is my dad’s birthday month and he’s quite the man in the kitchen with cocktails, every time my parents have guests over. So I thought I’d buy him The Bar Book. He was quite amused that I did because he’s not a reader at all. Though he spent exactly three minutes flipping through the book and the handful of recipes it includes. I also wrote a little note in the book that I’d borrow it from him soon enough. The book deals with a lot of technicalities around making cocktails, which is something that a geek might totally dig. So once we’re done with the Japan obsession AND the South America obsession, maybe we can move on to cocktails, yeah?

And who ever buys only one book at a time? I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere that says you must add as many books to your cart as you can afford and buy them all in one go. Or something like that. That’s how I bought The East Indian Kitchen. I’d been meaning to make a bottle masala for a few weeks and with this book, I was only too thrilled to see two variants of the masala. A lot of the recipes feel very Goan, what with the heavy Portuguese influence. This book also helped me read up about Matharpacady in the Mazgaon dock area of Mumbai where the last of the East Indians live – in quaint little houses. I also hear that they’ve been trying to protect their “village” because the Maharashtra government is all out to label it a slum and that’s really not what it is at all. I’d love to do a trip to Mumbai some day and spend some time at one of the homes here and maybe learn a recipe or three first hand, I would.

In August, I bought Grape Olive Pig (which was my other birthday present to Suraj – only 2 months too late), The Whole Beast AND Izakaya. What was that thing I said about binge buying books? Grape Olive Pig is a fabulous read, much like its predecessor Rice Noodle Fish (where my Japan obsession really started).

And then it extended to me buying a book on Japanese pub food and culture – Izakaya. And then an entire series of food manga books. The book makes for a beautiful read, filled with lots and lots of information about why Japanese pubs are designed a certain way and how pub meals flow through the course of the evening. The book also has several recipes. A lot of them, however, use fresh cuts of fish that we don’t get in India and also a few Japanese ingredients that I haven’t seen in markets here. So I guess cooking out of this book is still a while off for me. But if you’re up for reading and learning about a culture through its food, this is one book I’d definitely recommend you pick up.

The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson had been on my wishlist for many years. I haven’t had the chance to cook out of it yet. Though I did hyperventilate when I was painstakingly going over every page of the book and discovered that the roast bone marrow with parsley and caper salad recipe is what Anthony Bourdain said he’d like his last meal to be in My Last Supper. On an aside, I’ve had the biggest crush on Anthony Bourdain since I was 15, that’s some time around 2001. And in the few years that I lived in USA, I bought whatever books I could that he’d written or he’d been mentioned it. This picture holds a very special place in my heart (and umm… at the risk of being risque, hehe, in other places too). Needless to say, I have the interview memorized and when I saw the recipe and I realized that Fergus Henderson is Fergus Henderson of St. John, I had a mild panic attack (of joy). I checked with my pork vendor about how much he’d sell different cuts to me for. Turns out, I need to let him know at least a couple of days in advance if I need the nasty bits (see what I did there?), and somehow, I never got around to cooking anything from the book. Someday, I hope that we can do a Nose to Tail meal for the cookbook club and that we use this book. That’ll be fun.

Come October, I was broke. And out of a job. And I bought Kirsten Tibballs’ Chocolate as one of those last books I might ever buy for a long long time. I broke that self-inflicted punishment in November because it was wedding anniversary month, but now that November’s gone, the punishment is on (again). The book is a beauty! I’ve made a couple of dessert from it and then made a couple more by using different techniques across several recipes in the book. It has clear instructions, with pictures, on how to glaze cakes, on how to make fancy decorations, on the perfect meringue, a great mousse, macarons… EVERYTHING! Plus, it’s all chocolate. What more can you want?! This one, along with Ivan Ramen, was one of my top buys of the year.

The Seven Sisters was one of the four books Suraj gifted me for our wedding anniversary. I haven’t had the chance to cook from it just yet, but I promise to do so early 2018 and leave a little review on the blog. But I’ve flipped through it several times already. It has a section for every state from India’s North East, each profiled with a person from that state and their favourite recipes. I’m a little wary that some recipes might need ingredients that we don’t get in this part of the country, so I’m also going to try and see if I can buy them online and source them from friends of friends whose families stay in the north-east.

Next up, the non-recipe food-centric books from this year.

Also, I can’t help but link you to this list of food books by Ankiet Gulabani. He’s a big name in the world of recipe development and food writing, and I’ve had a couple of conversations with him on Instagram. I was thrilled when this showed up in my email literally minutes after I’d taken pictures of my food books.

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Ep7: The Complete Asian Cookbook – Sri Lanka and The Philippines by Charmaine Solomon

Another fun lunch, another set of interesting recipes.

Since we’ve settled into a comfortable arrangement around how we organize our meets and pick our books, there really isn’t much left to talk about, except who attended and what they cooked. So, this time around, I’ll do a small review of the book. And if that works, this might as well become a cookbook club that does book reviews. Sounds like adding some more fun to the exercise, if you ask me.

~~~

At our last cookbook club meet, we had a bunch of new faces. So, while talking to them about what we usually do, we mentioned that we’d made Sri Lankan food the time before that. That’s when Keya, who was a first timer at the Justin Gellatly cookbook meet, mentioned she has a wonderful book by Charmaine Solomon about Sri Lankan and Filipino food. With everyone equally and almost instantaneously excited about it, the decision was easy.

The vegetarians dropped out over the next couple of weeks because, as it turns out, Filipino food (even the vegetarian dishes) use a lot of chicken stock and shrimp paste.

The book, going by its title, is one out of a series of books on Asian cooking. The other books in the series cover groups of countries:

  • India & Pakistan
  • Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore
  • Japan & Korea
  • Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Burma
  • and China,

with each book being divided into a section of its own, by country.

Every individual section in each book begins with an introduction to the country – cultural and historical aspects, and how those relate to the food that native folk cook food.

Some of us, while going over the book, had comfortably skipped the introduction, yet observed that the recipes had a heavy Spanish influence. Turns out, the introduction explains why that is. Filipino food is a mix of recipes from Malay traders, Spanish conquerors, and local tribes. The book also talks about how meals are typically served.

Recipes then follow, being grouped into four sections, the first three being seafood, meat and veggies. Of course, it’s a little alarming and disappointing that there are only four vegetarian recipes – three of which use pork or shrimp. But that’s hardly the fault of the book or author. The cuisine, I’m led to believe, is meat heavy.

The dessert section at the end is, again, heavy on Spanish influence and you see recipes for flan and bombones de arroz, among others.

The recipes are pretty accurate – they even give users tips on what they can substitute for ingredients that may not be locally available. For instance, annatto seeds can be substituted with a mixture of turmeric and red chilli powder. While cooking, as Indian consumers, all of us did think that the wasn’t enough spice/heat in the recipes, but the end product tasted great nevertheless.

For non-vegetarians, this book provides a window into a culture less explored and a fresh set of South East Asian recipes. I’m looking forward to picking up another book from the series!

~~~

About our potluck, here’s who attended and what they brought

  • Keya fried some empanadas (pastries filled with a mix of chicken and pork)
  • I brought in some lumpias (egg wrappers filled with lettuce and a shrimp, chicken & pork filling) that we assembled just before eating
  • Suraj made the Pipi-An (chicken and pork in peanut sauce)
  • Sahil made the Adobong Manok (chicken adobo with coconut sauce), both the curries were served with white rice. \
  • Pranav baked some Capuchinos (brandied cakes) and also made some Rum and Chocolate cupcakes by tweaking the Capuchinos recipe

 

Ep6: Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding by Justin Gellatly

I’d really badly wanted to cook from Kirsten Tibballs’ Chocolate. But when I asked around, people seemed apprehensive because the recipes looked very tough. Since I last discussed doing Chocolate for a cookbook club meet, I’ve made a half dozen recipes from the book. While some are tough, the instructions are crystal clear. And making them doesn’t seem half as much of an ordeal as one might imagine. That said, we might just pick it up for the cookbook club some time later. This time instead, we used a book called Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker.

Justin Gellatly is Britain’s best baker. He worked with Fergus Henderson (of Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking fame) at St.John as Head Baker and Pastry Chef for several years, and now runs Bread Ahead, a bakery and school in London. He’s also co-authored Nose to Tail Eating, as it turns out. And that got me thinking. So I ran up to my bookshelf and pulled out the Nose to Tail book that I own. Turns out, that’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, by Fergus Henderson. I’m beginning to wonder how different that is from Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking.

Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding  Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker
Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker

This time’s cookbook club meet had a few new faces because a bunch of the usual suspects were busy. Gayatri – a professional baker who has recently moved from Bombay to Pune, her friend Ekta who conducts cooking and baking classes for kids, Keya – a friend of Priyanka’s who is a teacher and makes some utterly lovely sweet onion and herb tarts. Among the usual suspects were only Priyanka and myself. We met at Keya’s house because I needed to see a house that wasn’t my own, on Sunday, November 5th 2017, for what was supposed to be brunch (that ended at 5 pm).

The food was a mishmash of good and average fare. I was mighty pleased with the brioche buns I’d baked, but someone they didn’t find many takers over brunch that afternoon. I sent some over to my parents and ate brioche for breakfast over the next couple of days. There was a ginger cake and a steamed marmalade sponge which were a little dense for my liking, but maybe that’s what their recipes intended them to be. Here’s what the menu for that afternoon was:

  • Sweet
  • Savoury
    • Poppy Seed and Black Onion Crisps
    • Sweet Onion and Fine Herb Tart
    • Cheese and Chilli Pops

The cheese and chilli pops were made using a brioche dough, and called for about 50 grams of finely chopped green chillies to be kneaded into the dough. Since we’re in India, my oversmart brain told me to half the quantity of green chillies, because 50 grams seemed a little to much. I was wrong. The buns didn’t taste of any chilli. I also stuck in little cubes of mozzarella in one half of the buns, in the hope that I’d get ooey-gooey cheese oozing out of warm buns when they were torn apart. Again, that’s not quite what happened. The cheese settled inside, not lending it’s typical gooey stringiness to the bread when pulled apart. The top of all the buns were sprinkled liberally with parmesan, as per the recipe and did little to add to the yumminess of the dough, in my opinion.

I also made a chocolate terrine. The recipe suggests that they be served with ginger snaps or chocolate and oat snaps, and I decided on the latter, because Gayatri was already making Justin’s ginger cake. The terrine was divine. So good that I’ve written it out as a blog post here.

Priyanka played safe with a custard tart – the custard was nice and creamy. She says she sprinkled some nutmeg on the top, following the recipe. And I wondered whether we could’ve brûléed it. It was just very mildly sweet and the caramelized sugar would’ve added a whole nother dimension to it, along with some added crunch. The pastry was flaky and buttery and quite delicious.

Gayatri brought in the poppy seed and black onion seed crisps. We had some goat’s cheese and some brie at hand, for the crackers. And also added some smoked cheddar and some edam to the plate. She also baked a ginger cake that she served with a warm cider and caramel sauce. The tartness from the cider made that caramel sauce refreshingly different, and as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of caramel, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The almost fudge-like crumb of the cake wasn’t something that I warmed up to though.

Keya made some Sweet Onion and Fine Herb Tarts that were absolutely delicious. I even managed to snag the last one home for my grandmum. She wouldn’t stop gushing about how much she enjoyed it all evening.

Ekta used oranges from her garden for the marmalade for her steamed cake. Maybe the fact that they were home grown made that marmalade sing! It was hands down one of the tastiest orange marmalades I’ve even had. The cake did feel a tad dense though. And like I said earlier, maybe that’s how the recipe intended it to be.

This was our first entirely vegetarian cook and it was interesting in many ways. I’m all for for picking difficult recipes and seeing (read: hoping) they come to fruition. But I need to know that I can’t expect everybody to think that way. And maybe when we pick a seemingly difficult book, there is more likely to be only one difficult recipe at lunch and several other easier ones. That’s not a bad thing, really. But sometimes I wish there were 5 of me, so that we could do five tough recipes and exchange notes.

I’d love to make doughnuts from this book some day. They’re on the cover and they look challenging and tasty at the same time. Until then, here are some more recipes from the book that were published in The Guardian a few years ago.

Chocolate Terrine with Chocolate and Oat Snaps

I’ve been unemployed for a few months now and my professional life has been more or less of a mess since mid 2016. Some days I spend mindlessly refreshing my Twitter and Instagram feeds, other days I come home and weep because I’ve screwed up another interview. But some days, I try keeping my spirits up, reading the several open tabs on my browsers and making way for a score more tabs of reading. And then, I also read actual books. My reading is nowhere as good as it was a few years ago, when I’d probably do a couple of books every month. But then at least I try. Or I think I do. I’ve been reading Dianne Jacob’s Will Write for Food currently, in an attempt to up my writing skills.

I don’t make very much of the food writing I read here in India. Apart from the odd piece in The Goya Journal, even there, mostly the pieces that involve information and research, I’ve mostly been angered by the poor quality of food writing by Indians. Often, work by foreigners of Indian origin reeks of ignorance and generalization and that leaves me equally irked. But then someone’s has got to change it, right? I’m not saying that I’m going to be the next thing out there on Indian food writing, but I can try. I’m a little confused whether it’s food writing by Indian people that I dislike or writing about Indian food by just about anybody that gets to me. And by reading Dianne Jacob’s book, I hope to find an answer to that. I’m also hoping I can get some good writing done myself. There’s a good chance I will suck at this because that’s one thing that’s not easier said than done. But it’s worth a try or three, right?

At the end of every chapter in the book, is a writing exercise. The first chapter asks that we write about a favourite meal and make sure we use all five senses to describe it. It also asks us to make use of similes and metaphors in our writing, to make it livelier. And lastly, and this is something she stresses on through the course of the book, she asks that we write something in a way that we show, rather than tell. Showing, she says, would be: “Before I knew it, the bowl was empty, with a few shiny kernels rattling at the bottom.” Telling would be “I really love popcorn.”

So, I thought to myself then, bring it on. Put it up on the blog. The half dozen people that DO read, might want to leave some feedback. But then I began to think of a favourite meal that I’d had in the recent past. And for all the cooking I do and as much as I call myself a food blogger (or do I?), I couldn’t think of a single one! There are so many meals I’ve liked! My mum’s three bean and quinoa salad, my lazy night Asian noodles, ramen bowls, South Indian curries… But do I like one more than the other? Or are they all so different, that it’s almost hard to compare…

Since I don’t have a favourite meal that I can remember, but I did enjoy eating the chocolate terrine I made for the cookbook club a couple of weekends ago, I though I should write about making it and eating it. 

Chocolate terrine with candied orange and chocolate and oat snaps
Chocolate terrine with candied orange and chocolate and oat snaps

~~~

It’s always fun to pick a tough recipe when you’re cooking for the cookbook club. It tells you how little you know. It gives you an opportunity to fuck up, I say that like it’s a good thing. And if you have enough time at hand, it also allows you to fix what you’ve ruined in the first place. So then, maybe, sometimes, it gives you another chance. One thing’s for sure, at the end of it, you’re one skill stronger in the kitchen. For me, the chocolate terrine was all of that. And much more.

What’s a terrine you ask? In French cuisine, a terrine is typically made in glazed earthenware (also called a terrine, haha) and is very similar to a pâté, in that it’s almost like a spreadable paste. A terrine, more often than not, is a savoury dish containing copious amount of fat along with game meat such a hare or pheasant.  This one, though, is dessert. How or why Mr. Gellatly decided to make a dessert terrine instead of a savoury one is something I’d love to know. I’m absolutely delighted that he DID come up with the recipe because it’s something I know I will be making again.

Glazed earthenware is expensive and not readily available in markets here in India, and I had to think of an alternate container to set my terrine in. The closest thing I could find was a glass loaf pan. I’ve used it for ice creams and a bread and they’ve turned out fine, so I decided to go ahead with it.

I’ve inherited a shelf full of Pyrex bakeware from a grand aunt. My grand uncle, her husband, used to be in the Indian Air Force and they used to have high ranking guests over for dinner from time to time – which is why she invested in some very good bakeware and other crockery back in the sixties. Or so I’m told. Turns out, no one used any of the stuff after the seventies because a chronic illness confined her to a wheelchair and an oxygen cylinder until she passed away. Last year, when my aunts finally decided to sell the house my grand uncle and aunt lived in before her passing, they told my mum she could take anything she wanted from the house. And that, dear readers, is the story of the Pyrex loaf pan I used for the terrine. It’ll also be the story for the pie crust I post next week, but let’s just pretend we have the suspense built up and an exciting story the next time around as well, yeah?

If there were one word to describe this dessert, it would be decadent. Nothing else. I’m guessing the key to that decadence is using some extremely good quality chocolate. I usually buy a half decent brand that costs about 85 rupees for a half kilo. I went all out and bought some couverture chocolate for this and it cost me about 8 times the cost of my usual cooking chocolate. Well, for someone who’s unemployed, that sort of luxurious spending better have its rewards!

Of course, with chocolate that expensive, I weighed the 115 grams that were required more carefully than I ever would’ve, making sure I’d scraped that last nugget into my mixing bowl. In went some unsalted butter and an idea that I should scrap the terrine plans and make some edible jewellery instead. The recipe then asked that I whisk some egg yolks and sugar in a bowl for about 5 minutes until they’re white and fluffy, so I got to work. Being familiar with the pale yellow colour egg yolks beaten with sugar take on, I wasn’t sure how white a white to expect, but I whisked the mixture for the full 300 seconds that I was asked to and indeed did end up with a pillowy cloud of beaten eggs and sugar. I sifted in some cocoa powder and added the melted chocolate in, and continued to stir hoping to see a lovely creamy chocolate paste. That’s when things went downhill. And right into a pigsty. Because what I was swirling in the mixing bowl was, quite plainly put, a sludge. I wasn’t the least surprised because it was time something should’ve gone wrong anyway. The recipe mentioned that the mixture could be passed through a sieve to get rid of lumps, so I tried my luck with that, but ended up with a gloop floating around in some cocoa butter instead.

Having put many kitchen disasters behind me, I took a deep breath and decided to proceed, to see how bad this could get. I heated some cream and icing sugar in a saucepan, brought it to a boil and hopelessly, yet extremely slowly, added it to the muck, constantly stirring all along. The recipe had stressed that the cream be hot because that was the key to setting the terrine right. So I obeyed. What happened next was nothing short of a culinary miracle. The sludge and the residual cocoa butter coalesced with the cream into a smooth, silky and thick paste. I poured it into my historic Pyrex loaf pan and put it away to set, while sneaking a taste of the leftover batter from the bowl. It was sinful – rich, dark and with just the right hint of sweet.

The tragedy was that I’d have to wait until the following afternoon to cut a slice out to eat. So I decided to head out of the house altogether, lest the diabolic terrine call out to me.

~~~

Chocolate terrine with candied orange and chocolate and oat snaps
Chocolate terrine with candied orange and chocolate and oat snaps

Recipes for the chocolate terrine and the chocolate and oat snaps that it was served with follow. Both recipes are from Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Britain’s Best Baker by Justin Gellatly.

Chocolate Terrine

Serves 14–16
Suitable for freezing

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Chilling time: overnight

Ingredients:

115g dark chocolate (70%)
225g unsalted butter
5 egg yolks
115g caster sugar
90g cocoa powder (100%), sifted
a pinch of fine sea salt
340ml double cream
35g icing sugar, sifted

Method:

  1. Line the inside of a terrine mould measuring 25cm × 8cm × 8cm with clingfilm.
  2. Chop your chocolate carefully into small pieces and put it into a large bowl with the butter. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and let the chocolate mixture melt slowly.
  3. While the chocolate and butter are melting, put your egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk together until white and fluffy (which should take about 5 minutes).
  4. Whisk in the sifted cocoa powder and salt – the mixture will become quite stiff – then put to one side.
  5. Pour the cream into a heavy-based saucepan, add the sifted icing sugar and slowly bring to the boil.
  6. Add your melted chocolate mixture to the egg yolks, whisking all the time to prevent lumps (you can sieve it later if you do get any, though, so don’t worry too much). It should be like a thick chocolate paste.
  7. Now take your pan of boiling cream off the heat and slowly add to your chocolate paste. Be very careful of the hot cream – it must be just off the boil, as it’s the heat from the cream which will set the terrine. When all mixed in, it will be smooth and glossy – if there are still any lumps, just pass it through a fine sieve.
  8. Pour into your prepared terrine mould and put into the fridge overnight to set.
  9. To serve, unmould the terrine and remove the clingfilm. Then, using a long thin sharp kitchen knife, slice it into thin slices, place on the plate and just run a blowtorch, if you have one, over the slice to shine the chocolate and give it the wow factor.
  10. Serve with fresh cherries, crème fraîche and ginger snaps or chocolate and oat snaps.

Chocolate and Oat Snaps

Makes about 28
Not suitable for freezing

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus chilling time
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

125g dark chocolate (70%), chopped, or buttons
125g softened unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
85g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
90g jumbo oats
a pinch of fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Method:

  1. First cut your chocolate into small pieces if you are not using chocolate buttons.
  2. In an electric mixer with a beater attachment, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the egg a little at a time, beating as you go, until incorporated, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Put the mix into the fridge for a few hours, until firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 140°C/fan 120°C/gas 1 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  4. When the dough is firm, take it out of the fridge and roll it into balls about 20g in weight. Place them on the prepared baking tray, making sure you leave plenty of room (about 12cm) between them as they will spread out a lot (don’t cook more than 6 or 7 at a time), and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool on the tray, as they will be too fragile to move straight away.
  6. Great served with ice cream (or with the aforementioned chocolate terrine).

Shankarpale Churros

Following up on my post for Chirote and Kulfi Ice-Cream Sandwiches, here’s my recipe for Shankarpale “Churros”.

Shankarpale Churros with Basundi
Shankarpale Churros with Basundi

Shankarpale are little diamond shaped nuggets of goodness that Gujarati and Maharashtrian families make during Diwali. They’re made with flour, water, sugar and ghee. And then fried in ghee. I’ve noticed a considerable difference in the quality and the taste of shankarpale when they’re fried in ghee versus when they’re fried in oil. The former is far better, the shankarpale are light and have a nice chewiness to them. With regular cooking oil, the chewiness can get a tad unpleasant. And it’s really not worth boiling your blood over the few extra rupees using ghee will cost you. ‘Tis the season of Diwali, Fa la la la, la la la.

Shankarpale Churros

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60-90 minutes
(makes about 250-300 grams of churros)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup sugar (use another 1/4 cup sugar if you like your shankarpale sweeter)
2 cups maida
1/2 a cup sugar, powdered
1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon (more, if required)
Additional ghee, for frying
Method:
  1. Mix the water, ghee and sugar in a kadhai on the gas stove and bring the mixture to a boil. Make sure the sugar has dissolved completely.
  2. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature
  3. In a mixing bowl, sieve a cup and a half of maida and add the ghee-water-sugar mixture to this. Stir to a paste like consistency. Gradually add the last half cup of flour, a couple of table spoons at a time, to make a sticky dough. The dough shouldn’t be quite as firm to roll out regular shankarpale.
  4. Heat some ghee in a kadhai.
  5. Fill a chakli maker with the shankarpale dough and begin to drop twigs of the batter into the hot ghee, about 3-4 inches long. You can make fun shapes, if you like.
  6. Let the shankarpale churros take on a golden colour, before you take them out of the ghee and onto a paper towel. While they are still warm, you can roll them in a mixture of powdered sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Serve with rabdi.
Basundi:
Active Time: 75 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours
(makes 4-6 bowls)
Ingredients:
1 litre milk
4-5 almonds slivered
6-8 pista, without shell, crushed coarse
1/2 teaspoon elaichi powder (more, if required)
4 tablespoons sugar (more, if required)
200g Milkmaid
A few strands of saffron
Method:
  1. Boil the milk. Once it comes to a boil, continue to let it simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t burn, until it has reduced to about a third of the original quantity.
  2. While the heat is still on, add in the saffron, almonds and pistachios along with the sugar. Stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Remember that you will be adding a little Milkmaid later on, if you plan on adding more than 4 tablespoons of sugar at this stage.
  3. Turn the heat off and let the mixture cool for about 5-10 minutes and add in the Milkmaid to give the basundi additional thickness and sweetness.
  4. Eat the basundi warm or refrigerate for 4-5 hours until chilled, before serving.
Shankarpale Churros with Rabdi:
Serving:
Serve the Shankarpale sticks (or Churros!) with the rabdi as a “dipping sauce”.
Shankarpale Churros with Basundi
Shankarpale Churros with Basundi