No Bake | Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta … coastal flavours from friends #dessert #giftthanks #kokum

“I’m not a vegetarian! I’m a dessertarian!”
Bill Watterson

Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta … as if the Italian version of the panna cotta wasn’t delicious enough, the coconut milk version is glass scraping good too. So when the very sweet Ajit posted about a kokum cooler on FB, I was instantly on his case. “Want Want Want”, I said {read pleaded}. The fine, ever obliging and efficient man that he is, ensured that I had a ‘kokum’ package in my hands a few days later. It was a 100 watt smile on my face I tell you!

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India 26

Four Seasons Vineyards, Baramati, Pune, India Ever since we had the sol kadi {top left corner, and just above} at Baramati on the wine fam trip to Four Seasons Winery a couple of years ago,  kokum has had me smitten. Must be a taste bud thingy. I might bake and make a load of sweet stuff, but my heart belongs to savoury. Piquant, tangy, sharp, citric … flavours that make my mouth water. Add garlic, astoefetida, sumac, phalsa berries, raw tamarind to the list and you just might hear my heart sing out loud.Kokum Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Kokum or Garcinia Indica  is indigenous to the Western Ghats region of India located along the western coast of the country. It is used as a staple souring agent typically in Goan cuisine and some parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Kokum yields a peculiar flavour and blackish red colour. It is a preferred substitute for tamarind in curries and other dishes from the Goa and Konkan region.

So you can imagine my happiness when the package with kokum arrived. With it, a sweet hand written note from the A of A & N, a blog that I first connected with several years ago. At the time A & N were in the US, and regaled their audience with tales of getting flood waters in their home, food and a lot more. The they came back to India, and we reconnected. A and me exchanged notes over ingredients, oohed and aahed over experiments with 100% whole wheat bread, and a lot more…

Whole Wheat BreadThe N of course is the sweetest thing to walk the earth… joyful, exuberant and uber talented. She works with of my most fave online furniture stores Urban Ladder. Anyway, to cut a long story short, A in his note said “I’m sure you’ll work your magic and turn it into something wonderful. Looking forward!” The pressure that didn’t allow me to make just a simple cooler. I wanted to make something to embrace sweet & savoury for summer….

Kokum Coconut Milk Panna CottaI knew it was panna cotta. To tie in the coastal flavours from where kokum is born, it was going to be a coconut milk panna cotta. Vanilla bean because I love it so, and it flavours the panna cotta gently.  More flavours because I have bunches of lemon grass growing outside, and a box of kaffir lime leaves in my freeze. The pairing was beautiful. The basic panna cotta pairs well with most fruit …. so think strawberries, cherries, blueberries, mango, blackberries…

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Baking | Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies … it’s Pi{e} Day after all #wholegrain #together #healthy #pie

“The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.”
Henry Drummond

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand PiesWholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies … pies for a day like today that honours the humble pie. Handiwork of a genius foodie  who equated Pi Day to Pie day ….and the rest as they say is history. In taste terms these turned out to be quite delicious. I think they are a fab fit for Pie day which incidentally falls today on the 14th of March. {Read 3.14}

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies There was a time a couple of years ago when I never missed doing a pie for Pie Day. The whole concept had me enchanted. With a deep dislike {read  hatred} for math in school, the very concept of 22/7=3.14 being applied to mathematical problems flew over the top of my head. My poor father would break his head trying to drill some math intelligence into me. Never happened.

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies Then came food blogging, the Daring Bakers, and a LOT of new foodie friends. We had loads in common. We would wake up and hop into twitter from right across the globe, and break into a twitter chat! It was an obsession, and a load of good was born out of it too. It was in March one year when, much to our amazement, someone started a chain asking to make pies for Pi Day? Most of us crawled out from under the rock … it was a huge YES!

Pi Day is an American annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (or 3/14 in the month/day date format), 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π in decimal form. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day.

I’ve had some great pie baking on my blog. I credit a lot of what I’ve learnt to the Daring Bakers. Without them I wouldn’t have been half the baker I currently am. Some pies were FUN all the way like this Pie Bird & A Strawberry Pie I made after watching the film Life of Pi. I loved it!Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird Some pie baking memories are poignant like the time there was a call for International Pie Day in honour of Jennifer Perillo. Jenifer’s Mikey loved Peanut Butter Cream Pie and she kept postponing making it for him. Then suddenly one day it was too late. I couldn’t make peanut butter cream pie as I had no peanut butter or cream cheese at home, but I made a no-bake Upside Down Mango Quark Cheesecake Pie. Upside Down Mango Quark Cheese PieSo was talking to the Ruchira yesterday and she said she was making a yummy Cheese & Bacon Pie … and the first thing that came to my mind was Pie Day. She was like huh? There’s something like Pie Day? So the mathematical equation was duly explained. Was she excited or what.  She loved the very idea, and that in turn got me going. I would do pie too, hand pies!

ThymeWhat a memorable day today was. Just the motivation I needed! No time to do grocery so I had to work with what I had on hand. Apples & thyme. Walnuts and cheddar are pantry staples, so I knew just what to make. Not one for an APF pastry, I decided to challenge myself. Would do a wholewheat version … and surprise, surprise, it worked beautifully. Crisp and light. You wouldn’t miss the normal pastry at all!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies Shortcrust pastry needs delicate handling; don’t overwork it. Make sure the cut in butter is pea sized. Add just enough liquid so that it comes together comfortably, little more than just staying together than pinched. Pull it together in a ball, don’t knead the dough. The pastry gets tough. Cling wrap it into a flat disk and chill for a couple of hours. Who doesn’t like a good rest?  The pastry does too. Mine got an overnight rest so I had little work for this morning. I did the filling last night too so basically I was just down to rolling and pinching today!

Eggs & ThymeI got the eggs out for a glaze. Then decided to keep it a 100% vegetarian. Someone on FB posted a honey glaze ages ago. Unfortunately I cant remember her name, but I remember honey! I love the the goldenish brown hue it gave my pastry.  It’s a great choice if you want to keep a bake a 100% egg free. I used to do a single cream wash in the past. Honey is my new wash to go!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies The flavours are beautiful too. Apples and walnuts are good old friends, cinnamon ties them together. Thyme and cheddar stirred in some magic. What a pleasing bite these had. Sweet little hand pies, just perfect for Pie Day. Despite being tired to bits with renovation on at home, a little nudge from a friends is all it took. It’s difficult to be optimistic all day, every day; and sometimes we need a little nudge to get on track! That is the power of being #together!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies So I manged to bake pie to mark the day. Something else good also happened today. I walked 10,000 steps with the GOQii fitness band. What’s that you might ask? More about that on my next post!

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Baking | Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} … light, healthy, delicious and glutenfree {I’m ready for the new year}

“Celebrate what you want to see more of”
Thomas J. Peters

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} … wafts of sweet almond with citrusy notes of orange float through the kitchen, virtually transporting you to the Mediterranean. One bite and you will find it hard to believe that the cake is flourless with no added fat. It is delightfully moist and orange flavoured.  Almond meal adds interesting texture, and pairs beautifully with the choice of fruit.

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} It’s the peak of winters here, cold as cold can be. Day before was the coldest at 2.6C, the lowest temperature recorded in December in the past so many years. The statistics don’t leave you, neither does the deep chill. It gets into your very bones. This is North Indian winter for you. In the background the TV plays endlessly; CNN telling you about the latest aviation disaster. Dreadful news at the end of the year. I’m ready for a new year. Bye bye 2014!

Fresh & local produce, mood photographyIt’s easier to immerse yourself in what comforts you most. I click. Loads. Moody shots mainly. Sometimes you crave good news. Sometimes you wish you could turn the clock back to simple living. For times like this, I head for the kitchen, get embraced by the warmth, lose myself in the aromas that warm the cockles of your heart!Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} 5

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} Speaking to Cookaroo a couple of days ago, she mentioned she was off to make an Orange Almond Cake. Snapped me out of my somnambulent frozen state. I had an Orange Almond Cake sitting here in my drafts, one I had done for Travel & Leisure Asia a few months ago. I’ve remade it recently since oranges and back in season.

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} With the market flooded with ripe, orange juicy fruit, it’s a great time to bake this cake. I’ve baked this a couple of times, both with oranges and with kumquats too. Always good. Made a couple of trifles as well. Orange Almond Cake, whipped cream with Grand Marnier, and some almond praline made the layers. Divine!Orange Almond Cake Trifles {gluten free}The recipe is inspired from passover cakes that find root in cuisine of the Sephardic Jews who originate from the countries of the Middle East. The cake is ‘leavened wheat free’ which is the diet that defines the passover holiday. Interestingly, ancient Greeks also savoured the combination of fruit, nuts and honey. Sugar only appeared later during the Ottoman times. The recipe first appeared in Travel & Leisure, Asia May 2014.

Bidding adieu to 2014…
Have a warm and wonderful 2015. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A Fit Foodie recipe

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