“Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:”
Alfred Lord Tennyson 

 We spend a lifetime teaching the kids not to give in to temptation, not to be unreasonable.  That there are lots of things in the world that one would like to do but self restraint is a virtue that needs to be exercised … blah blah blah. After all, we’ve been there, done that … and we know better! The lines from Tennysons The Charge of the Light Brigade’, which we studied in school eons ago, flood my mind often, especially the word ‘reason‘!  I really do like the lines now. Hated them in school though as they sounded like gobblygook then!
Food blogs these days are tempting, to put it mildly, and in some ways I am ever so glad to be the empress of the kitchen! No mother to tut tut at me while I succumb to temptation, no one to question why I cannot resist what I see, and no one to check my free run amidst pots and pans! One day, I fell into Spice Spoons blog post virtual trap, and saw the kulfi which was served in enviable shot glasses, coloured stirrers used as sticks. Predictably, I fell into a dreamy trance, knowing just where I was headed … ‘our’s not to reason why, ours but to do and die‘! I HAD to make the Shayma’s kulfia traditional Indian style of ice cream that needs no churning, is dense and creamy, and sublime to the very last bit.

While in the kitchen, here’s a sneak peek of our kitchen remodeling – a simple country style kitchen, with a warm wooded look that I love. Things are looking up finally, with work progressing at more than snails pace now. Still can’t bake as much, but have become quite passionate about frozen desserts … Fresh Cherry Fro Yo, Plum Fro Yo Popsicles, Peach-Ginger & Plum-Vanilla Granita to name a few. So the kulfi was  one I could not let pass by. I sneakily bought a litre of low fat cream. A tin of condensed milk has been sitting with me forever because it wanted to be made into Dulce de leche but never quite got there. Figured this was destiny’s plan!
The pictures on Shayma’s post called my name, and I soon made them. The kulfi, a dessert which is very popular across the sub-continent, was absolutely divine. With the low fat cream, I didn’t need to simmer it for more that 15 -20 minutes, but I did err in that I forgot to give it the odd stir every few minutes, so it got slightly caught on the base of the pan. Didn’t matter because I got this beautifully burnt caramelized flavour … a little more apathy and I would have been crying over disaster. Take heed dear readers, don’t forget to stir!

The idea of using pistachios and almonds slightly ground or rather finely chopped in the blender is certainly novel. I’ve never heard of it before, and it’s quite genius. It helps thicken the cream, and distributes a beautiful nutty flavour though out the ice cream, making it almost luxurious, a royal serving! The teeny nutty bits get sort of soft with the cooking and plump up enticingly making the end result deeply satisfying.
I added some pureed mango to about a quarter of the batter after it was cooked and set some kulfis with half plain half mango mixture, others with a layer of mango etc.  I used a variety of metallic moulds from my collection, and saw at Cherrapeno that silicon works well too. I had fun and the flavours were fabulous. This is a recipe I shall make often. Taking pictures was a downright pain as it was sweltering hot, cloudy and humid that day, but the taste made up for everything!

Mango Kulfi {Indian Ice Cream}

Adapted minimally from Spice Spoon
Serves 12-15 if using kulfi molds. {You will need a heavy-bottom pan to prepare this, otherwise the cream and sugar will stick to the base of the pan and burn.}
1/2 cup almonds,skins removed
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled; unsalted
1 litre half-and-half {I used 25% low fat cream}
300 ml condensed milk {about 2/3 rd of a 400ml tin was enough for me}
1 large mango, pulp pureed in blender till smooth, strained
Grind almonds and pistachios in a blender {not a food processor} by pulsing a few times. At the base of the blender, where the blade is, some of the nuts will turn into a flour like powder. This will help thicken the kulfi.
Place pan on medium heat on the stove. Pour in half-and-half.
Add almonds and pistachios.
As the temperature of the half-and-half rises, start adding in condensed milk. You will have to do this by a taste test. I used about 2/3rd of the tin. Once the mixture starts to bubble, turn the heat to low. STIR!!
A skin will form on top, just keep stirring it in. You will continue to stir for 20-25 minutes {one hour if using half and half} till the mixture thickens and reduces, becoming thick.
Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes. Add the mango puree to half, or the whole, and stir in to mix uniformly. Pour slowly into popsicle moulds {or shot-glasses}.
Place moulds/glasses in freezer. At the 30 minute mark when the kulfi has started to form, place popsicle sticks in each mould/glass.
Freeze overnight or for at least 8 hours.
To unmould, dip quickly in warm water.
Serve with a scattering of pistachios and almonds.


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“There’s nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE!”
Linda Grayson, “The Pickwick Papers”
Sometimes life springs wonderful surprises, and I sit back reminiscing about how far I’ve come in the past couple of years, and more often than never, the connections boil down to twitter. I have met so many great folk here, all like minded, food at the centre of our universe, and vibes that make everyday HAPPY! Amazing!!
One such tweep is the fun and very talented girl Shayma who blogs at The Spice Spoon. Have you met her? She writes evocatively, a food blog with plenty of connect, inspired by her heritage. We share a sense of infectious enthusiasm, and enjoy endless banter, often in direct messages. She sweetly sent me a bag of her favourite cocoa a few days ago, Valrhona. I’ve heard plenty about it but never figured out what the fuss and hoo-haa was all about. Googling for recipes led me to one of my fave food blogs, David Lebovitz.  David recommends the use of superior cocoa in his biscotti recipe, and Valrhona was the one he used. I didn’t have to Google any more!
While I was Googling and deep in Valrhona type thoughts, Mr PAB gave me strangely quizzed looks. … so much excitement over cocoa. I had some proving to do, to me and to him as well. Just mixing the dry ingredients of the biscotti into the wet were enough to make me eat my words. Gosh, the depth, the colour and the flavour of adding superior quality cocoa were already stepping out of the bowl. The first bake and slicing later, it was impossible not to grab a few crumbs. DELICIOUS and oh-so-chocolatey! I couldn’t slice them as thin and neatly as David did his. I think it may be the variety of flour, the temperature, the  slight deviation from his recipe etc, but the chunky cookie makes for a fab mouthful. Love how rustic and delicious the sliced biscotti looks.

… Eating my words now, with some delicious crumbs from the first round of baking the biscotti with the cocoa powder in question – Valrhona! Gosh … the biscotti is awesome, and I am pretty sure it had a lot to do with the quality of cocoa. I did add some olive oil to the dough since the eggs I used were small. I could have added another egg, but a sweet lady from the Spanish major Borges was coming over to visit me. I thought she might enjoy the use of olive oil  this way, especially since I have been using Borges for a short while.

Sharon visited on behalf of Borges who recently announced it’s entry in the Indian market with the launch of its flagship product Olive Oil. It launched 3 variants – Extra Virgin, Extra Light and Pure Olive Oil. I missed the launch since I was out of town, and the lovely lady came by so see me with a bag of the different variants. Olive oil has seen an upsurge in the Indian market of late, and  there have been hectic promotions on many fronts, including this one at the European Art of Taste. {I was mildly surprised to hear exclamations at EAT when I said I use olive oil in desserts and baking.} A lot of folk here don’t associate olive oil with desserts / sweet stuff, but I’ve made Cocoa Cherry Dessert Brownies, Pistachio Olive Oil Brownies, Orange and Olive Oil Cake, Chocolate Buckwheat Lime Tart among other things. 

I have been using Borges Olive Oil for a short while now, mainly the extra virgin and extra light varieties. The Extra Light variety has been developed keeping in mind Indian cooking, and has a higher heating point to allow sautéing on high heat, deep frying etc. It has a mild flavour that doesn’t overpower the flavour of the food, but compliments the dish lending it the health benefits associated with olive oil. I am looking forward to using the extra virgin and the balsamic soon. You should see more olive oil recipes popping here now & then as I love using it!

Chocolate Almond Biscotti
Adapted minimally from David Lebovitz
30-35 cookies
Use a good-quality cocoa powder. You can use natural or Dutch-process for these, whichever one you like. Just remember that the chocolate flavor of the finished cookies is dependent on the quality of cocoa powder you use…. read more
2 cups flour
3/4 cups top-quality cocoa powder {I used Valrhona}
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 small eggs, at room temperature
1/8cup olive oil {I used Borges}
1 cup vanilla sugar, or plain granulated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped {optional}
1 cup almonds, toasted and very coarsely-chopped
3/4 cups chocolate chips {I used dark}
For the glaze
1 egg white
1 sachet vanilla sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake a cookie sheet with baking parchment.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, olive oil, vanilla beans, vanilla extract and almond essence if using.
Fold the dry ingredients, chopped almonds and chocolate chips in the wet mix till well incorporated, and the cookie dough comes together.
Divide the dough into half, and form into logs using slightly damp hands. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. bake for 25 minutes or until the dough feels firm. Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes.

Slice and place sides down on the cookie sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies feel mostly firm. Cool completely and store in an airtight box.

Davids’ notes : Once baked, cool the cookies completely then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. If you wish, the cookies can be half-dipped in melted chocolate, then cooled until the chocolate hardens.

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“Mind like a sieve these days and the attention span of a flea!!”  
Jeanne Horak @ Cooksister

I love the quote above. Words from Jeanne @ CookSister in emails being exchanged a couple of days ago, much of it nonsensical light banter. It coined the way I felt, and I was absolutely taken in by the rhythm of the words! My foodie world has been thrown into disarray and I often feel at odds. It’s a world of rubble, heat and dust, the odd shower thrown in, which adds to humidity. There is SO MUCH on the mind, and the additional want to ‘blog & tweet‘ doesn’t help…

The kitchen is under the hammer, literally, being broken down with hammers and chisels for a much needed face lift. It’s like a scene out of a war zone and fine dust settles like a shroud  everywhere, eerily concealing everything underneath. It was a revelation to hear from Ken that a lot of old places in New York still have concrete kitchens like ours! Made me feel better instantly, though getting any work done in India is a whole new ball game. The workers each have a mind of their own, are mostly uneducated but technically superior at what they do, AND enjoy endless chai breaks!

In the midst of the rubble and ‘war like’ home zone, stone fruits still tempt me into buying them when I go intending to pick up basic food supplies to tide over these busy days. Just before work began, a week ago, I had bought a box of cherries and some dark red plums optimistically thinking of making this rice pudding I saw at Tartlette! Unrealistic me; must have been dreaming …

Didn’t get much further than roasting the fruit, and then ran out of time and quickly bundled it off into the fridge. There was a kitchen to be emptied, fridges to be moved etc, and I knew that once cooked, the fruit would keep safe for a bit, and importantly, not torment me. They kept beautifully, and when I saw the Double Cherry Almond Crumble on TasteSpotting, I knew instantly that was where my fruit would go. My love for stone fruit in desserts had found a plan …
It’s a delicious take on the crumble. I loved the topping which incorporated almonds and added loads to the flavour. I couldn’t locate my almond essence in the mess, but am sure it would have added to the ooomph! The crumble was fabulous and a real treat for the family, given that the boy looks longingly at the incomplete work, ruing the fact that dessert days have gone! He was thrilled to see the little ramekins coming their way! I served them with a teeny dollop of unsweetened cream. Nothing like a stone fruit laden crumble…NOTHING!!

Stone Fruit Almond Crumble
Adapted minimally from Good Food, Good Wine, and a Bad Girl
Makes 8 individual servings, or 1 large
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
4-5 dark red plums {stoned and chopped}
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
4-5 peaches, stoned and chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled
1 tbsp milk

For the filling:

Prepare the cherries and plums:
Adapted from Tartlette
Preheat the oven to 200C.
With the tip of a knife, slice the half vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a small dish or ramekin. Add the sugar and mix with your fingertips until the vanilla bean seeds are well distributed.
Place the cherries and plums in a baking dish and sprinkle the vanilla sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until juicy. Let cool.

For the Crumble:
Preheat oven to 180C.
In a mixing bowl, combine the cherries plum compote, peaches, lime juice, sugar and cornstarch. Stir until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine flour,almonds and sugar and whiz in brief spells until the almonds are ground. Add the butter and process briefly until loose and crumbly. Add milk and stir until the dough just comes together
Pour the fruit mixture into individual ramekins {or an 8×8 baking dish}. Pinch off small pieces of dough, and place on fruit mixture to more-or-less cover the fruit.
Bake the crumble in preheated oven for 20-25minutes {40-45 minutes for 1 large serving}, or until filling is bubbly and topping is crisp and golden.

To quote the ‘Bad Girl‘ on the her recipe… Depending on your mood, the crumble can be served warm or at room temperature. If you’re in a particularly indulgent mood, serve warm crumble a-la-mode with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream. It was wonderful with a dollop of unsweetened low fat cream too!
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