Sunday, January 16, 2011

Strawberry souffle

A simple-to-make dessert with wonderful results

It all started with the office cook-out. A tradition that features new joinees cooking for the rest of the office. Yes, the whole freaking office. All 50 of them. So as luck would have it, my turn came. And with it, I was clubbed with 3 fresh-out-of-college boys, who dont cook. I consider myself a novice. I can barely cook for more than 3 people, with confidence. And here I was, with the daunting task of cooking for 50 very hungry people, with very high expectations. That, and the will to generally rag the new joinees.

So the menu was decided. We wanted to keep it simple. Chicken curry, paneer butter masala, jeera rice and green salad. And just as an add-on, I thought Id experiment with a quick-fix idea for souffle, that my super efficient and pro-cook friend Praerna had shared with me a while ago. Shes my ultimate recipe-yellow-pages, and comes to my rescue in my moments of doubt about quantities, recipes, what-to-make-moments and generally anytime I need some home-maker-kind-of-support. And for that I am SO grateful :)

I knew Id have to probably quadruple the quantities, but Id have to make it at home and let it set overnight. When the night in question arrived however, I was faced with a huge power cut and resorted to spending the evening in the office. The "evening" ended at 10 pm. So of course making dessert was out of question, and it promptly got dropped off the menu. But to address my thwarted intention to make souffle, I decided I should make some for myself and the husband this weekend. VC likes fruity desserts (I know that sounds very UNmanly, but he does! And theres no other way to say it!), so this sounded perfect. Besides its simple and so easy-sounding that is would be a crime NOT to try it!

Here's what you need (for about 8 servings):
1 packet jelly, in any flavour you like. I used strawberry, but Praerna tells me it tastes lovely in orange.
1 big box of curd. I used Nestle, but any of the other packaged store-bought curds will do.
200 ml fresh cream

Here's what you need to do:
Prepare the jelly in advance, and set it fully. This takes a few hours. Since I planned the previous night I let it set overnight.

Hang the curd in a muslin cloth for at least 5-6 hours. Again, I left it overnight, and I have to say this gave me a wonderful result. The curd had lost all its water and reduced to less than half its quantity. Which is exactly how you want it to be.

When the jelly is fully set, grab a whisk and break it up, till its nice and scrambled into tiny bits.

Next, add the hung curd and mix it together. If youre using a balloon whisk and dealing with possible CTS like I think I am, this can be quite laborious and takes longer than if you use an electric hand mixer.

When the curd and jelly are slightly mixed up, add in the cream. All 200 ml of it, and continue to whisk, till its nice and smooth.

My souffle turned from a deep magenta pink to a lovely soft and smooth light pink. At this point, simply stick a finger in to this gorgeous velvety mixture, lick it, and taste for sweetness. I added a leeeeetle bit of powdered sugar, because I felt it needed it.

Stick the bowl back in to the fridge and let it set.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Slow cooked tomato basil pasta

Quick-fix meal for when youre too lazy to really cook.

I know slow cooking and quick fix dont really go together, but even though this is a slow cooked dish, it makes for a quick fix meal because the recipe is just a series of acts in assembling the dish, rather than really cooking it. The cooking sort of just happens on its own.

This recipe was shared with me last week by Anand: friend, culinary partner in crime, inspiration and my biggest source of entertainment and company through my days in Goa. Anand visited us last week, a trip that was mostly prompted by the promise of much cooking. We didnt get to do all of what we had planned, but we did get up to some pretty fun kitchen shenanigans. This pasta was just one of the things ;)

It was also just what I needed today, when the flu has left me too tired to really cook and too sick to order in. I needed home cooked food. Even if it was slow cooked pasta. With just tomato and basil.

And a ton of cream and cheese to make it all worthwhile. But Im trying not to focus on that part.

Here's what I used:
1 large onion, chopped
7-8 pods of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 pack tomato puree
1 knob of butter
Olive oil
Some grated cheese (parmesan if youre feeling fancy, but cheddar will do if you want to make do with what you have in your I did)
Basil (fresh would work wonder, but in the absence of fresh basil dry works just as well)
Fresh cream
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Pasta (I used fusilli, because its easy to eat)

Here's how I made it:
Heat up some butter and olive oil. Throw in the chopped garlic and onions and saute till nice and golden.

Next, add in the chopped tomato and stir around, and quickly add in the tomato puree.

Anand showed me how to get every last bit out of the carton, and it only made me realize just how much puree Iv possibly wasted in the last few months :O

Add in the salt, pepper and sugar as per taste. Sugar cuts the overtly tangy tomato-ness, leaving you with just the right smooth creamy silken tomato pulp you need.

Then, cover the pan and let the puree simmer for a good long while. At least 20-30 minutes, opening it only to give it a turn every now and then. This is where you can take a long break and come back only to throw in the last few ingredients in the assembly line.

It isnt called "slow cooked" for nothing. You'll notice that every time you take a peek at the puree when you take the lid off to stir it, the puree would have gotten thicker and darker.

Let it bubble away for as long as possible. In the meanwhile, get a pot of water on. Add some salt and bring it to a boil. Add in the pasta and let it cook. This usually takes anything from 7-10 minutes if youre using fusilli for 2.

After your pasta has cooked for about 10 minutes and your sauce has simmered away for about 30 minutes, turn the heat off on both.

Turn to your sauce, add in the grated cheese, basil and cream. And mix!

Drain the pasta, retaining some hot water. Just in case you want to loosen the sauce a little bit. The slow cooking tends to dry out the tomato puree quite a bit and the best way to bring it back to a looser consistency is to add hot water from cooking the pasta! Something else Anand taught me.

Mix together. And we're done.