Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Avocado Mint Pesto

Avocado Mint Pesto
After moving to the US, I got introduced to several new cuisines and flavors. While I immediately fell in love with some, there were a few that I just repelled. I can't believe I am saying this today, but the taste of avocado was one of them. From its confusing texture, to the smell and taste, there was nothing about this fruit that impressed me. I gave it a few tries but then made peace with the fact that this fruit is just not for me.
Healthy Green Pasta
Then, just like with every winter holiday, we went on a vacation as a family. This time it was a week spent in Mexico. The week that turned out to be one of the most delicious weeks ever. Apart from the breathtakingly gorgeous surroundings and the colorful Mexican culture, it was mainly the food that blew our mind. When on a vacation, we try to experience the cuisine through street food and hole-in-the-wall kind of places. It was at one such roadside vendor that we tried fish tacos. Fresh caught fish in the morning turned into mouth watering tacos by noon. Wrapped in warm handmade tortillas, topped with simple guacamole and a light squirt of lemon juice and you're set. This was when I, really for the first time, enjoyed avocado and then there was no looking back. Now avocado is one of the must haves on my kitchen counter.

Pasta
Avocado and Mint
Today I tried to mix avocado with some of my other favorites and turned it into a healthy dinner. A very simple and healthy pesto but loaded with robust flavors. Earthiness from mint and pistachios, a zing from lemon juice, creaminess with avocados and topping it all off with loads of parmesan. It is my go-to dish for weeknight family dinners.
Avocado Mint Pesto Pasta
Like any new food blogger, during those early days I would spend hours staring at my computer screen drooling over some amazing food blogs. Their beautiful writing would make me want to write more from the heart, flawless photography would tempt me to spend more time behind the camera and innovative recipes would take me back to the kitchen and play around more. Many such food blogs became my daily companions and slowly their authors became great friends. One such friend is Sia of Monsoon Spice.
Avocado Mint Pasta
Recently, Sia with her family, decided to make some changes in her life. They decided to wrap up the home they created in a foreign land and decided to move back to where they came from. They left England, their son's birthplace and went back to India, their own birthplace. Closer to family and the streets she grew up in. So while she was busy unpacking I thought I'll cook something for her. So to check out the recipe for this refreshing light pesto please head over to Sia's blog and while you are there, look around and you are in for a treat!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iced Masala Chai

Iced Masala Chai 1
Oh summer! How much I longed for you. How I wished and prayed for you to come visit. How I hoped for the sun to shine upon me and how I craved to put away my coats and gloves and pull out my bags of shorts, carefully hidden in the back of my closet. I had all these plans to bathe in your sunshine and had dreamt of not leaving my backyard for days. And then you came with all your glory. Oh, you came with all you glory! And now I wanna run away from you and hide in the bottom of a pool or glue myself to the air conditioning that my house doesn't have (lucky me!).
Iced Tea
All this was still alright as you were much awaited until you snatched the cup of my hot masala tea I relished every evening with a slice of banana cardamom cake. That made things a little cruel, I have to say. Not many have the capacity of taking that cup of evening chai away from me but to savor a cup of anything steaming hot on this hot, hot summer is close to torture. But to completely stay away from the warmth of masala mixed in a creamy cup of chai is impossible too. So I had to improvise. I used the same spices, boiled it with my favorite tea but instead poured it in a bottle and chilled it in my refrigerator and fooled the summer!

Mint and Lemon

Chai Masala

Typically Indian homes use a pre-made chai masala powder, where every family has their own set of favorite spices. Dried ginger, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, fennel, star anise are typically used to make this masala. These spices ground together in a ratio based on taste preference. Just a few pinches on chai masala in the end mixed to chai before straining into mugs makes all the difference.

Iced Tea with Milk
For this Iced tea I used whole spices though because I wanted a mild flavor of spices and also because I had run out of my stock of chai masala in my pantry. I also picked the spices I believed will suit my family's palette. Feel free to add or take out the spices of your choice. You can add extra flavor to the chai by adding milk, fresh herbs or citrus of choice. I like my iced tea with a few teaspoons of coconut milk, Abhishek likes his with mint leaves mulled with lemon juice. You can use this concentrate to make hot tea also. Just mix it with some hot milk and serve with biscuits on the side. So basically feel free to use your imagination and play around with all sorts of flavor combinations but beware, iced or hot call it Masala Chai only!

Iced Masala Chai
Ingredients:
5 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
2 inches fresh ginger root (sliced or coarsely chopped)
10 green cardamom (smashed)
8-10 cloves (whole)
4-5 tablespoon brown sugar (can substitute with a choice of sweetener like honey, agave, coconut palm sugar)
6-7 Tetley Black & Green tea bags
Additional flavors that I tried and tasted great with the tea-
A few teaspoons milk. Coconut and soy are my personal favorite. You can use a milk of your choice.
A few crushed mint leaves.
A squirt or a couple slices of lemon.

Method:
In a medium sized saucepan bring water to a rolling boil.
Add the spices, sugar and tea bags. Turn the heat off. Let it steep for 15 minutes. Longer if you prefer a stronger taste of spices.
Strain hot tea through a strainer. Let it cool a little and then transfer to a flask or pitcher.
Place in the refrigerator until chilled.
To serve, fill a glass with ice. Pour the tea. Add milk or lemon juice and mint or enjoy as it is on a hot summer day!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lamb Kofta Curry

Lamb Kofta Curry
I don't remember how old I was at the time but I think I was in grade four or five. Papa and I were arguing over a wrist watch. Well, me not having one wouldn't have mattered much if Seema's dad did not get her one. Seema, my classmate and "competition" at school. As usual she did something nice and her dad got her this watch. "Seriously, who buys a watch for a 5th grader? Well, loving dads of course," I was thinking while also admiring hers that had a black and white dial and a golden circular rim around the edges. It looked fancy and her wrist nice, against my bare arm. So I went to Papa and demanded that I deserve a new shiny one too. Papa thought "deserve" was a big word but promised if I scored above some 80% marks in my final exams, then I can have one. Instantly I considered the watch mine! It was a sweet deal. All I had to do was to wait a few more months and just study. And boy, did I study that semester! I worked day and night, asked questions, found answers, did whatever I thought could take to score that watch, I mean 80% marks.

Whole spices 1
Exams went well. I felt good about it. Then the day of result approached. Like every results day, in the morning I woke up with a knot in my stomach although I was still confident. Took a shower, put on nice clean clothes mummy had put out for me, sat behind Papa on his scooter and went to school to see the results. My hand was sweaty the whole time Papa was holding it while my class teacher spoke about how I did. Then she handed over the report card to Papa. I stared at his face horrified while he opened the report card, smiled and said how proud he was while rubbing my head. He sure looked happy but all I cared about was the 80%. As I flipped the report card, I found out that I fell short by just a few numbers. Oh that hurt like an arrow straight to heart!

Koftas
Off we went to our customary ice cream treat after a good result. This time even my favorite chocolate strawberry sundae tasted like mud but I gulped it down. Then we headed back home. No one spoke of the watch although someone still had some dying hopes in her heart. At home mummy was eagerly waiting for us with lunch ready. The house smelled like celebration as mummy had made lamb kofta. Lightly spiced meatballs, deep fried to give them a crispy, dark brown exterior still juicy and tender from inside. Served in a creamy masala sauce made it rich with cashew paste and some milk. Today that lunch would make up for any heart break. That day, not so much. But I still stuffed my face with whatever goodness came my way.

Lamb Kofta
Packing for Las Vegas today. Excited to be receiving an award for the blog and Papa feels I should use the word "deserve" this time. That makes it more exciting. Still the mind keeps wandering back to two things. The watch that Papa did buy me eventually, a consolation I suppose. And to Mummy's lamb kofta, which warms your heart and can brighten up any day. I made some to share with you today before hopping on that plane.

Ingredients:
For Koftas:
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 medium size potato (boiled, peeled, mashed)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (coarsely crushed)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (coarsely crushed)
1/4 cup onion (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
Salt

For Curry:
1 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 whole green cardamom
2-3 whole black cardamom
4-5 cloves
1 dry bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoon cashews
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
2-3 thai green chili
Salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon Kashmiri Lal Mirch (for color mainly)
1/2 cup heavy cream (I usually substitute it with 2 tablespoon cream cheese. It works surprisingly well)
3-4 tablespoon cooking oil

Method:
Pre heat the oven to 375deg. F.
Mix all the ingredients of kofta well together. About a tablespoon each in size roll it into balls.
Line on an oiled baking sheet. Place in the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
Traditionally the koftas are deep fried in oil. Can then either be served with a dip as an appetizer or dipped in a rich curry.
While the koftas are baking coarsely grind the first seven spices either using a mortar pestle or in your spice grinder. Set aside.
Soak cashews and pumpkin seeds in milk until they are soft enough to be turned to paste. Atleast 1 hr. Blend into a smooth paste. Set aside.
Grind onion, ginger, garlic and green chili together into a paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a thick bottom pan. Add ground spices. As they sputter add the prepared onion paste. Stir well.
Cook on medium heat until all the liquid is evaporated and the paste turns light golden. 8-10 minutes.
Add salt, sugar and turmeric. Mix well.
Reduce the heat to medium low. Add garam masala and Kashmiri Lal Mirch.
Stir in cashew and pumpkin seeds paste. Stir well. Cook for a minute.
Add heavy cream. Mix well. At this point you can add upto 1 1/2 cups of water depending how thick you want the curry to be.
On a medium heat bring the curry to a boil.
Transfer the koftas to the curry. Stir to cover in sauce. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 3-5 minutes for the koftas to adsorb some goodness of the curry.
Turn off heat. Serve with choice of hot naan or rice.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Homemade Sprouts And Sprouts Chaat Papdi

Sprouts Chaat
I hate doing dishes. I have friends who find standing in front of the kitchen sink, rinsing one plate after the other, gently rubbing the edges of spoons and forks with a dish scrub and then arranging them neatly in the dish washer, "therapeutic". I don't. I love those friends and wish they would come home more often, but I do not like washing those dishes. If I wasn't mother of a four year old girl who I desperately wanted to impress everyday, secretly hoping she would "wanna be like mommy", I would not look at that kitchen sink for weeks. I would keep throwing dirty dishes in there one after the other until they begin to fall off. But I cannot do that for given reasons, so I do my dishes, on time. It was one of those mornings when all these thoughts were cluttering my mind. While I was clearing up the kitchen sink and rubbing the inside of my stainless steel sauce pan with all the aggression I had in me, my phone beeped. Another beep after a few seconds and then a few more. By the time my sink was squeaky clean I had several tweets, Facebook messages and emails congratulating me of Indian Simmer making a cut at the Best Food Blog Awards 2014 hosted by Saveur Magazine. I was in utter disbelief for a while! But now I feel honored and thankful and I need your help. See that new shiny badge on the right? Please click on that and help Indian Simmer with your votes. It will only take a couple minutes but will mean the world to me. Thank you!

Sprouts Chat
Not sure if its my honest effort to change things or just a general interest to follow the "trend" but we have been trying to eat healthier lately. Well, we never liked frequenting the fast-food joints or ever drowned our diet in sugar but I guess it just sounds cool to say "eating healthy" so we are doing more of that. Anyway there's a lot of smoothie, raw food and sprouts business going on around here. In the same spirit a couple months back I did a 3 day cleanse (another cool word people have been slapping around lately) and was blown away with what it did to my tummy, brain and skin. Mainly skin! That gave me a kick. Carrying that on to the blog, today I am sharing with you a rather basic recipe along with a very common practice in Indian kitchen, soaking your own beans and making your own sprouts at home. We Indians have to put a little chili and masala in everything so I had to do the same with my sprouts too. So I picked a world famous Indian street food, Dahi Papdi Chaat and filled the crispy fried balls with spicy sprouts mix and kicking it up a few more notches with some tangy chutneys. But lets begin with the basics first:
Homemade Sprouts
I used dried mung bean. You can use any dried bean of your choice. Soak the beans in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain soaking water. Then in order to sprout the beans I use two methods:
Homemade Sprouts
a) Transfer soaked beans into a mason jar. Cover it with a cloth. Lie it down on a plate and place in dark for up to a day. b) Transfer soaked beans into a damp clean cloth. Bring all the corners of the cloth together. Tie. Place in a bowl or dish. Cover the bowl and place in dark for up to a day.
Homemade Sprouts
Open next day and enjoy your sprouts.
Homemade Sprouts
Longer you keep them away, longer the sprouts will get. Although I'd suggest not doing it for more than 2 days.
Sprouts Salad
For my Chaat Papdi I mixed the sprouts with onion, tomato, chili, a couple herbs and spices.
Ingredients: For Sprouts Chaat Papdi (Serves 2-3)
1 cup sprouts (follow the instructions above or just used store bought)
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup cherry tomato, chopped (optional)
2 thai green chili or jalapeno pepper, minced (optional although recommended)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chaat masala
12-15 crispy puri (find any local Indian or ethnic store)
tamarind chutney, per taste (recipe follows)
Spiced yogurt, per taste (recipe follows)
Hot green cilantro chutney, per taste

For Tamarind Chutney:
Ingredients:
4 tablespoon seedless tamarind
1 1/2 cups water
3-4 tablespoon jaggery (can substitute with dark brown sugar)
1 teaspoon oil
1/4 teaspoon nigella
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 bay leaf

Soak tamarind in water for a couple hours. Use warm water to speed up the process.
Once soft mash tamarind in water and then strain through a strainer. Collect pulp in a bowl.
Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add dry spices. As they sputter add tamarind pulp. Stir. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low. Add jaggery. Let the mixture reduce for 8-10 minutes until jaggery dissolves in the tamarind chutney and thickens it in the process.
Turn heat off. Let cool. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place for upto a week.

For Spiced Yogurt:
Ingredients:
1/2 cup thick plain yogurt
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together.

Assembling Sprouts Chaat Papdi:
In a bowl mix together sprouts, onion, tomato, chili, salt, cilantro, mint and chaat masala. Set aside.
Poke holes on one side of the crispy puri. Make sure not to poke through the other side.
Fill with sprouts salad. Drizzle the chutneys per taste. Serve as an appetizer with choice of drink. Makes a great hot day snack.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bharwan Baigan (Indian Style Stuffed Eggplants)

One afternoon while we were chatting over a long chain of text messages, my friend Kankana asked if I had the recipe for bharwan baigan I can share with her. Well it was a simple question but it got me very confused. . You see I do not have the recipe for bharwan baigan or Indian style stuffed eggplants. I have at least five or maybe more than that.

Bhrwan Baigan
One is my mum's recipe that I grew up hating (what a fool I was!) and now crave for a bite of it.  She uses Chinese eggplants in her recipe and stuffs it with 6-7 dry pickling spices along with raw garlic and fries it in mustard oil. Then there's my mum-in-law's recipe which I cannot admit but is an absolute killer too. She uses those small, stout, softer skinned Indian eggplants and fills them with a spicy onion, ginger garlic paste.

Varieties of Eggplants
  Then growing up I had a neighbor aunty (Indians have a habit of addressing all your mum's friends, friends friends, house help, stranger walking on the street, basically every woman around your mum's age as aunty). So this particular "aunty" of mine hailed from the south of India. Now she made some amazing stuffed eggplants too but hers used lighter skinned eggplants and were filled with a paste made of peanuts, coconut and a few other spices.

Spices
When talking of bharwan baigan recipes and my inspirations then I should also talk about the cook at our hostel mess kitchen. I wouldn't call her one of the best cooks in the world although I cannot blame her either. Cooking anything for a tough crowd of 50, weight watching, acne ridden, college going young girls everyday, three times a day can take toll on you. But however watery her dals would be or leather tough her rotis were, she sure made some mind blowing bharwan baigan. She used the commonly used Indian eggplants but used chickpea flour as a stuffing, a recipe again which was to die for.

Stuffed Eggplants
Like many other Indian dishes every family and cook gives a different twist to this dish depending on the region they belong to. So when someone like my friend Kankana asks me for the recipe for bharwan baigan I rightfully get confused. I stalled her for a few days before I finally confessed my dilemma with her and then confused her too. Just like me she couldn't pick one because all of them are amazing in their own way. So I promised her to share my own recipe which has an essence of all these recipes that have inspired me. So there you go!

Ingredients:
8-10 small of medium size Indian/Asian eggplants
1 cup red onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 thai green chili
1/4 cup mustard oil (olive oil or vegetable oil is fine too)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder (aam chur)
1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1/4 cup dry desiccated coconut
Salt to taste.

Method:
Wash and pat eggplants dry. Using a carving knife make long deep slits into the eggplant running from top to bottom without the knife passing through the other side. Set aside.
Coarsely grind onion, ginger, garlic and green chili in a food processor.Set aside.
Heat oil in a thick bottom pan over medium high heat.
Add mustard and fennel seeds. As they sputter add the onion paste prepared before.
Mix well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom.
Once the paste begins to turn golden brown add salt. Stir well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until oil separates.
Add the remaining spices. Mix well and cook for another minute or so.
Turn the heat to low.
Now stuff approximately 1 teaspoon masala paste into each eggplant. Drop egg plants into the same pan. Leave any extra masala in the pan. Try to be careful with hot masala. Can also let the masala cool down completely if its tough to handle.
Again turn the heat to medium low. Toss the eggplants in the pan to coat with the remaining grease and masala in the pan. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the eggplants are cooked through. Toss and turn the eggplants carefully every 2-3 minutes making sure all sides are cooked well.
Serve on the side with hot rotis, dal and rice.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Beetroot Gnocchi With Spicy Coconut Sauce (First Video Post!)


Beetroot Gnocchi with Spicy Coconut Sauce from IndianSimmer on Vimeo.
Rubbing those sea deep brown eyes, in his arms, the butterfly and her papa entered the kitchen. I was straining his tea and prepping to warm up her milk when they sneaked from behind and hugged me. Landed countless “monster puchis” (those big fat kisses, the butterfly nomenclatured so) on either of my cheeks and got a family group hug in response. Although the very next moment was not something they were used to for the past couple weeks. The rushing look on my face told them that the party was over and we are back to business! First day back to school, work and the daily grind. A disappointed sigh and then off to the drill. Stepping out the doorstep the butterfly cried a little in agitation and if he could then her papa would have done the same. “Just a couple days with your friends at school before we leave for our big India trip and Mama’s (uncle, mum’s brother) wedding!”, I tried to console her which still wasn’t enough. Yet off they went with a droopy face. I don’t blame them, a two week long break, away from all the “man made” craziness of life does that to you.

Beetroots
This break was specially relaxing for the husband who between his school, work and “chores” barely finds time to satisfy his passion - photography. Not sure if enough people know but he is the photographer in the family. Abhishek is the one who started me with the basics. He was the one who brought the first DSLR home and he’s definitely more educated about the techniques than I am. Only if he had more time, although he says, “one day!”. So for this winter break, since unlike every year we were not away on a long trip we decided to play around with something we wanted to do together for a while. We tried our hands on videography. Or more like he tried his hands on videography as I was always in front of the camera, which just for the record is SO boring! But together we were able to create something for you.

Beetroot Gnocchi
For our first video together, we thought it would only be appropriate to share a recipe that the two of us created together and have been enjoying for a couple years now. The recipe started with me wanting to try my hands at making gnocchi, one of our favorite dishes. With time a simple gnocchi evolved and got the color and flavors we enjoy as a family.
I was hoping to share this post before we hopped on a plane to leave on a month long trip to India. A trip which was supposed to be very special and turned out to be nothing less. We were to join a very special person in my life for a very special occasion in his life. My little brother, my partner in crime and my best friend was getting married! I was thrilled and then amongst all the excitement, planning and preparation, this post went on a back burner. We put it on simmer and left for India. But now we are back and it has been cooked to something of our liking so I am sharing it today with you.

The recipe here for beetroot gnocchi makes double the quantity suitable for the amount of sauce. I usually save one half of the dough for later. You can either do that OR reduce the gnocchi recipe to half OR can also double the recipe for sauce if your are entertaining a larger crowd.

Ingredients:
For Beetroot Gnocchi: Serves 6
500 grams russet potato (yields 2 cups mashed potatoes)
230 grams beets (yields 3/4 cups beetroot puree)
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour + extra for dusting
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Spicy Coconut Cream Sauce: Serves 3-4
2 tablespoon unsweetened grated coconut (fresh or dry, dessicated)
1 tablespoon ground almond
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 tsp grated ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, grated
salt
1 cup coconut milk

Method:
For Beetroot Gnocchi:
Pre heat the oven to 350 deg. F.
Wash the beetroots. Pat dry. Chop the leaves and ends off. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes until fork tender.
Pull out of the oven. Let cool before peeling the skin off. Chop. Puree in a blender or food processor. Set aside to cool.
Boil water in a sauce pan.
Peel potatoes. Chop into chunks.Boil in water until cooked through. Strain water.
Mash potatoes using a masher or food mill leaving no lumps. Set aside to cool.
On a clean counter top bring all the ingredients of gnocchi together.
Mix well and while dusting occasionally, knead into a smooth soft dough, dry to touch.
Divide into two parts. Wrap one half and save for later.
Divide the other half into 3-4 smaller portions. Roll into long dowels about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Cut into 3/4-1 inch long dowel pieces. Flick pieces into the back of a fork or gnocchi maker.
Boil a pot of salt water. Add 2 tablespoon oil. Drop the gnocchi.
Cook for a few minutes. Once cooked gnocchi float to the surface of the water. Fish them out. Collect in a dish.

For the Spicy Coconut Cream Sauce:
In a medium hot pan, dry roast ground almond and coconut for a few minutes until the coconut turns golden in color.
Add bay leaf followed by ground spices and salt. Quick roast for 10-15 seconds.
Add salt followed by coconut milk. Mix everything well together. Simmer on low heat for a minute.
By now the gnocchi should be cooked. Add to the sauce. Toss to coat gnocchi with sauce.
Serve immediately with your choice of wine.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bourbon Kissed Spicy Pecans

Bourban Kissed Spicy Pecans 2
All the way from kindergarten till I was ready to go to college, I went to a catholic school. Skirts five inches below the knee and hair tightly tied into two side ponytails with a ribbon matching the school uniform, catholic school. A huge Christmas celebration in the courtyard of the convent and the school chapel twinkling of red, green and yellow Christmas lights for the whole month of December, catholic school. So having grown in a country where Christians were in minority, although never considered so, I have been celebrating Christmas since I was wise enough to know what Diwali is.

Pecan Halves
Although that was not why right after burning the last box of fireworks on Diwali I would cross my fingers, hold the breath and eagerly wait for December. Santa visited us in our classrooms with a bag full of gifts, which unfortunately were a sad book and a pack of color pencils, every year. Neither was it due to the beautiful sound of Christmas carols students would practice exactly during our geography class. But it was mainly because of the sweet and insanely aromatic fruit cake distributed to everyone at school a day before Christmas. With a light tinge of orange color, it was like a pound cake although not as airy and light with specks of red cherries, orange peaches and green (something!) here and there. There was a thick slice for every student with a tiny bag of toasted sweet nuts. Now that I look back, I understand that those little Christmas treats were not exactly a culinary genius but for my ten year old self that was the highlight of my December.

Bottle of Bourban
A few days back while listening to the butterfly’s story of how her PE teacher, coach George, turns into a Santa on Christmas and also thinking of a Christmas gift for friends this year, I went back to that thick slice of fruit cake and the bag of sweet nuts. So I thought lets toast some sweet pecans. Now, since I’m not a ten year old anymore, I have the freedom of boozing it all up. So I popped open a bottle of Abhishek’s most treasured bourbon and poured it on my pecans. I still felt that the punch from that single barrel Kentucky beauty was not strong enough, so I threw in some cayenne too which beautifully brought in both a kick and smokiness.

Spicy Sugar
So this is it! This is going to be filled in boxes, wrapped, packed and sealed to be carried to friends with a bottle of wine or his favorite bourbon probably. What's going into your Christmas package this year?
Roasted Pecans
Ingredients:
250 gm pecan halves
2 1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (brown sugar works equally fine)
2 tablespoon good quality bourbon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method:
Preheat oven to 300 deg. F.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in palm sugar (brown sugar). Mix well.
Add bourbon. Mix. Cook for 1 minute.
As it starts to bubble, stir in pecans.
Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cook in the oven for 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes.
Pull out of the oven. Let it cool slightly.
In a bowl, mix sugar and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle over pecans. Toss to coat.
Done!
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