April 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
Between 2 and 5 every weekday, I go to pastry school. We whisk and fold and ice and glaze and beat and bake. It’s fun, pastry school. Beats regular school hands down. Yesterday we made what I think is better that everything we’ve made in the past two months. We made chocolate mousse. It was a beauty–as beautiful as Zooey Deschanel is. And thats’s a lot of beauty, I tell you! We first made a sabayon; then we added melted cream and chocolate; we finished with the addition of whipped cream. And then we made an omelette with the leftover egg whites and ate it. It was a good day.
Here’s the recipe.
Recipe from IHMCTAN
100 + 150 ml cream
200 gm semi-sweet chocolate (50 – 55 % cocoa solids), roughly chopped
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
30 gm sugar
15 ml water
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 100 ml of the cream, but do not bring it to a boil on a low to medium heat. Add the chocolate, and allow it to melt. You can switch off the flame towards the end as the residual heat will melt the chocolate. Stir gently, and do not allow the chocolate to catch and burn at the bottom.
Set a bowl over a pan of gently boiling water (the bowl should not touch the water, and the steam should be the one heating up the contents of the bowl; Alice Medrich contests this method though). Add the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, and water. Start whisking. Whisk until your arms feel like they’re gonna fall off. Pause, breathe in the smell of petunias, and continue whisking. Whisk until the marigold tinged mixture turns pale and thick. It is imperative that you whisk as if your life depended on it, scraping off all the nooks and crannies of the bowl, lest the sabayon becomes sweet scrambled eggs. (It is altogether likely that some amount of eggs will turn solid, which will make your mousse grainy. It will not be the end of the world if you soldier on, pretending that this didn’t happen. Another thing that didn’t happen: this conversation.) Once the mixture is done, do allow it to cool.
Now, with a spatula, fold in the sabayon-akin mix into the chocolate mix. taste your creation. I like the mousse at this stage way better than the final thing. It is dense and rich and has bags of flavour. But you need to go ahead. Because that is the moral thing to do.
Whip the remaining 150 ml of cream. Fold it into the chocolate-egg mix gently. Very, very, very gently. Fold only until lumps and streaks of white are not visible. DO NOT OVER-MIX. I could scream this from the rooftops–to myself and to everyone in the world. Do not over-mix flour in cake batter and cream and egg whites in mousses, soufflés, puddings, etc. I think this is the most important thing that I have learnt in pastry school so far: how lightly you need to mix and when to stop mixing. Here‘s a video that shows you how to cut and fold whipped cream into the mixture. You can follow the same method for mixing in egg whites and for flour.
Chill for about four hours. Devour!
March 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
4 things that had me at ‘Hello’:
1. Taye Diggs
3. Pork Rillettes
4. Roast Beef
Roast beef and I first met in the form of an almost unappetising-looking sandwich at Hardee’s. And I was hooked! It was definitively the most delicious thing that I had eaten till then. In memory of the Hardee’s Roast Beef Sandwich, I made a Goan-style roast beef today.
4 reasons why you should make roast beef in the Goan manner today:
1. Because everyday is a day to eat roast beef, you should make roast beef in the Goan manner today.
2. Because I made it and two’s company too, you should make roast beef in the Goan manner today.
3. Because it is part spicy and part sour and altogether worthy, you should make roast beef in the Goan manner today.
4. Because the song to be sung while making Goan roast beef is Proud Mary, and now’s a good time as any to croon that ditty, you should make roast beef in the Goan manner today.
Btw, did anyone ever tell you, ‘Don’t start a sentence with “because” because “because” is a conjunction’? I remember my English teacher Mrs. Mary’s grating voice condescendingly, patronisingly, definitively telling me this. But Mrs. Mary was wrong. You can so totally start a sentence with ‘because’, with ‘and’, with ‘but’, with ‘buttons’, or with any word that pleases your blessed heart. (You can read Brian Wasko’s detailed commentary on this here if you would like to.)
Silly grammar myths, I tell you. They are the reason I distrust friends more than I do strangers.
Moving on ….
4 places I look to for Goan recipes
1. The Essential Goa Cookbook by Maria Teresa Menezes
2. Ann Dias‘s classes, which you must all attend, even if it means flying all the way to Bombay!
4. The inner recesses of my soul, because I feel I am 2/123322224th Goan and 3/123322224th Portuguese (Goa was a Portuguese colony for four centuries; Portuguese traditions have strongly influenced the Goan way of life).
The roast beef I made today is an amalgam of what I have gleaned from all of the above. I ate it with smashed potatoes and a pot full of ghee.
Here’s the recipe.
1 kg round of beef
2 tbsp vinegar
8 cloves garlic
a 1-inch piece of ginger
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp oil
1 onion chopped
5 dried red chillies (you can deseed them if you want the roast to be less hot or if you want the seeds to use as diamantes on your nails)
1-inch piece of cinnamon
Prick the meat all over with a fork.
Grind the garlic, ginger, and peppercorns, loosening it with the vinegar, and rub well into the meat along with the turmeric and salt. Marinate overnight if possible, but if you are really, really, really, über time-pressed and you cannot wait to make your roast beef, you can of course marinate for a minimum of 68 seconds. (Through repeated empirical testing, I have determined that this time is critical for the flavours of the marinade to seep in; you mustn’t compromise on this, I implore you). If you intend to marinate for over an hour, you should probably keep your meat in the fridge, unless you live in Antarctica, in which case, you should forget about making roast beef and watch Frozen. Remember, Olaf understands your pain. I would typically say, ‘bring the meet to room temperature before cooking, should you choose to refrigerate’, but this article has me convinced otherwise.
Heat oil over medium to high heat in a Dutch oven or a vessel that is Dutch oven adjacent. When the oil is hot enough, add the beef and brown the meat on all sides. Make sure that you add as little of the marinade as possible to the pan at this stage. As J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats points out, ‘any piece of meat, whether it’s a giant steak or a tiny bit of ground beef, will not start to brown significantly until most of its surface moisture has been driven off’. You need your meat to brown (this deepens flavours, of that we’re sure!), rather than steam in its juices.
When the meat has browned adequately, add the cloves, cinnamon, chillies, and chopped onion. Sauté for a minute or so. Add the marinade and the water. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 2 hours till the meat is done. You should top up the pan with water if you feel that at any stage the water level is too low and that the meat will catch and burn. At the end, you should be left with little to no gravy. Taste for and adjust seasoning.
You can also do the cooking in a pressure cooker. Reduce the water to 1 cup; it will take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour.
Disclosure: Roast beef is typically made with one whole hunk of meat. My butcher sliced mine into large-sized hunks; that is why my roast looks the way it does. Obviously, the roast is tasty both ways. Please do take a look at Goan Food Recipes for images of the whole round roasted.
Smashed and Roasted Potatoes
Put simply, this is what you need to do.
Fill a pot with water. Add salt. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Cook until they are fork-tender.
Preheat oven to 220 or 230 C.
Coat a baking tray lightly with butter or a light olive oil. Line up the potatoes on the tray, leaving enough space between potatoes. ‘Smash’ potatoes using your hands, your boyfriend’s hands, your baby’s hands, your potato masher, or the base of your whisky tumbler. Pat with butter if you wish, or drizzle some oil or ghee on top. I used ghee. Sprinkle salt and grind some pepper over each potato. Place the tray on the top rack. Incinerate for 15 to 20 minutes; you’ll know when it’s done.
Place your smashed potato on a plate. Top with a slice of beef (or shreds of it). Top with ghee. Devour.
4 things I may be better at than food photography:
1. Performing a full frontal lobotomy
2. Convincing Pierre Herme to let me be a macaron tester for him
3. Reading only one book at any given point of time
4. All other kinds of photography
March 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
There is so much to say, right? And so little. I feel that I have forgotten how to write: it’s been that long since I’ve written with any form of seriousness. Currently, I am 39% (says Kindle) through with Gabrielle Hamilton’s celebrated memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter. She writes of her dislike of ornamentation for the sake of it in prose, and it really got me thinking about my own writing. I thought of a conversation I had had with my father years back when he told me that I should stop being so flowery with my writing. He was absolutely right. Gabrielle Hamilton is incisive with her words, and there is no “tiredness” in her prose. Read this book, I think. It’s a brave book.
I pickled jalapeños a week ago! I followed David Lebovitz’s recipe with ever-so-slight modifications, which in turn was adapted from Michael Symon’s Live to Cook by Michael Symon and Michael Ruhlman. (Ruhlman has written about the process here.) It is simple to make, and the whole process is strangely therapeutic. I love how every act is almost measured; pickling is meditative.
1 pound (450 g) jalapeños
2.5 cups (625 ml) water
2.5 cups (625 ml) vinegar (I used 500 ml white vinegar and 125 ml sugarcane vinegar; Ruhlman uses sherry vinegar, and David, white distilled vinegar)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons salt
Note: You can use whole jalapenos or sliced ones. I made 4 small bottles of pickle, one with whole peppers and the others sliced in varying thickness. Do pierce each whole pepper with a fork or a knife a few times.
Fill your preserving jar (or many jars) with the jalapeños.
Bring to a boil the rest of the ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes.
Allow to cool just a tad, and pour this liquid over the jalapeños.
Let it cool, and then refrigerate it. I, of course, ate a couple then and there, but I strongly recommend that you allow the flavours to mature over a week or two.