Monday, July 21, 2014

Shepherd's Pie | Savoury Baking

July is special.
It's my birthday and it's KJ's birthday too !!! So on KJ's birthday it was a cozy evening with great company, good music and some comforting food. The spread included Chicken Stroganoff, some homemade Dinner Rolls, Aubergine Parmesiana, Greek Orzo Salad and Shepherd's Pie. And of course Chocolate Truffle Cake for dessert.

To my surprise the star of the spread turned out to be the Shepherd's Pie while the chocolate truffle was a close contender :-))

Shepherd's Pie - a great British classic is a little different from other meat pies. Also known as Cottage Pie, it is a pastry less or base-less pie.
While lamb mince is used in the classic English Shepherd's Pie, in parts of America beef mince is also used to make this pie.

The top layer of the pie is a golden crust of mashed potatoes. :-)
It's just the thing you want on a wet rainy night with some warm dinner rolls. The perfect comfort food. It's juicy, its scrumptious and its easy to cook. It wins hearts :-)

Shepherd's Pie


500g Lamb Mince
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 stalks of Celery - chopped finely
1 large Onion
2 Carrots - diced finely
1 clove of Garlic
400ml of Tomato Puree
Worcestershire Sauce
Fresh or dried Thyme
Fresh or dried Rosemary
300 ml of Chicken Stalk
Salt to taste

For the crust
8-10 boiled Potatoes
1 Egg
150 ml of Milk
1 tbsp Butter
Parmesan cheese


1. Heat oil in a deep pan.

2. Add the onions and garlic and saute` till they sweat.

3. Now add the celery and carrots and saute` further for 5 minutes.

4. Add the mince to the sauted onions-garlic-celery-carrot. Stir and mix well to break down the mince and to make sure there are no lumps. Soon you will see the meat will start leaving its own water. Keep frying till the water dries out. This may take upto 15-20 minutes. As the water starts drying out, the mince will ooze its own fat. Keep roasting the mince in its own fat. You should be able to hear a crackle, that's when the meat and onions start to caramelise a bit. This is important because this is what imparts the flavour. Carry on roasting....As Marco Pierre White says give it that extra 7-10 minutes of roasting.  Here the technique is more important than the recipe. You can always adjust the proportions of the ingredients as per your liking.

5. Add the worcestershire sauce. Mix well.

6. Add the tomato puree. Mix well and let it cook while stirring continuously for about 5 minutes.

7. Add the chicken stock.

8. Season with salt and grate one nutmeg. Also add the rosemary and thyme. Give it s good stir and cook on simmer till the consistency is a bit liquidy but not runny. And not not dry as well.

9. While the mince is cooking on sim, prepare the potatoes. In a food processor, add the potatoes, egg, milk, cheese and salt to taste. Give it a good whisk.

10. Remove the mince from the flame and let it cool a bit.

11. Transfer in a ceramic or glass pie dish. Smoothen the top and layer with with the mash potatoes and dot it with butter ( for a nice golden crust).

12. Bake in a preheated oven at about 220 degree C for about 20-30 minutes till the crust gets a lovely golden brown.

13. Serve warm with breads of your choice.

Happy Cooking !!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gooey, Sinful, Melt-In-Your-Mouth, Dark Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake !! | Baked Cheesecake

"Chocolate Doesn't Ask Silly Questions.... Chocolate Understands !!!"

Gooey, Sinful, Melt-in-your-mouth, Dark Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake !! I cannot think of just one adjective to describe this cake. Perfect for a day when you feel all indulgent and chocolatey. I made this recently for a very special kid - one of my favourite nephews :-) 
My cousin's older one, who is a foodie at heart, a great kid , hard working, intelligent and good at school. Loves to help his mum in the kitchen... I won't be surprised he turns out a chef one day :-) 

While I've done many cheesecakes before and many different types of chocolate cakes as well, never ever had I done a Chocolate Cheesecake. Hmmm the best of both the worlds :-))
Yes it's all indulgent but surely gives me pangs of guilt as well..... you'll know why :-)
So hence it's a special cake strictly for special occasions only.

The Chocolatey Chocolate Cheesecake


For the Crust:

250g Chocolate Biscuits
100 g Digestive Biscuits
2 tbsps Cocoa Powder
100g Butter at room temperature or melted

For The Filling / Cheesecake

280g Semisweet / Dark Chocolate
230g Cream Cheese

1 ¼  cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
400ml of Cream 
50 ml of strong coffee ( I used nescafe)
4 large eggs

For the Ganache Topping

200ml Cream
150 g Semi Sweet Chocolate
A dollop of butter


1. Line a 10 inch spring foam or lose bottom cake mould.

2. Crush the chocolate and digestive biscuits. Mix in butter and cocoa powder. It's best to whiz it up in a food processor but don't make it too fine. The consistency should be that of bread crumbs.

3. Spread this mixture evenly in the mould and press it down first with your fingers and then with the back of a plain glass to smoothen can also tilt the mould at a 90 degree angle and press the biscuit mixture onto the sides to create a wall of the same crust. This is very helpful if you are using a large mould . It holds and supports the cheesecake well.
This may read a bit tricky but its not quite. Once you start doing it, you'll get the hang of it. The butter helps to hold it in place.
While here you can see only small single serves, I had also made a large cheesecake and had created the sides with the crust. When making small quantities or single serves this is not important.  

4. Preheat the oven at 150 degree C. Bake the crust for 5 minutes and let it cool down completely.

5. Return the oven to the preheat mode at 150 degree C, while you work in the filling.

6. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (like me if you do not have a double boiler, take a saucepan with water and put it on the flame, once the water comes to a boil, put the chocolate in a heat proof glass bowl and place it on the saucepan. Make sure the saucepan doesn't touch the water and melt you chocolate.) Using a balloon whist or a spatula mix it till smooth. Let it cool for 2 minutes.

7. While the chocolate is melting ( keep an eye on it), whisk the cream cheese. Once smooth add sugar. Whisk again till well incorporated. Now add the cream and again whist well. I used the electric hand blender for this. You could whisk in a food processor or use a balloon whisk. 

8. Now add the coffee to the cream cheese mixture and whisk in the melted chocolate to it.

9.  Lastly add the eggs, one at a time and give it another good whisk.

10. Pour it over the crust and put it in the oven to bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes at 150 degree C.

11. Insert and knife in the centre, it its a little moist don't worry , it's good. Ideally it should not be completely hard. Let it rest in the oven for 10 minutes. Let it cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator overnight.

12. For the Topping: Prepare the Ganache:

Cut the chocolate into small pieces.
Heat the cream in a pan. When bubbles start appearing around the sides of the pan, add the chocolate and mix well, till well incorporated. Keep stirring so that the ganache becomes smooth. Add the butter, again mix well.
Let it cool down a bit. The consistency should be pourable.
Once cooled pour over the cheesecake.
Let it chill in the refrigerator for one our till the topping sets or till serving time.

Happy Baking !! :-) Happy eating !! :-))

Unlike most cheesecakes, this will be dense. It is perfectly normal. The cream and the chocolate make the cake dense and give it it's gooey texture.
If the top of the cheesecake is not perfectly smooth, it doesn't matter. The rather uneven top gives it a lovely rustic look.

Serving Suggestions:

1. Dust with powdered sugar.
2. Dust with cocoa powder.
3. Serve with a compote. I plated the cheesecake with my Roasted Strawberry Compote.  The acidity of the compote cuts through the sweetness of the cheesecake striking the right balance.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Khao Suey | Burmese Noodle Dish with Chicken Gravy

I was introduced to Khao Suey by a friend sometime ago.
What a simple dish with a symphony of flavours and undertones of textures - all in one bite.
One of the best One-pot Meals I've ever had. It is a Burmese staple dish, also prepared with pork or mutton (I cook it with chicken). Though traditionally Burmese in origin, the dish is also very popular in parts of South East Asia like Thailand and Malaysia.

So I was at a friend's place when we decided to order out and she wanted me to try out this amazingly delish dish ! I remember, not being able to finish it and she insisted I take a doggy pack back home for KJ.
KJ loved it instantly (for the native love of coconut) and for a couple of times we went all the way to the other end of the town (which is some 2 hours away) only to pick up this dish from the Burmese joint but soon the recipe was sourced at home and now there is no stopping.... Khao Suey is now a regular dish for Sunday afternoons followed by a siesta !! Simply Heaven !!

Khao Suey


1 packet Noodles

½ kg boneless chicken thigh pieces cut into bite sized pieces

3-4 onions chopped fine

6-7 cloves garlic grated together with

1 ½ " of ginger

2-3 tbsp besan (gram flour)

400 ml Coconut Milk 

1/2 tsp Haldi

1/2 tsp Chilli Powder 

Salt to taste


Chopped spring onions

Deep fried sliced onions

Chopped coriander

Chopped green chillies

Fried garlic flakes

Boiled egg chopped small

Noodles (raw) fried

Peanuts - fried / roasted broken into pieces

Lime cut into quarters


1. Fry onions till soft. Do not brown. 

2. Add ginger, garlic paste. Fry till it smells like it is done, approx. 3-4 minutes. 

3. Add the chicken, turmeric and chilli powder. Fry till the chicken turns white and is coated well with the spices. Basically the chicken should be 70% cooked.

4. Remove the chicken from the pan and in the same pan add besan and dry roast till aroma rises. Add a 400 ml of water or chicken stalk. Keep whisking continuously so that no lumps are formed.  

5. Now add coconut milk. Also add the salt now. Bring to boil and let it simmer till the gravy thickens. Add the chicken pieces and give it a boil or two. 

6. For the noodles, boil water. Enough to cover the noodles. Put in noodles only after water starts boiling for 7 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, a tsp of oil and a garlic pod to the water along with the noodles. Strain and let it sit for about 7 minutes. 

To Serve:

Serve in a bowl - first the noodles, top it with the gravy generously till the noodles are well covered and top with the all the garnish.

Happy Cooking !!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Breads | Parmesan Pesto Rolls

If you like your bread warm.....look no further !!! This is heaven !!!
Pesto Rolls are delicately fragrant with the basil and garlic and the tartness of parmesan !! Best served warm.... actually just of out-the-oven warm :-)
I get very touchy about my breads....hence all the fuss !!

I'm all for this bread especially because it tastes awesome without the added calorie burden of butter and cheese of the world. It doesn't feel dry in the mouth, has a lovely flavour, a great accompaniment or can be had by itself for breakfast.

I've been baking bread every weekend.... and it usually is the whole wheat loaf which has become a standard default loaf of the Jayaram household. Making these rolls was such a welcome change, not to say that I get bored with my usual whole wheat recipe, but who doesn't like a soft silky aromatic bun !
I must admit, while whole wheat breads taste great and are always always a much healthier option, nothing beats the good old white flour bread.

I always have a bottle of my homemade Pesto in the can always choose a different relish, flavour, condiment etc of your choice. A caramelised onion and ham filling is also great :-).

Pesto Rolls


2 cups All purpose flour or bread flour
2 tsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp Sugar
3-4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Salt
Warm water to knead the dough


1. Mix sugar and yeast in lukewarm water and let it prove for not more than 10 minutes.

2. Once the yeast starts frothing, take a flour in a large mixing bowl and ad the yeast. Mix well with your fingers. It's more like rubbing the yeast into the flour. Once rubbed it well, take some warm water and add gradually, simultaneously add salt and olive oil.

3, Mix well and now transfer the dough onto the work platform and knead well using both your hands. Knead it till the dough feels silky and stretchy.

4. Transfer the dough in a greased bowl and cover with cling wrap. Keep in a warm place for 1 hour till the dough doubles in size.

5. Once doubled, punch it down lightly and give it a quick kneed.

6. Now roll the dough into about half centimetre thickness, this should be about 12" x 15" in dimension.

7. Spread pesto generously and grate some parmesan.

8. Now keeping the longer side (15") towards yourself start rolling the dough. See the images below. Make sure the roll is tight.

9. Cut into equal parts and lay in a round cake mould.

10. Now let ir prove again for 30 minutes.

11. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 220 C preheated oven.

12 Serve warm.

Happy Baking !!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Valentine Love and Homemade Pasta - from Scratch !!

While I'm the flowers -n-chocolate kinda romantic, KJ has his own quirks to show his love :-) and yet again this Valentine's day I was surprised with not flowers or perfumes or chocolates or cards but a Pasta Maker. Something I had been eyeing to buy for a while !! He always knows what truly gives me pleasure, what I would so dearly treasure !!

I got the delivery of the pasta maker in my office and by the time I got home it was late, but I was sure I wanted to try it out there and then. With actually an empty refrigerator and few basic ingredients in the larder, I braved making my first home made pasta with the pasta maker. For once while the pasta was made from scratch, the final dish did have some easy convenient store bought ingredients which are ever so handy on days nights like these (when you return late from work and don't want to order out).

Rolling out the first sheet of pasta was magical...really !! How a small ball of dough about 4 inches in diameter turns into a silky smooth sheet which is more than a meter long....
The more you roll the pasta, the silkier it gets. The standard cutter attachment with my new toy was the fettuccine.
Making Pasta at home is quick and simple. As Jamie Oliver says eggs and flour are always a little different, so if it feels a little wet add a little flour and if it feels a bit tight / hard add a little egg.
The thumb rule is 1 egg to every 100 g of pasta, though like I said earlier you can adjust the proportions. The idea is to get a smooth elastic dough.
Here goes the recipe:

Pardon the pictures, they are all clicked with my phone camera and this was not a planned shoot / post but I couldn't resist sharing this with all of you :-)
There was too much excitement in making the pasta and these photographs suddenly were incidental !

Fettuccine in Marinara Sauce:

Ingredients for the Pasta

Flour 200g
Eggs - 2
Salt to taste

Direction for making Pasta

1. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break 2 eggs in it. Add the salt and mix. Using a fork break down the egg and mix it in the flour  and now knead it into a smooth dough. DONOT ADD WATER WHILE KNEADING. If the dough gets too tight, you could add half an egg more.

2. Wrap in cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator for about 40 minutes.

3. Remove from the fridge and divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Re-cover the three balls and work with one at a time.

4. Flatten the ball slightly with the palm of your hand and run the dough through the thickest setting on your pasta machine, 3-4 times. This makes the sides of the pasta fill out to the full width of the pasta machine.

5. Repeat this through the settings changing it to the thinner setting every time, till the pasta sheet is about 1-1.5 mm thick.

6. Pass it through the cutter attachment of the machine - I used fettuccine. Dust the pasta with a little dry flour so that it doesn't stick together and make bunches and keep aside.

7. Repeat the same procedure with the other three balls.

8. Once the required quantities are ready, boil water in a large pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1tsp of salt. Once the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and boil till done.

9. While the pasta is boiling, ready the sauce.

Ingredients for the Sauce

10 Clove of Garlic (I like my pasta nicely garlicky.... you could reduce it to 7 cloves)
400 ml of Tomato Puree - ( I used Dabur)
1 tbsp of Chilli Flakes
1 small Onion - finely chopped
2 tbsps Olive Oil
Black Olives for garnishing
Parmesan for garnishing


1. While the pasta is boiling, start working on the sauce. Heat olive oil in a pan, add chilli flakes. Once the aroma rises, add garlic. Once garlic turns golden, add the onions and saute` till onions become wet. You don't need to brown them. Now add the tomato puree, cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.

2. Now in the mean time the pasta is boiled. Strain the pasta , drain out all the water.

3. Transfer the pasta into the pan with the marinara sauce. Toss it well and serve.

4. Once plated up, garnish with black olives and parmesan shavings.


  Happy Cooking !!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Granddaughter Remembers...

I was all of seven when one day she asked me to help her make tea in the kitchen. I was excited. I'm going to do something that elders do!! She was sure, I could do it. I could make a cup of tea when I was only seven.

And soon after, she taught me how to knead dough for chapatis (Indian flatbread)..... from the basic steps and instructions like "always make sure your hand and nails are clean before you knead the dough", to finer nuances like "always round off the dough with a teaspoon of oil for a smooth glossy look" or  "you have to knead it and knead it well till your hands are absolutely clean" or "wash the pulses 5 times before you cook them". Believe me I still do that and also see merit in it.

That's how my romance with cooking started. My grandma, extremely fond of cooking, took great pride in initiating her 7 yrs old grand daughter in it too.

While ma used to be away for work, it was then that this friendship blossomed!!
From story telling to cooking and even teaching me how to embroider, she was a great learning curve for me. She taught me all about the Indian Mythology by way of stories, she shared life experiences as I grew up.

Granny had lived in many parts of the country due to the transferable nature of dada's job. And she picked up lots of minor and major favourites from each stay. Gulab Jamuns however always remained her crest on a list of Indian ethnic delicacies.

Gulab Jamun was her signature dish which verged on being the family pride. It was served with a lot of flourish and originality. Sometimes topped with a layer of fresh malai.

Gulab Jamuns were always made from scratch, which means that the main ingredients being Paneer and Khoya were never ever outsourced. On occasions when the end product fell short of perfection, it was the doodhwala (milkman) who bore the brunt and was admonished for the lesser quality of the milk. He was even made to eat the less perfect Gulab Jamuns.

We lost her last week. She was 86 and all active and full of life till almost the end.
This is my tribute to the lady who is responsible for my romance with cooking. :-)

Here I share the recipe of her infamous Gulab Jamums that I never formally learnt from her but have literally grown up with the recipe.

Granny's Gulab Jamuns


1 litre Full Cream Milk to make Khoya (milk reduction) - makes about 200g of khoya

1 litre Full Cream Milk to make Paneer (cottage cheese) - makes about 125 g of paneer

3 tbsp of all purpose Flour

Oil for frying

3 Cups of Sugar

1 1/2 Cups of Water


1. With 1 litre of full cream milk make paneer.
1.a Let the milk come to a boil in a sauce pan, while it is about to boil squeeze the juice of 1 fresh lemon in it and let the milk simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the gas off and let it stand for 5 minutes. Now strain in a cheese cloth.

2. With the other litre of the full cream milk make khoya.
2.a Take a heavy bottomed wok or kadhai and boil milk in it. Once it starts to boil, reduce the flame and stir. Keep it on low flame and keep stirring occasionally to make sure that it doesn't boil over. Keep repeat this, and soon you'll see the milk reducing in quantity and becoming pretty thick. The khoya is ready now.

3. Mix the khoya, paneer and flour well. and knead it like you would knead dough. The idea is to smoothen the mixture. There should be no granules or coarseness to the mixture. This takes about 10-15 minutes.
4. Once the mixture is completely smooth, roll into equal sized balls.
5. Heat oil in a pan for frying. Once the oil is hot start frying these balls. Make sure the oil is not very hot or the Gulab Jamuns will not cook properly from inside. Keep the flame on medium initially and then reduce to low.
6. While the Gulab Jamuns are being fried, in another wide pan put sugar and water and let it boil. Keep cooking the sugar syrup till it is little thick in consistence and sticky to touch.
7. Once all the Gulab Jamuns are fried, put them in the sugar syrup, give it a gentle boil and let it rest in the syrup itself for atleast 2 hours before serving.
8. Serve the Gulab Jamuns either hot or cold. I like mine hot.

Happy Cooking !!