Friday, December 11, 2015

How To Care For Your Cast Iron


I bought my first Cast Iron pan a little more than two years ago. I decided to buy it after seeing a cooking video so as to help me cook my Veggie Fajita. Little did I know that its going to be one of my favorite things in my Kitchen. The more I started cooking in it, the more I liked it. I agree that cast iron pans need extra care when compared to nonstick or stainless steel utensils. But these pans are much healthier and I know that if proper care is taken then it can be passed on to generations! I am going to write down the method I follow which I learnt from Lodge Website (#not sponsored). Over the years I also learnt many tricks from the internet and self experience.

#I bought a pre seasoned pan. So initially for the first few uses it is going to stick. Be patient. The more you use the better its seasoning gets. 

#Once you are done using the pan allow it to cool naturally.
#Never use soaps for cleaning and they need to be hand washed every single time.
#Water is the greatest enemy of cast iron pans. So never put them in a sink overnight. It can rust pretty quickly.
#If a lot of grease and food is stuck after cooking, then use a plastic scraper to scrape the stuck food. Alternatively you can sprinkle salt in the pan. It will absorb the extra grease and will also help to remove the stuck food with the help of a sponge (Salt is abrasive).
#Once it is clean, wash it using hot water and then wipe it with a paper towel or kitchen towel. 
# Now heat the cleaned pan. This will help dry out any moisture left and also helps with improving the seasoning. Once its hot, turn off the heat. Then add 1/2 tsp of neutral oil and spread it all around the surface using a paper towel. Allow it to cool completely and then store in a dry place.
#If by any chance if you see any rust spots then sprinkle some baking soda and rub it with a sponge. The baking soda will act as an abrasive and help in removing the rust. 
#I always serve the food immediately when cooked in Cast Iron pans. The food might react when stored in it for hours.



Making Dosas In Cast Iron Skillet:


Dosa (Indian Crepe) is one of my favorite breakfast. I make it every week in my cast iron skillet. People believe that nonstick pans are the best pans for making dosas. This is because there is no fear of the dosa getting stuck to the pan and it doesn't require any oil too. I agree to it but over the time the toxic teflon will leach into the dosas making it unhealthy. So I have started using cast iron skillet and if used in a right way you can get perfect crispy dosas every single time.

These are the steps I follow every single time. 
#Add few drops of oil on a paper towel and wipe the surface of the skillet. This will give a very light coating of oil on the skillet. If there is excess oil on the skillet then the batter won't spread as desired.
#Heat the skillet on a medium heat only (high heat can burn the dosas and batter don't spread properly on a over heated skillet).
#To check if the skillet is hot, sprinkle few drops of water. If it evaporates immediately then the pan is ready for dosas.
#Spread the batter. At this point you can add oil on top of the dosa but I never add.
#Once the dosa turns crispy, remove from the skillet. Wipe the paper towel on the skillet to get a light oil coating and continue making more dosas.

This method gives you perfect crispy dosas every single time with very less oil. If the skillet is new then the dosas might not turn out good the first few times. So use the skillet to make chapathi for first few days. Once the seasoning improves then start using it to make dosas.


I hope this post inspires you to buy a Cast Iron skillet. It indeed made my life better. 
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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Vegetarian Arepas

Arepa is a very popular flatbread made using maize. It is commonly eaten in Colombia and Venezuela. Arepas are crispy on the outside and soft inside. They are usually slit open and filled with meat, beans, cheese etc. These are eaten for breakfast-lunch- dinner with different fillings. I came to know more about this from my husband's colleague who is a Venezuelan. He loves to cook and gave information about the flour to be used. I then tried making it after seeing few recipes and videos. I came up with my own fillings and the result was amazing. We both loved it a lot. I keep changing the filling every time I make. This is one of the way we enjoy eating. You can play around with any fillings of your choice. Do try making this amazing bread and let me know how it turned out for you!



Ingredients:

For Arepas:
  • PAN Cornmeal (I used white) - 1 cup
  • Oil - 1/2 tsp
  • Warm Water - 1 cup
  • Salt - To taste
For Filling:

Black bean Mixture:
  • Cooked black beans - 1/2 cup
  • Chopped Onion - 1/2 cup
  • Cayenne pepper - To Taste
  • Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - To taste
  • Lime Juice - To taste
  • Olive Oil- 1 tsp
For Stir Fried Veggie Mixture:
  • Red Onion, medium sized - 1/2
  • Poblano pepper - 1
  • Salt & Pepper - To taste
  • Oil - 1-2 tsp
Guacamole - Prepared using One Avocado. Click here for the recipe.
For Garnishing - Queso Fresco



Procedure:

I prepared the guacamole beforehand and sticked it in the refrigerator until required. 


For making black bean mixture:

Chop the onions and set it aside. Then heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the chopped onion and fry it until it turns translucent.


Then add cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt. Mix and continue frying the mixture for half a minute. 


Then add in the cooked black beans.
Fry the mixture for 1-2 minutes and then turn off the heat. Squeeze in lime juice and cover this mixture and set it aside until required.



Slice the onions and poblano pepper. Set it aside until required.


For preparing Dough:

Take PAN Cornmeal, salt and oil in a bowl.
Mix well and then warm water little at a time. Mix with a spoon . Once it comes together mix with your hands until you get a non sticky, smooth dough. Keep it covered and let it sit for five minutes.


Then divide the dough into three equal portions and smoothen them between your palms.




Now take one ball of the dough and flatten it between your palms to get a disc of 3-4 inch in diameter. Smoothen the cracks along the circumference, if any. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. 
Now spread little oil on the preheated skillet and place the flattened dough. Fry on both sides until it turns crispy and golden brown. Repeat with remaining flattened dough. Once fried they are ready to be filled.



While the Arepas are getting roasted on the skillet, stir fry the sliced onion - poblano in another preheated skillet along with oil. When its done, sprinkle salt and pepper.




Assembling:

Allow the arepas to cool for 1-2 minutes. Then using a small sharp knife, cut open the arepas 3/4th of the way as shown below.



Now spread some guacamole on the bottom slice. Then spoon in the black bean mixture, followed by stir fried onion- poblano mixture. Finally top it off with queso fresco (or you can place any filling of your choice). 



Vegetarian Arepas ready to serve!



Serve it immediately. Above measurement makes three medium sized Arepas.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Ambade God Nonche (Hog Plum Sweet Pickle)

Ambade God Nonche is a recent try in my kitchen. The hog plums are cooked in water and then a spicy freshly ground masala is added.  To balance the sourness of hog plums and spiciness of masala, jaggery is added. Finally to enhance the taste and flavor, tempering is added. This dish is generally served with rice.


Few months back, a good friend of mine R, gave me this recipe. This is the first time I am trying this recipe and it did turn out good. My mother makes a similar sweet pickle using bitter gourd. You can get that recipe here. Do try making this and I hope you enjoy it. Leave me a comment down below if you did!

Ingredients:
  • Hog Plums (Ambado), medium sized- 8-10
  • Jaggery - 2-3 Tbsp (adjust accordingly)
  • Salt- To taste
For roasting:
  • Dry Red chilli (byadgi variety)- 5-6
  • Mustard seeds- 2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds/ Methi- 1/4 tsp
  • Asafoetida (hing)- 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric powder- 1/8 tsp
For Seasoning:
  • Oil- 1-2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Curry leaves - Few

Procedure:

Wash the hog plums. 



Pat them dry with a towel and then slice them (Hog plums have seed in the middle. So remove the edible part as much as you can. Luckily my hog plums didn't have any seed. You can add the seeds to the pickle or just discard it. Seed cannot be eaten but you can suck the yummy juice)



Making Masala:

Roast the dry red chillies with few drops of oil until it changes its color slightly. Then transfer them to a plate. Now in the same pan start roasting the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in few drops of oil, until a nice aroma is got. Then turn off the heat and add asafoetida and turmeric powder immediately. Mix well and fry for few seconds. Then transfer it onto a plate/ bowl and allow it to cool. Once cooled, transfer it into a blender.



Now grind the roasted spices to get a fine powder. Then add few tablespoons of water, so as to get a fine paste. Masala is ready. Set it aside until required.



Now start heating water in a small pot, just enough to cook the  hog plum slices. When it comes to a boil, add in the sliced hog plum and allow it to cook for 4-5 minutes, on a medium flame (the color of the skin turns from green to slight yellow, once cooked).


Once the hog plums look cooked (not mushy), add the ground masala, jaggery and salt. Mix well. Adjust the consistency of the pickle by adding water (I kept it medium thick). At this point taste it and check if salt/jaggery is required. Allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and then add the seasoning.


For Seasoning: Heat oil. Then add mustard seeds. Once it starts spluttering, add curry leaves and turn off the heat. Add this to the prepared pickle and mix well.
Ambade God Nonche is ready!!


Serve it hot or warm, as a side dish to rice. Above measurement serves 3-4 people.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Cardamom Flavored Meringue Cookies

Meringue Cookies are one of the simplest cookies. They just require three basic ingredients - egg whites, sugar and a flavoring agent. I always wanted to make these cookies from a long time, after getting inspired from few youtube videos. I also came across this recipe last year. I love cardamom in my desserts. Hence decided to give this recipe a try. After the first bite, I totally fell for it. The cookie was just melt in the mouth with a little crunch from the cashew pieces. Do try making this and I hope you will like it as much as I did!



Ingredients:

  • Egg Whites - From 2 large eggs
  • Sugar - 1/2 cup
  • Vanilla extract - 1/4 tsp
  • Cardamom Pod - 1
  • Cashew nut, unsalted - 1/4 cup
Note: #Separating the egg whites from yolk is easier when the egg is cold. Once separated, place the egg whites in a clean bowl and allow it to come to room temperature.
#The bowl which you are using to whip, should be free from any oil residue. 
#There should be absolutely no trace of yolk in egg whites.


Procedure:

Separate the egg whites from the yolks and let the egg whites come to room temperature.



Meanwhile peel the cardamom pod and grind the seed along with sugar to get a powder. Set it aside until required.




Then chop the cashew nut.




Now start beating the egg whites using an electric mixer or stand mixer (you can also beat it with a whisk but it takes lot of effort and time). I also added 2-3 drops of lime juice (or a pinch of cream of tartar) to the egg whites. This stabilizes the egg white. After few minutes you see the foam.




At this stage, start adding the powdered sugar little at a time, beating the egg whites all the time. When the sugar gets over, continue beating the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. They look glossy and when the bowl turned upside down, the mixture shouldn't fall.




At this stage gently fold in the chopped cashews and vanilla. Care should be taken not to over mix it.

At this point preheat the oven to 275F or 140C. Then Take a baking sheet and line it with a parchment paper or silicone mat.
Then with the help of two spoons drop small (or desired) amount of the meringue with little space in between each cookies. I got little fancy and added the mixture in a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Then piped them as shown below. You can make desired shape and size.



Then finally place in the preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until it dries out completely and peels off from the parchment paper (bigger cookies might taker slightly longer time). Then turn off the heat and leave the cookies in the oven (with oven door slightly open) for additional half an hour.




Then peel off the cookies from the parchment paper and allow it to cool completely. 

Cardamom Flavored Meringue Cookies are ready!



Store them in an air tight container.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ambade Bharth (Coconut Based Hog Plum Dish)

Ambade Bharth is a 'no- cook' coconut based dish. It is a traditional Konkani dish and unfortunately (I guess) this is in the list of forgotten recipes. In this dish the hog plums are used as a souring agent. The cooked hog plum pulp is mixed with spicy coconut paste, chopped onion, ginger and green chilli. It is then diluted with water to get desired consistency. Finally coconut oil is drizzled on top which gives a kick to the dish. It is generally served with white rice. 



I grew up eating this dish. My mother makes it whenever hog plums are in season. I used to help her in making it. It had been a long time since I had it. This is my first try in making it. While I was making, it brought back fond memories of cooking with my mother. It tasted exactly how my mother used to make. I am so glad to find the hog plums in my International stores. The dish is very simple yet tasty. Do try making it and I hope you will like it. 

Ingredients:
  • Grated Coconut, Fresh/Frozen - 1/2 cup
  • Hog Plums, medium sized - 3
  • Roasted Dry red chilli - 1-2
  • Ginger, finely chopped - 1/2 tsp
  • Green Chilli, finely chopped - 1/2 tsp
  • Onion, finely chopped- 1/4 cup
  • Coconut oil - 1 tsp
  • Salt- To taste

Procedure:

Wash the hog plums and take them in a small saucepan along with 1/2 cup water and little salt.


Cook them for 4-5 minutes or until it turns soft. Then turn off the heat and let it cool completely.


Meanwhile chop the onion, ginger and green chilli finely. Set it aside until required.


Now take grated coconut, roasted dry red chilli in a blender.
Grind it along with little amount of water to get a paste (not very fine).


Take a mixing bowl and mash the cooked hog plums. Remove the pulp as much as possible discarding the seed. (Usually hog plums has a seed in the middle. Mine was tender, hence it didn't have any).



Then transfer the ground paste, chopped onion, ginger and green chilli into the bowl containing hog plum pulp. 



Add water to get the desired thickness (I kept it medium thick). Taste the mixture and add salt accordingly. Drizzle coconut oil at the end and give a good mix. 



Ambade Bharth is ready!



Serve it along with white rice and any side dish of your choice. Above measurement serves 2-3 people.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vegetarian Nachos

Nachos is one of my favorite appetizer. But we have stopped ordering whenever we go to a restaurant because they overload with cheese. So I started making it at home so that I can control the amount of cheese going into it. This way I enjoy it better and they are much healthier too. I used to make Nachos with refried beans and cheese. Then top it off with tomatoes and Onions. Recently I came across Hilah's recipe where she took time to slather each chip with the refried beans. I really liked the idea. Its little time consuming but each chip will have refried beans. I omitted the meat from her recipe and made spicy black bean mixture. It turned out very good and we enjoyed it with Guacamole. Do try making this version for a get together or just to treat yourself. I hope it turns out well for you!



Ingredients:
  • Corn Chips
  • Shredded Pepper Jack Cheese - 3/4 cup
  • Jalapeno, finely chopped - 1 tsp
  • Refried Beans - 1/3 cup
For Spicy Black Beans:
  • Cooked (or canned) Black beans - 1/2 cup
  • Olive Oil - 1 tsp
  • Onion, small sized - 1/2
  • Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Cayenne pepper powder - To taste
  • Salt - To taste
For Garnish:
  • Chopped Scallion (green onion)
  • Chopped Tomato
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Chopped Red Onion

Procedure:

For making black bean mixture:

Chop the onions and set it aside. Then heat oil in a pan. Once hot, add the chopped onion and fry it until it turns translucent.


Then add cumin powder, red chilli powder and salt. Mix and continue frying the mixture for half a minute. 


Then add in the cooked black beans.


Mix and let it fry for a minute and then turn off the heat. Set it aside until required.
Now, preheat the oven to 350F (180C).

For Assembling:

For assembling the corn chips you can use any oven safe dish like a pie dish, baking sheet, cast iron pan or a plate. I used a cookie sheet.
Slather each corn chip with desired amount of refried beans and start arranging them in the oven safe dish. Place them as close as possible.


Then sprinkle the spicy black bean mixture followed by chopped jalapeño .


Then finally sprinkle grated cheese (At this point you can again repeat the layers if you want to serve a larger group. I just made for two of us).


Pop it in the oven for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. 


Once the cheese melts, garnish it with chopped cilantro, scallions, tomato and red onions.


Vegetarian Nachos is ready!!


Serve it immediately along with Guacamole. Above measurement serves two.

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