Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Under a makeshift blue plastic roof, he stood wiping his brow, arranging and re-arranging the oranges. His precious wares gleamed and shone like colorful jewels in the mid morning sun. The time he scrubbed an apple till it shone reminded me of a cricket ball. Don’t bowlers polish their toy before flinging it to the batsmen? Ah. A little bit of cricket is good once in a while 😉

Well, he was a newbie but the stall was not. The baba from whom I usually buy my fruits was missing and in his place stood this diffident young man, with unsure hands and a shy gaze. As I headed towards them, he straightened his back and stood at attention. I smiled, assuring him I don’t bite.

“Apples ache dikh rahe hai”, I said. Apples look good.. He beamed. Immediately he grabbed a couple of apples and plonked them on the weighing scale. Oh! But I did not want any! I gestured him to stop and very sweetly but firmly told him that apples is not what I was looking for.

“Kya chaiye didi?”, he asked earnestly. What do you want
Strawberries.

But I saw no strawberries on his little display. But wait, he was still arranging his exhibit, remember? So with a ‘fret-no-more-I-have-all-that-you-want’ look, he dived some where back and returned with a handful of luscious beautiful berry boxes! Not wanting to turn me away, he upped his sale and told me to buy 2 and get one free! I raised an eyebrow. It was the young man’s first day at work, and if he continued this way, it would most probably be his last.

Just one box is what I need, I requested. He thrust two in my grocery bag and stood at attention again. Sigh! Why do they have to look so young, so earnest, so innocent.
In all probability, six months down the line this same guy will turn smart(extra smart), crooked and dishonest. But for now he was still sincere and simply not aware of the wile ways of the wicked world.

I bought 4 boxes that day.

One bottle is not enough!

One bottle is not enough!

Coming back home, I kicked myself. He is not naive, you are – I muttered under my breath for the umpteenth time. 4 boxes!! Ridiculous. I hid them in my refrigerator so that I would quickly forget my manic act and get on to a more productive part of the day.

I did come back to those beautiful berries, but with a recipe in hand. I’m going to make Jam I announce to one and all at home – in all to my lime loving 6-year-old and an impassive husband who has not eaten a crystal of sugar in the last 6 months. Their indifference did not buckle my high-on-sugar spirit.

Strawberries, Vanilla Beans, sugar and Lime - that's it!

Strawberries, Vanilla Beans, sugar and Lime – that’s it!

A recipe that simply calls for four ingredients and some flame time should not be let gone easily. If all goes well, this was definitely a keeper. I had all the stuff at home, vanilla, sugar, lime and of course the strawberries 🙂

ready to be licked ;)

ready to be licked 😉

To make 2 cups of Jam –

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of chopped strawberries
  • Extract of 1 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • Juice of half a lime.

Method

In a large pot, put all the ingredients – strawberries, the extract, sugar and lime juice. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. I did not mash the jam, coz we like it chunky. But if you want it smooth, mash with the back of your ladle.
Stir well and bring it to a boil.Cook until it turns thick and glossy.

Note: To test if it is ready or not,place a spoonful of jam on a plate and place it in the fridge for a minute or two, if it is still runny cook for another 5 minutes and check again.

Let it sit for 10 minutes.Transfer the jam to a sterilized jar and cool to room temperature, before sealing the jar. (Refrigerate upto 10 days)

Bread and Jam - comfort food

Bread and Jam – comfort food

My daughter did lick a few spoonfuls because the aroma was so irresistible, but she refused it on bread. I satisfied my craving with a huge dollop on butter smeared bread, and it was SO good. It had been ages since I ate jam, I don’t even buy jam anymore because no one eats at my place. But since this was made at home, I gave in to the temptation.

I guess some flaky warm fresh croissants would do justice to this lovely jam. Hmm.. have to find a recipe for some croissants now, don’t you think? 🙂

yumm...

yumm…

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Creamy Spinach Corn Spread/Dip, a Sandwich and some very cute Canapes

Its creamy. Its colorful. Its versatile. It has spinach! so yes. Its healthy too. Is it dip? Or a spread? or a side… call it whatever you wish, doesn’t matter. Its yummy and your family and friends will digg deeper into the bowl for more, is what matters. 🙂

Spinach Corn Creamy Spread

Spinach Corn Creamy Spread

So, I cooked a good deal one morning. Made this creamy spread, fixed sandwiches and canapes, roasted healthy parathas, potato saute, baked a simple eggless chocolate cake with a divine ganache(the cake was too soft so it fell apart, but that didn’t deter us from grabbing mouthfuls!). I am not making a post of the cake. Fabulous to taste but a dud to look at, so would you call that a recipe failure or what?

Not posting this one

Not posting this one

My girl absolutely abhors peas and corn in her food. Corn on the cob is ok, but none of the sweet corn kernels in her parathas or rice or pasta.

I had to make her like it. Somehow. Simply because it was turning to be a pain, to cook separately for Miss finicky or sometimes remove the bits that sneaked in. Pain.

Wonder Veggies

Wonder Veggies

So here my new little helpers, cookie cutters helped me draw Milee’s attention to corn and wonder veggie spinach.

Using the cutters, scooped different shapes of bread, dabbed little bit of the spread, sprinkled cheese and baked to golden perfection!
No bribing, No threatening, No screaming. It all worked like a charm. Gone in minutes, she comes back for more. Yay!

Kids love it

Kids love it

The dip also turned into a wonderful spread when combined with green mint chutney(my favorite! I put it on everything) and some ketchup on the side.

Creamy Sandwich

Creamy Sandwich

A steaming cup of hot masala tea/chai is all that I needed to complete my breakfast. Tea with milk and sugar, enhanced by crushed pounded ginger, guest appearance of cardamom and cinnamon is our very own Indian masala chai. Although I try not to start my day with a cup of tea, but with breakfast it’s mandatory.

Perfect Breakfast

Perfect Breakfast

For the Spinach Corn Dip/Spread:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup corn kernels, coarsely cut. Just place them on the board and using a knife, roughly chop them.
  • 1/2 cup spinach, washed, blanched and chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil.
  • 1 tsp oregano or any mixed italian seasoning
  • 1 tbsp flour, any – plain or whole wheat
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes – or as much as you need
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Optional: 2-3 tbsp cheddar cheese or fresh cream

Method

In a wok, heat butter/oil. Saute garlic and onions. Add corn kernels along with the salt. After 2-3 minutes, throw in the flour. Let it coat all the veggies. Now add milk, keep stirring, till the milk thickens. Mix in the spinach. Season with oregano and red chili flakes. If using cheese or cream. Mix in now. The sauce should be creamy and thick. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Use as required.

Note: If you wish to use the sauce as a dip for your croutons or cucumbers, then add more milk to get the consistency a little runny. If using as a spread on bread or parathas, then you might want it to be a little thick, so in that case, reduce the quantity of milk.

Note: Garlic and onions can be avoided. I just used them as flavor enhancers.

Note: Spinach is best blanched in wilting the leaves in hot water for 3-4 minutes, then immediately running them in cold water. This retains the fabulous color.

Note: To not wash away the essential nutrients of spinach. I suggest: wash the leaves well, chop them roughly, then blanch the leaves in very little hot water. Do not throw away the water, use them in boiling lentils/pulses or in your daily dough.

Tasty Finger Food

Tasty Finger Food

For the Canapes:
Using cookie cutters of different shapes, scoop out bread slices, dab with sauce, top with cheese and bake till brown. So simple. Serve with tomato ketch up. Simple 🙂

For the Sandwiches:
I applied a layer of green chutney on both slices of bread, spread the sauce, cover with the other slice and roast or grill or toast.

Spread/Dip/Side.. whatever you wish to call

Spread/Dip/Side.. whatever you wish to call

Green Chutney

This spicy Indian green dip is a must have in all Indian refrigerators! Extremely versatile in its uses, this green condiment has many variations as a recipe. Sometimes I throw in some onion for more kick and sometimes a tablespoon of curd/yoghrut is all that it takes to mitigate the fire from the green chilies.

Go Green

Go Green

I make different variations depending on what my refrigerator and pantry has to offer. Each version tastes as different as well as similar as the other… you get what I mean? Don’t let my language baffle you, all Im trying to say is, the variations taste more or less the same, except for one or two key ingredient which can distinctively alter the taste. ( no, I am not bonkers…don’t look for family, they mislead.:) )

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coriander leaves, thin tender stalks included, washed well
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 5-6 green chilies, or according to your taste
  • 1 tiny piece of ginger
  • Juice of 1 whole lime
  • 1 tbsp of roasted channa dal(daalia) or a piece of coconut or roasted peanuts
  • salt to taste
  • Optional: 1 small onion and 1 tablespoon of curd

Method

In a mixer jar, throw in all the ingredients, try and use very little water. Grind to a fine paste.
Remove in a glass jar, use as required and refrigerate the rest. Stays good up to 2-3 days.

Note: the roasted channa dal/peanut/coconut is put in to add some body to the chutney. An aunt also uses cucumber as a thickener, but I am not a fan of that taste, hence I avoid it. Peanuts taste best, but make sure they are fresh and not stale n smelling.

Note: Do not skip the lime juice, it adds tartness as well as helps maintain the green color of the chutney.

Note: If you do not have any mint leaves, its not a problem, coriander alone can kick enough…er… ruckus on your palette 🙂

What some people do: Make a huge batch, freeze the dip in ice cube trays, de mould and pack away in a ziploc bag and deep freeze.
When in need, remove as many chutney pieces you require, thaw and use!

Spicy green mint coriander chutney

Spicy green mint coriander chutney

Uses:
1. As a dip with starters like samosa/cutlets/pakoras/vegetable fritters
2. As a spread on bread/tortillas/wraps
3. With rice and dal / pulao / pilaaf
4. With steamed savories like dhokla/idlis
5. In chaat! – pani puri/ragda pattice/sev puri/dahi puri.
Endless .. Endless… Endless!

so, now you see the varied uses of this spicy green must have in any Indian kitchen!

Green Sauce

Green Sauce is used extensively in mexican cuisine. In tacos, burritos, fajitas. As a dip with chips. Uses are multiple, execution is super easy. You could make a good quantity of it and freeze for up to a month.
Recipe Courtesy: Tarla Dalal

Green Sauce

Green Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4-5 raw green firm tomatoes
  • 1 big onion
  • 4-5 green chilies
  • 1 tsp of vinegar
  • salt to taste

Method

Chop all the vegetables. Boil together for 5-8 minutes. Cool, remove excess water and grind to a fine paste.
Add vinegar and salt.
Store in an air tight container, keep refrigerated.

Tangy and spicy

Tangy and spicy

Tomato Salsa

This chunky flavourful mexican chutney literally yells out to you. Don’t believe me? Try it out and see for yourself.
Chips, quesadillas, burritos, nachos.. u name it, this tomato salsa is great with anything.
Recipe courtesy: Tarla Dalal

Tomato Salsa

Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized capsicum
  • 2 big red ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chilly vinegar

Method

Make 4 incisions on your tomatoes, avoiding to cut it fully. Now put them in boiling hot water for a few minutes. Remove the skin and chop roughly. Now, using a fork, char your capsicum directly on the flame. Scrape the charred skin off, and mince roughly. Then in a pan, heat oil, saute the onions till pinkish. Then add all the ingredients and cook for a couple of more minutes. That’s it you’re done. Remove and store in a jar. Will easily last you for 2-3 days.

Up Close.

Up close.