Aug 23, 2014

Aloe Vera Lemonade

World Lemonade Day, it’s very hot today, those bottles beg to be used, or just I am thirsty’ – any of these excuses are good to whip up some special drinks to quench! When I have the added onerous responsibility to shake up a mock tail, for a contest, I’ve got my perfect excuse to make this delightful refresher.

In traditional medicine, Aloe Vera is considered a miracle plant. The gel inside the succulent leaf is said to be able to cure several skin problems from acne, to burns, to psoriasis. It is said to have anti bacterial and anti fungal properties. Used both as a topical application as well as drunk for internal healing, aloe vera is used for ‘cooling’ the body too. However, modern medicine (read allopathy) is still cautious on the miraculous healing properties of aloe vera. A fear of toxicity when ingested in high levels also seem to be implicated.  However, studies by some doctors have found benefits from using aloe vera for healing burns.

I have a pot of aloe vera growing in my balcony garden. I wanted to use those beautiful green leaves in a drink and check for myself. To offset the bitter flavour notes in Aloe vera, I plucked some fresh lemon grass stalks from another pot, and infused the drink with that as well. Here is what I whipped up. This lemonade was so refreshing (did I say that already?). I felt it helped to calm the hyperacidity I was experiencing last evening too. Have I given you enough excuse to try it out?

Sparkling, refreshing aloe vera lemonade

Here is what you need -

ALLERGY INFORMATION

Does NOT contain gluten, dairy, soya,corn, peanuts, other tree nuts.

Preparation time – 10 minutes, Cooking time – 3 minutes, Serves – 2

You Need

Small saucepan, mixer/blender, scissors, knife, lemon squeezer, 2 glasses/bottles of 200 ml each.

Ingredients

  1. 1 good sized succulent aloe vera stalk
  2. 2 Lemons
  3. 3 fresh stalks of lemon grass
  4. 3 tbsp sugar
  5. Fresh drinking water – 1/2 cup
  6. Himalayan sparkling water – 300 ml
  7. Few ice cubes

To Assemble

  1. Rinse the aloe vera leaf, cut in half. Trim the green outer part of the leaf, retain the transparent inner gel part. Here is a picture tutorial on how to trim an aloe leaf. Place the gel in a blender and whip to frothy smooth liquid. No need to add water here. Set aside in the blender jar.
  2. Rinse the lemon grass stalks, snip it into tiny pieces, place in sauce pan with measured sugar and water and bring to boil. Once it has reached a boil, cover and let infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice out a few thin lemon slices for garnish. Keep aside. Squeeze the rest of the lemons into the blender jar. Strain the lemon grass scented sugar syrup into the blender. Add a few cubes of ice. Shake, blend. Anything. Your choice.
  4. Divide between two glasses. Top with chilled Himalayan sparkling water. Add the sliced lemon garnish. Serve right away. Perfect for warm weekends.  Do not want to share? Good. Just glug it all down.

Enjoy with a loved one

Notes –

  • I have just squeezed the lemons into the drink instead of muddling them since aloe vera has bitter notes to it. Muddling the lemons will add to the bitterness. We only want the tang from the lemon in this drink.
  • The freshness of the Himalayan Sparkling water aided the zingy citrus flavours of the drink. I have often been disappointed with a metallic taste found in several club sodas.  I was glad to note that there was no metallic overtones / unpleasant mouth feel from this water which may have warped the drink’s flavour.

My entry to the Himalayan sparkling water mock tail contest. A twist on Shatbi Basu’s recipe.

Click me, I'm posing against the skyline!

Chill out!

Aug 12, 2014

I was at IFBM

When the first ever Indian Food Bloggers Meet was announced in June 2014, I was extremely excited. The chance of learning from veterans in the blogging world, the opportunity to meet up with the very talented fellow food bloggers, was too good to be missed. Despite being on bed rest then, nursing four rib fractures, I went ahead and registered for the event! When bloggers from Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune,and even abroad were flying in, how could I miss it?

Am I glad that I signed in? You bet! If the rush I got from meeting my old blogger friends was not enough, making several new friends, meeting the faces behind the delicious blogs, attending all those informative sessions were enough to send me into blogger heaven.

The organisers - Pic Courtesy Jayashree Mudaliar

I could not believe that the organisers were putting up this, or any event for the first time ever. If they confessed that they had no prior experience in coordinating events at all, I put it down to modesty. Such was the attention to detail. Very meticulous planning. Aparna, Nandita, Arundati, Revatii, Please take a bow! You have created a nation-wide platform for us to interact. You have set a high bench mark for succeeding events. You have instilled renewed confidence and commitment in all attendees, and made those who could not show up, go green! I’m certain the next blogger’s meet will have many more participating.

The first day began with a bang. Famous baker, food styling diva, above all, the most generous of people I have found, Deeba Rajpal led us through the steps of using props intelligently. Her session was liberally sprinkled with tips, stories behind several of her famous pictures and even info on where she purchases and stores her stunning props.

Participants at IFBM - note the fantastic chairs

Aparna Balasubramanian led us through the nuances of food photography. One look at the pictures on her blog and portfolio is enough to make everyone sit up and lap in every word she utters. Equable, unpretentious, ever helpful, Aparna shared several tips on how to get lighting right in food pictures, choice of angles to shoot, how to select and use a tripod and several more.

The Kitchen Aid Master class with Chef Surjan Singh Jolly was well, lively and jolly! He demonstrated an unusual ‘Kaer-Saangri’ paratha paired with a tomato kat.

Kitchen Aid demo by Chef Jolly

An amazing midday tea was spread out in the lobby waiting patiently for our attention. Boy, were we floored? If the theme of the spread named ‘Honey, I love you’ sounded !!?, the choice of dainty high tea desserts more than made up for it. Have you heard of yoghurt pannacotta sweetened wit honey? Or honey flavoured chocolate mousse cake? Or vanilla cupcakes iced with ‘honey bees’? Or a large tempered - chocolate bee hive? It took me a long time to be convinced that the bee hive was actually edible. And I am talking about only a few delicacies on offer. Honey flavoured chocolate mousse cake

Honey bee cupcakes

Allow me to introduce you to our Venue and F and B Host – Aloft Cessna Business Park.

Aloft Cessna Business Park fulfils the need of business hospitality in the IT Zone of Bangalore. It is fitted with several meeting rooms arrayed with hi-speed Wi Fi and other equipment necessary to make conferences and meetings an effortless, successful event.

A special mention about their very comfortable chairs. I should know. Ahead of the event, I had requested for a full back support chair to enable me sit through the two days of the meet.         (Remember the rib fractures?) The organisers took it upon themselves to ensure this was in place. Aloft Cessna did not disappoint. The chairs were all so comfortable that I breezed through without any discomfort whatsoever. They even had an ergonomic chair with complete back and neck support, just in case. Thank you, organisers and Aloft Cessna! This attention to detail, if sustained, will surely take Team Aloft Cessna a long way.

Lunch was again a theme affair. With food revolving around ‘Aamchi Mumbai’, people could have their fill of murmura in paper cones, pav bhaji, kheema pav, misal pav, vada pav, and ice gola or falooda for dessert!

Mumbai Chaats - theme lunch, Pic Courtesy Jayashree Mudaliar

I would have preferred more sensitivity towards separating vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The veg bhaji and the non-veg kheema for the pavs were stationed too close to each other for comfort with the same chef handling the service for both as well! Needless to say, I preferred to give it a miss.

Post lunch saw Nandita Iyer, the social media diva, walk us through the steps of harnessing social media to our benefit. Her talk was replete with humour (apt for post – lunch session, it kept us awake) yet bringing home the power and use of social media such as pinterest, twitter, facebook and others for bloggers.

Nandita Iyer on Social Media

Aneesh Bhasin from Hipcask, took over next. His talk on Rose wines (an under-appreciated category) was very informative. Ably aided with samples of Zampa, a Rose from the Grover stable, he led us through the nuances of wine making, Indian wines, wine labelling in different countries, the correct temperature for drinking various wines. He took queries with great ease and helped food bloggers understand wines much better. Thank you, Aneesh Bhasin!

Before we knew it, folks at Aloft announced tea time. When pampered so much, who are we to complain?  The theme this time was ‘Kolkata Chaats’. Rossogollas, ghugni, puchkas, kathi rolls, kaala jamuns were all drippingly enticing.

Kaala jamunPuchkasBengali MishtiPunjabi chef serving Bengali puchka!

It was wonderful to see momos and thupka also part of the menu. The chef had also created different sauces to accompany thupkas. However, the momos again had both vegetarian and non-vegetarian versions in close proximity, nee, in the same steamer (in different compartments). Can we have better discernment with respect to vegetarian / vegan sensitivities please?

Here are momos and thupkas - veg and non-veg medley

Before we knew it, it was time for a session with Husna Rahaman, author of Spice Sorcery. The author shared anecdotes of her childhood, cooking, and how families bonded over food.

Deeba Rajpal in conv with Husna Rahaman, Pic Courtesy - Jayashree Mudaliar

This was end of Day 1. A whirlwind of sessions, learning, meeting up with who’s who of the food blogging world, carrying heavy goodie bags back home and excitedly waiting for Day 2.

Clicker clicking the clicker who is clicking too!

Day 2 needs another post altogether. So wait for one here.. Till then, eat right, be happy, stay blessed!

Jul 30, 2014

Baked Sweet Corn and Raisin Samosa

 

The weather in Bangalore is turning better by the day. I cannot say the same about the traffic though. A great setting for the IFBMeet, 2014. Gosh, none of us can stop talking or gushing about it, can we? A strong cups of masala chai and these baked samosas are just what we crave for in this weather. Welcoming all participants with hot masala chai and these scrumptious, guilt free, absolutely delicious baked sweet corn and raisin samosas.

Last entry to the IFBM and Freedom Tree Baking Contest.

Welcome to sweet corn samosa cafe!

Allergy Information

  • Contains wheat, NOT suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
  • Does not contain dairy, nuts, soya, peanuts.

Preparation Time – 30 minutes, Cooking Time – 20 minutes+20 minutes baking time, Makes – 16-18 samosas.

Ingredients

  1. Samosa Patties – 16-18
  2. Sweet  corn kernels – 1 heaped cup
  3. Golden Raisins – 1/2 cup
  4. Potato – boiled and mashed – 1/2 cup
  5. Onion – diced – 1/4 cup
  6. Green chillies – 4
  7. Coriander leaves – chopped – 3 tbsp
  8. Coriander seeds (sabut dhania) – 2 tbsp
  9. Fennel seeds (saunf) – 1 tbsp
  10. Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
  11. Salt – 1 tsp
  12. Maida (APF) – 3 tbsp
  13. Vegetable oil – 3 tsp

Inviting cuppa and crispy samosas

Method

  1. Microwave the sweet corn for 2 minutes at high power.
  2. Finely mince the onions, green chillies, coriander leaves.
  3. Boil 1 small potato, mash well and use 1/2 cup of mash.
  4. Warm up the dhania and saunf seeds, powder roughly in mixer.
  5. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan, add onions, green chillies. Fry well until turning pink to brown (about 5 minutes.) Tip in microwaved corn and raisins. Add in mashed potato too. Next, add salt, powdered spice, garam masala powder,  minced coriander leaves.
  6. Mix well over high flame, remove from flame after 2 minutes. Set aside.
  7. Make a thick slurry with maida and 2 tbsp water.
  8. Preheat oven to 200 C.
  9. Peel a single samosa patti from the bunch, fold into a conical shape from one end. Use this video to learn how to fill a samosa patti.
  10. Place 1 heaped tsp of filling inside, fold into triangle and brush maida slurry to seal the edges well.
  11. Repeat with rest of patties dividing the filling equally.
  12. Use the remaining 2 tsp oil to brush all sides of samosas. Place on a greased baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes or more until they turn golden brown.
  13. Serve warm with a hot cup of tea and enjoy!

Good evening with samosas and chai!

Samosas posing against the city skyline!

Sweet Corn and Spring Onion Eggless Muffins

 

A cup of steaming tea and a favourite book, is how several of us would like to unwind over the weekend. Add to this some warm fragrant home bakes, and the picture is complete. Ask anyone who bakes even sporadically, and their answer would be that baking is a delicious stress buster!  The heavenly aroma that wafts through the house when baking some warm bread or muffins at home is incentive enough, not to mention the other benefits of enjoying fresh bakes whenever the whim takes you. The ability to choose good quality ingredients (whole meal vs refined flour or organic to name a few choices) and omit a multitude of preservatives that are found in commercial bakes are another positive.

Having tried out several sweet bakes over the years, I’ve always looked out for chances to bake something savoury. The availability of sweet corn at this time of the year, coupled with the contest at IFBM co-hosted by Freedom Tree swung the balance in it’s favour. Everyone I know would love to own some of the vibrantly coloured Freedom Tree bakeware. So here is my attempt at winning some of them! This recipe is an entry to the IFBM and Freedom Tree Baking Contest.

These muffins are as much at home with your hot cuppa as in the kids’ snack box. Make extra over the weekend, store covered in the fridge and pack some for the kids too.

DSC_2479

Here is how I baked my afternoon’s quota of bliss.

Allergy Information

  • Contains wheat, corn, dairy. NOT suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
  • Suitable for people with lactose intolerance as milk is not used.
  • Does NOT contain nuts.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Makes – 8 medium muffins.

Ingredients

  1. Whole wheat flour – 1 1/2 cups
  2. Sweet corn kernels – 1/2 cup
  3. Spring onions – 1/4 cup chopped
  4. Green chilli – 2
  5. Vegetable oil – 1/4 cup+1 tbsp
  6. Thick curd / yoghurt – 3/4 cup
  7. Baking powder – 1 tsp
  8. Baking soda – 1 tsp
  9. Salt – 1/4 tsp
  10. Oregano – few pinches to sprinkle
  11. Mozzarella cheese  - 50 gm out of a block

Method

  1. Blanch the fresh sweet corn kernels for 2 minutes in boiling water. Or zip in microwave at high power for a minute. Run the corn along with green chilli in the mixer to a coarse paste. A few kernels can remain whole.
  2. Clean the spring onions and chop real fine. Measure 1/4 cup packed well. Set aside.
  3. Dice the mozzarella cheese into 1 cm cubes, you will need 16 such cubes. Set aside.
  4. Whisk the curd /yoghurt along with measured oil in a mixer until homogenous (a few pulses in mixer will do)
  5. Preheat oven to 180 C. The yum stuff that goes in
  6. In a large bowl, measure out the whole wheat flour, add in the baking powder, baking soda and combine well with a dry whisk. Tip in the chopped spring onions and corn mash. Add salt, whisked yoghurt+oil, and use wire whisk to mix all ingredients through.
  7. Line an 8 muffin pan with well greased paper liners. If you have a 6 muffin pan, you can bake in 2 batches too. Keep the batter waiting in the fridge for it’s turn.
  8. Fill 1/3 of each cavity with batter. Gently place in 2 cubes cheese per muffin. Cover with more batter, sprinkle oregano on top.   Beauties rising in the oven!
  9. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes, add or reduce baking time as required. Watch out for the last 3 minutes of baking. The muffin is done when the top is golden brown and  a tooth pick inserted through the sides (not centre –it has cheese, remember?) of the muffin come clean.
  10. Enjoy warm as is, or with a dab of sour cream.

Fresh, warm muffins

Great accompaniment to hot tea

 

Jul 28, 2014

Tintrinee Panaka

 

Are you inquisitive about what this is? A tin or a tree? Wait, the title also says Panaka. So, a drink? Ok, that part was easier. So what’s with the tongue twister title? Fret no more. This is just  Tamarind Panaka. Whew. Is that all?

Did you know that tamarind has several health benefits?

  • The fruit juice has ability to improve glucose transport inside the body. However, people with diabetes need to monitor their intake of sweetened drinks such as this carefully.
  • It has substantial amounts of B complex vitamins as well as rich in Iron, Magnesium and fibre.
  • Tamarind juice is used in Indian traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, diabetes, and even obesity.
  • Leaves of tamarind tree are boiled in water and used as antimicrobial wash.
  • Apart from all these, tamarind has high levels of antioxidants such as tartaric acid (the reason for its acidity) and phytochemicals such as limonene and geraniol  which show anti oxidant properties in studies.

To capitalise on it’s health benefits, I’ve attempted this refreshing summer drink. The zest is supplied by the tamarind juice with flavours like lemon grass and kala namak adding to the appeal of this zingy mocktail. We often ignore proper hydration once we cross the summer season. This peppy drink is a great choice of hydration because it is fortified with salts such as Kala namak (Himalayan pink salt) which is rich in minerals too. The use of palm sugar here makes it healthier too.

Chilled, zingy panaka

When Urban Dazzle and IFBM2014 announced the summer/monsoon drink recipe contest, I was sure that I wanted to create a very unique drink. I believe I have. Do try it out and let me know if you liked it. This refreshing drink would look perfect in this Martini glass from Urban Dazzle. The unique stem design captured my interest right away and the volume would be just right for a serving.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Preparation time – 15 minutes, Cooking Time – 15 minutes, Serves – 4

You Need

4 martini or highball glasses with rim dressed in coloured sugar and chilled.

Ingredients

  1. Ready tamarind pulp – 2 tbsp or Tamarind pods – 2 tbsp tightly packed.
  2. Lemon grass – 5 long stalks
  3. Water – 2 cups+1/2 cup
  4. Palm sugar candy (Panam karkandu) – 1/4 cup
  5. Salt – a pinch
  6. Kala namak – a tiny pinch
  7. Chilled soda – 500 ml

Method

  1. Place the tamarind pulp along with 2 cup of water in a sauce pan and boil for 5 minutes. Set aside. If using tamarind pods, soak in 1cup warm water for  5 minutes, extract pulp. Filter through a mesh filter to remove impurities and repeat process to extract pulp completely. Make up total volume to 2 cups and boil for 5 minutes.
  2. Rinse and roughly chop the lemon grass into a saucepan with 1/2 cup water. Boil this also for 2 minutes for the flavours to release.
  3. To dress the rim of martini glasses, rinse and wipe the glasses well. Carefully and gently rub a lime wedge along the rim of the glass. Invert the mouth of the glass over a plate of coloured sugar. Once the sugar is coated uniformly, place glass in freezer to chill for up to half an hour.
  4. Pour  60 ml of tamarind water and 30 ml of lemon grass water in a cocktail shaker. Add a good pinch of salt, tiny pinch of kala namak, and 2 tsp powdered palm sugar. Shake well. Pour into a dressed chilled glass. Top with soda and serve.

Refreshing summer drink

Tintrinee Panaka

Jul 25, 2014

Plum and Elaneer Terrine

(Elaneer–Tender Coconut Water)

Ok, so it has been raining plums all over the country and beyond too! Wonder not at the surfeit of interest that all bloggers seem to have in plums. The reason is the contest announced jointly by KitchenAid India and the Indian Food Bloggers Meet. Here is my last attempt at all things ‘plummy’.

A simple, visually stunning dessert that has been born of the desire to create a new, uncomplicated, breath taking dish. Of marrying French sensibilities with Indian flavours. Of paying tribute to my home state, Kerala. What can capture the essence of Kerala better than it’s famous coconuts? The Elaneer or tender coconut water is an excellent base for this refreshing fruit terrine. Juicy plum bits suspended in a clear, delicately flavoured tender coconut jelly and shining like a jewel! Have a look at this.

Jewel in a bowl - Plum Terrine

This plum terrine, with it’s gorgeous appearance has to be the least sinful and most healthy of desserts. With zero fat and very minimal calories from added sugar, the terrine is a great option for dieters of every hue. Besides, it’s glamorous appearance will surely earn you plenty of applause at a potluck or from dinner guests. The best part is it takes very little time to assemble, but the final outcome belies that (We are not going to let our guests know that, are we?)

Triple layered Plum Terrine

A few tips to keep in mind are to select tender coconut which is slightly sweeter. Retain the tender meat from inside the coconut too. Select ripe but firm plums that are just short of over ripe or squishy.

Without further ado, here goes..

Preparation time – 45 minutes+1 hour setting time, Cooking Time – 15 minutes, Serves - 6

Allergy Information

Does not contain egg, soya, wheat, dairy, nuts.

Ingredients

  1. Firm ripe plums – 8-10
  2. Tender coconut water – 2 cups (I got it from 2 tender coconuts)
  3. Flesh from the tender coconuts, chopped
  4. Agar agar – 2 gms
  5. Fresh water – 1 cup +1/2 cup if needed
  6. Sugar – 3 heaped tbsp (or less if the coconut water is sweet enough)
  7. Pomegranate pearls – 1/4 cup (optional)
  8. Flavourless vegetable oil like sunflower or canola oil – a few drops to grease

Chilled no-guilt dessert

Method

  1. Wash the plums, pat dry and stone the fruit by cutting from all four sides close to the seed, and then from top and bottom! Dice the pulp into an even small size taking care not to squish the flesh. Set aside.
  2. Chop the agar agar into small pieces, soak in 1 cup water in a small sauce pan, bring to boil, stirring continuously for 4-5 minutes, until the strands dissolve through. Strain the liquid through a metal sieve into a clean bowl. Return the remaining strands to the same sauce pan, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup water, and boil again while stirring all the time. Strain again into the same bowl, discard any leftover agar agar bits.
  3. Warm up the tender coconut water very gently for a minute, (do not boil). Remove from flame and add in a thin stream to the warm agar agar liquid, whisk well. Taste and add as much sugar as needed. Keep stirring until sugar has dissolved. Keep the agar agar sauce pan over flame. When sugar has dissolved, and the liquid looks clear and transparent, remove from flame.
  4. Grease a 8” by 4” loaf tin or several small ramekins/bowls/katoris (about 5-6, each of 120 ml capacity).
  5. Place the chopped plums in a single layer at the bottom of the prepared tin/bowls. Gently pour the tender coconut liquid over the fruit until the fruit pieces are drenched and submerged in the clear liquid. Tap sharply on the counter and rest on the counter for 15 minutes. (no need to refrigerate)
  6. After 15 minutes, check if the top of the liquid layer has set. If yes, proceed to add the chopped coconut pieces, again in a single layer. If not set, wait for 5 minutes, check and then layer the coconut. Repeat the gentle pouring of the agar agar liquid over the coconut. If this liquid has begun setting, warm it up gently until clear liquid and then pour. Tap over counter again and leave to set for 15 minutes.
  7. Once this layer too has set, scatter a few pomegranate pearls over if using. Else you could use up the rest of the diced plums too. Finish off by pouring the coconut water+agar agar liquid over the fruit. Tap the container sharply again (to avoid air pockets) and set in refrigerator for an hour.
  8. To unmould, dip a knife in hot water, wipe and run carefully around the set terrine. Loosen the sides alone and invert onto serving plate. Cut into slices if set in loaf tin using a serrated knife. Serve chilled as is, or accompanied with whipped cream or ice cream.
  9. Sit back and enjoy this absolutely guilt free dessert and bask in appreciative applause!

Terrine loaf

Terrine from the top!

Jul 23, 2014

Luscious Plum Panna cotta–A plum assignment!

 

The countdown to the first ever Indian Food Bloggers’ Meet has begun. The organisers are busy on their toes looking into every detail. The participants? They are busy as well, cooking up storms in their kitchens and all over the internet! Oh yes, I am going to the event too. After racking my recalcitrant grey cells for several days, and after trying out several recipes in my head, some actually in the kitchen, I’ve finally gathered courage to pitch for the lovely prize announced by KitchenAid, India.

Plums, glorious plums!

‘Cook with plums and blog about it, it’s that easy’, coaxed the organisers. Is it really? When you are setting yourself up against some of the most talented, creative cooks in the country, even an easy task can seem daunting. Still, I can always try, can’t I?

Succulent, lush plums, cooked with aromatic star anise, turned wicked and hot with a generous dash of chilli, caressed and enfolded into a milk-cream mixture and patiently allowed to set into a panna cotta. As if this was not sublime enough, a rich, buttery, crisp, orange lace cookie that holds the silky smooth, gently quivering panna cotta in its fold. This marriage of the crisp and the soft brought together with a drizzle of plum compote! What would you say?

Here is what you need to make this heavenly dessert.

For the plum compote

Ingredients

  1. Ripe plums – 250 gms, weighed after deseeding
  2. Sugar – 125 gms
  3. Star anise – 2 arms of a star anise pod
  4. Kashmiri chilli powder – 1 level tsp

Method

  1. Wash, pat dry and stone the plums. For this, cut into half close to the seed on either side of the seed and remove seed. Retain skin+pulp.
  2. Place them in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar and star anise, set to a medium flame and keep stirring. After  4-5 minutes, when the plums get cooked and the skins peel off, keep removing as much skin as possible with a fork. Continue stirring the mixture to avoid charring.
  3. When the pulp looks well cooked (about 8 minutes), add the chilli powder, mix in well and remove from fire. Once cooled,remove the star anise, run the pulp in a blender, sieve through a metal sieve and reserve the smooth compote.

For the Panna cotta

Ingredients

  1. Milk – 1 cup
  2. Fresh cream – 1/2 cup (I used Amul)
  3. Sugar – 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra if needed
  4. Agar agar – 8 gms
  5. Fresh water – 1cup +1/2 cup if needed
  6. Plum compote – 1/2 cup (Reserve the rest of prepared compote)

Method

  1. Boil the milk in a saucepan, dissolve sugar in it and keep warm.
  2. Chop up the agar-agar strands, place in 1 cup water in a small saucepan, and bring to boil over low flame. Keep stirring continuously. When most of the strands have dissolved, pour through a metal sieve into the saucepan with milk. Return the un-dissolved strands of agar agar to the small saucepan add 1/4 cup extra water and boil again over low flame. Repeat the sieving into the milk once it is dissolved. Discard any leftover strands after this step.
  3. Warm the cream carefully, stirring all the time. When bubbles appear around the corners, pour the cream into the milk mixture, bring the milk saucepan to boil. Stir, stir, until the liquid is homogenous.
  4. Switch off flame, blend in 1/2 cup of prepared plum compote. Use a whisk if needed, make sure the compote and the milk are fully blended.
  5. Grease 4-5 molds (each approx. 120 ml), with a light flavourless oil. Pour the prepared panna cotta into these molds, tap the molds sharply to avoid air bubbles and set in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. I set them overnight.

Orange lace cookies embracing the smooth panna cotta

For the Orange Lace Cookie (Recipe adapted from Pastry Pal)

Ingredients

  1. APF – 85 gms
  2. Granulated Sugar – 225 gms
  3. Orange Juice – 120 ml
  4. Melted butter – 100 ml

Method

  1. Powder the sugar in a mixer to a fine powder. Once it is fine, add the measured flour to the mixer jar and run both together so that they blend well.
  2. Remove to a mixing bowl. Add the orange juice and whisk thoroughly until well combined.
  3. Now add the melted butter and keep whisking till you get a smooth batter. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. The next day, when you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180 C.
  5. Line a baking try with Silpat. If you do not have a Silpat mat, grease the baking tray ‘very generously’ with butter. You can make these cookies in batches, so use any size tray you have.
  6. Drop ‘only’ half teaspoonfuls of batter onto the tray leaving large gaps between each cookie batter. Bake for 5 minutes at 180 C, then reduce temperature to 170 C and bake again for 5 minutes. Watch out in the last 2 minutes. The edges should get golden and the middle should look orange-gold in hue.
  7. Remove tray from oven, let the cookie cool for a minute. Then ease it out gently with a metal spatula, drape over a rolling pin or katori if you want a bent shape. Else, remove to a platter to cool in a single layer. Store in an air tight box until needed.

Don't we look pretty?

To Assemble the Dessert

  1. When you are ready to serve, pour the reserved plum compote into a small saucepan, add 2 tbsp fresh water, bring to boil. Mix well and remove from fire.
  2. Place 1 or 2 orange lace cookies in a serving plate.
  3. Dip a knife in hot water. Wipe and run through the edges of the set panna cotta bowl. Loosen only the edges carefully. Invert over the waiting cookie.
  4. Drizzle the plum compote over the panna cotta and serve immediately. The delicate lacy crisp cookie embraces the smooth panna cotta resulting in gustatory ecstasy! Some desserts are best experienced to be believed!

Hot Plum Panna cotta served with Orange Lace cookie and plum compote

A marriage made in dessert heaven! Enjoy.