Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mango Melting Moments - Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap 2012

Mango Melting Moments 2

I'm not much of a baker, as most of you know by now if you've been visiting here for a while.  You won't find that many recipes here for baked goods, though surprisingly (to me at least) the few baking recipes that I have posted are amongst my most popular.  Christmas baking to me usually amounts to nothing more than the ubiquitous Christmas cake, and perhaps a dozen or two Christmas mince pies.  So it intrigues me when I read how some of you spend virtually all of December baking dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies.  Not only can I not imagine actually baking all those cookies, I equally can't imagine where they all go.

Anyhow, on one of my tours around blogland I came across a post about the Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap, and thought it might be fun to join in.  After all, what's not to love about sending out a batch or two of cookies to fellow bloggers, and getting cookies back in return.  So, I signed up and Clare at Major Cake's Kitchen Affair (a new to me blog) did too, so a swap was on.

Of course, I spent several weeks deliberating over what to bake, and I confess to more than a little anxiety.  When you're not an experienced baker, the possibility of failure is high and, let's face it who wants to send a batch of failed cookies to a fellow blogger.  I was also hoping to be able to put a bit of a personal touch to whatever I made, but again that would be straying into risky territory for a novice baker.  In the end I decided on an adaptation of this recipe for melting moments.  Melting moments are one of my favourite cookies, and I hoped fervently that Clare might be a lover too.  I put my own spin on it by adding vanilla paste to the cookie dough, and some freeze-dried mango powder to the filling.    The resulting cookies were light, buttery, and flecked with vanilla, and the hint of mango flavour in the filling made a nice twist on the original without being too risky.  In the end I was thrilled to be able to send these to Clare and I hope she enjoys them.

Xmas Shortbread

In return, Clare sent me these stunningly festive Christmas Shortbreads.  Every single one of them was individually wrapped, which was a lovely touch.  These shortbreads are deliciously crisp and buttery, with a bit of crunch from the sugar on top, and the red and green sprinkles really say Christmas.  Do go and visit Clare - she has only been blogging for a few months, but her blog is already chock full of delicious sweet treats.  I'm very tempted by her recipe for Homemade Limoncello - looks like a great project for the weekend.

Mango Melting Moments

Mango Melting Moments Recipe

200g (7 oz) soft butter
115g (4 oz) flour
45g (1-1/2 oz) icing sugar
50g (1-3/4 oz) custard powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste

For the filling:
60g (2oz) soft butter
2/3 cup icing sugar
Fresh As freeze-dried mango powder to taste

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees F).

Place soft butter in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy.  Add flour, icing sugar, custard powder and vanilla paste, and mix with a wooden spoon until everything is fully combined.

Roll cookie dough into small balls and place on a parchment lined baking tray about 2.5cm (1 inch) apart.  Use the back of a fork to slightly flatten the balls of doughs and leave the traditional indentations in the tops.

Put into the hot oven and bake until lightly browned and cooked through - about 15 minutes.  You may need to turn the tray halfway through.

Remove from oven.   After a few minutes remove cookies to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

To prepare the filling, beat butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy - an electric mixer is ideal for this job.  Add mango powder to taste - I used close to a tablespoon.

Spread filling over the flat half of one cookie, and sandwich with another.  Repeat until all cookies have been filled.

I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to have participated for the first time in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and look forward to joining in again next year.  Hopefully a few more Kiwi bloggers will feel inspired to join in next year as well.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

This will be a submission to Sweet New Zealand, inspired by Alessandra Zecchini and hosted this month by the lovely Lydia at Lydia Bakes.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lake Palace Hotel Aubergines Cooked in the Pickling Style (Baigan Achari)

Lake Palace Hotel Aubergines

I've owned my copy of Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery for about 26 years now, and in all that time, whenever I open the book it falls open at exactly the same page - at the recipe for "The Lake Palace Hotel's Aubergine cooked in the pickling style".  I always thought it sounded like a great dish, and I guess it was always inevitable that I was going to make it one day.  As it turned out, it was so awesomely good I'm just disappointed that it took me so long to get around to making it.

Now I must warn you, that like many other Indian dishes (and most "brown" food), this doesn't look nearly as appealing as it tastes.  So, although this is not exactly a feast for the eyes, you're going to have to take a giant leap of faith when I tell you that this is probably my favourite dish I've made so far since I, and my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs, have been cooking with Madhur Jaffrey.

Madhur describes this dish as being "not unlike a spicy ratatouille", and she is exactly right.  It does have a most unusual "pickled" taste.  Madhur says this comes from the black onion seeds suggested in the recipe;  but I didn't use those, so it's obviously not as simple as that.

I ate this as a meal on its own, with just some steamed basmati rice, but it would also make a great accompaniment to all sorts of other dishes.  Madhur recommends it as being particular good with lamb, either Indian style or just simply roasted, and I can imagine that working really well.  She suggests it is also good cold and served with cold meats.

The original recipe serves 6 people as an accompaniment.  I adjusted quantities to make a main meal for myself, with a small amount leftover for the next day's lunch.  Despite reducing the quantity of vegetables in this dish, I kept most of the spices as the original recipe.  Also, instead of frying the aubergine slices, I opted for a healthier version, by roasting the aubergines slices in the oven.  It's also a lot easier than standing over batches of frying aubergines.

This is my contribution to this week's Pot Luck theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs, and I certainly won't be waiting another 26 years to make this again.

Lake Palace Hotel Aubergines Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Madhur Jaffrey in
Makes 1 main meal with leftovers, or
Serves 2 as a light meal, or
Serves 3 as an accompaniment
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1x medium/large aubergine (about 350g (12 oz))
neutral-flavoured vegetable oil
2.5cm (1 inch) piece ginger, peeled & coarsely chopped
3x cloves garlic, peeled & halved
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1x large tomato, peeled & finely chopped (see note below)
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F).

Cut aubergine into 1cm (1/2 inch) thick rings, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush them all liberally with some vegetable oil and put into the hot oven.  Once they are beginning to brown (about 10 minutes), flip them over and brush the other side generously with the vegetable oil.  Return to the oven until golden brown - about another 10-15 minutes.  Turn them again if you feel you need to.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Lake Palace Hotel Aubergines 1

Now place garlic, ginger and water in a blender and blitz until smooth.

Heat some more vegetable oil (about 2 tablespoons) in a deepish frying pan over medium heat.  Once the oil has heated, add the fennel and cumin seeds.  As soon as the seeds begin to look toasty and smell fragrant, add the chopped tomato,  the whizzed up garlic and ginger, turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt.  Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture reduces a bit and becomes like a thick sauce.

Add the aubergine slices to the pan, stirring gently to make sure all the slices are bathed in the sauce.  Lower the heat slightly and cook very gently for about 8 minutes.

Serve over steamed rice, as a side dish, or cold as a salad.

Note:  For ease of peeling a tomato - cut a small cross in the base of the tomato, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Allow to stand for about 30 seconds, remove and plunge immediately into a bowl of cold water.  The skin will slide straight off.

If you would like to get to know Madhur a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...


... or check out Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and many of Madhur's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

          Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery