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Kay's House of Treats: December 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup

We are finally getting the 'Quetta ki hawain' in Karachi, and getting to enjoy the chilly weather properly. The fans are off, the sweaters are on (at least in the mornings and evenings), and I can enjoy eating dry fruits & nuts with Kashmiri Chai or Desi hand-whisked coffee snuggled up in a comforter.

This weather is also perfect for a hot comforting bowl of soup and with fresh, ripe & 'affordable' tomatoes in season, I just had to make tomato soup! The recipe that I made calls for roasting the tomato & garlic in the oven, resulting in the most heavenly smell around the entire house. After that its just cooking on the stove, blending it up and its ready - serve it with toasted garlic bread for a satisfying lunch or dinner. 

Best part - this soup has no cream making it so much more healthier!
Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup

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Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup
Serves 4

1 kg tomatoes (should be ripe)
6 cloves garlic (unpeeled)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt + 2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chicken stock (or one chicken cube dissolved in 2 cups water)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves + few leaves to garnish (can be substituted with 2 tsp dried basil if fresh is not available)
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 200 C.
2. Line baking sheet with aluminium foil and put tomatoes and garlic cloves on the baking sheet. Brush both with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Bake for 30 minutes - the skin on the tomatoes should be slightly wrinkly.

Roasted Tomatoes
3. Remove tray from oven, and set aside for 15 minutes till it is cool. Cut the top green part of the tomato, and you can also remove the skin of the tomato if you want (can easily be peeled after roasting). Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and keep aside.
4. Heat butter/oil in a pot. Add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes till light brown. Add chicken stock & then add all the tomatoes, the garlic as well as any juices from the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and then add basil leaves.
5. Simmer for about 45-50 minutes with the lid half closed.
6. Add salt & red chilli flakes.
7. Turn off heat, and blend with immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, you can let the soup cool for about 15-20 minutes and then blend it in batches in a normal blender.
8. If preferred you can strain the soup through a sieve, which will remove any remaining seeds or skin, and will make the soup smoother.
9. Put the soup back on heat, add 1/4 cup milk and let it come to a boil. Add more milk if required, and also taste and adjust seasonings.
10. Serve with Garlic Bread (recipe below) or Croutons on the side.

Garlic Bread
Serves 4 people

3/4 loaf French Bread
4-5 cloves garlic cloves, minced
5-6 tablespoon butter, melted
Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 180 C. Mix the butter & garlic together. Make 1-inch thick slices into the bread, but don't go all the way through. Using a knife or a spoon, put about 1/2 a teaspoon of the butter mixture between each slice - make sure it is enough for the entire loaf or make more if required. Wrap the bread in aluminum foil and put in oven for 15-20 minutes till heated through. If the loaf is too long, then it can be divided into two parts, and this can also be baked in the toaster oven.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to Make Buttermilk

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I have also started posting tips & tricks on my Facebook page, but I am deciding to post them on the blog as well because its much more easy to open the blog then to login to Facebook and then open my page, and then open the notes section. 

Starting off the tips with some easy substitutions. There are so many times when you have to skip a recipe because you are missing an ingredient, or its unavailable or its too expensive. Turns out there are a number of basic baking ingredients that can easily & inexpensively be made at home. 

I am going to start with buttermilk - a complicated sounding name but with the most simplest substitution possible. 

First of all, what is buttermilk. Buttermilk is the liquid left when butter is churned out of whole milk. The taste is slightly sour, with the sourness resulting from the acids in the milk. Despite its name, there is no butter in buttermilk, and in fact it is actually lower in fat than regular milk or cream. Since relatively few people churn butter, what is available in markets abroad (not in Pakistan) is cultured buttermilk which is a pasteurized milk product where a culture of lactic acid is added to milk to curdle and sour the milk.

That is the literal definition of buttermilk, however, why its important in baking is because of the following:

1. It adds a tangy flavor to cakes, breads & biscuits.
2. It helps in making tender & light baked goods.
3. Since it is acidic, it neutralizes the sodium carbonate which is released after adding baking soda & can leave a metallic taste to baked goods. Generally recipes utilizing buttermilk will have baking soda instead of baking powder as baking powder is acidic in nature and may not properly react with the acid in buttermilk. 

And now a simple & quick method to make buttermilk at home! 

How to make Buttermilk 

Milk - 1 cup
Vinegar or Lemon Juice - 1 tbsp 

1. Place one cup of milk in a bowl.
2. Add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice.
3. Allow the mixture to stand for five minutes till its slightly thickened and you can see see small curds. 
4. Use buttermilk in recipe.

Recipes that buttermilk is used in on my blog:

One Bowl Chocolate Cake


Sunday, December 22, 2013


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Even though Lasagne is an extremely popular dish, I just never tried making it. The first time that I made it was when a friend sent me some in return for some cookies I sent her (everyone should have friends like these). 
It was hands down, the best Lasagne ever since it incorporated all those things that I love.
Chicken Mince instead of beef mince - check
Properly seasoned white sauce with chicken instead of bland white sauce - check
Sauted Mushrooms - check
Loads of cheese - check
Dried Herbs for added flavor - check
I have still made my own adaptions to my friends original recipe, with the addition of spice & garam masala but this can be omitted based on personal preference. 
 Please also note that this is a Desi version of lasagne, in actuality the white sauce layer is made with ricotta, but since ricotta is not easily available in Pakistan and is also expensive, properly seasoned white sauce provides a delicious alternative!
Lasagne with Mushrooms & Bechamel Sauce 

For Meat Sauce: 
2 tbsp butter
3/4 can - 1 can of mushrooms, sliced (I generally use the whole can because I want to finsh it up)
1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp garlic paste
1/4 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
2 Medium-Sized Onions, chopped
1/2 kg Chicken or Beef Mince
Chicken Mince can be made by processing boneless chicken in a food processor.
Whole Spices/Sabit Garam Masala (optional for Desi flavor) - 3 cloves/laung, one black cardamom pod/bari elachi, 1/2 inch cinnamon bark/daal chini ka tukra
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander/dhaniya (optional)
1/2 + 1 tsp salt 
3 to 4 tbsp Tomato Puree 
2 tbsp ketchup
Dried Oregano - 1/2 tsp & more to sprinkle between layers
 White Sauce/Bechamel Sauce:
4 tbsp Butter 
4 tbsp Flour 
2 cups Milk 
1/2 Chicken cube
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper 
2 tbsp Cheddar Cheese
For Layering
Chilli Garlic Sauce - about 6 tbsp in total to spread between layers (optional)
Cheese (cheddar and/or mozzarella) - about 4 tbsp for each layer 
Dried Oregano leaves for seasoning – 1/4 tsp for each layer
Butter - as needed
Oil - as needed

Meat Sauce
Sauté mushrooms in 1 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp garlic paste. Add 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes and saute for about 5 minutes till lightly browned. Take mushrooms out of the pan and set aside.
Heat more oil in the same pan (about 2 tbsp) . Fry onions till slightly brown. Add sabit garam masala if using (one elaichi, 3 cloves, ½ piece cinnamon) & garlic paste & sauté for 1-2 minutes.  Add meat and cook till meat changes color. Add sauted mushrooms, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 ts chilli powder, tomato puree, and ketchup. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 mins or until cooked. Add dried oregano after turning the heat off. Remove the whole spices from the meat after meat has been cooked. 

White Sauce
Melt 4 tbsp butter and add flour. Whisk quickly for about 2 minutes making sure that it doesn't burn. Make sure the raw flour smell disappears. Add milk and keep whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Cook till thick. Add half a chicken cube, salt and pepper to taste, and cheddar cheese. In case white sauce gets thick or there’s only a little bit left, add more milk and whisk.

Boil lasagna strips as per packet instructions. Take a glass pyrex square/rectangular baking dish. I personally used a 9 by 9 inch square one. Lightly oil the bottom of the dish and then spread the strips on it. Place meat sauce over the strips then the white sauce. Spread 2 tbsp of chilli sauce if using. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese & oregano then start on the second layer (strips, meat sauce & white sauce). End the layers with lasagne strips on top. Cover the top layer with white sauce, cheese & oregano. Bake till cheese melts & browns. 
1. Reserve the best lasagne strips for the top and if there are any torn pieces, put them in the middle. 
2. Cut with a sharp serrated piece to be able to cut square pieces showing all the layers.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Chicken Kofta Curry

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Putting up a new 'Desi' recipe which is not my own, but my mother's. In fact almost all the 'Desi' recipes that I put up are based on hers, because not only does she make really good food but she also keeps on trying new things & experimenting with ingredients till she gets it right. So the few times that I do make anything Desi, I follow her recipes because I need to have the exact same taste :). She also gives very detailed recipes instead of the 'a little bit of this' and a 'little bit of that' that most people do, accompanied with at least a few tips and tricks :), which makes following the recipe pretty simple. 

Chicken Kofta's are a family favourite, and is made regularly at our home, for both family meals as well as parties. Since we rarely eat beef/mutton at home, almost everything from kofta's to shami kebab's to nihari is made out of chicken at home. Not only are these kofta's healthier, but they taste amazing but they are so soft & delicate that they literally melt in the mouth.

Chicken Kofta Curry/Salan
Serves 6-8 people 

For Kofta's/Meatballs
1/4 kg or 250 gram Boneless Chicken
2 Medium Onion
1 inch piece Ginger
1/2 bunch mint
1 heaped teaspoon Garam Masala (Indian Allspice)
1/2 tsp white cumin
4 to 5 green chilli
2 tablespoon besan/gramflour, roasted
2 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon dhaniya/corriander powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

Method for making Kofta's/Meatballs:
Mix all the above ingredients in the chopper and grind till fine. Keep the ground meat in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before making small balls. If required, the ground meat can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a day prior to cooking.

For Gravy:
2 Medium Onion, chopped
2 teaspoon dhaniya/corriander powder
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoon yoghurt
4 tablespoon oil

1. Heat oil in big pot. Fry onions till golden then take them out leaving the oil in the pot. Blend onions with yogurt in blender.
2. Add ginger garlic paste, dhaniya/coriander powder, red chilli powder & salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the blended onion & yoghurt mixture. Start the bhunna/saute process (detailed explanation provided in note below), by stirring the masala constantly with a wooden process while adding a little water as needed. The 'Bhunna' process is complete when you can see the oil on top of the masala. The masala should be dryish, with the water being added in small increments to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
3. Add 3-4 cups of water to the masala & let it come to a boil.
4. Once the salan/curry is at a boil, add the kofta/meatballs and cook for 5 minutes. Be careful while adding the kofta's so that they don't break, and instead of using a spoon move the pot around using kitchen napkins/gloves to incorporate the kofta's in the salan/curry. The reason being that since the kofta's are made from chicken, they are quite soft and prone to breaking, hence the best method is to swirl the pot around with a spoon only being used if required.
5. Cook on high flame for 10-12 minutes, then let it simmer for 30-40 minutes till cooked.
6. Garnish with green corriander/dhaniya right before serving.
7. Serve with a simple salad of sliced onions, salt, vinegar and fresh dhaniya/corriander along with fresh roti and/or steamed process.

Pakistani style of Bhunna:
'Bhunna' is a term that we use for almost every gravy that is cooked in Pakistan. It is a style of sauteing, however, the technique differs from the western style. It is the process of cooking the selected ingredients over medium to high heat, stirring constantly & adding small quantities of liquid as required to prevent sticking. Generally 'Bhunna' is required at only one stage in the dish, for ingredients like onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and spices to remove the raw flavor. Once the oil comes to the top of the masala the process is completed with the protein added after the 'Bhunna'.
In some cases like with 'Bhuna Goosht' or with 'Mincemeat', the 'bhunna' process is repeated a second time after adding the meat.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Potato Gratin

Potatoes & Cream & Cheese .. All baked in the Oven ...

Need I say more? :)

I served this potato gratin with my Chicken Paprika Straganoff as a side-dish, however, if you are in the mood, you can have the potatoes on their own! They are that good, and the best part about making it at home is that you can have as much as you want (or as much as there are leftover). 

This is indulgent comfort food at its best, and it tastes great in the winters when it comes hot out of the oven, with a bubbling cheesy crust on top. 

You might feel like eating salads the next week to compensate, but this dish is worth it. 

P.s. Make enough so that you have leftovers for the best midnight snack!
Potato Gratin
Serves 5 people

2 tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup cream
1 1/2 - 2 cups milk
5 medium potatoes (approx. 1/2 kg), peeled and thinly sliced (use a mandoline for slicing as it would not just save time, but the slices would be of even thickness, which is necessary)
*be careful to not cut yourself while using the mandoline
1/2 - 3/4 cups grated cheese
Salt & Black Pepper - to taste
Fresh or Dried Herbs - Rosemary is preferred, but Oregano is good too

Required for Baking: 8 or 9 inch square baking dish (or similar size)
Ovenproof Pyrex is a good option as it can be served directly on the table.

Note: The initial recipe called for about 2 cups cream, and 1.5 cups of cheese, but I decreased both because while I am sure it would have tasted delicious, there was a little bit of guilt. You may increase the cream & cheese, but do reduce the milk accordingly. 

1. Heat oven to 180 C.

2. Melt butter in medium saucepan. Saute onion for 2-3 minutes till soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds till you can smell the garlic.

3. Add cream and milk and heat until its hot.

4. Start layering the potatoes & cheese in a baking dish making sure to end the top layer with cheese. Sprinkle every layer of potato with a bit of salt, pepper, herbs, and then cheese.

5. Pour in the cream and milk mixture over the potatoes making sure that it comes up at least 3/4th of the way up the potato layers.

6. Put in the oven and cook, until the potatoes are tender and the top is browned, about 45 to 50 minutes. Check by inserting a knife in the potatoes, and if it meets little or no resistance then the gratin is done.

7. Serve immediately.

Note: The cooking time will differ based on the thickness of the potato slices so check accordingly. 

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