Easy Mango Jam (No Preservatives Or Added Pectin)


Monsoon is here in Delhi and the last of the mangoes have flooded the market. I found vendors selling them at a very low price.  The small dasheri is a delicious variety we get in North India. Sweet, fragrant, juicy and full of flesh. The pit/stone/seed inside the fruit is very thin. I prefer it to the bigger variety of dasheri.  One can simply massage the fruit between palms and cut a tiny opening at the stem end the n suck the juicy flesh straight away, rolling and sqeezing it till every bit is finished. Then take out the pit and suck it clean.😀

That’s the best way to to have mangoes.

I find it sacrilege to cook some of the fruits. They need to be consumed as fruits. Figs, leechee, mangoes are a few of them but this batch of mangoes had some very overripe ones and so I decided to make a little quantity of Jam. I don’t eat commercial bread these days but home made preserves can be used in many ways. I use them for filling, as topping or spread.

Usually I mix a few varieties while making Jam. Also, I prefer to choose a combination of overripe and fully rip but firm mangoes when making  chunky version. It makes the jam rich in flavor and texture. I use no artificial pectin or preservatives.

This is the simplest way to make mango jam.

Ingredients :

Ripe, juicy mangoes – 4 medium size

Lemon Juice – Of 1/2 a lemon

Lemon Zest – 1 teaspoon (optional)

Minced Fresh Ginger / Fresh Ginger Juice – 1 teaspoon (optional)

Sugar – According to the sweetness of the mango ( I used 2 heaped tablespoons)

Red chili Powder – 2 pinches ( optional)

Steps –

Wash, peel and chop mangoes. Squeeze  and gently massage the pit / seed / stone to recover all the flesh and juice.

Place a plate and spoon in the freezer for plate test later on.

In a thick bottom pan add mango pieces, sugar , lemon zest, minced ginger, red chili flakes or powder if using ( you can use cayenne pepper also, it tastes yum) and the lemon juice.

Cook these on a high flame , stirring continuously till the sugar melts.

Turn down the heat to medium low now and let the mixture simmer.

I like my jams with fruit pieces but if you prefer smooth jam you can either puree the mangoes or mash the pulp with a masher or back of the ladle.

Keep stirring the mixture as it thickens. It may take about 10 minutes or so. Test for sugar and add more if you like it sweet, I prefer to retain the natural sweetness.

As the mixture cooks it will start to leave the sides.  Keep a check on the consistency as you won’t want to overcook it. The mixture at this stage should have a  rich deep color an a glossy texture.

Do the plate test at this point.

Remove the pan from heat to avoid over cooking.

Drop some mixture on a chilled plate and give a slight nudge with your finger, if the mixture should give away a little but shouldn’t be runny. If that’s the case then the jam is done. I invert the plate usually to check. Mixture shouldn’t fall off.

If the mixture is runny , cook a bit more till it gets to the desired consistency.

Once the gorgeous fragrant jam is done, spoon it in clean airtight container and let it cool on the counter completely before putting it in the fridge.

 

I make small amounts so keep them out for daily consumption.

This jam usually stays good for at least a fortnight in the fridge.

You can spice it up with all spice or star anise or cinnamon but I prefer the natural flavor of the mango, ginger and lime.

Enjoy this dose of summer sunshine with any thing of your choice. I spooned it over a cracker and devoured it with strong black coffee.

PS –  You can cut thin strips of lemon peel and add if you wish to convert the recipe to a marmalade. I love that version too but I don’t use it with very sweet fragrant mangoes.

 

 

 

Steamed Caramelized Bread Pudding


Brandy Raisin Banana on the left and Plain Cinnamon on the right.

I love anything with caramel and creme caramel is one of my favorite desserts. The other thing I can have any time any day is bead pudding. I make both these things regularly esp the bread pudding and keep innovating the basic recipe. I have made steamed pudding too and a quicker version for instant cravings but this cheese cake like caramelized bread pudding took me to heaven and back.

While looking for something on my favorite Better Butter website I cam across the recipe for this pudding by Sharon Dcosta and the picture held me captive. I instantly decided to make it. She had used ladi pav and we don’t get them in Delhi so the usual white bread or some other sliced bread / loaf was my option.

Now, I had to tweak her original recipe. She had suggested 18-20 slices but my gut feeling said it would be too much for a 5 inch  baking tin so I reduced it to 12 and still I needed two tins so you will need to adjust the proportions for one 5″ tin or take a bigger tin which fits in your steamer or pressure cooker. You can pour the mixture in individual ramekins too.

For a single 5 inch tin i think 6 slices and 1 1/2 cup of milk + one egg should suffice but I have not tried it. For eggless version my friends use cornstarch  / custard powder but again I have not tried it.

I made one simple plain pudding and one with brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana. Both were the best things one could have as desserts.

The dark caramel the soft smooth textured cheesecake like pudding the flavor of brandy and banana in one and nutmeg in the other was delicious. I do not use vanilla much as I like the natural flavors of the dish.

Here is how I made the two.

Ingredients :

Bread Slices – 12

Egg – 1

Full Fat Milk 750 ml or 3 cups

Cinnamon Powder – 1/4 teaspoon

Salt- 1/2 teaspoon

Brandy / dark rum – 1 tablespoon

Raisins – A handful ( about 10-15

Over ripe Banana – 1 medium

Sugar 4 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons

Round aluminium cake tin or pressure cooker separators

 

Caramelized Bread pudding with Cinnamon 

Steps –

Collect all the ingredients on the counter and soak the raisins in the brandy if using and set aside. You can soak them in water too if alcohol isn’t your choice.

In a large mixing bowl pour milk .

Beat the egg and add to the milk. Mix well.

Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and stir properly. You can increase the amount if you like more sweet. I prefer mildly sweet.

Caramel – If you are making caramel for the first time don’t use the dry sugar method but use the wet one. Also, don’t make it directly in the tin you will be using for baking.. just in case it burns…

In a small thick bottom pan add the rest of the sugar and water to make the caramel. I add a little salt ( 0.6 ml spoon or 3-4 pinches) to it for a contrast flavor. Keep the heat medium and once the sugar melts keep playing with the heat from low to medium as the color changes to light brown to dark. Keep it on lower side and DO NOT stir just swirl the pan if you need to.

Once the caramel is deeper color our it into the baking tin of 5 ” or whichever you are using and swirl it so that the entire base it properly covered. It will begin to set quickly so do these steps quickly. Let it set properly or it will mix in the pudding mixture. Do it with both pans if making two puddings. Keep aside.

Tear the bread slices into small pieces and dip in the milk egg mixture. I keep the thick first slice + the crusts but you can omit. I feel they give a great texture to the pudding cheese cake.

Soak the pieces properly and let it stand for about 20 – 30 minutes.

Now, mash the soaked bread pieces with a masher or back of a ladel ( I do with fingers) and then put the mixture in the blender and blend into a smooth mix. No lumps should remain.  Blending a mashed mixture will ensure a smooth mix.

Pour half of this mixture in the pan but keep some space so that the pudding can rise.

Mix raisins and properly mashed banana in the rest of the mixture and pour it in the other tin for the  brandy soaked raisins and mashed banana caramelized bread pudding.

Cover the baking tins  with lids or aluminium foil. Keep a stone on lid so that the water doesn’t go in. Tightly covered bin with aluminium foil works well.

In a pressure cooker or steamer add water up to one inch at least and keep the baking tin in it.

Cook on high heat till three / four whistles and then 10-15 min on low heat. The heat will depend on your utensils and cooker size / steamer etc. I check after 3 whistles and 10 min on low. If the knif comes out clean from the center it is done.

Once done remove it on the counter carefully and let it cool completely. You can unmold it at this stage by sliding a sharp knife along the edge of the baking tin to loosen the pudding  or tap it with the heal of your palm a few times. Keep a serving plate on top and invert. The pudding will release nicely on the plate. You can serve it right away at room temperature or chilled.

I keep the covered tin in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours and then remove lid / foil and unmold. Then chill it again for some time before using.

The rich deep caramel on top on the perfectly set smooth pudding is a sight to behold and a joy to eat. You can make your own variations to the original recipe. You can add apple pulp or chocolate or pumpkin or anything you like but I prefer the original unmasked taste of pure decadence ie the plain caramelized bread pudding with just the right amount of nutmeg/cinnamon

 

 

Hasselback Potatoes With Garlic Butter And Herbs


 

Baked potatoes are my favorite and these beauties top the list. Though there are numerous ways to bake potatoes I love the shape of Hasselback or the accordion potatoes as they are called. For a long time a wondered why they were called Hasselback as they are totally hassle free to make but then someone told the history. You will find it on internet too.

This Swedish version of baked potatoes, with their slices fanned out like the feathers of some exotic bird or the expanded bellows of an accordion.

One can use a many variations of stuffing and seasonings, herbs to make these or keep them simple by just sprinkling salt and coarsely pounded black peppercorns. You can add lemon zest or sneak in ham, bacon, spinach, chives or any other stuff that fancies you. Load it up with cheese of any sort but Parmesan, Cheddar or a mix of your favorites.

The fun thing is that you can make them as per your taste and adjust the ingredients to your choice.

Crispy from outside and tender from inside these delicious baked potatoes can be made with any  variety of potato that is available in your local market though the recipes may call for specific ones. You can use large ones or small ones as per your liking.

I usually keep the skin as it tastes awesome and also gives the desired crispiness to the hasselback but here I am using the peeled ones.

I love the use of roasted garlic where ever possible but here I have used them raw.

To make these mouthwatering baked potatoes you will need,

Ingredients – 

Potatoes – 6 medium small

Butter – 4 tablespoon (I used salted)

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon ( I used a herbed one from Ottimo, at West View, ITC Sheraton)

Fresh cracked black peppercorns – 6-8

Garlic ( roasted or raw) – 4-5 medium cloves ( finely chopped)

Fresh herb of your choice

Seasoning of your choice ( dried herbs, oregano, etc) I used Ottimo’s Italian herb mix Seasoning in some.

Salt to taste

Cheese of your choice ( optional)

Steps –

  1. Choose potatoes with clean, unblemished skin, wash and peel ( if you do not wish to retain skin, If retaining then pat dry completely so the moisture is all absorbed and keep aside. Hasselback Potatoes taste best with skin though.
  2.  Pre heat the oven to 200 degree Celsius or 420 degree Fahrenheit.
  3. Put the peeled potatoes in a pan full of water so the potatoes don’t brown.
  4. You can par boil the potatoes till they are just tender enough for the fork to go in when pricked. (optional)
  5. In a bowl melt the butter to room temperature and beat it with a spoon. You can microwave for 2 seconds for it to melt completely. Add the olive oil to it and mix. Mixing these two give a nice flavor to the potatoes.
  6. Finely chop the fresh herbs and garlic. You can slice the garlic fine. If using roasted garlic, roast it in the oven or gas stove and then slice/chop. I love garlic so put a little more than usual, you can cut it down or omit if you wish.
  7. Mix the fresh herbs, a little salt & pepper and chopped / dices garlic in the butter + oil mix and mix them well to make a smooth garlic and herb infused butter.

( I do the steps 5-7 a few hours before making the Hasselback so that the garlic and herbs release all their flavor in the butter oil mix.)

8. Line a oven proof dish or baking tin with aluminium foil / parchment paper  and smear it with some herb infused butter.

9. To prepare the potatoes, dab the peeled potatoes dry, cut a very thin slice for the base so that the potato doesn’t roll over and rest it in a serving spoon. This will ensure that you don’t cut through the whole potato till the end.

10. Now slice the potato till the knife hits the edge of the spoon. You can make as thin or thick slices as you wish. Repeat with all the remaining potatoes. (I have no knife skills so this is the best way to ensure nice, equal thin cuts)

11. Smear half of the prepared butter mix all over the potatoes. gently push the butter, garlic, fresh herbs in the crevices with a sharp knife but don’t push to hard. We will add more at half way through the baking.

12. Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish and sprinkle salt and cracked black pepper generously. Using freshly cracked pepper gives this dish a unique rich spicy flavor which is not achieved by the powdered pepper. If you have used salted butter like I did then go easy on extra salt.

13. Put the baking dish in the oven and bake the potatoes for at least 20 minutes. You can grill them too.

14. Take out the baking dish and baste the potatoes with more of the butter or just olive oil. Make sure it goes well into the layers as it will help the layers to spread open.

15.  At this point the slices will begin to fan out in an arch so do insert the extras like ham, bacon, cheese or whatever you choose carefully between the layers. take the help of the knife to carefully nudge the layers open a bit for stuffing.

16. Bake for another 30-40 minutes or till the outside it crispy brown and the flesh is tender soft. Pierce the potato between the layers to check if the potato is done.

Your baking time may vary with the size of potatoes.

Serve is immediately wit ha dip of your choice. I use sour cream or hung curd sip which is my favorite. Will post the recipe soon.

Baked hasselback is best had hot.

 

You can adjust the ingredients to your requirements for 1 or many hasselback potatoes, it is that versatile.

Make it simple or fancy as per your mood for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Train Poems


Four short poems about the narrow / meter gauge railway. The memories of mountain railways in the quint towns of the Himalayas. .

The sky was stained with the blue of berries

on that peppery winter noon,

when we sat on that small wooden bench,

outside the teashop overlooking the valley, 

watching the toy train slowly trundle past 

the pines, conifers, and flaming rhododendrons,

the hot masala chai melts all our inner strife

in a fragrant rhapsody for the time being.

2

The narrow gauge waits among the shadows

and lattices of light like a poem uncoiling

into oblivion, spell bound.

In the soundlessness of the falling snow

I listen for a heartbeat no longer there,

the silence too strong for me,

just like the tea from the old teashop. 

3

The edge of the rain slices the ruddy sun 

with delicate knife like precision,

and turns one side of the valley grey,

on the sunlit side the shivering green

tries to cling to the fading light,

the wind snores, shifts, snarls,

 rain filled clouds clamber up 

towards the mountain peaks,

in the valley below, a lone train crawls through 

the dappled grey whistling its old song. 

4

A wayward brushstroke, 

on a spring-like pallet, 

the little mountain train,

is homeward; 

along the wandering waters,

Past purple Jacarandas,

into the  valley of yellow and gold,

and then you see a little town,

pastel painted,

tumbling down the forested hill,

there and gone again,

losing its way 

in the mountain’s mist 

and the steam from my tea. 

 

 

Fist Published in Knot, a biannual web based magazine published by Kristen Scott from Marmaris, Turkiye .

Citrus Bread Pudding With Malta Fruit Compote


 

I love the citrus flavor of orange or in this case the Malta fruit in this rather heavy and rich bread and butter pudding. The compote as topping is just right to balance the mild sweetness of the pudding. I love to eat it warm with a mug of black sugarless home brewed coffee. A perfect dessert.

Since childhood bread pudding has been one of my favorites. Be it the simple bread cooked in milk on a gas stove with a little sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon or something more elaborate baked in oven. I can eat this anytime anywhere.

I sometimes layer orange.Malta wedges  along with the buttered bread to make it even richer but here we will just use the zest in the pudding and top it with the compote. One can grill the fruit before layering for that burnt orange taste which is yum.  I also make chunky marmalade sandwiches instead of using fresh fruit and it turns out just as amazing.

This is a simple classic recipe and I have used one day old white bread here. An ultimate comfort food. raisins soaked in Cointreau or brandy makes it a little more adventurous.

Ingredients :

Bread ( one day old ) – 6 Slices

Full Fat Milk –  2 Cups

Condensed Sweetened Milk – 1/2 tin (Milkmade)

Orange/Malta Zest –  2 Tablespoons

Cointreau / Brandy or Rum – 1-2 tablespoon

Eggs 2  Large

Butter –  50 gm ( for spreading)

Seedless Raisins / Sultanas – 50 gm

Cinnamon Stick – 1 inch

Steps :

Put the raisins/sultanas in a saucepan and pour the Cointreau / orange juice or the preferred liquor and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and keep aside.

In another heavy bottom pan boil milk and condensed milk  mixture. Add cinnamon stick and orange zest to it. Let it simmer on low heat  for 10 minutes so the flavors get incorporated.

Turn off the heat, cover and set aside.

I do not trim the edges of the bread but you can.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 Degrees F. Place a bigger tin than the one you are using to bake pudding inside the oven to warm.

Grease a 12×9 inch baking dish. Mine was a little smaller but you should have one slightly bigger so that there is enough space for the pudding to rise.

Toast the bread slices lightly. This is my way as I find toasting gives a great flavor to the pudding. You can use them plain too.

Butter each bread slice and cut them into triangles.

In a large bowl beat the eggs. Add the infused milk  and a 2-3 tablespoons of the fresh malta juice into it and beat again till everything is combined properly. Remove the cinnamon stick. You can use powder too (1/4 teaspoon).

Layer the bread triangles, buttered side up, in the prepared baking dish. They should be slightly overlapping. Sprinkle the raisins and sultanas between the layers and pour the liquid and remaining raisins on top.

Sprinkle some more fresh orange zest on top.

Place the baking dish inside the warm bigger baking tin. Pour hot water carefully halfway till the smaller tin. Be very careful not to scald yourself or let water get  into the pudding.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pudding is wobbly from inside and browned from top.

A tooth pick should come out mostly clean when inserted in the center.

Scoop out and serve it warm with the Malta/Orange compote on top.

You can also use dollop of crème fraîche if that suits your mood.

Tips : Thick sliced breads work wonderful in this pudding. You can make thick chunky marmalade sandwiches and omit compote or layer fresh orange/ malta  wedges bweteen the bread layers.

Heat up a little marmalade over water bath and brush it over the top of the pudding for that orange glaze.

Explore all the possibilities and be innovative wit hthis classic rich bread and butter pudding.

I do not use too many spices or vanilla as the natural flavors get masked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Fruit Compotes – Mango And Malta Fruit


I am sharing the quick recipes for Malta Fruit Compote and Ripe Mango compote that I used in the Orange Bread Pudding and Mango French toast. I made small quantity  but you can adjust the proportions to make larger quantities and keep them in the fridge to use with various dishes esp barbecued meats and of course some desserts.😉

Compote is a delicious fruit dessert made with whole fresh fruits or cut into pieces. Almost any fruit can be used – mangoes, orange, apple ,figs, berries, apricots, peaches etc. It is the best use of ripe seasonal fruits.

Mango Compote 

Ingredients : 

  • Ripe Juicy Mangoes – 2 large
  • Fresh Ginger juice – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Cayenne pepper – 1/4 teaspoon ( you can use chili flakes too)
  • Malta juice/ Orange Juice – 1/2 cup
  • Sugar – as required (depends on sweetness of mangoes)
  • Butter – 1 tablespoon ( a dollop)

Steps :

  1. Dice mangoes into small cubes and squeeze juice from the pit too. In a bowl mix diced mangoes, malta juice, ginger juice, lime juice ( if using), sugar, cayenne pepper or chili flakes. Let the mix macerate for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat a heavy bottom pan and add the fruit mix. Let it simmer for 10 minutes on medium flame. Stir gently so that you don’t squish the fruit.
  3. Add butter and stir again. Simmer again for 5 more minutes then turn off the heat. Your compote is ready to use.

 

Every variety of mango will give a distinct flavor to the compote. Try and choose the most juicy ripe ones to minimize added sugar.

The fresh Malta fruit ( kind of blood orange from the hills of Uttrakhand in India) adds a refreshing tang to the compote along with a little lime and ginger juice. The zest of the fruits goes in the egg bath or the custard. Ginger juice, cayenne pepper enhance the flavors just right. You can replace Malta wit ha good orange.

 

 

Orange Compote 

Ingredients: 

Orange | Malta Fruit – 2-3

Zest of the citrus fruit you are using – 2 tablespoon (from 1/2 orange at least)

Fresh juice of Orange/ malta – 1/4 cup

Sugar – 1/3 Cup

Salt – Sea salt or even coarse table salt would do

Steps:

Wash, dab dry and peel the Oranges / Malta. Remove the pith and seeds. Chop into small pieces.
Retain all the juice that dribbles out.

In a heavy bottom saucepan add chopped fruit, zest, sugar, salt and juice and mix.
Bring this mixture to boil on high heat and then reduce the heat.
Let it cook on medium low heat till the fruit collapses and the liquid resembles a syrup. (10-15 minutes)
Stir occasionally to avoid burning. Turn off the heat and cool the compote to room temperature.

Use it with your favorite dish or as a spread on breads.
You can use it as a topping for yogurts and ice cream too.
Spice it up with star anise, clove and cinnamon if you like.
I do not use vanilla as it masks the fruit flavors.
Sugar should be adjusted as per the sweetness of the fruit. I prefer natural sweetness over added one.

Delhi Poems – 1. Lodi Garden


The fringes of the day lingered
on the rampart of Sikander Lodhi’s tomb,
moving on to the walls
that spanned out in a series of arches and columns
that stood like trees of life
supporting what remained of that glorious past.
Patches of light played hide and seek
on the buildings as the sun sought its path
among the silhouettes frozen in time.
I took the nearest path, shaded by arched trees,
the crowd was sparse, but love was everywhere—
on the rocks, behind the trees,
on the steps of the mausoleums,
over the eight-pier bridge,
in quiet corners screened by bamboos,
it even sprawled across the sloppy lawns
oblivious to the scattered graves,
or the cacophonous roosting birds.
Love doesn’t care about the mundane,
nor does the dust of the ancient bones
of dynasties that shaped Delhi.
I passed laughing children as
they teased ducks by the pond
and sat, eyes half closed against the sun,
a blade of grass between my teeth
watching the empty sky
from the shade of a blossoming Kachnar tree,
The breeze stirred the leaves,
their shadows moved,
a pair of cooing doves paused to listen
to rustling whispers
from the parapets dark birds flew like fragments
of charred paper rising from the fire,
a kite watched from the lonely turret.
Leaving the comfort of shadow play
I take the familiar path to reality,
harsh headlights, groping hands,
catcalls and swearing,
dust and fumes choking the city lungs,
the green grass merging into concrete,
the dying river
and night, now creeping across the sky
hiding the many sins of a city
more ruinous than the ruins I left behind.

This poem is part of the series of poems about Delhi that I am doing. It was first published in The Criterion – An international Journal In English’s Vol 7 .  Check out the journal for literary essays, poetry, fiction etc from world over.