Saturday, November 12, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

The setting is Edgecombe St. Mary, a sleepy little village in the English countryside. The unlikely hero is Major Pettigrew - old retired Major who sticks to tradition and honor above all else. When he decides to turn tradition on its head and falls in love with a Pakistani widow running the only store in the village, chaos ensues. Helen Simonson's first book - our book club's pick for the month - is thoroughly enjoyable for its quirky characters and funny, almost absurd situations. I ended up being charmed by the Major.

To celebrate one of the best books I've read in a while, I thought up a rather elaborate dessert. It had to be British, and what's more English than a trifle.


Caramel Apple Trifle by Bombay Foodie

The bottom layer is an apple jelly. I knew my other layers will be super sweet so I kept this one fresh and simple. I soaked one gelatin sheet in cold water. Next, I heated 50 ml apple juice. Squeezed out water from the gelatin and added it to the now warm juice. Stirred it around until the gelatin was completely dissolved, then added another 100 ml of apple juice to the mix and gave it a minute or so on the stove so everything was heated. I poured this jelly into three glasses, let it cool, then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.

In the meantime, I made the next layer - the sponge cake. I've had limited luck making sponge in the past but Deeba said her recipe works like a charm. And it does! The sponge cake had a perfect texture. I still think it tastes a little eggy but it wont matter in this trifle. Once the sponge was cooled, I cut rounds with my cookie cutter to fit the glass and dropped them on top of the jelly.

Next comes caramel apple, the star of the show. I peeled two golden apples (you can use granny smith) and cut them into 1 cm cubes. In a thick bottomed pan, I mixed apples with 3 tbsp sugar and heated them until the sugar started to caramalize. Added a tbsp of butter, mixed everything in and kept cooking until the sugar had turned into a rich amber caramel and the apples were cooked through. I let them cool and then added them on top of the sponge.

Are you thinking that there's something off in this dish...that it's so English. And where, then you say, is Mrs. Ali. She comes forth in the last layer, the custard that isn't your creme anglaise but is in fact the way pouring custard is made in India and Pakistan. This is the custard that comes in a packet and all you need to do is mix it with milk and sugar, then boil until thick. Let it cool a bit too before you pour it as the final layer on the trifle. Put the assembled dessert in the fridge for a few hours and it will taste a lot better.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Balsamic Stuffed Mushrooms

Balsamic Stuffed Mushrooms by Bombay Foodie

This is one of those perfect appetizers for lazy afternoons or weekend evenings. Start with a packet of button mushrooms. Mine had 15-16 mushrooms. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly, then take off the stems to leave some space in the caps for you to stuff. You can use the stems in a stock if you like (don't be like me and throw them away - they make a great stock).

In a bowl big enough to fit all mushrooms, mix 2 tbsp olive oil, a tbsp of balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk until you have an emulsion. Add mushrooms and toss to coat well. Leave these in the fridge until you are ready to cook them, but at least for half an hour.

In the meantime, make the stuffing. Start with 50 grams of paneer (or ricotta if that's what you have). Mash well. Add 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese and 8-10 basil leaves that you have chopped finely. I find that cutting the herbs with scissors is usually much quicker and neater than using any knives. Also add salt to taste but go easy here because there's salt already in mushrooms and in parmesan.

When you are ready to eat the mushrooms, preheat the oven to as high as it will go. Mine goes up to 270C. Fill each mushroom with the stuffing and arrange on a baking tray. Bake on the top rack of the oven until the mushrooms are cooked through and the stuffing gets a little browned on top.