Easy Peach Cobbler

I love peach cobbler. I have made many versions in my life, from ones with pie-like crusts to ones with a simple crumble on top. This one is interesting because you put the peaches in last and the crust expands around them. It turned out quite good. This recipe is wheat-free (it uses spelt flour) and it is fairly Crohn’s-friendly. The peaches are peeled and cooked, and I left most of the dairy out of it.

Easy Peach Cobbler

1/2 cup (one stick) of butter, melted

1 cup of flour (I used spelt flour to cut down on the wheat)

2 cups of sugar

3 teaspoons of baking powder

pinch of salt

1 cup of milk or soy milk

4-5 large peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

juice of one lemon

candied ginger

Heat oven to 375.

First, take the melted butter and pour it into a 9x13x2 pan.

Combine flour, one cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk until the batter comes together. Pour into the pan over the melted butter but do not mix together. Take the peaches, lemon juice, one cup of sugar and the ginger and cook over high heat, stirring constantly. Let it come to a boil and allow a syrup to form. The peaches should be softened slightly but still should be firm. Pour the peaches into the pan over the batter and butter. Again, do not mix up the ingredients in the pan. Put in the oven for about 35-45 minutes. The crust should rise and envelope the peaches and turn a golden brown. Remove from oven. Can be served hot or cold.

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Chicken Korma, Maya’s Potatoes, Parathas

Hello again! I went on another flat-out cooking binge last night– three recipes straight from Madhur Jaffrey. This was the most successful effort yet!

I’d initially intended to make just Chicken Korma for Anthony and Gagan, but Gagan had to bail, and then Amy came and she’s a vegetarian, so I decided to do the potatoes. This was a wise move on my part- they were delicious and I think this recipe might become a standby.

The recipe actually calls for lamb or beef in the korma, but I had neither. Having done it, I see now that a very flavorful meat like lamb would really shine in this dark, rich sauce. But chicken wasn’t half bad.

I did the parathas first. The recipe calls for whole wheat flour, so once again I used spelt flour. I was very happy with it, but I’ve had white-flour parathas that were amazing, so I’d like to try these with white gluten-free flour sometime. Parathas are like chapatis but with a few crucial differences. There’s a bit of vegetable oil and some salt in the dough– you knead it for 10 minutes or so and let it rise for half an hour, just like chapatis. You split the dough into 8 balls and roll it out into 5-inch circles, just like chapatis. Then– here’s where the magic happens– you brush it with melted butter or ghee (we’re out of ghee, so it was butter this time). Fold it in half and brush that with butter, then fold it in half again and roll it out flat until it’s really, really thin. Brush your smoking-hot cast-iron pan (or, if you’re more Indian than I am, your tava) with butter and throw a paratha in there. Let it get bubbly and turn it over, until it’s nice and bubbly and brown in spots. Do this with all of your parathas, then wrap them in foil and throw them in a warm oven ten minutes before dinner.

I’m absolutely shocked that my initial experiments with Indian breads are going so well. I thought there would be lots of failures before I got anything edible. I have a feeling that this is the sort of recipe that’s easy to do passably, but very difficult to perfect.

I started on the potatoes next. The dish, Maya’s Potatoes, is named after Madhur Jaffrey’s sister-in-law, according to the cookbook. Well, Maya, if you’re reading this out there in Delhi, this post is dedicated to you. Those potatoes rocked.

To make these potatoes, you start by making the fried potatoes that Joe and I always make when we have steak or some other good piece of meat. Peel your potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch to 1-inch chunks. Boil them, if you are so inclined (it can’t hurt). While they’re boiling, grind your spices. Both the korma and potato recipes called for onions and garlic (and in the case of the potatoes, ginger) to be ground to a smooth paste in the food processor, so you can do that ahead of time too. Get your mise en place together before things get chaotic. (And before your guests come, if possible, so you don’t get distracted while measuring.)

Get your cast iron pan nice and hot. (Yes, I’m a cast-iron junkie.) Get about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil, maybe even more, hot in there. Throw in the potatoes, make sure every chunk is touching the pan, and then WALK AWAY. Don’t stir them, don’t touch them. Sprinkle them with salt and then let the cast iron work its magic. When they get nice and golden brown to brown on the bottom, turn them over and leave them alone. Once the potatoes are good and brown, take them out with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Now for the sauce. Drain out most of the oil, but leave a few tablespoons. Add the asafetida, mustard seeds (careful, they pop!), bay leaf and dried red chilies. (The recipe also called for fenugreek, fennel seeds and onion seeds, but we didn’t have any. Clearly, it’s time for a field trip to Edison.) Fry that for a bit. Add your onion-garlic-ginger mixture, mix well and fry for five minutes. Then add your tomatoes– you can put fresh ones in the blender, but we were out so we used crushed ones from a can, along with water, salt and sugar. Fry a minute. Then add the potatoes, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the potatoes and simmer for 10 more minutes. By this time, the water will have cooked off and you will have nice tender potatoes coated with tomato mixture.

I was making the korma simultaneously with the potatoes, but I failed to calculate the cooking time, and realized that, though the potatoes were done, the korma would be another 45 minutes. Which meant it was Amy the vegetarian’s lucky day– first course was potatoes and parathas, served with (of course) Yard’s Saison. By the time I got to the table people were exclaiming, and when I tasted it I was happy too. Easy and seriously yummy. I plan to make this regularly!

As for the korma… well, first I made the rice. I threw a cinnamon stick into the rice cooker, which made the whole thing aromatic. The first step in the korma is to make fried onions for the topping– just cut them into thin half-rings, as though you’re making fajitas, and fry them in oil. Be careful not to burn them. Ours were in a bit too long, but still tasty. Then remove them with a slotted spoon, and add the chicken (chopped into 1-inch pieces). Brown it but don’t worry about cooking it through. Remove to a plate, and let the pan juices and oil cool for a while.

Once it’s cooled down, stir in the onion/garlic paste and turn the burner back on. Fry for ten minutes and then add coriander seeds, cumin and turmeric. Fry, then add tomatoes and the warm spices: mace (we substituted allspice), cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Fry that for 5 minutes. Then add water, salt, cayenne and black pepper, then the chicken. Simmer for half an hour.

Either before you start or during this simmering period, put 10 pecans and 1/4 cup blanched almonds into the blender with some water. (You can blanch almonds by boiling them in water for a few minutes until the water is brown.) Blend to a smooth paste. Once the half hour is up, stir this into the pan with 2 tbsp yogurt or sour cream (we used yogurt). Interestingly, I had no problems with the yogurt curdling this time around. You can simmer this for up to half an hour; however, if you’re using chicken, it’ll be tender enough well before half an hour is up. I was able to serve this after simmering for ten minutes. I just spooned it onto the rice and served with the rest of the parathas. It was GOOD. Seriously. I’m bringing Gagan some leftovers tonight to get the opinion of someone with an Indian palate, and I’ll be curious to hear what he says, but just subjectively– it was GOOD. Even our vegetarian had to try the sauce.

So: yeah, this was definitely a success. Main lesson: read the recipe carefully and calculate your cooking time before you start.

Nargisi Kofta with Chapatis

This is fancy food: beef kofta (meatballs) with a hard-boiled egg on the inside, in a tomato gravy, served with rice and chapatis. (I know, you’re not supposed to serve both, but I’m obsessed with starches.)

It wasn’t entirely successful– good, but not as spectacular as I’d hoped. The chapatis were great– easy and tasty– but two things to improve on the kofta. First, the yogurt sauce separated, which is often a problem for me; second, the meat separated, exposing the egg, which I suspect could have been avoided if I’d used more meat. So it wasn’t as pretty as I’d hoped it would be, but it was damn tasty.

I started the chapatis first, since the dough had to rise. It’s easy to see why this is such a staple food– it’s just flour and water. Luckily, I am able to tolerate reasonable amounts of spelt, so instead of whole wheat flour, I used spelt flour, which behaved pretty much the same. Knead the dough, let it rise for half an hour or so, knead again, then separate into small balls and roll then out. I was surprised at how well the dough stayed together– I guess I’m used to crumbly, sticky gluten-free flour, but this stuff was really easy to work with. Roll ’em nice and thin. I don’t have a tava, but I do have an awesome all-purpose cast iron pan. I got it nice and hot, and did about 30 seconds on each side. The dough cooked quickly and was easy to pick up with tongs. Once it starts bubbling and puffing, throw it on an open flame (you need a gas stove for this) and let the steam puff out of it. This part is fun. The whole thing was simple and easy. We brushed them with butter, wrapped them in foil, and threw them in a warm oven ten minutes before we sat down to dinner. Tasty! I’m going to make these all the time.

The nargisi kofta: Jaffrey says that “nargis” is the narcissus flower, and these are named for the yellow and white of the egg, visible when you cut the kofta open.

First, a word about spices: you can buy just about anything you want at the supermarket or Whole Foods, pre-ground and in a clear bottle or a spice rack to sit on your wall. Do not do this. Pre-grinding and exposure to light both rob your spices of their flavor. Buy whole spices and grind them yourself when possible, and keep everything in a nice dark (and dry) cabinet! We have a marble mortar and pestle and use them quite regularly. It takes very little time to grind them, and you can taste the difference.

So I ground lots of things– allspice, coriander seeds, cumin– and assembled everything in little glass dishes, in the stages in which I would be adding them. This is called a mise en place, although I’m sure I am butchering the French. It means setting everything up and having it ready to go ahead of time, so you’re not desperately grinding coriander or chopping tomatoes at the last second. I learned this from Alton Brown– Alton, you’re my culinary hero.

OK. So you mince the meat nice and fine in the Cuisinart, mix in the spices and two tbsp yogurt, and wrap this mixture around the eggs so you have four nice oval meatwads. Put some oil in your pan and throw in two bay leaves, a dried chili pepper, and the cardamom pods I will buy as soon as I find them. Then put in your meatwads– er, kofta– and brown them as evenly as you can. When I do this again, I plan to make a little more of the meat mixture than I need, and keep a little reserved on the side, so that if the meat on the kofta starts to separate I can repair as needed.

In the meantime, blend onions, garlic and ginger to a fine paste in the food processor. Take your kofta out and set aside, and add this mixture to the pan to simmer. Now, here’s where I made another mistake. The recipe didn’t say anything about draining the oil (in fact, it said not to), but it seems like the oil really has to be drained. Otherwise, this mixture gets really oily. The thing is that everything you’re putting into the pan– onions, tomatoes, etc– sweats. When you cook them, all the water stored inside the veggies comes out into the pan. And oil and water don’t mix, so how can you expect your sauce not to separate? This, I’m going to do differently next time.

Anyway. Simmer all that for ten minutes, then start spooning yogurt into it. Hopefully, if your mixture isn’t oily like mine, your yogurt will be nice and creamy and not curdle. Once you’ve added 6 tablespoons of yogurt, put in your tomatoes, paprika, salt and water, bring to a boil, and simmer for ten more minutes. Then add the kofta and let the whole thing simmer for half an hours so the meat is cooked through, turning a few times. The juices will also be draining from the meat as it cooks, which means the meat will shrink. If your kofta aren’t meaty enough, the meat will retract until you can see the egg, and your kofta might fall apart. Mine didn’t quite fall apart, fortunately, but clearly more meat was needed.

Once that’s done, serve with rice, chapati, whatever you’ve got. Because the sauce had separated, we attempted a rescue operation once we had removed the kofta– Joe added some cream to the sauce and whisked the whole thing very energetically for a while. This helped, but it separated quickly.

It did, however, taste DELICIOUS. This is a really, really rich dish (it’s usually served for weddings or other special occastions, according to Madhur Jaffrey) and neither of us could finish more than one. I tried to eat a second but got waaaay too full. The chili pepper and cayenne gave it just a little kick– it wasn’t at all hot on first taste, but a little heat did build up as we ate. And the spice mixture in the meat was really flavorful and delicious. I really want to make this again now that I understand the process a little better!

So, next thing to master: yogurt sauces that don’t separate.

Next up: I’m making chicken korma (it’s supposed to be lamb, but I don’t have any lamb!) for Gagan and Anthony tomorrow night! And if I’m feeling ambitious, I might try my hand at parathas this weekend. I will also be doing my trademark guacamole for a party (possibly two parties) this weekend, so I’ll post that recipe too!

 Comments imported from Blogspot: 6

Red Joe said…
I thought I was your culinary hero!?!
May 23, 2007 10:54 AM  
Sarah said…
Oh… um, yeah. You are.hee!
May 23, 2007 10:56 AM  
a-train, all stops said…
I think you mean Friday night.
May 23, 2007 1:19 PM  
Sarah said…
Holy crap, I totally thought it was Thursday. I was planning my night around the branch meeting and drinks with coworkers. Oh wow.
May 23, 2007 1:23 PM  
zimblymallu said…
about the yogurt sauce…
when we’re making “moru” (ask a malayalee), which is basically heated buttermilk with spices, the trick is to never let the buttermilk boil, and to always keep stirring. Always. keep. stirring. and to turn it off after steam gently rises off the top.I think the yogurt might be separating because the fire is too hot.
June 22, 2007 8:18 AM  
Sarah said…
Thanks! That makes sense. I actually did a bit of googling just now and found a Good Eats episode that illustrates this (with dancing teenagers)… ah, Alton.Moru sounds tasty! And welcome to the blog! 🙂
June 22, 2007 9:09 AM