Panela and I were first introduced in Colombia. An unrefined sugar, typically sold in block form, it is commonly used in South American desserts. I brought some back to Canada and was interrogated by the US immigration officer as we transferred in Miami. I told him I had bought panela (pa-nell -la), a type of sugar. He explained to me that I wrong. It was pronounced pa-ney-ya. The women in the market that sold it to me spoke Spanish, and I heard her loud and clear: it was panela. With an L. In any case, when he told me I could bring my sugar across the border, I scooted right on out.
I rarely see panela in Canada, but have seen it countless times in Houston. Oftentimes, it is labelled as piloncillo, the Mexican name as panela is also a type of Mexican cheese. A small cone can be found for 70 cents or so, at most supermarkets but it can also be found in large blocks and possibly ground.
In the spirit of holidays, candies and confectionaries, I broke it out for my latest treat: Indian Burfi. It sounds more dramatic, but really it is similar to my maple pecan shortbread cookies because it is simply nuts and sweetener with an Indian twist from cardamom and saffron. I used panela as my sweetener of choice, but you could substitute brown sugar (likely coconut sugar, and possibly maple syrup or agave, too) which imparted a delicious molasses undertone.
I called these Indian Cashew Pistachio Bars or Kaaju Pista Burfi, as this was what Raghavan Iyer called them in Indian Cooking Unfolded. I have told you about this lovely cookbook earlier, but it bears repeating because I really like it. Iyer has taken Indian cooking to its elemental components and teaches you how to cook Indian from the ground up. The recipes span meat, vegetarian and vegan options, with limited ingredients. He has capped himself at 10 ingredients, and many recipes are far more simple. While he may sacrifice in authenticity, he does not sacrifice in taste, coaxing the most from limited ingredients.
I bring up authenticity, but I lay no claim to being an expert in traditional Indian cuisine (although we make killer dal). Iyer openly admits burfi is typically much more sweet than this recipe and is actually an adaptation of a raw recipe from Jugalbandi who seemed to have sinced moved to Nitrivore, but it too, is an abandoned blog. Soma’s recent post makes me think these treats are closer to katli instead of burfi, which she describes as a sugar-nut treat. Truthfully, my fusion spin with panela, makes them even less authentic but no less delicious. As Iyer promised, these are not uber sweet. There is a subtle hint of cardamom among the molasses-infused treat. Rob thoguht it needed more saffron but I thought it was perfect. I can not really taste the saffron, so feel free to omit it.
While I typically shy away from Indian desserts, I am thrilled that I tried these. They were delicious. While Diwali has come and gone, this would be equally suited for something different on a holiday cookie spread. I blame it on the cardamom. Or the molasses. Or the nuts. They all taste like hugs.
I really want to share this cookbook with you and I am thrilled because the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to FOUR lucky readers living in the continental United States. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Iyer recipe (he has also penned our favourite Indian cookbook, 660 Curries). If you haven’t made anything by Iyer yet, have a look through Indian Cooking Unfolded on amazon or google books (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on December 24, 2013. Good luck!
PS. Recipes from Indian Cooking Unfolded spotted elsewhere:
This is my submission to this month’s Cooking with Herbs.
See below for the giveaway for Isa Does It!
If I had to pick a vegan rockstar, it would be Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Long ago, we was rocking it out on television, but now mostly vegan chef, author and blogger. She has penned 7 vegan cookbooks and her eighth book has been eagerly anticipated. As she explains in her newest cookbook, Isa Does It, her title makes more sense once you know her first name is pronounced Ee-sa. Thus, her title is a play on Easy Does It.
As such, Isa Does It highlights mostly simple, quicker recipes (under 30 minutes!) that are foremost tasty. This is a cookbook for the beginner chef as well as those who want to reinvigorate their kitchens with new scents and textures, without breaking the bank or spending hours on top of the stove. Isa explains how she stocks her pantry, her kitchen cabinets and then details specific beginner techniques (with step-by-step photos), such as how to butcher tofu and tempeh.
With 11 recipe chapters that span the gamut from quick soups, salads, handheld, bowls, curries and stir fries, there is a lot of variety. Furthermore, not much is left untouched as Isa also includes fancier “Sunday night suppers” and breakfast/brunch ideas, too. Rest assured, complete meals are encouraged as desserts are included, too.
I admire Isa for a fabulously tantalizing blog, sharing her delicious creations. I guess it should be no surprise that some of my favourite recipes from her blog appear in the cookbook (see below). In addition, of the 150 recipes in the cookbook, the majority are brand-spanking new.
Beefy asparagus stir-fry with fresh herbs. Okra gumbo with chickpeas and kidney beans. Quinoa Caesar salad. Cucumber Ranch bowl with breaded tofu. Edamame hummus and tofu wraps. Belgian beer and seitan stew. Baked garlic-curry fries. Chickpea-Rice soup with cabbage. Coconut chana saag. Chandra Malai kofta. Goddess noodles with tempeh and broccoli. My Thai overnight scramble, breakfast scrambled chickpeas, oh please.
If you have tried Isa’s recipe before, you know the name of each dish never gives you the full picture. They are very descriptive of the ingredients, but something so simple may be more than the sum of its parts. I am eagerly waiting to pounce through this cookbook, page-by-page. Chocolate gingerbread cookies, anyone? I can already vouch for the ancho lentil tacos, tempeh orzilla, Jerk Sloppy Joes, lemon-garlic fava beans and mushrooms, chana masala (not my favourite but Rob liked it well enough), cucumber avocado tea sandwiches, chai spiced snickerdoodles, and now her delicious Moroccan harira with eggplant and chickpeas.
Harira is a Moroccan soup/stew that I have been meaning to recreate since I travelled to Morocco. Let’s just say it has been on my to-make list for many years. It wasn’t until I saw Isa’s recipe that I jumped at the chance to try it out. Harira is a very forgiving recipe. As I travelled through Morocco, nearly every restaurant had a different version of harira. Some with chickpeas, some with lentils, sometimes both beans, some with tomatoes, others with ginger, some with herbs, others not. I cannot say that I saw any with eggplant, but that is Isa’s slant.
First, I made a few tweaks to Isa’s recipe… mainly because I had no vegetable broth, so I used my impromptu nooch plus random spice blend. This time, I threw in dried parsley, lemon pepper and the 21-spice seasoning from Trader Joe’s. I also substituted spiralized zucchini for the noodles. Ingenious, if I may say so myself. Anyways, less about me, more about Isa. This soup was great. Bulky and satisfying with chickpeas and lentils in a flavourful tomato broth spiced with ginger, cinnamon, smoked paprika and saffron. Fresh mint and cilantro add a lightness, along with the finishing lemon juice. I use saffron so sparingly I am glad I finally found a great use for it! The textural foil of the noodles with the beans was perfect.
For someone new to veganism, the ingredient lists in her recipes may still seem a tad overwhelming (vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, cashews, wine and fresh herbs) but these are rather commonplace in a vegan’s kitchen. Except the saffron, because well, that’s not a regular ingredient. Once you have access to fresh herbs, it is hard to return to the dried ones, so I understand the recent push for quality ingredients.
I really want to share this cookbook with you. Thankfully the publisher is letting me give a cookbook to one reader living in the US or Canada. To be entered, please leave a comment here, telling me about your favourite Isa recipe. If you haven’t made anything by Isa yet, have a look through the table of contents of Isa Does It on amazon (or my list below) and tell me what you want to cook the most. I will randomly select a winner on October 31, 2013. Good luck!
PPS. If you pre-ordered your cookbook already, don’t forget to get your free Isa Does It tote bag.
PPPS. Versions of Isa’s dishes made previously, not all from Isa Does It (more recommended dishes can be found listed here):
Ancho Lentil Salad Wraps
Black Bean and Kabocha Squash Rancheros
Roasted Beet Salad with Warm Maple Mustard Dressing and Tempeh Croutons
White Bean, Quinoa and Kale Stew with Fennel
Asparagus, Nectarine and Baby Lima Bean Lettuce Wrap
Naked Oats with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Crumbled Tempeh
Tomato-Basil Zucchini Noodle Salad
Brown Sugar Cardamom Snickerdoodles
PPPPS. Isa’s recipes in Isa Does It that she has already shared on her blog, Post Punk Kitchen:
Everyday Pad Thai
Seitan & Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce
Cucumber Avocado Tea Sandwiches with Dill & Mint
Roasted Potato & Fennel Soup
Chickpea-Rice Soup with Cabbage
New England Glam Chowder
Quarter Pounder Beet Burger
Olive Lentil Burgers
Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach
Sunflower Mac (and Cheese)
Roasted Butternut Alfredo
Ancho Lentil Tacos
Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Chili Pumpkin Cranberry Risotto with Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Red Lentil Thai Chili
Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli
Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings
Meaty Beany Chili with Corn Muffins
Okra Gumbo with Chickpeas & Kidney Beans
Lemon Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms
Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime
Tamale Shepherd’s Pie
Nirvana Enchilada Casserole
Garlicky Thyme Tempeh
Puffy Pillow Pancakes
Carrot Cake Pancakes
Marbled Banana Bread
Chai Spice Snickerdoodles
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: I was given a complimentary copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. You know I would have loved this book and would have bought my own copy.
Rob can be a bit predictable with his kitchen tastes. I am just like any other girl: confusing, to say the least.
I am constantly switching up what I make in the kitchen, focusing on a different new ingredient that I love, until I rediscover a new favourite food. I prance around, stocking my cupboards with ingredients that I love (or once loved).
What kind of recipe screams Janet-style?
First of all, it has to be free of animal products and refined flours/sugars. I try to keep added oils to a minimum. I enjoy more tart and acidic ingredients as opposed to creamy and rich. And it must be filled with beans and vegetables.
You might have to try to pin me down to figure out what my new ingredient du jour is, though…. And then again the following week for a more up-to-date answer….
Statistically, the blog tells me that I love almonds, red peppers and lemon. I should really put in a general bean/legume tag because then that will dwarf all other ingredients when they are amassed together. To be fair, I enjoy most vegetables and perfectly content with heaps of greens on my plate. My favourite cuisines are Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and lately Caribbean.
But today.. what am I enjoying today?
These days, my favourite ingredients are split yellow peas, butternut squash as well as fruit in savoury dishes.
Next month? Only time will tell….
This soup is probably the epitome of my current cooking adventures. A Mediterranean chickpea soup heaping with vegetables including butternut squash, green beans, carrots and silky tomatoes in a saffron- and paprika-spiced broth. And pears, oh pears, which is what my piqued my interest to make a second version of Spanish bean soup. This time, with help from Anya and The New Spanish Table (an adapted recipe can be found here). I know the ingredients seem a little hodgepodge, which is why Anya has dubbed this a Spanish Gypsy Pot, a nod to the seemingly eclectic ingredients.
Anya’s recipe is definitely more complex than the first Spanish Green Bean and Lima Bean Stew. It has a lot of the similar flavours, but it is so much more than the first soup. Yes, you dirty more pots but it is worth it. You simmer the tomatoes and onions separately. You fry some garlic and puree it with a handful of almonds. Only then does it get added to the long-simmered broth filled with chickpeas, squash, green beans and carrots. The pears add a lovely sweetness and the saffron and sweet paprika meld wonderfully with the stew. The vinegar and mint added at the end are a perfect conclusion to a sweet and savoury soup.
I am probably as eclectic as this soup, which is why I loved it so much. I encourage you to try it as well!
Alphonso mango season has arrived.
Last year, Rob and I devoured the Indian Alphonsos as soon as they arrived in Little India. Succulent, sweet, smooth and sweating with juice (sap? cider? to go with my alliterations..), this is one of the best mangoes out there (although, no, I have yet to try Pakistani or Filipino mangoes). Ataulfos are my second favourite.
Rob jumped at the chance to get a crate of mangoes last weekend and shared his bounty with me. I mean, you could easily just eat the Alphonso plain, in all its glory, but I recounted all my favourite mango recipes from last year: Thai Sticky Rice with Mango, Mango Shrikhand and Coconut Rice Pudding with a Mango Puree. I was brought to the tropics just thinking about it.
Mango Shrikhand, man that was good. A mango and cardamom-infused yogurt is topped with mango and pistachios. Sounds simple, but works so well.
However, I am not eating yogurt right now, so I figured I would try to merry those similar flavours together for breakfast. With my morning oats, no less. This was how Mango Pistachio Steel Cut Oatmeal (aka Mango Shrikhand Oatmeal) was born.
Unlike my previous Mango Oatmeal, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, I did not cook the mangoes in the oatmeal. I consider the Alphonso mango too precious to let it disintegrate. If I had an Ataulfo, then I’d certainly throw that in the pot, though. I let the mango shine overtop the oatmeal, sprinkled with pistachios. With the creamy base with cardamom and saffron, this was a delicious breakfast.
Who likes garlic? I mean, really likes garlic? I probably shouldn’t scare the garlic-shy from this recipe, because it was really tasty. And didn’t leave me with garlic breath, so it couldn’t have been that potent with 14 cloves of garlic.
Ten of those garlic cloves are roasted, so they don’t really count towards the scary garlic count. Although, I almost had second thoughts as I dumped in 4 cloves of raw garlic at the end of making this stew. I shouldn’t have doubted Anya’s genius, though.
This recipe comes from The New Spanish Table, and I had been eyeing this recipe for months (I first mentioned it on my list of things to make with butternut squash back in November and again in January!). Honestly, I waited too long. This is a lovely, hearty stew that is both savoury but still slightly sweet. Lentils fill the stew as its base, and the butternut squash and red peppers add colour and sweetness. A head of roasted garlic brings a mellow sweetness as well. The peppers are both boiled and pan-fried for a contrast in flavour and texture (but I feel like this step could be skipped if you are pressed for time). And while I stated I don’t want to muck with Anya’s genius, I made a slight modification to her recipe, that I think lent to its prowess. Instead of adding in two fresh tomatoes (nothing with a fresh taste is around during the winter!), I added 1 cup of passata (strained tomatoes) at the end. This is where you get a silky tomato base for the stew that complements the squash, bell pepper and lentils so well.
I love it when I am surprised by a dish; but I shouldn’t have been.
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat.
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears.
I have shied away from Indian cooking in the past due to the spiciness of the dishes, but recently bought 660 Curries so that I could tackle Indian dishes while limiting the chilis, peppers, etc that add the heat. I am on a quest to make butter chicken as good as at Amaya (without resorting to their prepared sauces) but I got side-tracked by one of his “Contemporary Curries”: Saffron Marinated Paneer Cheese with Fresh Basil, Cashews and Pomegranate Seeds.
I have a long list of bookmarked recipes but serendipitously, I had nearly everything ready for this dish when I spotted it at Lisa’s Kitchen. I had paneer that I had picked up from the store but still unsure how to prepare it, half a pomegranate leftover from an eggplant and pomegranate salad (to be shared in short time), a bit of cream leftover from a wild rice pudding (to be shared in due time!), a balcony pot rife with basil and had picked up saffron while travelling in Turkey. I just needed to replenish my green onions, which I typically have in my fridge.
Lisa, as well as its original cookbook 660 Curries (which I picked up based on Lisa’s glowing recommendations) called this dish heavenly and implied it was better than sex! How could I resist? Contemporary curries is where it’s at!
This was a wonderful dish with paneer marinated with silky saffron and chili flakes in a bath of cream (yes, it can be marinated!) to which basil and green onions are added to the sauce. The paneer is broiled and browned so that it is warm and slightly melted but still keeps its shape. It is topped with crushed cashews and fresh, juicy pomegranate seeds which bring the dish to the next level. It is such a merriment of awkward/fusion ingredients that sing beautifully together.
I bought Aleppo chili flakes while in Turkey and think this is one of the best gifts I got as it has allowed me to slowly increase the heat in my kitchen. The chili flakes are not that spicy because the chili seeds have been removed but they impart a lovely warm flavour. They are my go-t0 when a recipe calls for chilies. My version has a bit of spice but still mild. For those that like heat, feel free to use real chilies.
Next time I want to cook with paneer, I may try to make it myself, as there are plenty of other dishes I’d love to try. Here are other enticing recipes with paneer:
Paneer Kofta (Cheese balls) from KO Rasoi and eCurry
Mutter Paneer (Paneer with peas) from What’s For Lunch, Honey?
Palak Paneer (Paneer with spinach) from eCurry
Paneer Butter Masala (Paneer in a creamy sauce) from Fun and Food Blog
Paneer Mushroom Masala (Paneer with mushrooms) from Lisa’s Kitchen
Macaroni and Paneer Cheese from Lisa’s Kitchen
Paneer Bhurji (Scrambled Paneer) from Chef in You
Paneer Cigar Rolls from Chef in You
Mango shrikhand is an Indian dessert, popular in Gurjarat (incidentally where mangoes are grown). Cool, strained yogurt is mixed with cardamom, saffron, sugar and (in this version) pistachios as well. It is topped with the sinfully juicy mango slices with a sprinkle of chopped pistachios. The Alphonso mangoes, utterly sweet, really shine in this dish.
This recipe is adapted from Closet Cooking, and is really, really good. I know it is important to have the proper consistency of yogurt, which is why people recommend to drain it in a cheesecloth overnight, but I used Greek-style yogurt instead. It was thinned with the additional ingredients. Definitely taste as you go, adjusting the sweetness based on your ingredients.
Alphonso mangoes are arguably the sweetest mango you can find. They are imported from India, and only recently, in 2007, did the United States lift their 18-year import ban. The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland caused a glut of Alphonso mangoes at the Gerrard India Bazaar in Toronto but I found some at the Cash and Carry over the weekend. They are definitely worth the extra price as they are just bursting with juice. Every time I cut one, I did it over my dish to catch all the runaway juices, and then proceed to lick my fingers clean as to not miss any of the sweet mango goodness.