Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry Lemonade2

Strawberry lemonade is my all-time favorite drink. My recipe is made with ripe strawberries and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It’s a refreshing drink that both adults and children will love. It also adds so much color and elegance to a breakfast or brunch table. Treat your mom to this delicious drink this coming Mother’s Day!

Strawberry Lemonade
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups hulled and roughly chopped fresh strawberries
2 cups cold water
4-6 whole strawberries, garnish
Mint leaves, garnish

In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil, over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and let it simmer. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Let it cool completely.

In a blender, puree the strawberries along with two cups of cold water. If you don’t like the seeds, then strain the strawberry puree through a fine sieve. Pour into a pitcher. Add lemon juice and sugar syrup. Stir and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into glasses filled with ice.

For the strawberry garnish:
Hull a firm, ripe strawberry. With the stem side down on a cutting board, cut the strawberry in half, but not completely. Carefully spread the slices apart so it sits on the edge of a glass. Add a small sprig of mint on top.


Raisin, Apricot and Cranberry Scones

Raisin, Apricot and Cranberry Scones10

Start your Sunday morning with these freshly baked raisin, apricot, and cranberry scones. I made them for my family this past Sunday and they really enjoyed them. We topped them with cream and homemade strawberry jam. My favorite thing about making scones is that there is such a wide variety to choose from. You can make them with dried fruit or fresh fruit. You can make them sweet, nutty, or savory. In the picture above, you can see both raisin, apricot and cranberry scones on the bottom and chocolate chips scones on top. British scones are lightly sweetened so when I first made them, I added very little sugar. I’ve since changed my recipe and added two tablespoons of sugar to please my children. You can adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste buds.

Here are some tips to making light and airy scones. Make sure that your butter is very cold but not frozen. Sift the dry ingredients to aerate the flour. Work quickly and lightly when combining the wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over handle the dough as this will make your scones tough. Use very little flour to roll and shape your dough. Cut your scones with a sharp knife or cutter. Place them close together on the tray as this will help to keep their edges straight. Bake them on the top rack of your oven. Keep these tips in mind when you make scones and I promise your scones will be perfect.

Raisin, Apricot and Cranberry Scones
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Makes: 18 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour, (or use cake flour)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, (0-2 tablespoons, depending on your taste and preference)
10 tablespoons cold butter, (diced into small cubes)
1 cup dried fruits, (raisins, diced apricot, cranberries)
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk + 2 tablespoons, (reserve 2 tablespoons to brush tops)
Turbinado sugar for tops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, a fork and a knife, or your fingertips, work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle sugar over the flour, add the dried fruits and toss to combine.

Shake the carton of buttermilk before you measure. Pour one cup buttermilk into a separate small bowl. Add the eggs and whisk until combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly add the egg and buttermilk mixture. Gently fold the wet and dry ingredients, using a flat bladed knife, until a dough forms. The mixture simply needs to be pulled together until the flour is incorporated. The dough will be slightly wet, light, and pliable.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Flour your hands and using a very light touch, gently pat into shape. About three to four pats only. Shape the dough into an 8 x 8 inch square that is about half inch in height. Use a ruler or a large knife to straighten the edges. Cut into thirds. You will have nine squares. Then cut each square diagonally to make two triangles.

Place the scones close together on the parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the reserved two tablespoons of buttermilk and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake on the top rack of the oven for 15 minutes, or until the tops turn light golden in color. Scones are best served warm and fresh, with jam and cream or creme fraiche.

More tips:
– For lighter scones use cake flour, which is soft flour that has less gluten protein. You can make your own cake flour. For every one cup of all purpose flour, take out two tablespoons and replace with two tablespoons of cornflour. Sift using a sieve.

– For chocolate chip scones, you can replace the dried fruit with one cup of chocolate chips.
Easter Brunch 3

Creamy Fenugreek Leaves and Green Peas

Fenugreek leaves and peas1

Fenugreek leaves, also called methi in Hindi, is used as an herb and as a spice in Indian cooking. I use the fresh leaves in dals, vegetables dishes, and to make methi paratha. I use fenugreek seeds in pickles, sambars, and to make different powdered spice mixes or pastes. Several of my recipes call for dried fenugreek leaves, which is called kasuri methi in Hindi. The fresh fenugreek leaves have a slightly bitter taste which becomes more prominent when dried. I use dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) in small quantities to flavor my dishes. Amber in color, fenugreek seeds are an essential ingredient to the Bengali five-spice mix, which is call panch phoron. I’ll post a recipe using fenugreek seeds soon.

In one of his shows, Dr. Oz talked about how fenugreek helps boost energy and level your blood sugar. The seeds have been used in India for centuries as a natural remedy for many problems, such as, acid reflux, heartburn, reducing cholesterol, and soothing soar throats.

If you haven’t tried using fenugreek leaves before, here is a recipe to help you get started. You can buy fenugreek leaves at the Asian market or at an Indian grocery store. Use the young, fresh leaves as they have less of a bitter taste.

Creamy Fenugreek leaves and Green Peas
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

2 tablespoons ghee
2 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup tomato purée, (2 Roma tomatoes, blanched, skin removed and puréed)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 cup frozen/fresh peas
2 bunches fenugreek leaves, (methi)
1 cup heavy cream, (you can use milk for a lighter version)
¼ cup cream, (malai)
½ teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons kasuri methi, (optional)

Grind to a paste:
1 cup roughly sliced onion
1 tablespoon roughly chopped garlic
1 tablespoon roughly chopped ginger
3 green chillies, (depending on heat and your preference)
8 cashew nuts (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and drained)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 cardamoms, (use seeds only)
1 clove
½-inch piece cinnamon, (broken into bits)
¼ cup water

In a blender, grind the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, cashew nuts, poppy seeds, cardamom seeds, clove, cinnamon, and water to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Pick the fenugreek leaves and discard the stems. Wash the leaves in several changes of water and soak them in hot water for five minutes. Drain and chop them roughly.

Heat ghee and oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds. When they splutter, add the ground ingredients. Stir constantly and cook until the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone. About three minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook until you see the oil separate. Add the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder, peas and fenugreek leaves. Stir well, cover with a lid, and cook for five minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir in the heavy cream, two tablespoons of cream, sugar, salt to taste, and garam masala. Crush the kasuri methi in your palm and add it to the creamy gravy. Let it cook for another ten minutes. Do not let it come to a boil. If the gravy is too thick, you can add two or three tablespoons of milk. Turn off the heat, and garnish the dish with the remaining two tablespoons of cream. Serve with chapati, naan or rice.

Carving a Strawberry Rose

Strawberry Rose3

I am a strawberry lover and I’m not just talking about eating the fruit. I love its vibrant color and I think it is one of the most beautiful fruits. I like them so much that I had a whole bunch of strawberry kitchen gear – strawberry dinner set, strawberry canister set, strawberry napkin rings, potholders, and the list goes on! I haven’t let go of my love for “anything strawberry” completely, because they are still sitting on my garage shelves!

A recent study called strawberries “brain berries” and confirmed that older adults who ate strawberries on a regular basis experienced improved brain function and memory. Needless to say, I’ve been eating my daily quota. One cup of fresh strawberries provides about 140 percent of our daily vitamin C needs. Strawberries are high in nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber and they are low on calories.

Many of you asked me how I made the strawberry rose that was on my Valentine’s Day blog, so my children helped me make this short video to show you how it’s done. Thank you, Dharti and Sanjay. It was fun working on this blog post with you.

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang3

In a Facebook poll of the world’s 50 best foods, CNN named Beef Rendang as #1. It is an Indonesian dish that is made by simmering beef in coconut milk and spices. I tasted this dish for the first time when it was made by my friend in California. I was hooked and I learned how to make it from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon. Over the years my recipe has evolved and taken on a life of its own – sometimes because of the lack of certain ingredients like candlenuts and fresh turmeric leaves. If you can’t find these ingredients, you can still make this dish without them and it tastes great. It takes time and effort to make this dish so make a large quantity. It keeps well and develops more flavor each day.

Rendang is a traditional dish from the Minangkabau ethnic group from Indonesia. It is also popular in neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore. The beef is cooked for hours in a myriad of ingredients. Some of which were unfamiliar to me until I started experimenting with other world cuisines. And, a few ingredients were difficult to find. So this recipe is not for the faint of heart!

Rendang gets its dark chocolate color from roasted and ground coconut. It is called kerisik and one of the steps in this recipe tells you how to make it. There are several steps to this recipe so follow them carefully. The cooking process is laborious and the list of ingredients long, but the end result is definitely worth the wait!

Beef Rendang
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Serves: 6-8

3 pounds beef, (chuck steak or shortribs, cut into large cubes)
¼ cup oil
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
5 whole cardamoms, lightly bruised
2 cloves
2 cups thick coconut milk, (use Thai canned coconut milk)
1 cup chilli water (reserve the water in which you soak the dry chillies – see below)
3 tablespoons tamarind pulp
2 tablespoons palm sugar, (or brown sugar)
3 kaffir lime leaves

Blend into a paste:
1 cup finely sliced lemon grass, (5 stalks, white part only, dry outer layers removed)
½ cup water
25 dry red chillies, (seeds removed, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes, save water)
3 cups roughly chopped shallots
2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
2 tablespoons finely sliced galangal
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh turmeric

Add the lemon grass and half cup of water to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Strain the dry red chillies and reserve the chili water to use while making the rendang. Add the soaked chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric to the food processor and run until there are no clumps left and you have a smooth paste. Scrape the bowl down several time during the process. Set aside.

Dry roast and powder:
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black pepper

In a small non-stick pan, over medium-low heat, roast the coriander, cumin, fennel and black pepper until fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder. I use a coffee grinder which I use only to grind spices. Alternately, you can also use these ingredients in their powder form. Set aside.

To make the Kerisik, (roasted, ground coconut paste):
1 cup frozen grated coconut or fresh grated coconut

In a non-stick pan roast the grated coconut over medium-low heat until it turns light brown and fragrant. Cool and grind in a coffee grinder until it turns oily. Set aside.

Add oil to a large heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add the cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Fry for 10 seconds and add the lemon grass, red chillies, shallot, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric paste. Fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the moisture evaporates. You will also see oil along the edge of the pot. It will take about 10-15 minutes to do this. Add the ground coriander, cumin, fennel, and pepper. Fry for a minute and then add the beef. Stir and roast until all the beef is well coated with the spice blend.

Next add the coconut milk, chili water, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, and salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook for two hours. Stir the rendang periodically during this time to make sure it is not catching to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the meat is tender and the liquid evaporates.

Once the meat is tender, add the kerisik and kaffir lime leaves. Gently stir until all the meat is well coated and you see the oil separate in the pot. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let the rendang sit for at least an hour before you serve. The meat will turn to dark brown. It is even better the next day when all the flavors have melded. Serve with rice.