General | Using earthenware

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Cooking pot (haandi), water jug and griddle (tawa)

Sometimes I feel that life moves in a circle. What’s old comes back in a new package and what was new becomes old overnight! Be it fashion, food or the way of life! Take the case of earthen pots and pan..for example!
There was a time when food was cooked only in earthen pots… then came the metallic ones.. from ordinary iron to copper, silver and what not. Technologies advanced and we got our hands on non stick ware and now there are lots of options available only in non stick ware. Come to think of it, our very own cast iron pans have made a fancy comeback and you will see at least one recipe using cast iron skillet on pretty much every food blog out there… not that I am complaining!

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Glasses, mugs, bowls and a cute water bottle!

Coming back to the earthenware, Β though in some parts of India, people use earthenware for their daily cooking, Β the trend is cropping in urban India as well.

I myself have a descent collection of earthenware.. from tawa to a cool water bottle I even have a small set of bowls and glasses…

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What better way to flaunt my collection than to show it to you all.πŸ˜‰
But this is just not a show off.. here are some health benefits of cooking/eating in the earthen pots:

  1. As these pots are porous in nature, storing the water in them lets the heat from water to escape and gives you a naturally cooled water which is an healthier alternative to fridge water. The added benefit is that the minerals from the clay get added to the water you are drinking.
  2. Again, as these pots are porous these are best for slow cooking. Pores allow the heat and moisture to distribute evenly through the dish you are preparing which in turn develops a consistent flavor profile. Next time, try cooking your biryani or daal makhani in an earthen pot and you will notice the difference in texture and taste!
  3. As the clay is alkaline in nature, cooking acidic food in earthenware will help balance the pH level of the food, especially try cooking dishes with tomatoes and tamarind etc. in these pots, your food will surely have a deep taste.
  4. Get the supply of essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, etc.Β  by cooking in the earthen pots.

Apart from the health benefits here are three reasons why you should start using the earthenware:

  1. Compared to all the other cooking devices, earthenware comes in quite cheap.
  2. It makes for a beautiful and elegant display on your dinner table and gives a classy touch to your dinner spread.
  3. Cleaning the earthenware is quite easy, one does not have to use harsh chemicals. Hot water and a good quality dish soap is good enough.

Of course, you will need to take a few precautions while using earthenware:

  1. Never put cold water in a hot earthen pot.
  2. Cool the pot completely before cleaning if you are using room temperature water for cleaning.
  3. Never use metallic cleaning pads or scratchy powders to clean the pot.
  4. Use gentle hand while cleaning.
  5. Rise the temperature slowly when cooking in earthen pots. When needed, use a griddle below the earthen pot, so put the griddle on the stove top, heat it to medium heat and then place the earthen pot.

Go, get yours now! πŸ˜‰

Hope you enjoyed my post about using earthenware for cooking and serving. Please share the word, because sharing is caring!

~Prajakta

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Ideas | 5 ways to enjoy strawberries even when they are gone!

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If you have read my last post about berry jams, you already know my love for berries…but guess which one I like the most….. yes, strawberries!

I like strawberries to the extent that I can eat them in any form at any time of the day in any season.. ❀

So obviously, I want to enjoy strawberries some way or the other even when they are gone… I can’t wait for another season.. I can’t!

I have come up with 5 ways to do just that –

Sun dried strawberries –

This one is the simplest one.. cut strawberries in quarters and let them dry in the Sun. Make sure you spread the pieces in one layer and use metal tray or ceramic tray/plate to dry your strawberries. Avoid using any plastic..

Strawberry dust –

Ever since I read about freezer dried strawberries and make strawberry dust out of it, I wanted to make my own batch! The only difference, I dried my strawberries in the Sun rather than in the freezer. So, just cut the strawberries in smaller pieces, let then dry completely for 2-3 days in the Sun and make them into powder using a mixer-grinder! The dust is not very pleasing to taste but you can tint your frostings or even make strawberry sugar by adding this dust to powdered sugar which can then be sprinkled on your favorite cookies or made into strawberry glaze! The possibilities are endless. 😊

IMG_2229Strawberry jam-

My last post!

Strawberry purΓ¨ –

even more simple… blitz the strawberries in a blender, add powdered sugar if you want; I did not add any. Store in the freezer in a freezer-safe container securing tightly with the lid. Whenever you want to use this, remove from freezer and keep in the fridge for a couple of hours and use in the recipe as needed. Return the remaining quantity to the freezer immediately.

Strawberry chips –

Umm, you can’t really eat them just like that but they would surely make for a nice topper on cupcake, chocolate moose or even panna cotta! Look at these beauties –

These are simple ways to lengthen the strawberry season a bit more… enjoy strawberries for a longer time with minimal efforts.

Do share your thoughts, comments, suggestions! I love to hear back from you. πŸ™‚

Happy cooking ~

Prajakta

Cooking| Homemade Jams – three ways

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Look at those colors…

Call me a berry maniac…no, please call me one… you will surely call me that after learning the copious amount of berries I have purchased, eaten and preserved and still doing!

During my trip to Mahabaleshwar, a famous hill station near Pune,Β around mid January; I had 2 kgs of strawberries, 250 gms of black raspberries and 500 gms of cape gooseberries… have you heard about the cape gooseberries before? They are awesome.. although not everybody will like the taste. Look how gorgeous they look! Cape gooseberries are not exactly sweet..neither they are tart like strawberries. They taste somewhere between a sweeter yet subtle version of a cherry tomato to pineapple, mango and what not…it is difficult to describe the exact taste.. but they are best!

Again, on my recent trip to Khanderao market here in Vadodara I got 2 kgs of strawberries and 1 kg of mulberries.. mulberry is another awesome stuff.. as a child I used to hog on to those from my neighbour’s tree and now I have to buy them 😦

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Mulberries… painting childhood memories..

Well…now what would you call me? A berry maniac for sure?!

With so many berries sitting prettily around, I wanted to put them to good use. We like jams and what’s better than a homemade jam? So I made three types of jams – a strawberry jam with star anise, a mixed berry jam (strawberry, black raspberries and mulberries) with pure vanilla extract and cape gooseberries jam with rosemary and black pepper. I made two batches of strawberry jam, one in January and second one just a week before. I made cape gooseberries jam also in January but because I knew I wanted to make a post on all my jam endeavors I waited till today when all my jam jars are set and sitting around for a while.

You can use these jams not just on breads for breakfast, but you could add them to your smoothie bowls or top your oatmeal with a spoonful or even make a bruschetta by pairing it with a good cheese (or any other way you want)!

My jam recipes are quite simple, especially with the berries. I usually take 75% less sugar than that of the fruit, however the quantity of sugar depends on how sour or sweet the berries are. I let the fruit and sugar along with a dash of lemon juice sit for a while so that all the juices from fruit are released and then cook till the desired consistency is reached.

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Here is the step-wise procedure~

  1. If using strawberries, cut the strawberries in small pieces. In a big pot made of non-reacting material*, put the fruit and add sugar. Add lemon juice (juice of half a lemon or one depending on the quantity of fruit) and stir gently. Let this mixture sit for about an hour. Add spices of your choice (or simply vanilla extract), if using.
  2. Put a tea saucer in the freezer. We will use this later to check if the jam is done.
  3. Now, start cooking the mixture on medium heat stirring occasionally using a wooden spoon till all the sugar is dissolved and you see bubbles rising on the sides. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking. You will see white foam arising on top, keep removing the foam with a small spoon; these are impurities in the sugar and removing them will give you a clear looking jam also increasing its shelf life.
  4. Keep cooking till you see that the jam is starting to thicken and coats the back of the wooden spoon in a nice layer. Keep the mixture on lowest heat.
  5. Remove the saucer from freezer (from step 2) and put a small drop of jam on it. Return the saucer to the freezer for a minute or so. During this time, it is good if you remove the mixture from heat to avoid over cooking the jam.
  6. Your jam is done if the drop on the saucer wrinkles when pushed with a finger.

Few tips to increase life of your homemade jams –

  1. Always use clean and dry spoon to take out the jam.
  2. Take out the only quantity needed, if you remove more quantity do not put back in the same jar.
  3. Jam made this way stays at room temperature for about 2 months, however I would recommend to keep them in fridge for longer life.
  4. Sterilize the jars for storing jams. If you are not sterilizing the jars, make sure that you transfer the jam only when its completely cooled down.
  5. Use jars with good quality leads which fit nicely and are airtight as can be.

I am sharing the measurements I used to give you an idea of the quantities of jam –

Chunky strawberry jam with star anise:

500 gms strawberries – cleaned and cut into small chunks

375 gms regular sugar

juice of one (1) lemon

2 pinches of Himalayan pink salt (or black salt or regular salt)

2 pieces star anise

Total yield: 526 gms of chunky strawberry jam

Mixed berries jam:

320 gms of mixed berries – 110 gms strawberry + 110 black raspberries + 100 gms mulberries

200 gms regular sugar

juice of half lemon

2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or seeds of 1 small vanilla pod)

Total yield: 337 gms of mixed berries jam

Note: I chopped the strawberries in small pieces. However, I kept raspberries and mulberries whole. At the time of cooking, I kept mashing the fruit with the help of wooden spoon. This way, the jam is not too chunky like strawberry jam but not like the store brought ones. You can feel a texture of the fruits when you eat.

Cape gooseberries jam:

250 gms cape gooseberries cut into very small pieces

175 gms regular sugar

4 to 5 crushed black pepper

2 tsp dried rosemary

Total yield: 220 gms of jam

*Use any pot made with non-reactive material. Non-reactive material could include anodized pots, or very good quality non-stick pots. Never use copper, brass or such metals to cook fruits.

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Feel free to comment, ask questions or share your suggestions. πŸ™‚

Happy cooking~

Prajakta

 

 

DIY/COOKING | HOMEMADE GHEE (CLARIFIED BUTTER)

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Homemade ghee (clarified butter)

Life has come a full circle for me… last year around same time I left my full time job for various reasons. Tomorrow, I start with another inning of my professional life – with the same employer! With that, today being the (kinda) last day of being myself, I set to spend time doing what I truly like – 1. I watered our newly setting-up garden… taking in all the beauty and scents, clicking the pictures of first batch of flowers. 2. I set up on a mission to click pictures of liquid pouring shots – and my subject was ‘ghee’ that I had made yesterday. 3. Writing a blog post about ghee!

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Homemade ghee or clarified butter is a thing of childhood memories and the house that smells like heaven when the ghee is being made. My mother always made batches after batches of ghee…it was a ritual of every week. Back in the days, when refrigerator was a thing of fancy duration between two batches will depend on whether the curds are getting sour. Now, its a matter of week’s time at the most. Making ghee at home is a task of patience… when I was a kid I used to wait for the day when Aai (that’s what we call mother in Marathi) would start with churning the curds into butter and then ghee.

We used to get to lick clean the utensils and a wooden hand-whisk (called ‘ravee’ in Marathi) with the leftover butter once she has removed all but some. Things haven’t changed much here… I separate butter and buttermilk with either food processor or hand mixer and my reward is whatever small amount of butter that is stuck to the pots and blades. πŸ™‚

But first things first, to make homemade butter/ghee, you will need to skim/collect the cream from the milk after boiling and cooling milk. Collect it in a steel pot and keep it refrigerated. Keep on adding the cream for almost a week. Make sure that the cream does not sit out of the refrigerator for too long or else it will either get spoiled or will start tasting bitter. I will strongly suggest to refrigerate the milk once it gets to room temperature, and remove the cream only after at least 6 hours of refrigeration. This ensures that the almost all the cream has gathered on top and you are making the most of the cream content in the milk. Now, you have to add starter to this cream to make the curds.

Alternatively, on the very first day itself you can add starter to the cream and let it curdle. Then when you add the cream on other days, keep the mixture out on your kitchen counter for a couple of hours so the newly added cream also curdles. Remember, in summers curdling will be quick and so, do not keep the mixture out for a long time. Check occasionally and put it in the refrigerator as soon as the mixture is curdled. This is to avoid curd to become too sour.

Once you have enough cream, separate the butter and buttermilk using food processor or hand mixer or traditional wooden whisk. With food processor and hand mixer, its a matter of 1 or 2 minutes that you get the butter. With wooden whisk, it will take 10-20 minutes depending on the fat content and temperature of the curds. Its no rocket science to understand that the butter is separated. You will clearly see small particles of butter gathering leaving the liquid part aside. The liquid part is buttermilk for you…in India, even buttermilk is consumed in various ways – do not throw this out.

Now, how to make ghee?

In a deep steel or non-stick pot put the butter. Put this pot on the stove stop on medium to low heat. Once the butter starts melting put a wooden ladle in the pot. This is to ensure that the melted butter does not overflow. Also, turn the heat to the lowest setting. If the butter comes upto the rim of the pot switch of the flame and let the liquid settle down a bit. Start again!

After about 5 minutes or so, you will see some foam rising on the top. Keep cooking on the low flame till the foam starts disappearing. The ghee is ready when either 1. the liquid becomes transparent and you can see bottom of the pot except for some residue milk fats settling at the bottom, 2. the splattering sound stops completely, 3. the liquid looks golden yellow, or 4. if you sprinkle a few drops of water, it splatters and makes sound, or 5. the fat gathered on the sides of the pot sticks to the pot and starts browning. Residue milk fats can be consumed by adding some sugar – you can make bars/balls or just eat with a spoon!

Switch of the flame. After 5 minutes or so, cover the pot with lid keeping some space to let out the remaining steam. This ensures a nice grainy texture of the ghee once it cools down and solidifies.

Do now overcook the butter or the ghee will have a burnt taste and not so nice brownish colour.

Let the ghee come to room temperature. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and store in cleaned glass or steel containers.

*Ghee is such comfort food and its part of almost every meal at my house. Making it at home is way too economical and anything homemade is always healthy and free of preservatives. I get around 10-12 gms of cream everyday. With about a week’s supply I get around 120 mls of ghee.

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Liquid gold….

I am so thrilled with the results of my first ever “shooting the pouring liquid experiment” that my joy has no bounds…I am smiling ear to ear looking at those pictures. I must thank Lindsay of Pinch of Yum… she has such a detailed post about photographing liquid pouring shots… in fact she has everything amazing on her blog.

On another note, I have promised myself not to get engulfed by my job and not ignore the blog! And I promise you, you will get to read something here every now and then. πŸ™‚ Keep coming to my little space.

~Happy cooking,

Prajakta