Sunday, July 29, 2018

Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread
Inspired by a recipe in a Crisco pamphlet, this is one of the first dessert breads I learned to make.  Over time and many tweaks later, I've perfected the recipe to my taste. 
Freshly Baked
Some ingredients in this recipe are more important than others. For example, I read somewhere that one teaspoon of baking soda (rather than half a teaspoon) produces a darker bread. Also, the recipe calls for a cup of white sugar, but I prefer using dark brown sugar which I believe helps give it a darker appearance. 
The First Slice for Tasting
The original recipe called for three-quarters of a cup of Crisco oil, which I switched to a cup of melted, unsalted butter which is more to my taste. Another change I make is to grease the pan with Pam butter flavoured spray and white granulated sugar in place of flour.  The sugar caramelizes during baking and produces a sweeter crust.

There can never be too many nuts
A happy mistake I made this time is going to be the norm from now on. I forgot to add the walnut pieces until after the batter had been poured into the pan. So I poured them all over the top and used a fork to push some into the batter. It worked better because when the nuts are folded into the batter, they tend to settle on the bottom and often burn. By inserting them right at the end, they remained towards the top which was a lot better.

After resting overnight
It's important to allow the banana nut bread to rest before slicing, but it's so hard not to taste it right away. Slicing it too soon causes the bread to crumble so it needs to be covered loosely with foil or Saran wrap and left on the counter overnight. Make sure not to tighten the foil/wrap so that the bread can dry out and not steam.

Best of all, this entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl by combining all the wet ingredients first and then sifting the flour and other dry ingredients directly into the mixing bowl and folding everything together with the help of a spatula.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ohno Khaukswe - Burmese Chicken Noodle Soup

Ohno Khaukswe
It's been a very exciting month for two reasons. First of all, two sisters who live in India are visiting family in Toronto, Canada and they, along with two brothers and our eldest sister-in-law, drove down to Windsor for lunch. My son who also lives in Toronto was visiting us here in Michigan, so we all met in Windsor at a Chinese restaurant. It was so nice to see my two sisters after 23 years.

Kyauk Kyaw
A school-mate with whom we reconnected as an alumni group on Whatsapp vacationed here with her son, who lives less than five miles away. It turns out her husband was born and spent his childhood in Pegu, Burma. It was an enormous pleasure to have them over for a Khaukswe meal and I also made Kyauk Kyaw, a coconut jelly, for dessert.

Coconut Chicken Soup
There are three parts to the khaukswe recipe of which the soup is the most complex. However, most of the components for this dish are available on supermarket shelves which makes life so much simpler. No longer do we have to scrape the meat out of the coconut and extract the milk, because coconut milk is now available in cans. Deep fried onions or shallots are imported from Holland, and deep fried garlic from Thailand.

Egg Noodles
The second component, fresh egg noodles, are available at Asian markets and come bundled in packages and simply need to be blanched in boiling water and strained. A touch of oil added after they are taken out of the boiling water prevents them from sticking together.

The third and final component are the garnishes, which clockwise from top left corner comprise lime wedges, minced cilantro, chopped boiled eggs, deep fried onions/shallots, sliced fresh onions, minced green onions, fried rice noodles, and toasted chickpea powder. Off to the side are chili-garlic oil and toasted chili flakes, not pictured here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Meatballs Stroganoff

Meatballs Stroganoff
Grandboy's Day on Thursdays today, so I asked whether he prefers meatballs and spaghetti in a red or white sauce and he picked "white". Here is the stroganoff we had for dinner tonight. It was really easy to assemble depending on whether you like to prepare everything from scratch or go the semi-homemade route.

I like to use Italian meatballs from the freezer section of our supermarket unless I'm making an Indian dish. Italian meatballs served my purpose today. The other semi-homemade ingredient in this dish is Cream of Mushroom soup. If you prefer to make your own, a recipe is provided below.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Kofta Alu Biryani - Meatball & Potato Biryani

Kofta Alu Biryani
Bengali meals almost always include a rice dish as a staple which is why pulaos and biryanis are such a favourite side. Biryani is a layered dish of rice and meat or seafood, cooked in a saucepan with a well-fitting lid. Pulao is more like a fried rice. 

After our grandchildren arrived, I was re-introduced to meatballs and spaghetti, so our freezer is always stocked with Italian meatballs. They go from a frozen state to soft and bouncy balls by simmering in hot, chicken stock for 10 minutes. After draining, the remaining stock is reserved for cooking the rice.

Whole baby potatoes are a must for this biryani, but I've also used chunks of russet/baking potatoes. The other necessary ingredient is Shan's Pulao/Biryani spice mix. This is available in Indian markets and there's no way I could reproduce the combination of spices in my kitchen.

This biryani goes well with a raita (salad dressed with yogurt dressing) or the fresher pico de gallo style of salad comprising cucumber, tomatoes and onions dressed with lime and salt.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons
The simplest and easiest macaroons you could make, they took just 2 ingredients and 15 minutes to bake. The recipe was posted on the internet and seemed like the macaroons would be unbearably sweet, but they were perfect! An ice-cream scoop makes them uniform but I didn't have one. I must put it on my shopping list for the next time.

A friend suggested that a couple drops of almond extract pumps up the action, but that was after I'd made them, so I'm adding it as an optional ingredient. If you're making this for an Indian get together, you can flavor these with cardamom powder and call them narkoler naru in Bengali. It's important to line the cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat to avoid a sticky mess. 

Remember that evaporated milk and condensed milk are not interchangeable.  Evaporated milk is unsweetened and not as thick as condensed milk; look for condensed milk when shopping for this recipe.

Store leftover macaroons in Ziploc bags in the refrigerator or freezer. They travel well and are suitable for picnics, potlucks or as a special treat in lunch bags. They're moist, chewy and totally satisfying!