Shortbread with Cardamom and Ajwain

As I believe I have said on many occasions, I am not much of a baker—I don’t have the discipline for it. From time to time, however, I do try my hand at it. In this case, I was moved to make shortbread for the first time after helping our younger boy make some for a school project. The recipe he was given to work with was not very good and so I felt the need to redress it with some better shortbread for our own consumption. I looked around the interwebs for recipes, found them mostly interchangeable and finally settled on Melissa Clark’s Shortbread, 10 Ways in NY Times Cooking. For the base, that is. In her variations she suggests some spiced versions and I took that as encouragement to devise my own additions. I made it with powdered cardamom seed and ajwain [affiliate link] sprinkled in with the dry ingredients as they were mixed. You can therefore view this a variation on her “Spice Shortbread” variation. The resulting shortbread has a flavour, though not the texture, reminiscent of the Indian nankhatai and makes for a killer accompaniment with masala chai. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Carrot Halwa Cake

May my many-armed gods have mercy on my soul for I have messed with one of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes. Her classic recipe for carrot cardamom cake, to be specific. I believe this recipe was first published in her cookbook World-of-the-East: Vegetarian Cooking but I have never read that book. I heard about her recipe some years ago when my friend Pradnya posted about it—on Facebook or Instagram—and found it on some website that looked like it hadn’t been updated since 1995. I can’t find that site anymore but it lingers elsewhere on the web. I was drawn to the recipe because in the headnotes Jaffrey refers to it as being halfway between carrot cake and gajar/carrot halwa (one of the few things that makes life worth living) but without the hassle of having to stir gajar halwa for hours. Now, it’s a different matter that courtesy a friend—the late, great Sue Darlow—I have a recipe for a pressure cooker gajar halwa that is barely any hassle, but the thought of a carrot cake that could scratch my gajar halwa itch was enticing. And so I made Jaffrey’s recipe. And it was good; perhaps the best carrot cake I’d had. But it did not scratch my gajar halwa itch. Despite the fact that I am an indifferent baker I resolved to try to figure out how to make it scratch my itch and to my great surprise I hit upon it on the first try. Now you too can have your life changed for the better. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Spiced Meat Tart

Spiced Meat Tart
I’m not much of a baker and I’m also usually not much for things like celebrating “Pi Day” with pie. However, when we were invited to a “Pi/Pie Day” potluck this weekend there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to eat some of the pies and tarts from a bunch of complete ringers among the other guests, a couple of them professionals in all but name. Of course, this meant I had to bake a pie too.

Despite my new-found proficiency with rolling chapatis and parathas, pie dough freaks me out completely and so this led to much paralysis as I canvassed everyone I could think of for ideas for idiot-proof dough (the filling I was not worried about). Finally, I settled on using the galette dough from the excellent Baking with Julia book (the recipe is by Flo Braker and is available here). I’ve made galettes using that dough (galettes don’t require precision rolling) and so figured I would be able to handle it. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly as I”d hoped on the dough/crust front (for details on which see the captions in the slideshow below). However, the filling came together very nicely: I improvised a spiced meat filling using ground beef from the portion of the cow we bought last month, Indian spices, raisins and dried cherries. Continue reading