Porcini Cream Soup with Parmesan - Christmas Starter

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On the first week of Christmas, Meeta made for me - a Porcini cream soup!

Exactly four weeks to go till Christmas. Are you ready?

Well I thought every week till Christmas, I would premier a recipe as a Christmas meal idea. Not necessarily traditional, but something that I hope will delight you into giving something new and different a go this year.

Today I present a wonderful, light, creamy and most important, easy to prepare soup as a starter. I picked up a lovely old magazine from a friend's place and while browsing through it I found this wonderful recipe.


Porcini
Porcini in Italian, Boletus Edulis in Latin, Steinpilze in German and Cèpe in French, these are truly one of God's many gifts to us. It is a meaty, rich and strong mushroom, however delicate and versatile to give any dish from a stew/soup to a thick steak the perfect flavor.

These mushrooms are so perfect that they even look just like mushrooms do in fairy tales. They are widely available in markets around the world either fresh or dried.

When buying fresh porcini make sure they have velvety white stalks and firm brown caps. They should not be broken or nipped. A yellowish-brown color under the caps indicate that they might be a bit over-ripe and black spots on top or a deep green color under the caps show that they have arrived. Older and not perfectly fresh porcini might even have worms in them, so make sure you look out for those.

Never wash these in water when not absolutely necessary. Instead use a damp paper towel and rub off any dirt you see.

Dried Porcini have a strong mushroomy aroma and work magic when making sauces or soups. In risottos these mushrooms add the finest flavor I have ever tasted. When buying dried porcini make sure they are not crumbly as this would indicate that they are rather old. Your best bet would be to buy them in jars. If you can open the jar before purchasing and take a sniff. You should get a deep and rich woody, mushroomy aroma. If there is nothing, then they will taste like nothing too.

Dried porcini are soaked in hot water for about 20-30 minutes until they have expanded. Reserving the liquid drain them well. Now you can use these for several different dishes.

So, an elegant soup as a starter to a wonderful meal, made of these luxurious mushrooms is a promising way to kick off your evening. Your guests will be left licking their spoons and you'll be chuckling thinking "That was an easy one!"



Music while cooking:

Chris Cornell - You know my name
Casino Royale Soundtrack - If you have not seen this movie yet then leave everything standing right now and go to the movies. Brilliant Bond film and a sexy Daniel Craig make an explosive combination.

Music and Artwork courtesy iTunes






Ingredients:

20g dried Porcini
1 large onion - finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 l white wine
250 g cream
40 g Parmesan - grated
Handful of chives - chopped
Salt and pepper





Method:

In approx. 3/4 l of hot water, soak the dried Porcini for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Melt the butter in a large pot and sauté the onions. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for a few minutes. Pour in the wine, cream and the Porcini liquid, while constantly stirring, to avoid any lumps. Add the mushrooms, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

Take most of the mushrooms out of the soup and with an electric beater or mixer, whisk the soup until smooth and creamy. Put the Porcini mushrooms back into the soup. Salt and pepper to taste

Pour into warm soup plates and sprinkle with Parmesan and chives.

My Tip:

Instead of pouring all the cream into the soup reserve half of it. Whisk until thick and gently fold the beaten cream into the soup. This makes the consistence of the soup fluffy and light.



Verdict:
Easy wasn't it? That is why it is perfect as a starter for any festive occasion. It is a creamy and aromatic soup. The mushrooms stand out and with the Parmesan it becomes a elegant and fine tasting dish. Here the flavors linger on the tongue long enough for your guests to come to the realization that THIS was just the beginning of a great meal to come.




Perfect idea for Sara's great theme for Weekend Cookbook Challenge - Party Food.




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Persimmon Spice Cake

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We've been having wonderful but crazy weather for this time of year here in Germany. It's been sunny and warm with temperatures between 15-18 degrees Celsius! It's more like Spring here rather that Fall. And when I think that Christmas is just four weeks away, I am wondering if we will really get that Christmas feeling at all this year. Last year at this time we already had snow!!

So, to force me into the spirit I have been doing a bit of baking. Trying to get to the feeling through my stomach and nose. With the success I had here and here I decided to be bold and daring. I actually created my own cake! Actually I looked through several different ideas on the internet and based on these I was able to make up a completely different flavored cake for this time of year.


We've been in Persimmon fever this Fall and have been eating this luxurious and sweet fruit by the truckload. As I let my imagination wander I thought how would the combination of Persimmon and Christmas spices do in a cake.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Persimmon, you might know it as Kaki or Sharon. They come in two categories - the Hachiya Persimmon, which is large and round. The Fuyu is smaller, flatter and tomato shaped. Both taste very differently from each other. The Hachiya is soft, creamy and tangy sweet, in comparison, the Fuyu remains firm upon ripening and has no tangy aftertaste. They can be used for a variety of things like jellies, cakes, and spreads but nothing beats eating them the way they are.

Selecting and Storing
While selecting you should go for smooth, brightly colored and plump persimmons. They can be ripened at room temperature and then stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Health Facts
Persimmons contain twice as much fiber as apples and play an important role in keeping a healthy heart. Persimmons also contain antioxidants such as carotenoids and polyphenols which affects fat metabolism. In addition persimmons are good source of sodium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron. Therefore, for many reasons, adding this colourful fruit to your diet may be a good idea.

This cake has everything one expects in a Christmas type cake. The fruity and sweetness from the persimmon, the luscious aromas from the spices and the nutty crunch from the walnuts. Combined with each other they gave a soft moist cake and the best thing this cake tastes better by the day. Simply because the flavors have more time to harmonize with each other.

You can even freeze this cake in portions and when you fancy a piece simply "nuke" it for a few! Warm, with a bit of melting butter, this cake will leave you satisfied.
Did it bring me into the Christmas spirit? A little closer than before!


Music while baking:

Michael Bublé - Feeling Good
Album: It's Time - Awesome Album with great music.

Music and Artwork courtesy iTunes





Ingredients:

4 - 6 ripe and soft persimmons - peeled and puréed. You can use an electric mixer or blender for this.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
115 grams butter
200g brown sugar
350g all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
60g walnuts or pecans - coarsely chopped





Method:

Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

Add the baking soda to the puréed persimmon. You will notice that the persimmon will set and become more solid. No cause for alarm. Although this might look strange it is perfectly normal.

In a mixing bowl whisk the butter and sugar with and electric mixer, until creamy and fluffy. Stir in the persimmon and egg, beating until well combined. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the dry ingredients to the persimmon mixture. Blend in well and stir in the nuts.

Spoon the batter into a round greased cake pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the knife comes out clean.

Take out and allow to cool on a rack. Sprinkle generously with icing sugar. If you would like to freeze this cake then skip this part and freeze in an airtight container.


Verdict:

I was so pleased with the cake and want to really boast about it. LOL! It was gorgeous. The aromas in the kitchen where making me so hungry and I was so curious how it would turn our that I kept coming back and peeking into the oven! When it finally cooled I quickly cut myself a piece and bit into it. It was a piece of heaven. When I told Tom I had baked a persimmon spice cake he looked at me with a very weird look. But when I packed a piece for him and Soeren for the next day, both came back and asked if I had any leftover. Amazingly this cake tasted better on the second day. The cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg harmonize so well with the persimmon's ripe and sweet flavors. The fruit purée also gives the whole cake a wonderful moist texture that is just right - not too dry like some spice cakes can get.


This tastes wonderful with a bit of butter spread on top and a nice cup of tea as a second breakfast too. So, I am sure my dear friend Nandita will enjoy a big piece for her Weekend Breakfast Blogging.



This is a perfect festive cake for the upcoming season and as it brought me a bit closer to the Xmassy feeling, I hope Anna will enjoy it for her Festive Food Fair.





Oh and before I leave you to drool just wanted to say thank you to my fave Cream Puff for this:






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Cooking School: Rich Creamy Truffles

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When Johanna from The Passionate Cook announced the theme for the Sugar High Friday 25, I knew the time had come to take part in my first SHF event. There were several reasons - who can resist the lovely chocolatey flavored delicacies, but mainly because it was a perfect theme for the next Cooking School.

So what are Truffles? Well like their namesake - the Truffle mushrooms, they have become somewhat legendary. They are decadent, luxurious, irresistible and can be very expensive when bought in stores. There are entire stores that dedicate themselves to making and producing these little delicacies. The chocolate Truffles have an aura about themselves. Everyone thinks they are fantastic and everyone believes making these is a huge mystery. The truth be told here and today. They are not difficult to make in the least.

A basic truffle is made with Ganache, which is a mixture of boiling heavy cream poured over rich chocolate and blending until smooth. The ganache is formed into a ball and then dipped in tempered chocolate for a crunchy and chocolatey exterior. The trickiest part when making truffles is preparing the tempered chocolate.

For this session I have decided to keep my truffle variation simple by leaving the tempered chocolate preparation out. This however, does not mean the taste suffers. These truffles are very exclusive, smooth and rich. They have a crunch in the center and are coated with nuts and coconuts for an unmistakable flavor. I created these truffles a couple of years back by combining two recipes I found in a magazine. I experimented with the ingredients and was happy that I came up with a type of recipe that eliminated the heavy cream completely.

So, if I eliminated the cream and the tempering of the chocolate, what are my truffles made of? Nougat! That is my secret and you will never believe how easy they are to make. I urge you to try and buy organic and high quality ingredients for these truffles. You won't be sorry once you have tasted them.

Warning: Those making these truffles are prone to over-tasting and this may cause a sugar high shock - LOL!





Hazelnut Nougat Truffle

Ingredients:

200g Nougat. I used the German Nougat, which is smooth and chocolatey.
100g + 3 teaspoons Concentrated butter
100g Whole hazelnuts
50g Pistachios - finely chopped
100g Coconut flakes
100g Hazelnut brittle
100g Dark chocolate
30 Truffle forms






Method:

Cut up the nougat and 100g concentrated butter in small cubes and place in a metal bowl. Place this bowl over a pot of boiling water and allow to melt. Gently mixing until the mixture has melted.

Pour this in a cold glass container. First allow to cool at room temperature for about half an hour then place in the refrigerator. Cool for at least an hour.

After the cooling process you will notice that the nougat mixture has become more solid again. Using a melon baller, scoop out small portions of the nougat. Take one whole hazelnut and place in the middle. Using your finger tips quickly form a ball, covering the hazelnut with the nougat.

My tip: Place a large bowl of ice water and a large towel next to you while forming these nougat balls. Cool your hands in the ice water after you have formed each nougat nut ball and wipe dry. This is a bit messy, but you will realize doing this allows you to handle the nougat just a little longer between your fingers. I do not advice you to use your palms to form the balls, rather quickly form them between your fingertips.

Place the nougat nut balls on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and cool in the refrigerator again for an hour.

In the meantime in three flat plates, pour out the chopped pistachios, coconut flakes and brittle. Set aside.

Break up the dark chocolate, place in a bowl and over a pot with boiling water begin to melt. Add the 3 teaspoons of concentrated butter and stir gently. This gives the chocolate a nice sheen.

Take the nougat nut balls out and with a fork dip each ball very quickly into the chocolate. You have to really work quickly, making sure that the nougat does not melt in the chocolate. Place the chocolate covered truffle in one of the flat plates filled with the chopped nuts, brittle or coconut. With the back of a spoon roll until it is completely covered. Place on the baking tray to set and dry. Repeat this with each of the truffles until you have all covered with the toppings.

Once all the truffles are ready, place into the refrigerator for another hour, so everything get harden.

That was it! You have now just made your own delicate, rich and 100% homemade truffle candy.

Makes about 30.

More tips:
You can add alcohol or liqueur to the nougat mixture while it is melting. Whiskey, rum and cognac are popular variations, but also try Pernod or Amaretto. Use approx. 4 cl of the alcohol of your choice
Adding a bit of orange zest to the mixture gives a whole new aroma and taste.
Try a bit of cardamon powder for a lovely spiced taste.
You can use any type of nuts for the center of the truffle. Almonds or whole pistachios make it all the more interesting and luxurious.
A great a fruity topping for the truffles is chopped dried cranberries. Mix these with the pistachios and watch the truffles disappear within seconds.



Verdict:
Rich, velvety, crunchy and melt in your mouth. As you drop these small luxurious candies into your mouth the nougat starts to melt straight away. Biting into it the whole hazelnut adds a pleasant crunchy surprise.

These are just perfect to give away as gifts for friends and family. Think Christmas folks! Packed in small gift boxes, these will not only impress but also add a personal touch. I used this batch of candy as a thoughtful giveaway for my guests yesterday evening at our Thanksgiving party. Something that the couples can enjoy together a little later in the evening ;-)

I hope Johanna will accept my treats for the Sugar High Friday #25.




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Photos on Thanksgiving

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What do you do on Thanksgiving day with your family all around you?

I know what we used to do. My parents used to get their slide projector out and we all used to sit huddled up looking at slides of funny, embarrasing, touching and irritating moments gone by. It was a lot of fun. There was always plenty to reminisce about and plenty of story telling.

I think one of my parents favorite stories about me is the one when we were living in Luxor, Egypt, where my dad was in charge of overseeing the construction of a new hotel and I disappeared.

I was 3 or 4 years old and on the day of the opening of this luxury hotel, I got out of bed on the fine morning. My mother was in the bathroom brushing her teeth. I was able to slip out of the hotel room undetected. We were living in a suite on the 20th floor (or something like that). Anyway, you can imagine the panic my mum was in when she did not find me anywhere. She called my dad and soon enough the entire hotel staff was looking for me. On opening day!! Well 2 hours go by and the search has now been extended to the outdoors as well. My dad is walking along the beach promenade. The hotel was on and island and the only way to get off the island is by boat you see. So, as my dad figured that I was enamored by the Falukas (Egyptian boats) he started looking there. Sure enough he saw me sitting in one of these Falukas just coming back from the mainland!!

"Oh I went for a boat trip!" was my answer and probably felt like I had just been on a cruise around the world.

Oh and yes ... the hotel opened punctually that same day LOL!!



I am carrying on with this tradition here too. So when tomorrow we all gather around the TV it will not be to watch a Football game but rather to share the pictures we have taken this past year. I will attach my Mac to the TV and we can see how the year went by so fast. I think we'll be telling a few stories of our own too. My parents are in Dubai and we will be present in thoughts, phone, webcam and blog.

I would like to take this tradition over to the blog and share a few pictures with you this Thanksgiving. This year I have been really enjoying the colors of Fall here in Germany and have been able to take a few really great pictures. I thought I would share a bit of my season with you all and show you Fall through my eyes.



For those celebrating, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the next few days off, relax and have a grand time with the family. Some will love, others will fight. Some might cry and others might jump for joy. Whatever emotions your family will evoke in you the next few days just take it in stride and think of all the warmth, support and happiness having a family really gives.

If this does not help - find yourself a good shot of Whiskey or Brandy and chill out.

Happy Thanksgiving!
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Around the Home: Fall Decoration

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So, how many of you have planned your Thanksgiving dinner down to a tee? I am sure many of you have. I am sure many also have already their shopping list ready and yes, I also am sure a few have already filled up your pantries with the things you will be needing on Thursday.

Well done! Errr - but maybe you might have forgotten one thing. Do you have any ideas about your decoration for Thanksgiving? How are you going to spruce up the house and your dinner table? Have you thought of designing a menu?

Although in Germany Thanksgiving is not celebrated, it has been a part of my childhood. It is important to me that I give the values of Thanksgiving to Soeren. Furthermore, sitting together with family and beloved friends in a warm and cosy atmosphere means so much to me. It has now become tradition at our home and every year our friends look forward to the event with great pleasure.

Every year I take two days off (it is a normal working week in Germany) and enjoy preparing the feast and festivities. It's such a fantastic feeling when the entire house is filled with aromas of baked apples, stuffing and spices. Once the basics are ready I start with decorating the place.

My favorite part!



I thought I would share a few of my ideas with you. Stop worrying! I have used simple and easy to make pieces, which can be created within a few hours.

A few years ago I bought a bundle of long twigs tied in thickly braided straw from Ikea. Maybe you've seen it too. This is my main attraction for every season and festivity. Whatever the occasion I decorate "Hans" (as I call it, because it had an Ikea name that was unpronounceable!) accordingly. In Fall it looks just gorgeous with a garland of lovely orange colored maple leaves and fairy lights.

Using a few simple things I have created a nice piece for the couch table. At the Farmer's Market I bought a few small pumpkins, a couple of corn cobs, physallis and a few fake leaves. Soeren and I used one of our daily walks to collect chestnuts, acorns and large maple leaves. We dried the leaves between a few books. Once I had all my "ingredients" I used a lovely square golden colored dish and arranged a few of the decoration pieces on it.




A few of the pumpkins I cut and took out the insides. Placing a small candle in it makes the entire set up look simply amazing.

For the dinner table I have a great centerpiece, a part of which you see above, planned. On a round silver tray I placed some dried moss and arranged with chestnuts, leaves, acorns and physallis. Using the heads of fresh flowers I arranged these on the tray as well. In the center of the tray I placed one of the pumpkin candle stands. This tray will be placed in the middle of the table. Using a garland of leaves, I will place it across the length of my table. Arranged with a few slices of cut up pumpkins and some whole mini pumpkins will certainly give it a natural touch. For fresh flowers I will be cutting the heads of sunflowers and arrange these between the table decoration. I plan to drape a small garland of fairy lights between the entire arrangement. Believe me it'll be an eye-catcher!

I will be using some of those large maple leaves we collected and dried as name tags for each of my guests. Using thin golden twine I will tie the leaf to a small card with the names printed on it. I hope it will give it a nice touch.




For the menu I have used one of my fall pictures, reduced the opacity and chose a nice font. I printed two menus out on some cream colored card and plan to place this on each side of the long table.

I hope maybe you can use one or two ideas to decorate your house. Whatever you choose, I hope you have a warm, cosy and happy Thanksgiving.




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Monthly Mingle # 6: Give Thanks Roundup

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Serenity on Flickr

Come sit with me awhile. Sit and enjoy the serenity and the warmth of the sun. Sit and think about how many things you have in your life to be thankful for.

Serenity is currently one of my favorite photos and also # 8 in the Flickr Favorites in my most popular photos. It was taken on a wonderful early Fall morning when Soeren and I went for a nice walk. It was a great day as we fooled around and sat on this bench munching on raisins and just enjoying the peacefulness around us. One of those days I was thankful to be able to cherish.



This was a fun Mingle. Keeping with the time of year, I had asked you to take a few minutes and think about what you are thankful for this year. And you all did. You thanked with open hearts and were thankful for so many beautiful things. It was great reading through all your touching posts.

What I really enjoyed this time round was that I had so many entries from my fellow Indian Bloggers. That was so very comforting to see you all come over with such wonderful dishes.

Before I go into the roundup I'd just like to take this opportunity and inform you of some interesting news. As many of you know I also write The Daily Tiffin. I recently decided to expand on the concept of the Daily Tiffin and offer a wider spectrum on information focussing on Family lifestyle. The "new" Daily Tiffin comes to you with a fantastic team of four lovely ladies, many of you will recognize the names, and several contributors. You can read more about our ideas and concept here.

One more: The Monthly Mingle will be taking a break over the Christmas season and will come back in the New Year. All I will reveal is think warm for January. Make sure you stay updated and don't miss the announcement in January.

OK! That was it and now - The Give Thanks Roundup.


Update: Meenakshi's mail unfortunately landed in my spam folder so I missed it. I am glad we got in touch again because I would have missed the chance to share these lovely Masala Alu Paranthas. Meena thanks her Ma for being an inpiration to her in the kitchen. Thank you Meena.



I was wondering where Isis was. It seems I missed her entry completely and I think I know what hapened. Anyway, Isis I am glad you are still around as I have not heard from you in ages. She makes a lovely Apple Cake and says thanks to her mother. Her mother has supported her through everything. Aren't mums great. Isis bisous to you.





Vaishali recently moved to India. Packed her bags and kitchen and left without looking back. But before she did she baked some fluffy looking Pineapple Coconut Muffins and thanked her kid cousin.






Sarah, who loves Thanksgiving but forgets the thanks part was encouraged to say thank you to her husband. She serves up his favorite Egg McMao.




Priya, says a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in making her a Foodie. Starting with her parents she writes a very touching post. To say thank you she comes over with a truck load of Rasgulla and Rasmalai. Two of my 3 fave Indian desserts.



This is Mantu's first time at the Monthly Mingle. Welcome! She thanks her better half and her cooking friends with a full of taste Shrimp, Carrot and Green Beens Curry.




I had mentioned above that 2 of my 3 fave Indian desserts were part of one entry and now here comes the third! Lakshmiammal brings along fantastic looking Kala Jamun. She thanks all her friends who helped her through her hard times when she first moved to the US. It's great to have such great friends. Lakshmiammal I thank you for showing me that these are so easy to make.



My lovely dear friend Nandita thanks her husband for his support and encouragement and she cooks up an amazing Egg Curry. It is so full of flavor that it even comes with a warning. Thank you Sweetie.




This is Nalini's first blog event. Nalini thank you for making it to the Monthly Mingle. She makes a traditional Tamil dish which is used in the festival of Pongal - a harvest festival, Venn Pongal. It really is a dish packed with flavor.




Lisa, my dearest! Lisa also takes this moment to thank Hubbs, who drives her crazy and comforts her. For Hubbs she says a special thanks by cooking up his favorite Seared Scallops with Ginger-Lime Sauce. Looks so delicious, Lisa. Thank you!



Asha has a way with words. She wraps her arms around the world and says thanks to all her Blog friends. She cooks up a lovely hearty breakfast.




Sandeepa writes up a beautiful post. She has a few lovely people she is thankful for. I am thankful that she joins us and shares a gorgeous looking Rajma Keema. Great combination!



My friend Shaheen gives her thanks to her little family and her blog friends. She brings to the mingle a recipe I died for when I read it. Roast Chicken and Neriya Pathiri. Look out for the recipe of the Neriya Pathiri when Shaheen returns from her short break. In the meantime drool over the chicken.



Vidya was inspired by the theme to participate and to make a rich Fruit Cake. She thanks her family, friends and bloggers. Perfect fruit cake Vidya and thanks for coming over with it!





Our first and only drink for the Mingle, Ladies. But don't worry I am sure Esther has made enough Egg Nog for double portions. She dedicates the post to her friend - the only one in France who knew what an Egg Nog was. Do you know what it is?





Jayashree says that Indians have a hard time saying thank you, but show their thanks in their actions. Well I say, actions often speak louder than words. She takes a moment and thanks her husband, daughter, family and friends. She serves a full of flavor Tomato Rice.



@ thanks her mother-in-law for coming over from India to the US to look after her grandkid. As a thank she bakes a warm and tasty Zucchini Bread.





Praveena has been cooking recipes from fellow bloggers and she is so thankful about all that. Her husband will never have to eat the same thing twice. I know what she means. She comes over to the mingle with a Chickpea Pulusu.




Mandira bakes her first cake from scratch and says thanks to her family and friends. She makes a rich Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream inspired by bloggers. Lovely looking cake.




Chandrika has a wonderful blog. She also brings a very interesting dish - Potato Sticks Curry and says thanks to her DH for putting up with her tantrums!





Finally I received a wonderful mail from The Cook. She is in the process of setting up her blog but really wanted to be a part of the Mingle. She says thank you to her in-laws for sending her a stove-top tandoor. In their honor she cooks up Tandoori Tharkari. Here is The Cooks recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup Yam - cut into big chunks
1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, garam masala powder
2 cups of Yogurt
1 Teaspoon salt,
1 Teaspoon Sugar,
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli powder
1 Teaspoon Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of ginger paste, garlic paste each
1 onion shredded
2 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of cilantro - chopped fine


Method:

1. Mix yogurt, vinegar, red chilli powder, cinnamon powder, nutmeg, garam masala powder, salt, sugar, ginger paste, garlic paste
2. Poke both cauliflower florets and Yam with a fork
3. Marinate cauliflower florets and Yam in the mixture from (1) over night
4. Next day, arrange them in skewers alternating cauliflower florets and Yam chunks
5. Arrange them in a grill/tandoor and cook till tender
6. Reserve the marinated liquid
7. Take a pan, add onion and fry till it turns golden brown
8. Add the reserved marinated liquid to the pan
9. Add tomato paste and bring it to a boil
10. While boiling, add the grilled veggies and simmer till the gravy thickens
11. Add salt to taste, if needed
12. garnish with cilantro.

Serve hot with Roti or Naan.



Ooops I almost forgot myself! I took part in a wonderful project recently, which brought a lovely baking cookbook to my doorstep. I baked a fruity and full of flavor Cranberry Upside Downer and said thanks to a few who have accompanied me through my blog escapades and to my wonderful parents.



Once again I thank you all for being a part of the Monthly Mingle. I appreciate all your effort, love and care you put inot each dish. I also hope you enjoyed yourself here.

Join me again next year with a brand new Monthly Mingle.



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Chinese Vegetable Noodles - Soul Comforting

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What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say "Street Food"? For me, I think of comfort.

I remember the days when I was living in Qatar or vacationing in India or even when I visit my parents in Dubai, street food was always one of the highlights. You see in Asia and in the Middle East the notion of street food is not as we know it here in Europe or in the States. No! Going out with friends to the beach side promenade for a walk or the bazaar and enjoying the multi-cultural, multi-colored foods offered was an event. An event that one dresses up for, gets together with friends and go out to have a blast.

In Europe I realize that street food is more or less considered as a quick lunch or a take away. Just something where you can get a huge portion for little money.

I loved spending the evenings with my family in Bombay on the beaches of Juhu. Not a brilliant place to swim but fantastic when you wanted to eat some scrumptious Bhelpuri or Panipuri. Of course I cannot forget the juice stalls in Doha. Thursday nights (the weekends were Thursdays and Fridays) were not the same if we missed out starting or ending our evening at one of these little stalls on the beach promenade. After a party with all my friends we'd head on over for fresh fruit juice and awesome sandwiches and pasta. Then of course strolling the Al Riqqa Road in Dubai with Tom and other friends, where food was available like sand on a beach. Everything from Arabic, Indian to Chinese cuisine as far as the eye can see. Everyone polished up to a tee, in their best outfits laughing, joking and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The aromas of mixed spices and freshly cooked food in the air. SIGH!

Street food for me is certainly not to be mistaken or compared to the fast food joints one goes to. For those thinking "Is it clean? Is it fresh?" Let me tell you that these places depended on their clientele and offering a clean location and fresh food means everything for most of them. Most of these places used fresh ingredients that were bought at the local market on the same day.

I loved a little Asian place in Dubai that I just have to visit every time I am there. The people there already know me and what I like and as soon as they see me ask how I, Soeren and Tom are doing. How things are in Germany and so on. Then they get to work preparing my Chinese Spicy Vegetable Noodles.

They also have a few tables and chairs set out on the promenade right next to the famous Dubai Creek with a great view of the Dubai city skyline. The things you order are actually served in proper porcelain dinnerware. A luxury class chinese street food locality!

Well pretty much everything tastes delicious, but those Spicy Vegetable Noodles are the best. Complete with crisp vegetables and eggs. After you have eaten one of their huge portions you just sit back and this satisfying and comforting feeling takes over.

What could be more perfect for Ivonne and Orchidea's one off event where the theme is Dishes of Comfort.

I found this great link from Wikipedia about street food and thought it would interest you too.

I went to work trying to remember the ingredients added into the dish. I rolled up my sleeves, got out my wok and started the comfort procedure.



Music while cooking:

Sugababes - Easy - New on my iPod and a brilliant song.
EP: Easy

*Artwork and music courtesty of iTunes


Ingredients:

200g Egg Mie Noodles (in the link the ones that come close to what I used are either the chow mein noodles or the Hong Kong noodles) or any other type of Asian noodles
100 - 120g Mixed vegetable - finely sliced in julienne. I used
  • Shitake mushrooms
  • Red bell peppers
  • Bak Choy or any other cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Leek
  • Spring onion
2-3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1 onion - finely chopped
2-3 red/green chillies - finely chopped
Ketjap Manis
Soy sauce
Sambal Oelek - according to the heat you can take
Sesame seed oil
Neutral tasting oil
6 egg - beaten





Method:

Cook the Mie Noodles according to packet instructions.

In the meantime heat up your wok and add a touch of neutral oil. Add in the chopped chillies, onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the flavors have integrated well.
Throw in the julienne vegetables and mix well. Sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables start getting soft but are still crunchy.

Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Pour in soy sauce, ketjap manis and the sambal according to your taste. Mix well and covered allow for all the flavors to blend with each other, making sure you do not overcook and mixing every now and then.

In the meantime add a dash of soy sauce to the beaten eggs and make a thin omelette out of them. Cut in strips and add to the wok. Season with a dash of sesame oil.

My tips:
  • If you like cooking chinese and other Asian food as often as I do, buy fresh vegetables in larger amounts and cut these in julienne and freeze in portions. This way you simply need to take out of the freezer and add to any dish you are craving for without having to spend too much time with the preparation.
  • If you like you can add any type of meat or seafood to this. Try, chicken, beef, pork or shrimps for a different flavor each time.
  • Adding crispy fried duck breast makes this into an exquisite meal.



Verdict:
Comforting to the core. OK, we do not have the Dubai creek nor do we have the skyline. We have the comfort of our backyard and the warmth of our home to enjoy this lovely meal. It was perfect. For Soeren I made this without the heat of the chillies and he loves his noodles. He loved the flavors this style offered. Tom enjoys hot Asian food and this was a huge treat for him.
It is a quick and easy meal to prepare and has all the flavors that one craves for. Something for the entire family or just for you alone. I ate the leftovers the next day sitting on my huge sofa with a steaming bowl in my hands.

How many of you are in Bond fever? Now that was a change of subject! Well the new 007 flick premiers here next week and we are getting tickets for it. I can't wait for it. I am a die hard Bond fan since I was a kid. Have any of you already seen it?



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Mixology Monday 9: Manhattan

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There are some days when things do not really work out the way you planned. Pretty much everything you do turns out to be a mess or a chaos.

Last week, when I wanted to try out a few new things I had read about photography, I experienced such a day. I decided to mix up my chosen cocktail for this session of Mixology Monday, which is being hosted over at A Dash of Bitters and give what I had just learnt a try.

What I wanted to play around with was lighting, shadows and reflections on my photos. Alas, everything I was doing turned out wrong. I moved my equipment and position at least four times trying to get the right scene and lighting, once some of the liquid splashed out of the glass ruining one of my white backdrops and I changed the style of glasses twice because I was not satisfied with the look. Frustrating to say the least.

When finally the cherry fell off the glass I was about to throw in the towel and call it a day. I decided to shoot just one more picture. I loved it! It was the one taken above. The one below was one of the ones I was not very happy with. Here, I was trying to get some cool reflections on the liquid.

After that experience I really needed that drink. LOL!

So, what did I mix up? As the theme for this MixMo was Bitters I decided to go for something classic. I had settled for the Manhattan.

The history behind this drink is varied. A popular story is that Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome requested the bartender to mix up a special cocktail at the banquet she was hosting in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The location of the banquet was at the Manhattan Club in New York. As it turned out to be a very successful party, the drink evolved into a very fashionable cocktail and people referred to it when ordering as "the Manhattan cocktail."

Whatever the story, one thing is for sure, this cocktail has been around for centuries, originating, in the Nineteenth century.

You'll find more stories and variations to the Manhattan here.



Don't forget your dishes of thanks for the next Monthly Mingle - Give Thanks

Deadline: November 16, 2006
Please note: I will require a 75 x 75 picture of your dishes too or just send in a picture with your entry and I will resize it.



Ingredients:

4 cl Whiskey - the best type to use for this is Canadian Whiskey
2 cl Vermouth Rosso
1-2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 Maraschino Cherry
4 ice cubes





Method:

Pour all the liquids into a shaker, add the ice cubes and give it a good stir. Strain into a glass and decorate with the cherry.



Verdict:
Well when I made the cocktail, it was mid afternoon and certainly no time to drink this. But in the evening I did pour a glass for Tom and myself as we called it an evening. It is a perfect drink to relax to. The bitters really offset the sweetness of the whiskey and vermouth well and even though there are recipes that omit this, I recommend that you do not. This is a man's cocktail - simple, suave and strong.

Cheers!



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