Monday, February 17, 2014

Chocolate, Dark and Drinking, Makes Flourless Brownies

In my newly-adult, newly-baking days, I had a bit of a reputation where brownies were concerned. I would make them often and their fame spread across continents. When my cousins visited from the US and the UK during that period, they would ask me to bake brownies for them and I would. My baking days now are few and far between but I've never stopped loving brownies and love the idea of dark chocolate brownies after having made them once from a box mix. When I made these a couple of days ago, I could feel it in my bones that these moist, dark chocolate-drinking chocolate brownies would be a hit, and my bones were not wrong. They were cleaned out at work, and their numbers quite diminished when I got back home and checked the container in the fridge.

These days, the motivation to experiment comes more from a restless and guilt-induced funk to exhaust the ingredients groaning under the weight of their long wait in my kitchen rather than from an appetite or curiosity about something culinary. Very slowly, I am getting better at managing waste. I am still having to buy a few things to hasten the process of using up a few other things but this time I did not mind. I bought a slab of dark chocolate to finish my drinking chocolate. I know I will be making these brownies again. Very soon.

Recently, I cleaned out my kitchen shelves for a photo op for a 52-week project I did last year. With many sighs - of guilt and relief in varying measure - I threw away a few things. Maybe I hoped the drinking chocolate would be riddled with insects. It was not. It smelled heavenly and had not turned into a lump. While I like chocolate, I'm not a fan of it in liquid form. As it happens in my case with long-unused stuff, I do not recall why I bought the drinking chocolate. Probably because it is reputed to be a soporific, and I am a raving insomniac.

I have been thinking of flourless brownies for a few months now. Every recipe I read till my patience ran out suggested almond meal. I have made flourless cakes with it earlier but some reports about enzymes in raw almonds interfering with digestion made me wary. Moreover, as I do not get almond meal but have to make it myself, and that translates into more labour, I kept looking for ways to make brownies that used drinking chocolate as a replacement for flour and almond meal. I did not find any soon enough.

So I just launched into it myself and started looking for recipes which were close. I found this. I had all the ingredients, including the coconut oil. I was not too sure about the coconut oil though I was open to using it. One resource on the Internet said the oil had to be used in solid form, but that it should not solidify by being refrigerated. The recipe, and many other coconut oil-in-brownie recipes, called for the fat to be melted along with the chocolate. So what was I to do?

I searched for butter as a replacement for coconut oil in baking. And found out that it had to be browned before it could be used because a large part of butter is water. So I browned it, strained it and set about making the brownies.

Here's how I made the brownies:


Dark chocolate chunks: Just over 1 cup
Butter, browned: Over 1/2 a cup, less than 3/4th cup
Eggs: 5 (The ones I used were small)
Sugar: A little under 1 cup
Drinking chocolate: 1 cup
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Irish Cream: 2 or 2.5 tsp


Brown the butter and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on high for 3 minutes.

Add the butter to the chocolate and mix it lightly, it will continue to melt.

Whisk the eggs and the sugar.

Gradually, add the chocolate-browned butter mix.

Now add the drinking chocolate in ladlefuls, folding it into the mixture after every addition.

Add the salt and Irish Cream, mix.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 20-25 minutes until a knife/fork/toothpick/anything else inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fridge-Cleaner Gravy with Secret Ingredient, Oil-Free

The other day, my friend S came over for lunch. We had decided earlier to make it fuss-free so we decided on pasta. I cooked the pasta and she brought the sauce. Her sauce smelt good, exactly like the soup sachets from the US I used to ask my folks to bring me now and then. When I mentioned it to her, she began telling me how she made it.

 "Tomatoes, secret ingredient, vegetable stock, ..." she started. I stared at her but she looked like she did not even notice my staring at her. "What?" I said, a little taken aback. "Secret ingredient, stock, ..." she went on, but I interrupted.

 "You won't tell me what the secret ingredient is?" I said, hoping my voice was not going hoarse with incredulousness. Could she be witholding something so simple from me? I had only heard of people witholding recipe secrets, but did they really do it? Even as I was saying it, she said, "I'll tell you what it is after you eat it, I want you to guess."

I named a vegetable, because that was what I had used myself sometime the previous week to thicken a gravy.

"Nonsense," she said, waving her hand dismissively. We then took the food to the table and even after a couple of tries, I could not guess what it was. She then revealed it to me and all I will say is that it was a cousin of the vegetable I had myself used. I will leave it to her to start her own blog and reveal her secret ingredient, but mine is zucchini.

What happened was that I had very few vegetables besides potatoes and peas. I also had a stump of yellow zucchini (or was it green, but it doesn't matter). I didn't want to eat any more takeaway, or go out to eat, so I was bent on finding something to eat at home. I wanted to make it oil-free just for the challenge. I already have some oil-free recipes on my blog, this and this, but I wanted something else.

I wanted something wholesome. I was bummed that the bulk of it would have to be potatoes, as those were the vegetables I had in the largest quantity, but I was concerned about the fat aspects of them. Other than that, I had precisely one tomato, one shallot, half a zucchini, and some peas. I had no idea how to give bulk to the curry other than crush some potatoes.

But then I had a brainwave and decided to use the zucchini, grated.

Here's how to make a fulfilling oil-free gravy, then! And guess what? It's also grindless, if you use pre-ground ginger and garlic.

Potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, cut into medium-sized pieces – 3, medium size
Shelled peas – 1 cup

Zucchini, grated - 1 cup
Cumin - 1 tsp
Ginger-garlic paste - 2 tsp 
Shallot - 1-2, minced
Tomato – 1 medium, chopped 
Green chilli – 2 (I used a bit of red chilli paste since I had that)
Turmeric – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Tamarind - 3 small pieces

Water: 1/2 cup
Garam masala/Curry powder – to taste (Optional)

Coriander - to garnish

Note: I made those other oil-free curries a long time ago and they were different, so my recipe/method here is by trial, error, estimate and guess work. So it will be idiosyncratic and inexact.

Heat a pressure pan and put the cumin in. Once it begins to darken, add the shallot and the zucchini and saute.  You have to watch it as you do, because it can get burnt very easily.

Once it begins to change,  add the green chillies and ginger garlic paste. This is an advantage because finally there is some moisture in the pan. Saute this too.

Add the tomato and mix it well with the onion-zucchini and ginger garlic paste mix. Let it cook for a while till the tomatoes get mushy. Add the turmeric.

Add the potatoes and peas and mix well to coat with the gravy in the pan. Add the tamarind, salt, garam masala and pressure cook it for 5-7 minutes or for 3-4 whistles. You can even sprinkle the garam masala later, after opening the pressure cooker. Open the pressure cooker only after the pressure drops. If you're in a hurry, put it under a running tap till the pressure falls. Close the tap, check the weight to see if the pressure has all gone and then open it.

Garnish with fresh coriander.

You can make this curry in an ordinary pan too. It will take more time.