Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies for SABH

This month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme is Childhood Favourites, hosted by Sophie from the Sticky and the Sweet. The theme set my mind racing.  After all, aren’t we all spoilt for choice when it comes to the sweets we were introduced to as kids? For me as a small child in India, there were gems (Indian equivalent of Smarties), 5-Star Chocolate bars, Amul Pista ice-cream and countless traditional Indian sweets.  When I moved to Australia, there was even more sugary goodness to be discovered and toffee apples, Chupa Chups, push pops, Buffalo Bill ice-creams and Jelly Pythons came into the picture.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 2

It is a special quality of childhood enjoyments that often when we try them as adults, we either don’t quite enjoy them as much, or we do but are old enough to know how appallingly lacking in nutrition they are (I’m talking to you, sherbies and redskins!).

So I decided to choose something that I would happily indulge in even now, and not just for the sake of nostalgia.  Two things, to be precise.  The first is that bubbly pastry pocket of lava-hot goodness, the McDonalds Apple Pie.

The second is a South Indian dessert that my mum has made for as long as I can remember.  It is mostly made as a religious offering on festival days a few times a year, making it all the more appealing.  Sliced bananas are tossed in jaggery (unrefined Indian brown sugar), cardamom and fresh grated coconut.  Sometimes a little saffron or a handful of raisins and cashews are sprinkled in.  It is good fresh, amazing half an hour later and a sludgy, syrupy mess the day after, if it even makes it that far.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 1

I used apples instead of bananas for two reasons.  They stand up better when baked in pastry than do bananas, and I had an abundance of them after going apple picking in Bilpin last week.  So it was that two desserts from my two worlds came together in these hand pies.

The pastry was the trusty sour cream pastry from Smitten Kitchen that I have now used several times because it is so good.  In hindsight though, a traditional, thinner shortcrust pastry may have suited these pies better, although I’m certainly not complaining abut the outcome.  The apple pie filling was enhanced by the coconut and almost caramel-like jaggery, with a bite of cardamom just to remind me exactly where I’m from.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 3

Apple, Coconut and Jaggery Hand Pies

Makes 12-15

Get:

Filling:
5 or 6 small red apples, diced (I used Aussie Royal Galas)
1 ½ cups (about 300g) of firm Jaggery
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
The insides of 15-18 cardamom pods, powdered
Generous pinch saffron strands

3 quantities of this pastry (leave out the ajwain and cumin seeds and only use 1/2 the amount of salt)

Make:

Toss the filling ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit for 10-20 mins.

Roll out the pastry to 4-5mm thickness.  Cut out shapes of your choice.  I went for squares, so I cut strips of pastry that were about 25 cm x 10cm.  I spooned the filling into the middle of one side of the pastry, leaving the edges clear.  I then folded the pastry over to cover the filling.

Use your fingers, then a fork to press around the edges.  Place the pastries in the fridge again for about 20 mins.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 C.

Place the tray of pastries in the oven and bake for about 20-25 mins or until the pastry is crisp and cooked.

Apple coconut jaggery pies 4

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Bounty Bar Popsicles for SABH (Low-Fructose)

Bounty bar popsicles 1

I’ve ditched the sugar again and apart from a couple of planned (and one unplanned) cheat days, I have been well on track.  After I fell off the wagon towards the end of last year, I made a decision to quit the white stuff again in the new year.  Isn’t it funny how we consider new years eve such a major milestone in our decisions?  As if on the 1st of January we somehow get that extra push we need to make a positive change in our lives.  Really, it’s just another date, isn’t it?

So I’ve taken on a slightly different frame of mind now.  This time around, it is all about what I deserve….remember we talked about that?  From a health point of view, what I deserve is a healthy, well nourished body that I fill with goodness.  After all, you can’t expect to get the best from this vehicle that has been assigned to you in this life unless you give it the very best care, no?

And so it is that the menacing ‘I MUST LOSE WEIGHT’  has been replaced by ‘I deserve to be happy with myself, inside and out and a positive step towards that is to be slimmer and healthier’.  Is that not much kinder, friends?

Like any affirmation, it is to be repeated.  We humans are creatures of habit and our mental patterns, created over years, take gentle persistence to break.  So I remind myself daily of my decision to ensure I have what I deserve and try not to berate myself too much when I slip up.

Try it, dear friends.  Let’s treat ourselves with kindness, and the universe will do the same.

Bounty bar popsicles 3

I was a tad excited when this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme of Popsicle Party was announced.  This month it is hosted by the lovely Swah from Love Swah. 
These chocolate covered, coconut popsicles are a frozen, low-sugar version of the Bounty Bar, a popular Australian chocolate bar.  If you want them to be dairy free, leave out the yoghurt but the result will be a harder popsicle.

Bounty bar popsicles 4

Bounty Bar Popsicles (Low-fructose)

Makes 6-8 depending on size of moulds

Get:

270 ml (1 tin) full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup Greek yoghurt
4 tbsp rice syrup
1/2 cup frozen fresh grated coconut
150g good quality dark chocolate

Make:

 Whisk all ingredients together except for the chocolate.

Pour into popsicle moulds.

Freeze until set.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts, stirring in between.

Dip  the popsicle moulds in hot water to loosen, then dip the popsicles one by one into the dark chocolate or paint it on with a pastry brush.

When the chocolate has set, place back in the popsicle moulds (they won’t fit as well) and in the freezer until ready to eat.

Notes:
Frozen coconut is available at Indian grocers.
I had a little mixture left as I have small popsicle moulds, and I poured this into an ice cube tray to throw into my smoothies.

Bounty bar popsicles 2

Is it just me or……..

…….are artichokes the most daunting thing ever?  Where did they come from anyway? It’s like some little green martian accidentally dropped one out of his backpack whilst here scoping the earth as a potential new colony for his martian people (meople?).

And actually, the martians use them as war missiles but us crazy humans saw them growing everywhere and thought eating them would be a great idea.  Meanwhile, the little green people are looking down at this funny little planet with its strange inhabitants that are inexplicably making dip out of their weapons.

Blueberries

And I’m surely not the only one who collapses into fits of giggles every-time that meerkat ad airs.  Seriously? I barely even know what they are advertising since I’m usually rolling on the floor by the time they get to the point.

Oh and I can’t be alone in thinking that celebrity is no excuse to try out ludicrous names on your children.  Is anyone else waiting for poor little North West’s parents to announce that it was all just a silly joke and that they actually named her Jane?

Please tell me it’s not just me….

Meringue 3

Also, is anyone else completely in awe that if you whip egg whites long enough and fast enough, they transform into snowy peaks?  The science geek in me is secretly excited every time this happens…..the denaturing of proteins to turn slimy egg whites into glorious edible snow.

And furthermore, you can sweeten and flavour this almost solid white froth and bake it to crispy-chewy mounds.  Mounds that you can top with cream, syrup, fruit or whatever you fancy and call it dessert!

Meringue 1

Oh yes, the theme of this month’s Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, hosted by Claire K Creations, was Meringue Madness so I just had to try my hand at fructose-free meringues.  I replaced caster sugar with dextrose and although they bled a bit, this didn’t seem to affect them in the end and they were pretty darn good.  You could flavour these with whatever essence takes your fancy (I intend to try rosewater next time) and top them just about anything.  I went with this fructose-free lemon curd, some cream and some lovely fresh blueberries.

Meringue 4

Fructose-free Meringues

Makes 6

Modified from Donna Hay Magazine

Get:

4 egg whites
1 cup dextrose powder
1 tsp white vinegar

Make:

Preheat the oven to 120 C.

Beat egg whites initially on low speed, then on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Drizzle in vinegar and any flavouring, and sprinkle in dextrose bit  by bit, beating briefly with each addition.  Beat until sugar is completely incorporated.

Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone mat and grease lightly.  Dollop large scoops of the mixture onto the tray and flatten out slightly.  Bake on the middle shelf for 40 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave them in there to cool for an hour or so.

Top with whatever you like and serve.

Meringue 2

Chocolate-Drizzled Macaroon Cookies for August SABH

I spend a lot of time in my own little world. Call it a Piscean trait or an only child thing that la-la land seems to be a second home for me.

It’s nice up there you know, and for the most part I have no complaints.  But being somewhat of a space cadet leads to some muddled and sometimes embarrassing effects.

Macaroon Cookies 4

There was that time during my primary school days in Mumbai.  It was a Tuesday and I somehow had it in my seven year old mind that it was a Wednesday, a day when school finished at noon.  So little me waited at the school gates for my mum, slightly puzzled as to why I wasn’t surrounded by the usual crowd of kids waiting and parents collecting.

To add insult to injury, despite normally being a perfectly angelic student, I was reprimanded for my confusion and wound up utterly humiliated!

Macaroon Cookies 1

Last week, the days of the calendar jumped around without any warning again.  I got my Mondays mixed up and posted this Indian spiced cookie recipe for Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, hosted by The Sticky and Sweet.  Seconds after I hit publish, I realised that SABH week was actually this week!

My embarrassment was significantly soothed with the realisation that two batches of cookies can only be better than one.  So I set about to put together another batch.

Macaroon Cookies 3

This is a macaroon like cookie- not the fancy schmancy high maintenance French macarons that are currently on a mission for world dominance.  No, this is like the much simpler coconut macaroon but with other good things added in.

Think of the egg whites as merely a vehicle for all the awesome nuttiness.   You can totally personalise these.  Add almost whatever you want- other nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.  The original recipe which is the inspiration for this uses chunks of marzipan.  If you want this to be totally fructose-free, leave out the cranberries and use unsweetened or fructose-free chocolate.

Chocolate-drizzled Macaroon Cookies

Inspired by these cookies from The Tiffin Box

Makes 20-25

Get:

4 egg whites
1/2 cup rice syrup and honey
1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup cranberries
10-12 squares dark chocolate

Make:

Preheat the oven to 150 C.

Roast the almonds on a baking tray for about 15 mins.  Allow to cool and chop roughly.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Fold in the syrup gently.  Sift in the almond meal.  Add the coconut, almonds and cranberries and fold all the ingredients together gently, being careful to preserve as much of the lightness as possible.

Line 2 or 3 baking trays with baking paper and grease the paper for insurance purposes.  Place tablespoon sized dollops of the batter on the paper with about 2 cm between dollops.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies have browned a little.  Allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a Bain Marie or double boiler, or in the microwave in 20-30 second bursts.  Using a fork, drizzle the cookies with chocolate.

Macaroon Cookies 2

Speaking of lemons….

…..there are still a few kicking around in my fridge.  They are a little softer than they were a week ago and I finally made myself throw out their leaves and thorns.

The thorns just amp up the coolness factor of all this.  Don’t think you can just reach in and grab the luminous fruit whenever it pleases you.  As lovely as they look, the tree doesn’t give them up without a fight and you are likely to get jabbed in the finger by that crafty defence mechanism.

You won’t see it coming of course, not with your eyes fixated on those shiny skinned lemons.  They will be yours eventually but don’t expect the tree to give in without a fight.

Nankhatai 2

I squeezed and zested as many as I could and although I can use the juice gradually, I was aware that I needed to use the zest pretty quickly.  Lemon zest, by the way, is my current favourite ingredient.  There is only so much lemon curd one needs to have in the fridge so that wasn’t an option.

Nankhatai 1

With perfect timing, the August Sweet Adventures Blog Hop was announced, hosted by Sophie from The Sticky and Sweet.  Cookies are the name of the game this month and I decided to try and make a biscuit that has been on my mind lately.

(Let’s just pretend for now that it’s perfectly normal to have baked goods on one’s mind.)

The biscuit in question is nankhatai, a traditional Indian cookie that is almost shortbread like in texture.  The chickpea flour gives it it’s richness and mouth-coating quality.  Semolina provides little spots of crunch and substance in an otherwise buttery crumbly world.  That lemon zest found it’s calling in my version and joined pistachio and cardamom to flavour what turned out to be a gorgeous tea-time biscuit.

I just love it when a plan comes together.

Nankhatai 4

Lemon and Pistachio Nankhatai

Modified from this recipe

Makes 28-30

Get:

180g butter at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
Zest of 1 1/2 lemons, finely grated
Insides of 8-10 cardamom pods
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups besan (chickpea) flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup coarse semolina
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup pistachio kernels

Make:

Preheat the oven to 175 C.

Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, powder the cardamom and white sugar together.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and lemon zest with the sugar and the cardamom/sugar powder.

In a separate bowl, sift all the flours, baking powder and salt together.  Grind the pistachios very coarsely so that there are still lots of small pieces rather than a powder.  Add this to the flours and stir through.

Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and combine with a spatula.  You will then have to get your (clean) hands in there to form a dough. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth.  If it is too sticky, put it in the fridge for about 10 mins. Knead again for a minute.

Form tablespoon sized balls.  Roll between your palms and flatten a little.  Mine were 3-4 cm in diameter and about 1.5 cm thick.  Press down in the middle with your thumb to make an indentation.  Lay the cookies out on baking trays lined with baking paper.  Leave 2-3 cm between cookies as they will spread.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 16-20 mins.  The cookies are done when they have spread a little and are browned at the top and bottom.  They will be soft initially but will crisp up after they cool.

Nankhatai 3

Steamed Chai Puddings for my first SABH

The tea cupboard is straining at its hinges with boxes and boxes of tea bags.  That’s right, a tea cupboard because we surpassed the tea chest long ago.

A recent trip to India resulted in a tea frenzy which means that there are now enough herbal teas to feed an army of detox-ers.  Several types of Tulsi tea, a mint tea, a terribly sharp ginger tea and masala tea, plus an un-labelled one that I dubbed ‘mystery tea’.

Chai Pud 3

As well, I was given some incredibly good quality black loose leaf tea by a friend.  It was grown on his parents’ tea estate at a hill station in a beautiful part of south India. This friend grew up surrounded by rolling hills of a lush green carpet as far as the eye can see, at the top of a mountain with no mobile phone reception and little in the way of entertainment.  He tells tales of encountering wild animals in the front garden.  A tiger lurking among the bushes.  A leopard slinking along the rows of tea.

The wild bison he says, with mild annoyance, eat the roses that his mother painstakingly cultivates.

And we listen in awe, myself a city baby to the core (Mumbai, Sydney, London).  To me these stories are almost from another world, one where fresh mountain air is abundant, Wi-Fi is but a pipe dream and wildlife roams unhindered in the garden.

Chai

For weeks I have wanted to create something beautiful using that fragrant loose leaf black tea.  Something other than, well, tea.  When I stumbled across the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop event with its current theme of Sweet Surprise, I knew I had to come up with something that incorporated the tea and pushed my boundaries in the kitchen.

Chai Pud 4

It is no secret that I adore using chai spices in sweets (like here and here).  So it was that the idea of chai puddings came into being.  And since I have always been a little intrigued by the idea of steaming, instead of baking, puddings I decided give it a go.  This is a steamed English pudding recipe, delicately infused with the flavour of good tea and spiced up with ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.  I used a bamboo steamer for these but you could easily fashion one using a colander and a pot lid.  I decided to make mini puddings, which I feel are the perfect serve of soft, warm, fragrant sponge.  And the surprise? Well, you might just have to keep reading…………

Chai Pud 5

Steamed Chai Puddings with a Caramel Surprise

Makes 4 or 5 mini puddings

Caramel Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Pudding recipe modified from Notebook Magazine, August 2009, via www.taste.com.au

Get:

Caramel:

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter in small pieces
1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream

 Pudding:

1/2 cup milk
6 cardamom pods
1/2 vanilla bean split with seeds scraped out
3 tsp good quality powdered loose leaf black tea
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4cm ginger, grated
70g butter at room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup Self-Raising flour
1 tbsp rice malt syrup or golden syrup

Make:

For the Caramel:

In a small non-stick saucepan on low-moderate heat, melt the sugar.  Remember when melting sugar, you want to just agitate the saucepan rather than stirring the melting sugar as that will cause it to crystallise.

Take the saucepan off the heat and add the butter- stir until the butter melts and it is somewhat incorporated (it will not blend completely).  Then, add the cream and return to the heat.  Boil on low-moderate heat until it becomes a dark golden colour and reaches the soft-ball stage. To test this, drop a pit of the caramel into a cup of cold water.  If a soft ball forms that you can actually pick up, it is ready.

Pour the caramel onto a plate lined with grease-proof paper and place in the freezer for 20-30 mins. When set, form the caramel into little balls about the size of a large olive.

For the Puddings:

Grease the mini ramekins well.  Line them with grease-roof paper.  Boil about 1 1/2 L of water in a large saucepan or in the kettle.

In a medium saucepan, place the milk, tea, vanilla (seeds and shell), half of the ginger, 5 of the cardamom pods, crushed (seeds and pods) and the cinnamon.  Bring to the boil and simmer on low heat for about 10 mins.  Take off the heat and place in the fridge to cool and infuse.  Once cooled, strain into another cup.  You will be using 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp of this milky tea.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric beater or a whisk and a powerful arm.  Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Powder the seeds of the remaining cardamom pod and add this along with the other half of the grated ginger.  Add the milky tea (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) and the flour in alternating batches, stirring in between.  Stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated.  You can use the electric beater for this.

Fill the ramekins with the mixture to about 1/2 cm from the top.  Place in the steamer and place the steamer on top of a large saucepan half filled with boiling water.  Try and ensure it is a fairly tight fit.  Put the lid on the steamer and cook on moderate heat.  After about 20 mins, remove the lid and push on one of the puddings with your finger- if it is cooked with a spongy consistency, push a caramel ball into the centre of each pudding so that is about 1/2 cm below the edge of the ramekin.  Cook a little longer before inserting the caramel if it is undercooked. The pudding would have risen well above the rims of the ramekins.  Put the steamer lid back on and steam for a further 5-8 mins.

Allow the puddings to cool slightly, then run a knife along the top of the ramekin to remove the overhang.  Eat the overhang immediately before anyone else gets wind of it.

Run the knife around the edge of the pudding to loosen.  Tip the puddings onto a plate or serve in the ramekin with some cream or vanilla ice cream.

Notes:

I used these little stainless steel cups I had that are 6 cm in diameter and 4 cm high.  Mini ramekins would also work well.  Or double the pudding recipe (the caramel amount should be adequate) and use normal sized ramekins, with larger caramel balls.

If using small cardamom pods, use two in the pudding mixture instead of one.Chai Pud 2