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Monday, July 23, 2012

A birthday celebration


     I've been planning my husband's birthday for months.  Although I'd already given him his present two months earlier - a day of dolphin interaction and swimming at Orlando's Discovery Cove attraction park - I wanted to prepare a special meal on the actual date.  I wreaked my cookbooks trying to find some sort of fusion, if one must, between Indian flavours and Western ones.

     A friend of mine whom I lost contact with left once at my place a book called Quiches, pies and tarts.  I love all of those, either sweet or savoury, and there is one in particular I had always planned to make, ever since I started dating Pakistani men: Indian dhal pies.  As it happens, I was planning to make it for my ex-boyfriend’s birthday, but my present husband benefited from it, as well he should.  You will need to collect some special ingredients, like besan flour and masoor dhal (or red lentils), and add one or two spices to your spice rack, that is if you don’t already have them.  It bears mentioning that, although the recipe does not call for salt, I added a pinch of it to the dhal mixture, yet it could very well have done without it as one really does not miss it.  These pies also freeze very well, so if you plan to do so, stop just short of the shredded cheese.  Place them on a plaque in the freezer for about an hour or so, until moderately hard, then transfer to an insulated bag to complete the process.

Here’s the recipe for 6 individual pies:

Ingredients:
*      10 oz. potato, diced
*      14 oz. butternut squash, diced
*      2 carrots, chopped
*      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*      2 oz. broccoli florets
*      1 onion, chopped
*      1 tsp. ground turmeric
*      1 tsp. garam masala
*      1 tsp. ground cumin
*      2 cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar
*      1 tsp. black mustard seeds
*      ½ cup red lentils
*      2/3 cup grated Cheddar
*      ¼ cup thick yoghurt
*      2 cups besan flour
*      1/3 cup milk powder (preferably skim)
*      4 oz. cold butter, diced
*      1 egg, lightly beaten
*      Baking beads


Preparation:

1 – Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Place the potato, butternut squash and carrot on a plaque and drizzle with the olive oil.  Bake for 40 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.  Steam the broccoli for 3 to 5 minutes.

2 – Cook the onion in a little oil until soft.  Add the spices, garlic and mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute.  Wash the lentils several times in cold water, then add to the mixture along with 1 cup of water.  Bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are soft.



3 – Grease the six fluted loose-based tins. Process the flour, milk powder and butter for 15 seconds until crumbly.  If you don’t have a food processor, just rub the mixture between your fingers until it becomes crumbly.  When it comes together, turn out, gather into a ball and roll out to line the tins.  Cover with baking beads and bake for 7 minutes.  Remove the paper and the beads and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Allow to cool.





The final product, with a side of Green
Goddess cole slaw.



4 – Divide the lentil dhal among the pastry shells, top with the roast vegetables, broccoli and Cheddar.  Bake the pies for 5 minutes to melt the cheese and top with a little plain thick yoghurt to serve.







     To complete the birthday celebration I decided on a truly Indian sweet instead of the proverbial cake.  Indian sweets are, to my taste, generally unimpressive, but when I saw this dish being prepared by Chef Anjum Anand in her cooking show, my taste buds were asserting it will be worth a try.  A creamy, pale yellow cream, Shrikhand (or Sweet Saffron yoghurt), is one of the main desserts in Maharashtrian and Gujarati cuisine.  A festive dish kept for special occasions, it’s basically sweetened thick yoghurt with a bit of nuts, some fruit and silver leaf for decoration, very refreshing for a hot summer day. 

     Edible silver leaf is not easy to find here in America (not even in Asian stores) and if you do, it will cost a bundle.  Here’s where I got mine from http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Silver-Leaf-Square-Sheets/dp/B000YHCZWA/ref=cm_pdp_srp_title_2.  After all, this was indeed a special occasion.

This recipe, which will render approximately 4 servings, should be started the night before and finished about half an hour prior to assembly.

Shrikhand is delicious and refreshing.


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