RITU DALMIA’S ALMOND BISCOTTI

“I’m a better person when I have less on my plate.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

I was complaining, as usual, to a friend much wiser than me. I realize I’m not much of a benchmark for wisdom but don’t let that undermine her, she is in fact very wise. I was whining about how lazy I am and recently I’ve pretty much given up, put my feet up and taken to watching as deadlines swoosh by my face. It’s gotten so bad I was thinking of going on some sort of detox diet/juice cleanse.

Thankfully, I spoke to a more intelligent being before forking over a ton of cash for some ick green juice. It’s kind of silly to think of our bodies or minds as mechanical objects that will perform at the same level consistently. Add the mental and physical abuse we put ourselves through and it’s a miracle my body runs at all. When I think of the millions of minutiae that people consider impacts us and our behavior, diet of course but also exposure to sunlight, hydration and as per some, the phases of the moon, I guess I should learn to accept some of my lazy ass phases.

During the process of accepting this laziness I even managed to bake these surprisingly simple, low sugar, no butter biscotti. Perfect for pairing with a hot cup of coffee and a good book.

Makes about a dozen biscotti
Recipe adapted from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva

What you’ll need:

150g flour
150 g almonds
75 g icing sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 -2 tbsp orange zest

How to:

1. Toast the almonds in a dry pan and chop into slivers.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, vanilla and orange zest.

3. Pour the egg mixture into the flour and knead with your hands. Knead till you have a sticky dough – add a little flour to your hands if it’s getting TOO sticky.

4. Roll the dough into a ball and split the ball into quarters. Roll the quarter into a rectangular log.

5. Place on a baking tray with parchment paper or which is buttered down. Brush down the logs with the last beaten egg and bake for about 40 minutes or till golden.

 

6. Cool for about 20 minutes and then slice the loaf into biscuits. Don’t let the loaves cool for too long because you won’t be able to slice them without their crumbling.
7. Place the slices back on the baking tray and bake for 20 minutes (watching carefully to make sure the biscotti isn’t burning).
8. Remove the biscuits from the oven and let cool completely.
Foodnote: Once they’re cool, store them in an airtight container because they’ll get soggy outside.

COOKBOOK REVIEW: TRAVELLING DIVA BY RITU DALMIA

“A man at a dinner table with friends and family never really gets old.” – Italian Proverb quoted from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva
I walked into Bahri Sons in Khan Market looking for Ritu Dalmia’s Italian Khana but they only had Travelling Diva so I bought it instead. Published by Hachette in 2012 Travelling Diva is Ms. Dalmia’s fifth cookbook and covers her favorite recipes from her travels across the world. The result is an unexpected collection of recipes from Bhindi Bhojpuri to Potato Roesti to Tzatziki. While Ms. Dalmia’s wide range of recipes are a lot of fun, what you don’t end up with is a coherent anthology of choices within one type of cuisine, making it hard to plan a whole meal with just this book. The recipes span between beginner to mid level proficiency and don’t require much in the way of pantry paraphernalia.Ms. Dalmia shines when adding a twist to classics, such as her glorious Prawn Biryani and Beet Raita or when combining exciting ingredients together like in her Summer Chicken with Coffee Glaze. On the other hand some of the recipes lack luster and are almost too simplistic like Watermelon and Feta Skewers or Frozen Mango and Yoghurt Cubes (puree mango, mix with yoghurt, freeze in ice tray doesn’t qualify as a recipe).

I loved the personal travel experience Ms. Dalmia puts in before each recipe and only wish she’d shared more. Also very helpful is the section titled “My Perfect Kitchen” in which she talks about must have ingredients and other pantry essentials. Unfortunately while Ms. Dalmia includes many garnishes I loved, including some handwritten recipes, there are some basics which could have been improved on. For example not every dish has a photo, something that can really discourage a novice cook. The photos are a bit dark and the food not as well styled as I would have expected. Another major inconvenience is the way ingredient measurements are set out sometimes in grams and other times in cup measures within the same recipe needing me to pull out my scale and my cup measures for each recipe.While trying some of the recipes I found more success with the savoury dishes than the sweet, the Italian Apple Ring Cake was hard and chewy, the Red Velvet dry and the Orange Chocolate Pots didn’t really have enough orange flavor despite my using more orange than the recipe called for. On the other hand, the following went off incredibly well and I’ve covered each (with my own inputs and in my own words) on this blog:

Summer Chicken with Coffee Glaze and Hung Yoghurt Sauce
Prawns with Spinach and Raisins
Prawn Biryani
Beetroot Raita
Almond Biscotti (coming up soon!)
Carrot Cake

All in all, Travelling Diva is worth purchasing at INR 499, the recipes are relatively easy and cover an exciting range for someone looking to experiment. Ms. Dalmia’s voice is light, her personal anecdotes charming and the format very pleasant. I’ve got Chicken Balls with Tamarind Glaze, Prawn with Orange and Basil Marinade, Chicken with Lime and Thyme and Fried Salmon Patties on my personal “to cook” list and will be trying them out as soon as I get a chance.

Yeah. These Orange Chocolate Pots just didn’t work out.

 

 

 

RITU DALMIA’S SUMMER CHICKEN WITH COFFEE GLAZE AND HUNG YOGHURT SAUCE

 “Too little is it considered, while we gaze on aristocratic beauty, how much good food, soft lying, warm wrapping, ease of mind, have to do with the attractions which command our admiration.” Samuel Lover
I read somewhere recently that to be really good at something you need to be at it for 10,000 hours. That’s around 417 days, a little more than year without sleep, food or other such little distractions. It doesn’t seem like a lot of time but I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to turn 27 without making a large dent in my 10,000 hour requirement for any of the things I do. I know I write about it often but it’s because I think about it often, am I really spending my time on the important things? The things that’ll add up and count when it’s time to count. I can’t be sure. I doubt I’ll ever be.

But one of the things I’m sure of is that one of the things I’d like to be really good at is cooking. This unusual and totally exciting Summer Chicken with Coffee Glaze and Yoghurt Sauce has added 35 minutes to my 10,000 hour tank. Sweet, tangy and with deep coffee notes which perfectly complement the thickened minty, yoghurt sauce. If you’re pressed for time skip the chicken and just make the yoghurt sauce as a dip.

Serves 2
Recipe Adapted From Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva
What you’ll need:
½ kg boneless chicken
For the marinade:
½ cup strong black coffee
2 tbsp orange jam
2 -3 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
Salt
Pepper

For the sauce:
1 tsp garlic paste
2 -3 tbsp orange jam
2 cups hung curd
Mint leaves
Salt
Pepper

How to:

1. To make the marinade, plunk together the coffee, orange jam and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Beat the chicken with the marinade. I’m kidding, don’t beat the chicken but when marinating meat a wise man once told me the meat should know it’s been marinated. So work it in there and don’t bother being gentle. Leave the chicken in the fridge for atleast an hour but ideally up to overnight.
3. To cook the chicken, you can either grill it or stick it in a pan with some olive oil and on low heat. Let the chicken cook slowly, brushing occasionally with the marinade till you’re sure it’s done.
4. For the sauce, mix the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
5. Once your chicken is done, pile it on a plate and add the sauce on top. Garnish with mint leaves and serve hot.

RITU DALMIA’S CARROT CAKE

“Patience is the secret to good food.”
Gail Simmons
If the world seems too noisy, if there are too many people asking too much me, if things just aren’t going my way, I retreat to stationery and art supply stores. They’re usually quiet places and the staff know not to be pushy. How much can you push water colors anyway? There isn’t any of that annoying “Madam, try new style from Faber Castell – we have one plus one offer” nonsense. Filled with thousands of tiny implements designed to feed your creativity, help you make things from scratch, or make things more beautiful – only good things come out of art stores. Hundreds and thousands of brightly colored, good things filled with potential, waiting for you to make them your own so you can make something wonderful.
Wonderful things come out of your kitchen also, like this unvarnished, plain but pretty carrot cake – gorgeous ochre sponge filled with soft, wholesome carrot-y goodness with a playful sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.This cake recipe from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva is superb, and this is restaurant quality cake. I’ve reduced the sugar though and upped the cinnamon. Add nutmeg also if you like. Or chocolate chips. Or cream cheese frosting. Dress it up anyway you like but it’s pretty spectacular just the way it is.
I poured the batter into mini-bundt pans and filled the gap in the middle with raisins to make a little carrot cake nest.
Serves 6
Recipe adapted from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva
What you’ll need:
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp cinnamon powder
1 cup grated carrots
¼ cup chopped raisins
¼ cup chopped almonds/walnuts
2 -3 tbsp milkHow to:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and oil together till well mixed. Add eggs one at a time and keep mixing.

3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture and mix.

4. Add the carrots, raisins, nuts and milk and mix fold together. When well mixed pour into a greased tin.

5. Bake till the cake passes the toothpick test. Should be about 30 minutes. Serve warm with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

 

RITU DALMIA’S PRAWNS WITH SPINACH, ALMONDS AND RAISINS

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “appropriate” – it’s a concept that means such different things to different people but is, at the same time, such damning criticism. The moment you say something is inappropriate, not only do you shoot that thing down but also bring into question the understanding and aptitude of the person behind it. To be inappropriate is to completely fail the context you’re inhabiting.

There are some things though that are always appropriate, like a white shirt and blue jeans, solitaires, and this amazing dish of Prawns with Spinach, Almonds and Raisins. Perfectly balancing notes of raisin-y sweet with the crunch of almonds and the succulent bite of prawns. I’m in love with the ingredient pairing – you can pull this together easily but the result is so elegant and polished.

  Serves 3
Recipe adapted from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva

What you’ll need:

200 g prawns (clean)
½ kg spinach
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp garlic paste
Handful of raisins
Handful of almonds
Salt
Pepper
Squirt of lime juice
Pinch baking soda

For the marinade:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic paste
2 tbsp lime juice
Chopped Parsley/Cilantro
Salt
Pepper

How to:

1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and dunk the prawns in there for a couple of hours.

2. Remove the stem off the spinach. Put a deep pan of water to boil with the baking soda and salt and throw the spinach in when the water hits a boil. Cool for a minute and drain.

3. Transfer the spinach into a bowl of ice cold water. Drain again and chop.

4. Put the olive oil into a pan, once hot add garlic and stir. When the garlic turns golden add the prawns and let cook. When you’re sure the prawns are done, remove from pan and throw in the raisins and almonds. After a couple of minutes pop the prawns and spinach back. Season with salt and pepper and stir the whole mixture together.

5. Serve hot with a dash of lime juice and a drizzle of olive oil.