Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apple Crisp/Crumble

Among all the wonderful desserts out there, I think crisps/crumbles are quite special. While I enjoy baking, I am by no means a very proficient baker. I steer clear of recipes that call for more than 30 minutes of preparation time, since that usually translates to too many steps or calls for considerable skill, both of which increases room for error. 
   Anyway, crumbles are extremely simple to make. I actually think it is not possible to go wrong. Also, they mostly contain fruit. While I am not opposed to using fat or flour and personally love butter, I have an overpowering reluctance to use loads of it. I've tried, told myself repeatedly that I will not skimp on butter before starting on a recipe, and when it is time to unwrap the paper package containing the butter, something comes over me and I reduce the quantity. A few times, this has resulted in a non-ideal final product which I carry as a stark reminder for the next time, but as time goes by, I forget and revert to my old butter skimping ways.  
   Crumbles are low on flour and butter (or at least customizable), simple (a caveman can do it!) and fruity. A fair warning though: without a food processor, it requires a good bit of elbow grease. It took me quite a while slicing the apples and mixing the butter into the flour. 

I adapted Ina Garten' s recipe to suit my tastes.

6 medium apples, sliced ( I used Granny Smith )
2 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest
1/2 C sugar ( will reduce it to 1/3 C next time )
2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1.5 T flour
1 t ground dried ginger

1 C oats
3/4 C flour
4 T cold butter
1 t salt
1/3 C sugar

Slice the apples. Some recipes call for peeling the apples, but unless the skin is too tough, I don't think it is necessary. Add lemon juice and zest, since it prevents browning of the apples. Combine all the other ingredients for the filling and toss so that all the apples are coated with all the spices. The flour really helps, since it thickens as it cooks with the juices of the apples, making a nice sauce. Grease a pie dish with some butter and arrange the apple slices in it, and set aside.

   Cut the butter into cubes and add them to a large bowl with flour, salt and sugar. Using your fingers, break the butter into the flour until no large lumps remain. This process took me nearly 10 minutes. Next, add the oatmeal and combine thoroughly. Add handfuls of the flour-butter mixture on the apples, until they are evenly distributed.
   Bake in a 350 F oven for 1 hour, or until the topping has browned well. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before consuming.
   Apple Crumble tastes wonderful plain or you can take it up a notch by serving it with plain vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creamy Dreamy Sweet Potato Soup

I love sweet potatoes. They are so easy to cook, and are so versatile. I often roast them in the oven with oil, salt and chilli powder to make a quick side. They taste great caramelized with jaggery and a bit of ghee.. but that is another recipe! This time I added them to a soup. It reminded me quite a bit of butternut squash soup ( another favorite with me ), maybe because of the colour and the addition of cinnamon. In any case, the potatoes cooked up extremely quickly and when pureed, the soup was silky soft and creamy I fell in love with the texture immediately.

2 Large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3-4 large carrots, diced
1 medium onion, minced
2-3 stalks celery, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
2 T butter/olive oil
1/2 t dried thyme
1 t cinnamon
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t cayenne
3 C vegetable stock
1 C milk, at room temperature (optional)
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Add the chopped onions, celery, garlic and carrots with a pinch of salt and allow to cook until the onions have turned translucent, and the celery and carrots are tender. Add thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir well. Now add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potato cubes, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg and cover, allowing the contents to simmer on low-medium heat. Stir occasionally. After about 15 minutes or when the potatoes are tender, turn off the heat and allow to cool. I use an immersion blender, so I puree liquids when they are hot, but if using a regular blender, allow to cool. Add a cup of room temperature milk/dash of cream and adjust the consistency by adding more stock/water.

 Bring it back on to low heat, not allowing to boil but only heating through. Garnish with chopped cilantro.