Tintin and Cocoa

chocolate

God bless all things chocolate.

There was a time (I’m not going to mention that it was six years back) when one could still find me gobbling up the pages of Tintin and Asterix and washing them down with cold cocoa. It was a time when I thought my curly hair cropped short was the hottest thing ever. It was a time when arguing with my Mother was the boldest thing to do ever. And a time when I used to walk like I was gliding on ice.

Yes…there was a time I used to walk like I was gliding on ice. Don’t ask me why…I have no explanation.

Lately, I’ve been hit by the Tintin bug again. Don’t know why, but I’ve pulled out all the bound up editions of the classic that I had stashed at the back of the book cabinet, with all its yellowing pages with their folded ears, glue prints left by Post-its that were used as book-marks, and the occassional coffee mug print.

I remember what was in those coffee mugs. No coffee, all cocoa…cold and chocolatey. My childhood was spent in believing that drinking chocolate simply had to have a warm milk base…there could be no cocoa without steaming mugs of milk. Its colder cousin was never something I was aware of. Seriously.

I was reluctantly introduced to it in college. At this point, I know many of you are snorting in disbelief. But its true. The laariwala (the “cocoa” cart guy) served up crushed ice dressed in a sickly-sweet green syrup and topped it with chopped cherries. Fauri and I hogged the whole thing down. The she ordered cold cocoa. I looked on in surprise and undivided curiosity when a tall glass of silky chocolate in milk turned up with a garnish of milk chocolate chips. It looked milky and was delicious. I was hooked. And spent the rest of First Year curled up with a mug of cold cocoa and enchanted by a man with weird golden hair and an even weirder pair of trousers.

cocoa

Cold Cocoa with Cayenne

Ingredients:

Four simple things –

  • 1 cup whole milk…chilled
  • 2 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper…for a stronger tang make it 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar (this is optional…if you don’t prefer the natural taste of your cocoa powder)

What to do:

Nothing much really. Throw everything together in a blender and blitz at high speed for a minute (make it a couple of minutes if bits of cocoa remain). I don’t usually seive the mixture, but if its too bitsy strain by all means for a smoother drink.

I wouldn’t mind adding half a shot of white rum to make it an adult cold cocoa!


Truffles

rain

Yep, monsoon’s still here. No more about that.

It is more than a serious problem when you’re still learning how to cook and are allergic to following recipes, at the same time. Its still manageable when either of the above is true. But when both are obvious and you happen to be adamant not to change any of it, its bound to get downright dangerous…..and hopeless.

But no, I’m not adamant or anything. I’m more than willing to actually follow one of the recipes out of one of the many brilliant cookbooks I have. I’m just plain lazy. Every time I start with one, some tiny voice inside me wrecks havoc till I tweak the recipe in some way or the other. And I would rather learn the hard way. The really hard way. Doing what I do is hazhardous. You could end up with burnt pots, singed palms, cut-up fingertips, dish towels on fire and sometimes food without seasoning in it. There have also been times when I’ve had to feel my way through thick smoke just to get to the stove-top.

I’ve heard Aditya declare (for about the millionth time) how he follows a cookbook recipe word for word the first time, and then experiment with it in his own sweet time and come up with something new and different.

Liar. They’re always the same and never any different.

 I once fed cold macaroni tossed with tomatoes and cloves of garlic, all raw, uncooked, mashed up together in a sad brass mortar and pestle. It was horrible. And that’s an understatement. The mortar and pestle led a brassy taste to the tomatoes and along with the strong garlicky twang, not to mention the undercooked pasta that stuck to your teeth, the outcome was so puke-worthy that I was banned from my friends’ kitchens for the next four months. They begged me to learn how to cook knowing what a champion-eater and mess-creator I have been all my life.

At the time, I was using this blog as a showcase for my graphical endeavors and writing about college. Everything changed when I called up my Mother and asked her to guide me through a simple meal of eggplant curry with cut-up sausages! Then came okra and brown rice. That’s right…I couldn’t boil rice to save my life. My mother was too kind to guide me through basics.

Out came the digital camera, out oozed some fatty brainwaves, 18 months later and I’m still struggling to be moderately good at whipping up a decent meal.

This weekend I tried to relive last year’s Diwali truffle-happiness. Recovering from a relapse of typhoid can punch quite a lot of air out of you. But the truffles were worth the effort — they always are. Three sorts, not much work, a whole lot of mess and gastronomical divinity in the end.  I don’t know why I keep putting myself down as a cook….these truffles rocked, you know.

dark chocolate truffles

Dark Chocolate Truffles

What you need:

  • 1 and half cups dark chocolate (70%), chopped into approximately equal sized peices
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (optional…I like my truffles to be distinctly bitter so I didn’t add any)
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper for the Chili Truffles
  • 20ml espresso shot, for the Coffee Truffles
  • 20ml dark (or white) rum, for the Coconut and Rum Truffles
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • Cocoa powder for coating

How-to:

  • Divide the chopped chocolate equally into three glass bowls.
  • Heat the cream till its almost about to boil. At this point, you can add in the sugar, if necessary, and stir to dissolve it in the cream. Take it off the heat and pour equal amounts into each bowl carrying the chocolate.
  • Let the mixtures stand for 60 seconds, before gently stirring them(from center towards the edge) till all the chocolate has melted.
  • Add the cayenne pepper to the first mixture and stir in gently. Add the espresso to the second and rum to the third and gently stir. Cover each bowl with cling film and chill in the freezer for about a couple of hours or till the ganache has set.
  • Set each bowl in an ice-bath(so the ganache doesn’t melt) turn by turn. Use a spoon or a scooper to scoop out the chocolate and roll into truffle balls. I spread cocoa powder and rolled the chili truffles in them to coat. The rum truffles were rolled in dessicated coconut.
  • Don’t forget to eat ’em!

 

truffles

Cashew & Cheese Cakelets

“But this is plain !” complained my brother with his eyebrows knit closely together. He put the piece of sponge cake back on the plate and pushed it away. Yes, I know…he pushed away cake!

This is what happens when you whip up desserts too often in our household. Everybody gets used to it and expects everything to be stuffed with nuts, or smothered in chocolate or topped with fruity cream. Whatever happened to enjoying the good ol’ plum cake with tea or a plain vanilla sponge cake, for that matter?

On my mother’s request, (why does she have to be so partial towards her son…that kid has it easy, I tell you…not fair at all!) I set to make one of my favorites of all times – Cashew & Cream Cheese Cakelets.

Usually, we’ve always liked it with ice-cream or some kind of jam/jelly glazing on top; this time I’ve dunked them in a crème fraîche bath.

For each cakelet:

1 egg

– 60gms all-purpose flour

– 2 tablespoons ground cashew nuts

– 50gms unsalted butter

– 3 tablespoons cream cheese

– 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (thick, hung, sour curd would do too)

– 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 350° C. Blitz all the ingredients in a processor till nice and smooth. Fill greased ramekins with the batter and bake for 15-20 minutes. You could also bake the batter in parts to make layered cakelets, like I did. Cool the cakelets in their ramekins, on the rack.

The icing (and filling) is a plain ganache, made by heating double cream with sugar and cocoa powder in equal parts. Add whipped cream or ice-cream with a sprinkling of chopped cashews before serving.

And I swear, I’m never baking again! Ever!

People just have to get use to plain old fruit cake now.