Sunday, September 05, 2010

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Caramel Apple Pie

We picked our own apples and peaches last weekend from Larriland Farms (which you should totally visit) if you live near Baltimore. Since we got a lot of apples, we decided to bake an apple pie. Curiously, even though apple pie is an American cultural symbol, it did not originate in the US, and was consumed long before the European colonization of the US (ref). Let us now move on to the recipe:

Ingredients (serves 6)
For pie crust: (you can completely skip this part if you use store bought pie crusts)
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces (about 1.5 sticks)
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp ice cold water
pinch of salt

For caramel:
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup heavy cream (we actually used milk since we did not have heavy cream)
a few drops vanilla essence

For filling:
5 medium sized apples (we used Gala Apples)
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon


We first make the pastry crust. In a large bowl, combine, the flour, salt and the pieces of butter slowly. It is recommended that you use a pastry blender, but since we don't have one, I simply used my hands. Crush any pieces of butter into the flour till they are mixed in fairly well. There will be a lot of clumps at this point. Add the egg yolks and continue to mix. At this point, the dough will start coming together. Add the ice-cold water slowly, taking care not to make the dough too wet. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
Meanwhile, peel and slice the apples thin and store them in a bowl full of water and the juice of one lemon to prevent them from browning.

Next, we make the caramel sauce. In a pot, add the sugar and water, and keep stirring on medium heat till all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from flame, and add the cream and wine slowly. Return to heat and add the vanilla essence. Continue to cook till the quantity is halved. Keep aside.

Now we make the pie crust. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to cool for about 15 minutes till the dough is pliable enough to be rolled. Cut the dough into two separate balls. On a wooden board, roll out the dough balls on a floured wooden board into flat circles large enough to cover your pie pan. Lay one of them flat inside the pie pie pan and press it tight.

Strain the apples from the lemon-water and keep aside. In a large bowl, add the flour and cinnamon powder. Add the apples and toss them well till they are coated with the flour-cinnamon mixture. Now place a layer of apple slices on the bottom of the pastry. Shingle the slices so as to reduce any gaps. Pour some of the caramel sauce evenly on the apples. Now place more apples and repeat the process.

Place the second pastry circle on top of the pie to make the top layer of the pie crust. Cut slits on top of the pie so that steam can escape. Now, ideally you should cover the pie with the pastry layers and pinch the sides so that they are sealed. Unfortunately in my case, I had one store bought crust, and I made the other one myself. So the two of them were not the same size. I realized that this is not a very bad thing as my pie still turned out great.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pie pan into the oven. Cover it lightly with a piece of folded aluminum foil. This is called foil tenting, and is done so that the crust does not cook faster than the apples. Bake on middle rack for 25 minutes. Remove the foil tent and cook for about 30 more minutes till the top crust is cooked and the pie is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at-least 1 hour, else the pie will break apart.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homemade Guacamole and Chips

Few snacks are as wholly satisfying as guac and tortilla chips.

For tortillas:
4 tortillas (pick your favourite)
2-3 tsp cooking oil (your favourite)

Stack the tortillas and coat one side of each with a little oil. Cut them into sections using a pizza cutter. Lay the pieces on a baking tray and bake them in an oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Flip them over halfway through and check that they are not getting burnt. Repeat if necessary. Healthy tortilla chips.

For guacamole:
4 avocados, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 tomato diced
1 onion finely chopped
juice of one lemon (optional)
1 tsp mexican hot sauce
salt to taste

Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl....squoosh to the desired consistency. There you go!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My new santoku knife

I don't even remember the time when I started dreaming about a good kitchen knife. I recently bought a set of four knives with a knife block, but the past several days, I have been drooling over the idea of owning a santoku knife. I checked out a couple of them in the stores and the price range was very broad. I have never used one before, so I wanted to try out a moderately priced one to see if I really like it, before investing in a more expensive one.

I bought one this evening, and loved using it for the first time. I think one of my favourite parts is how you can scoop up cut veggies into your hand using the knife.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tamale Pie

This is a real comfort food recipe and a very easy one to make. I tried looking for the provenance of the recipe, but was not really able to find anything concrete. Drop me a line if you know about its origins. This dish is usually cooked with ground beef, but we decided to use ground chicken instead.

1 store bought pack of ground chicken
1 store bought pie crust
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 large onion
2 tsp freshly ground cumin powder
3/4 cup fresh corn
1 red bell pepper diced
1 cup tomato sauce (puree)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp hot sauce
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan, and add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute till the onions are translucent. Add the cumin powder and sauté for a minute. Add the ground chicken and keep stirring till the minced chicken is white. Continue to stir making sure there are no lumps. Add the diced bell pepper, corn and tomato sauce and stir well till the tomato sauce is well soaked into the mixture. Add the hot sauce and cook for a minute.

Carefully arrange the pie crust in a baking tray/vessel. Pour the mixture on to the crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Top with the shredded sharp cheddar and bake for 10 more minutes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Homemade Kulfi

This is an improvisation on a brilliant mango ice-cream recipe that we have tried and loved. With a cool improvisation, it turns into an awesome kulfi recipe.


1 can condensed milk
1 and a half cans evaporated milk
1 box cool whip
half cup almonds, pistachios and cashews
1 tsp ground cardamoms

Grind the dry-fruits in a food processor into a fine consistency. Mix all ingredients together along with the ground dryfruits in a large vessel till they form a thick smooth paste. Make sure there are no lumps. Freeze for at least 8 hours. Garnish with raisins.

PS: For the original mango ice-cream recipe, replace the evaporated milk with a tin of mango pulp (aamras), and avoid the dryfruits. I promise, it is the best mango ice-cream I have ever eaten.

Friday, August 13, 2010

modprobe for tun driver failed

My school uses the Juniper Network Connect client software to provide a VPN solution. So the typical usage scenario is that you go to and login with your credentials. Then you click on the start button against the network connect. Then it installs a java client on your machine and you are connected to the school network, and all is dandy.

This was working fine till I installed Linux Mint 9 Isadora on my laptop and one fine day it just stopped working for me. Every time it would try to install the client, I would get an error message saying:

modprobe for tun driver failed

I searched for solutions online and I found this:
The guy is providing a custom script to help you install the client on your machine, but I realized that I did not have to go so far. I also found some people saying that the juniper client has had issues with openjdk on certain linux systems. So I went ahead and uninstalled openjdk from my box:
$ sudo apt-get remove openjdk-6-jre

Next I installed sun's jdk and browser plugin:
sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-plugin
I restarted the browser, went back to, and everything started working fine, even though I continued to get the modprobe error.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Dum Biryani

I decided to make the vegetable biryani because I was catering to at-least one vegetarian. So here goes...

सामग्री (serves 8 )

3 cups basmati rice
3 medium sized potatoes
3 large carrots
half a cauliflower
2 large onions
1.5 cups yoghurt (dahi)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp whole garam masala (corriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black cardamom, know, the whole shebang)
1 tsp haldi powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp pulav/biryani masala (store bought...or if you are adventurous, you can make your own)
half cup finely chopped cilantro (hara dhania)
half cup finely chopped mint leaves (hara pudina)
salt to taste


  • First of all, soak the basmati rice in warm water for at-least one hour in advance. Finely slice the onions and fry them in adequate quantity of oil till they acquire a dark brown color. Keep it aside. In the meantime, chop all the vegetables into bite size pieces. (make them larger than usual i.e. if you are cooking a sabzi)

  • In a large pan or kadhai, add some oil. When the oil gets hot, add the whole garam masala and saute for a couple of seconds. Add some jeera, and ginger garlic paste. Now add the chopped vegetables.  Add the red chilli powder, haldi powder, biryani masala and salt to taste. Saute for 5 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally. Add half the quantity of yoghurt, and half the quantity of the chopped mint and cilantro. Make sure that all the pieces of vegetables are coated nicely. We need to cook these vegetables to about 70-80%. Try to cut into a piece of potato. It should not be too hard, and at the same time, don't allow them to cook all the way.

  • In another pan, bring a quart of water to a rolling boil. Add some oil, and some whole garam masala to the water. Add the pre-soaked rice to the water. We need to cook this rice to about 70-80%. This will take only about 3-4 minutes in the boiling water since the rice has been soaked for an hour (keep checking the rice). Drain the excess water and keep the rice aside.

  • Now comes the part where we layer the vegetables and the rice in a medium sized container (I found the pressure cooker container to be ideal size for this). Add half the rice to the cooker. Add a little more than half of the cooked vegetables on top of the rice. Add the rest of the yoghurt on top. Heat this up a little on low flame while mixing it up nicely. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Add a layer of the fried onions.

  • Now add all but a little of the remaining rice on top of the onions. Stack the remaining cooked vegetables on top of the rice, and add the rest of the chopped onions.  Finally top with the last bit of the rice. Garnish with the remaining chopped mint and cilantro

  • Cover the cooker with a flat plate, and seal the edges with a bit of dough. Place this vessel into a double boiler as shown in the image below. Cook on medium flame for 30 minutes.

  • Open the cooker after 30 minutes to a beautiful aroma.

  • Serve with boondi raita (recipe for that in another post).