Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Instant Indian Cookbook Review


Indian cooks have discovered the Instant Pot and how well it works for Indian cuisine—it can be used to cook everything from rice to yogurt to complex layered meat and vegetable dishes. There are at least 10 Indian Instant Pot cookbooks on Amazon at the moment, and I suspect there are more e-books out there on the topic as well. There are also a ton of blogs that focus on Indian recipes made in the Instant Pot.

I recently purchased an Instant Pot but had never used it. I tried it out with a recipe from Instant Indian: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot! By Rinku Bhattacharya. The recipe I chose was Cozy Butter Chicken. The instructions for this dish were incredibly clear, so much so that I was able to make this dish without having ever used the Instant Pot before. The author points out that timing is an issue “You need to factor in the time it takes to come to full pressure, the actual pressure cooking time, and the time for steam release. I have accounted for the complete cooking cycle by noting a total time needed with all my recipes.” But that was the problem I had with the recipe which states:

TOTAL TIME: 40 MINUTES
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Sauté Time: 15 minutes
Pressure Cook: 10 minutes
Pressure Release: 10 minutes

I found that this does not include the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to full pressure, and an accurate time for pressure release. It took almost another 10 minutes to reach full pressure and over 15 minutes to release naturally rather than the stated 10 minutes. That is a considerable amount of additional time.
Cozy Butter Chicken
Cozy Butter Chicken, on the right according to the instructions and on the left with the sauce reduced 
The other issue I had with this recipe was that the finished dish was incredibly watery and the chicken was somewhat overcooked and falling apart. The sauce did not resemble the thick creamy sauce I know from having had this dish in the past. I spent almost another 10 minutes reducing the sauce in a saucepan. Once I did, the sauce and the dish were absolutely delicious.

I struggled with the decision to purchase an Instant Pot because I really don’t have room for it. But I thought perhaps I would be able to replace my rice cooker and my pressure cooker with it. But I found it took longer for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure than it takes my old pressure cooker, so I’m not sure that it will replace it after all. The biggest convenience factor to making this dish was the built in timer which allows you to set the cooking time. I also like that it has settings for things like yogurt and rice.

So would I recommend the Instant Pot and using it for Indian Recipes? Probably, but I will need to do some more experimenting.

Disclaimer: A pdf of this book was given to me for review purposes

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

All About White Peaches

Recently I received a flat of white peaches. I was planning to preserve them but I quickly realized that wasn't such a good idea. White peaches are lower in fruit acid so they are extremely sweet. They have a lovely almost floral fragrance and a very soft juicy texture. All of this makes them great to eat out of hand, but not so great for canning or cooking. If you can them you need to add a lot of acid such as lemon juice and if you bake with them they lose their shape and can get very mushy. 

White peaches are the most popular kind of peaches in Asia, but in the West and in Europe we tend to prefer yellow peaches. White peaches ripen very quickly and require refrigeration once soft or they will spoil. Freezing them is also an option. Since using them raw is best, I had to figure out what to do with them as fast as I could. 

I decided to freeze most of the peaches. Frozen they can be added to smoothies. I also pureed some peaches and froze the puree to use to make the Bellini cocktail which is just prosecco and peach puree. But what else can you do with white peaches? 

Here are a few more ideas: 

Use them in simple syrup 

Make a shrub

Add them to kombucha 

Include them in fruit salad

Use a few slices to sweeten iced tea

Mix up a peach smash with bourbon or  whiskey

Disclaimer: My thanks to Washington State Stone Fruit Growers for the peaches. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Easy Peach Jam Recipe

Easy peach jam


I’ve made peach jam several times, thanks in part to an annual delivery of peaches courtesy of the Washington Stone Fruit Growers, but I continue to look for ways to simplify the canning process. Standard peach jam recipes call for a lot of sugar and some powder or liquid pectin. The result is good, but can be a bit on the sweet side and a little rubbery. My preference is for a softer jam with less sugar and frankly less fuss. I wondered if there might be a way to make jam without bothering with the tedious job of peeling peaches? It turns out, there is. 

The key to this recipe is the peels. Lemon peel and peach peel are high in pectin and so if you cook the peaches with them, you won’t need to add any additional pectin. I started with a recipe from A Sweet Spoonful, but the main difference was I skipped peeling the fruit and used the lemon peel as well as the juice. I added some slices of fresh ginger in my first batch but I didn’t find it added much flavor so I’m skipping it. You could certainly add some powdered ginger, candied ginger or even scraped vanilla bean if you like. 

This jam is in between jam and preserves. It has some skin in it, but it’s silky smooth and doesn’t detract from the texture or flavor of the peaches. The pureed skins add a pretty rosy tint. How much you puree is up to you, I estimate I pureed about 1/3 cup or so. Note: You could can this in half pint or pint jars. I used  a combination of both. 

Easy Peach Jam
Makes 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

4 pounds washed peaches, pitted and cut into chunks, about 8 cups 
2 cups ganulated sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon rind from one lemon, cut into large pieces

Instructions

Fill a canner with water and bring to a boil. Place the jars in the canner and boil. Put a small plate in the freezer so you can test the jam later. 

Place the peach chunks in a large non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice. Don’t stir–just let the sugar sit and macerate, this helps to release the natural juices of the fruit. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Add the fruit along with the lemon peel to a large pot and bring to a boil. Using a potato masher mash the peaches. Continue stirring the peaches as they cook, using a wooden spoon. After about 10 minutes skim as much of the peels out of the pot using a slotted spoon and puree them in a blender then add them back to the pot. Remove the lemon peel and discard. Continue cooking until the mixtures thickens, about another 20 minutes. Test the thickness by placing a teaspoon full of the jam on the chilled plate and let it rest for about 30 seconds. Run your finger through the dollop and if it stays separated where your finger was, it’s thick enough. 

Lift the jars out of the canner, pouring the hot water back into the canner. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. After filling the jar, release the air bubbles by inserting a narrow silicone spatula or similar tool between the jam and the inside of the jar. Place the rims on top of each jar and loosely seal with the bands. Carefully place the jars back in the canner and process/boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the canner and let rest overnight, you may hear the lids pop. Store for up to one year. 

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Peaches were provided to me as part of the canbassador program by Washington State Stone Fruit Growers and to Ball Home Canning for the jars. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Alison's Peach Chutney Recipe

Peach Chutney Recipe


I met Alison McQuade 15 years ago. She wanted me to try her chutney and invited me to meet her at a local wine bar. At that time she was on the verge of quitting her day job and becoming a full time artisanal food producer. While to this day she doesn’t describe herself as a cook, she has mad skills when it comes to chutney. She is also quite a wonderful person and we quickly became friends. 

Over the years I have bought McQuade's Celtic Chutney to give as gifts, made recipes using her various varieties of chutney and been an all around fan of her products. Faced with a box full of peaches this year supplied to me by the Washington State Stone Fruit Growers, I knew I wanted to make chutney but couldn’t imagine just turning to any old recipe. So I called on Alison for some guidance. Her recipe uses weights, so if you don’t have a digital scale, please use this as the excuse to buy one, they are not expensive and are essential for baking. The one I currently use is a SmartWeight model that cost less than $20 and displays pounds, ounces, grams and milliliters. You'll note the chutney is in Ball jars for gifting, and the company that produces them makes a donation to Feeding America for every package purchased (up to $150k). 

Alison has a keen sense of what flavors will go together and balancing heat, acidity and sweetness. Her chutneys are always chunky, fresh tasting and highlight the fruit. They are not goopy, gloppy, too sweet or sour and always have just the right amount of zing. This peach chutney is particularly wonderful. It uses a mixture of different vinegars and classic spices, fresh ginger, cinnamon and allspice. If you’re wondering how to use chutney, it’s terrifc with cheese of course, but also on sandwiches, with stews and curries on sausages or chops, or mixed in chicken salad. Honestly I could eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon! 

Note: This recipe makes 3 pints, but you can easily use 6 half pint jars if you prefer. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you want to make a bigger batch. 

Alison's Peach Chutney 

Makes about 3 pints

Ingredients

2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
800 ml apple cider vinegar
200 ml malt vinegar
400 gm brown sugar
Knob ginger peeled and grated, about 2 Tablespoons
1.5 kg ripe but firm peaches, about 3 1/2 pounds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice 
180 gm golden raisins

Instructions

Fill a canner with water and bring to a boil. Add the peaches to the water and cook for about a minute then transfer the peaches using a slotted spoon to a boil with cold water. Peel and coarsely chop the peaches and set aside. Place the jars in the canner and boil for 10 minutes. 

In a large stock pot combine the onion, vinegars, sugar, ginger, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil then simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add the peaches and stir occasionally, adding golden raisins after about 15 minutes, continue cooking until tender and jam-like about 30-40 minutes total. Chutney will thicken further after being processed. 

Lift the jars out of the canner, pouring the hot water back into the canner. Ladle the chutney into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. After filling the jar, release the air bubbles by inserting a narrow silicone spatula or similar tool between the chutney and the inner surface of the jar. Place the rims on top of each jar and loosely seal with the bands. Carefully place the jars back in the canner and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from the canner and let rest overnight, you may hear the lids pop. Store for up to one year. 

Enjoy!

Disclaimer: A special thanks to Alison McQuade for helping with the recipe. Peaches were provided to me as part of the canbassador program by Washington State Stone Fruit Growers and to Ball Home Canning for the jars. This post includes one affiliate link.