Yakh Dar Behesht Ice in Heaven

This is an exotic, delicate, sophisticate  Persian custard laced rose water and sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals. I found it in a wonderful book Pomegranates and Roses by Ariana Bundy. It is traditionally made with milk but for a diary-free version use rice or almond milk, which worked best for me. Serve in individual ramekins or a large bowl and scatter with rose petals and edible gold leaf. I made it a couple of times now and each time I get better at getting the texture right. I state the cooking times below as in the original recipe but I found that it takes a lot longer for the mixture to thicken to the desired consistency. So feel free to double the times!

Ingredients
Makes 8 ramekins

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) 4 cups milk
75g (3oz) 3/4 cup rice flour
150g (5 oz) 3/4 cup sugar  unrefined – I used only 120g
2 tbsp rose water
5 cardamom pods lightly crushed
2 tbsp slivered pistachios – I used hazelnuts
rose petals and edible gold leaf to serve (optional)

Place the milk, rice flour and sugar in a saucepan. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, over a medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to thicken – about 10 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t catch at the bottom by scraping the bottom and sides of the saucepan with your spoon.

Add the rose water and the cardamom pods and continue cooking and stirring until the custard is thick and glossy – about another 2 minutes. The custard will resemble a white creme patissiere.

Pick out the cardamom pods, then pour the custard into ramekins, silicone moulds or a serving dish. Leave to cool in the fridge for a few hours, then sprinkle with slivered pistachios, rose petals and gold leaf if using.

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Friulian apple, nut and poppy-seed pie

I made this based on a recipe I got some time from one of my sources. The ingredients just sounded too good to ignore. I searched for it online and found it in the Telegraph’s recipe section.

Ingredients:
Serves 8

250g (9oz) plain flour
125g (4½oz) butter
100g (3½oz) caster sugar (I used 90g as it’s my policy to use 10% less sugar than any recipe calls for – it tends to bring out the other flavours)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cold whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tart eating apples (didn’t use tart ones, which wasn’t a problem but will use at least one more to make the filling a bit more moist)
1½ tbsp grappa (of course, I used 2 tbsp, otherwise what’s the point of even opening the bottle!)
60g (2oz) raisins (didn’t have enough raisins so added cranberries and chopped figs)
175g (6oz) walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped
3 tbsp poppy seeds, plus extra to serve
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
ground seeds from 4 cardamom pods
icing sugar, for dusting (didn’t use but recommend as the cake it not sweet at all)

Instructions:
To make the pastry, put the flour and butter into a food processor and whizz until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and baking powder and whizz again. Add the milk and half of the lemon zest and process again. The pastry should come together in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and put in a metal baking-sheet to warm.

On a floured surface, roll out two thirds of the pastry and use it to line a 23cm (9in) spring-form cake tin so that the pastry comes about 4cm (1½in) up the sides. Roll the other piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than the tin and put on a floured metal sheet. Refrigerate the cake tin and the circle for an hour.

Peel and core the apples and grate the flesh. Mix with the grappa, raisins, nuts, seeds, spices and remaining lemon zest. Pile into cake tin and put the circle on top. Pinch the edges together, then indent the rim with the tines of a fork. Cut a star in the centre to let out the steam.

Cook on the baking-sheet in the oven for 30 minutes. Let it cool in the tin then carefully remove. Sift icing sugar over the top and scatter on poppy seeds. Offer cream whipped with grappa.

Chicken tikka masala

I made this last week on a weekday and must say it was the best Indian dish I have had outside the Painted Heron. It is not from an Indian source but from Gordon Ramsay. The rice is wonderful too, cardamom and star anise working its fragrant magic.

Ingredients:
Serves 4

Groundnut oil
1 large onion, peeled
2 fresh green chillies
1″ piece of ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato puree
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
4 boneless chicken breasts (approx 150g each), cubed
10 dried curry leaves
4-6 tbsp natural yoghurt
Handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

For the steamed rice
400g basmati rice, rinsed
600ml cold water
Salt and pepper
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 star anise

  1. Heat two tablespoons of groundnut oil in a pan. Slice the onion and fry in the oil. Meanwhile, deseed and chop the chilli, chop the ginger and add to the hot pan, crush in the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften.
  2. Add the chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala and sugar and cook for 1-2 minutes. Next, add the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes to the pan and allow them to cook for a further few minutes.
  3. Transfer the sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth (I transfered into a deepest pyrex ball I had and used a hand blender. This seems unnecessary as the sauce already look good, but it is an essential step to make the dish really creamy and make all the flavours blend.
  4. Add a tablespoon of fresh groundnut oil into the pan and fry the chicken pieces until lightly coloured (watch the video from Gordon on how to joint a chicken). Pour in the blended sauce and add the curry leaves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Place the rice in a saucepan, add the cold water and season with salt and pepper (watch the video from Gordon on how to cook rice). Lightly crush the cardamom pods with your fingers and add to the pan with the star anise. Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to steam for a further 5 minutes. Remove the cardamom and star anise. Fluff up the rice with a fork and set aside.
  6. Stir in the yoghurt to the chicken curry along with half the chopped coriander. Serve with the steamed rice and garnish with the remaining coriander.

Baked pears with ginger and cardamom

A wonderful dessert (from the Sunday Times magazine) for those times you don’t want to make anything too heavy or have only a few minutes to prepare. The most important about this is the right size of the tin, as pears need to be close together so all the buttery, cardamomy and gingery goodness permeates through them.

4 pears, peeled, halved and cored
75g dark brown sugar
4 tbsp runny honey
1½ tsp ground ginger (I used fresh ginger, thinly sliced using a grater)
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lemon
4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 cardamom pods, squashed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Put the pear halves in a small roasting pan, cut side down and in a single layer, so they fit relatively snugly. Sprinkle with the sugar, honey, ginger, lemon juice and zest. Dot with the butter and tuck in the cardamom pods.

Put the pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pears cut side up and basting halfway through, until the fruit is tender and the sauce is bubbling and sweet. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.