Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mexican Doughnuts (Churros) Recipe

I have fond memories of Cinco de Mayo, going back to my freshman year of college. On a busy homework night, my friends Christina, Tricia and I decided to leave our books and go to the movies to see Muriel’s Wedding. It was an incredibly fun and liberating evening – and we decided to memorialize it by cramming into a photo booth for some Polaroid mementos. I still proudly display that fading image to remember my college days.

Since that time I have celebrated Cinco de Mayo occasionally. The last major observance was a party I co-hosted in Boston. The night concluded with blindfolded guests beating a piñata with a ski pole. Because of that low point, it has been a while since I’ve marked the occasion and this year I decided to do it with food.

Most people wrongly believe that Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexican Independence. In reality it commemorates the Mexican defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Few people realize that the French, led by Napolean III, invaded Mexico because Mexican President Benito Juárez refused to pay interest on loans his country took from France, Spain and Britain.

In honor of this victory of the New World over the Old, my friend Ruth and I decided to make Mexican doughnuts, commonly known as churros. These snacks originated in Spain (and are sometimes called Spanish doughnuts), and are now also popular in Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. Churros are traditionally served with a thick melted chocolate for dipping.

To make churros you need a churrera, which is easily obtainable online. It is a syringe-like plastic device through which dough is extruded. The device can be used to make other foods requiring extrusion including pasta and some Indian snacks. These treats are especially irresistible when still warm and freshly dusted with cinnamon sugar.

3 eggs
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
corn or canola oil for frying
4 teaspoons cinnamon
confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Serves 8 to 10 for a snack

1. In a small bowl, lightly beat three eggs and set aside. In a separate bowl measure out flour. In a separate large bowl mix 1 cup of sugar with cinnamon.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan bring water, butter, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla to a boil.
3. Remove from the heat and immediately add flour. Stir rapidly until the mixture forms a ball. This will take one to two minutes.
4. Add eggs and mix until absorbed by the dough. This will take some time. Do not worry if you still have lumps.
5. Let the dough cool for 15 to 30 minutes. At the same time heat oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. The oil only needs to be one or two inches deep since the churros will float.
6. Fill the churrera with dough according to the instructions. Twist the knob to extrude dough. Slice churros with a knife at two inches in length (see image below). If you have a larger frying pan you can make them 4 to 6 inches in length. You can either cut the dough directly into hot oil, or cut it onto wax paper and gently transfer it into the oil with a slotted metal spoon.

7. Fry for 2 to 4 minutes or until light golden brown. Drain churros on paper towel for 3 to 5 minutes. Toss hot churros in the cinnamon sugar mixture until well coated. Alternately you can dust with confectioner’s sugar.
8. Serve with Spanish hot chocolate (Ruth brought me the chocolate bar pictured below from Barcelona). This chocolate contains cornstarch which makes it thick and ideal for dipping. To make the dipping chocolate, add chocolate to boiling milk and sweeten with sugar. The proportions are up to your taste.

Be careful when frying. Oil heats slowly, and if overheated, takes a long time to cool. If the oil is smoking it is too hot. I suggest frying on a back burner to prevent getting splattered.

Un-fried churros can be frozen for up to 3 months. To prepare frozen churros, just fry in hot oil (no need to defrost).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lime-Infused Shrimp Kedgeree Recipe

I discovered kedgeree at a brunch hosted by my British friend Claire. She served it with the traditional smoked haddock and lots of butter. It was a dish I had never heard of, but one which had been popular among British colonials in India. Claire said it was an adaptation of a traditional Indian recipe; but looking at it, I could not decipher the connection.

Through web research I discovered that kedgeree is a bastardization of the term
khichdi, a common North Indian dish of rice and lentils. The term khichdi is often broadly used to describe a combination of rice and lentils – which is simple, comfort or peasant food. The term is also used colloquially to mean 'a mess' or a 'troubling situation'.

Kedgeree is a signature dish of the
Anglo-Indian community, a small minority group consisting of people of mixed racial heritage – usually British fathers and Indian mothers. Like the coloured community in South Africa, Anglo-Indians formed and were identified as a unique ethnic group in India’s constitution. They have distinct cuisine, dress, speech and religion. The Anglo-Indian community is still active in India and also in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Cursory web research leads me to believe that kedgeree is experiencing a renaissance as a brunch item. This version uses shrimp instead of haddock.


For shrimp:
juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound cooked deveined and detailed shrimp

For rice:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small onions
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons hot Madras curry powder
1 1/2 cups enriched long grain white rice
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
3 cups chicken or vegetarian broth, or water
(or more as needed, cook according to rice instructions)
juice of 1 to 2 lemons
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
4 to 6 eggs, hard-boiled and halved or quartered lengthwise (optional)
1 to 2 lemons, halved or quartered lengthwise

Serves 8 to 10 people


1. For shrimp, mix lime and all seasonings in a small bowl. Put shrimp into a large Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Shake well and leave in the refrigerator overnight. Shake periodically.
2. For rice, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant, and then add onions and sauté until softened (about 5 minutes). Add curry powder and continue to sauté.
3. Add rice and coat grains well. Add salt and broth/water and bring to a boil.
4. Lower the heat to simmer and cover well. Allow rice to cook according to instructions on package, approximately 20 minutes. Do not uncover pot during cooking process.
5. Once cooked, fluff rice with a fork. Add lemon juice, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
6. Gently fold shrimp and sliced eggs into rice. Serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ginger Anzac Biscuits Recipe

I discovered the Anzac biscuit during my visit to Australia in December 2005. These biscuits (what North Americans call cookies) were ubiquitous in Oz, and I tried several varieties when I was there.

When I asked about the origin of the cookie I was told that ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) biscuits were baked by Antipodean mothers and wives during World War I and sent to their soldiers in the trenches. They were made without egg (traditionally replaced by golden syrup) so that they would survive the long postal journey to Europe.

Some web research has yielded a different story from New Zealand culinary anthropologist Professor Helen Leach. She claims that the first known recipe for “Anzac crispies” (as there were called then) appeared in 1921 in a Kiwi cookbook. A similar recipe appeared in 1923 in Australia. Earlier recipes for “Anzac biscuits” were actually for a different cookies that contained egg, cinnamon and rice flour. Coconut became a popular addition in 1927. Leach is a contentious figure in the region for her assertion that pavlova, another Antipodean confection that will appear on this site one day, was invented in New Zealand and not Australia.

This original recipe uses brown sugar for a deep and rich sweetness. I have also added some ginger spice for flavor.

In honor of ANZAC Day (April 25) which commemorates Australia and New Zealand's first major WWI battle, I wanted to introduce this treat to Northern audiences. These crunchy cookies are perfect for dipping in tea or coffee, and will last for several weeks in an airtight container.

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
3/4 cup sweetened desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Makes 32 cookies


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, oats, coconut and sugar. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.
4. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. Then add to the melted butter mixture.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
6. Drop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet, leaving plenty of room for spreading during baking.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Chocolate Croissant Pudding Recipe

In an earlier time, when food in Europe was scarcer, cooks invented a variety of creative ways to use stale items. Bread was a common item likely to go stale, which spurred the Italians to invent panzanella (“leftover salad” consisting of bread cubes, tomatoes and vegetables tossed in olive oil), the French to invent pain perdu (“lost bread”, essentially French toast) and the British to invent bread and butter pudding (a dessert of bread baked with eggs and milk).

This recipe is a bread and butter pudding that uses croissants as a base, sandwiched between layers of chocolate. It makes a lovely dessert or a decadent brunch alternative.


1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon allspice or cinnamon
3 stale croissants, sliced in half and cubed
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole, skim or soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar for dusting


1. In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons butter. Add allspice or cinnamon and stir.
2. Place one third of croissant cubes in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish.
3. Pour half the chocolate sauce over the bread.
4. Lay another third of croissant cubes on top. Drizzle with the remaining chocolate sauce, followed by the final croissant cubes.
5. In a medium-sized bowl, beat 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla.
6. Pour milk mixture into the baking dish and let it soak into the bread for 20 minutes.
7. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes.
8. Cool for 5 minutes and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
9. Serve alone or with whipped cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Coconut Macaroon Recipe

Although I grew up in Muslim household, I have been celebrating Passover for the last six years. The first three were with my friend Karen. We used to have vegetarian (or vegan) Sephardic seders in her intimate Cambridge apartment. We used a liberation haggadah that Karen compiled, drawing on the best leftist traditions of her childhood. We celebrated and hoped for liberation for all people – Jews, African Americans, gays, Afghanis, Palestinians, etc. It was an evening of re-making traditions with an educational and political bent.

For the last three years I have celebrated Passover with my boyfriend and members of his family. These seders are larger and more formal. They are about family and reunion, celebrating history and culture, and food and more food. His mom makes a fantastic matzoh ball soup and killer brownies that are even more outrageous than Ina Gartner’s.

This year I wanted to contribute to the bounty, so I made coconut macaroons and caramel matzoh crunch (separately posted earlier today).

I won’t rehearse the history of Passover, but many goyim (Gentiles) don’t know the story. It is really a wonderful and powerful tale and I urge you to click on one of these links: Wikipedia or Judaism 101.

What you probably know is that Jews do not eat leavened bread for the week of Passover. During this time, some people follow stringent dietary restrictions and will only eat foods that are certified (by a Rabbi) to be kosher for Passover.
Macaroons are a traditional treat during Passover since they don’t contain restricted ingredients. Most people buy the Manischewitz brand that comes in a can, but these homemade ones are simple to make, especially for those who like to get their hands dirty.


1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites or 1 cup pasteurized egg white product
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 to 2/3 cup semi-sweet or white chocolate chips (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. In a large bowl mix sugar and salt. Add egg whites and hand whisk until slightly frothy (do not use an electric mixer).
3. Add vanilla and mix again.
4. Add coconut (and chocolate chips, if desired) and mix thoroughly using a fork. Best results if you use your hands to mix.
5. On a parchment-lined baking tray, make heaps one-inch apart using 2 tablespoons of mixture.
6. Wet hands and shape each heap so that it is 1 1/2 inches high.
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown. Macaroons will continue to bake and brown once they are removed from the oven.
8. Let cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container, ideally separating layers with wax paper. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring to room temperature to serve.

If you prefer lighter-colored macaroons, used pasteurized egg whites and bake for 10-12 minutes. You can also half-dip or fully-dip these macaroons in melted bittersweet chocolate and cool on wax paper.

Caramel Matzoh Crunch Recipe

This is an adaptation of a recipe by Marcy Goldman, who is world famous for her delicious Passover confection. It was a huge hit at the seder I went to. I am already dreaming up new variations for next year.

My recipe uses the recommended amount of butter and sugar for half as many matzohs. I also use more chocolate, add vanilla to the caramel, and bake at a lower temperature.

3 matzohs
2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 -1 cup toasted, unsalted sliced almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 10x15 inch cookie sheet with foil. Then line with parchment paper (over the foil).
2. Place two whole matzohs on cookie sheet. Break third matzoh into pieces to cover the parchment paper.
3. In a deep saucepan, melt butter and sugar over medium heat and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
4. Pour caramel over matzohs, using a knife to spread it evenly.
5. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips.
6. After 5 minutes, spread the melted chocolate in an even layer. Add sliced almonds, if desired.
7. Let cool for 15 minutes and then break into odd shapes using a knife.
8. Place cookie sheet (or transfer pieces to a plate) in fridge or freezer to cool.
9. Can be stored in an airtight container for one week (though it won’t last that long).