Caramel Cardamom Eclairs with Coffee Cream

I kinda sorta love eclairs. Like really, really love eclairs. When I saw that the delightful duo over at Love & Olive Oil had proposed eclairs for Aprils Kitchen Challenge I was very excited about having an excuse to make them.

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If you have any set ideas about what an Eclair should be like then please look away. This is not the éclair of pastry chefs. Instead this is a riff on the kind of éclair I grew up eating in Karachi – the one that had a pillowy whipped cream centre and a smooth chocolate dipped top. My reinvention of this éclair ties in three of my favorite flavors – coffee, cardamom, and caramel.

The combination of coffee and cardamom is reminiscent of Arab style coffee with a bitter depth tempered by the mellow sweetness of the cardamom. The caramel filling on top has the traditionally lovely chew of caramel, but with a little more heft to it thanks to the addition of roughly ground cardamom seeds.

There seems to be this notion that éclairs are complicated to make. Two words: Not true. Time consuming, yes. Complicated, no. There are three components to an éclair – the choux pastry, the filling (usually pastry cream) and the smooth ganache like topping. Each component of a traditional éclair can be made in advance and they actually meld together quite well if you make them a day or several hours before serving.

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I almost did not post this recipe because the pictures are so bad *hanging my head in shame*, but I never got a chance to make it again and wanted to  post this before the deadline. Let’s just say these are a zillion times yummier than they look!

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Three Things Thursday – III

Three Things, One Post, Three Lovely Hosts – that is 3 Things Thursday in a nutshell. It is the brainchild of Nisha at Love Laugh Mirch, Raj from Pink Chai Living, and Salma from The Write Balance. Please check out all the other bloggers’ 3 Things Thursday posts and feel free to join in the fun!

Thing One: Scandal a.k.a the show I should not admit to watching

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People, Scandal is like crack, the dirty cheap version of something better, but oh so addictive.  That season finale was something – don’t want to ruin it for anyone else watching, but I really didn’t see that coming. When does Season 4 start again?

Thing Two: TedxLums on the 26th of April!

My little brother Murtaza (who at 28 is not-so-little) is part of a team of LUMS students in Lahore, Pakistan who are putting together a Tedx event. Briefly put they are holding a conference that is Ted-like in its approach and includes videos of actual Ted talks, but the selection of live speakers, the material etc is organized by the students behind this amazing effort. The LUMS lineup is already looking very interesting. For more details please check their site out. I suspect that my favorite talks will make it to next weeks Three Things Thursday.

Thing Three: My Little Chef

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Today my daughter and I made mushroom pasta for the third time in a month. I suggested she learn how to make something else and asked her what she would like to learn to make. She promptly replied “Salad”. As I wiped tears of joy from my eyes (only a slight exaggeration) I said “That’s a great idea, we can make some salad for dinner, Abba (Dad) will be here too”. Her reply “Mama then we should put lots and lots of mirchein (chillies) in it, Abba sure loves them”. LMFAO. At least she knows her audience well 🙂

Fyi that’s a butter knife there. Her fingers and thumbs are intact.

Crunchy Chocolate Chip Coconut Granola Bars

As it warms up we are out and about a lot more and I like to have snacks on hand that don’t have an unpronounceable list of ingredients. My last granola bar attempt was a total disaster and I ended up with a sickly sweet mess. Now thanks to Ninja Naan I have a recipe that works! It has a few ingredients and is so quick to make. The coconut flavour is subtle- it basically adds a wholesome chewiness to an otherwise crunchy bar. If you want to amp it up then use coconut extract instead of the vanilla. I halved the original recipe to make them in a 9*9 pan. Not sure why I keep doing that since I have made it twice in the last week!

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Chicken and Rice

Don’t let the humble name fool you. This recipe makes one big ol’ plate of deliciousness.

For those of you familiar with New York this is a copycat of the chicken and rice that is found at the corner of 53rd and 6th. Friends of mine introduced me to it on one of my NYC trips and can I just say that it was love at first bite? The very reasonable price tag (6 bucks) and sizeable portion also went a long way to making this a must have for my college-student-poor self. You know that’s the kind of poor where you will eat at even the most mediocre cooks’ house for a free meal, where you will find yourself attending club meetings just for the free pizza. I digress. Point is that Chicken and Rice was a winner all around.

Here’s the thing though – I don’t remember how it tastes. It has been a very very long time, so I cannot say how authentic the recipe is, but it is easily one of the best things I have made. What makes this dish extraordinarily fun is that it has so many layers of flavour. There is the buttery yellow rice, the garlicky chicken with its hit of oregano, the cool garlic-dill sauce and the fiery harissa. I made mine from scratch, but that is because I could not find one in store. I think this would also work well with Sambal Oelek. Then again I think everything works well with Sambal Oelek.

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Before I go onto the recipe here’s a quick shout out to my friend Maryam who first brought this recipe to my attention and recommended this combination of recipes for the different components. I did have to take some short cuts, for the non shortcut version I am including the links to each recipe. Don’t let the components intimidate you – the actual cooking time is very little. The Harissa and White Sauce can also be made a day in advance.

Note: I have changed the Harissa recipe a little to make it easier to make in a mini blender and to make it a little less spicy, mind you it is still very very very spicy!!! (June 8, 2015)

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Three Things Thursday – II

Welcome to this episode of Three Things Thursday, brought to you by our lovely blogger-hosts, Raj at Pink Chai Living, Salma at The Write Balance and Nisha at Love Laugh Mirch. For those of you who missed last weeks post Three Things Thursday is a way for us to share three things that have been on our mind, but don’t really need a post of their own.

Thing One: My Black Thumb

You know how you go to a greenhouse and they tell you that such and such plant can survive anything? Well, whatever it is it can’t survive me. That is for sure.

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My little girl (3rd from the left) and her friends planted some flowers and herbs today and here is to hoping that her efforts are more productive than mine. If so then who knows I may give plants another shot – I can already see my husband shaking his head in dismay.

Thing Two: Reading in Bed

I was/am a huge bookworm. When I went from good ol’ paper books to e-readers and apps I realized two things. One that I can no longer remember names of authors or titles of books and two that my daughter will never see me read. As far back as I can remember my parents read something almost every day – my dad his National Geographics and P.G. Wodehouses and my mom her Danielle Steeles and Mills&Boons. I want my daughter to grow up feeling that reading is something we do and ought to do on our own (vs just being read to) so to that end before I put her to bed in the evening I have started taking a book into bed with her and I read my book while she reads hers. Although I started this for a reason I find that I am really enjoying the quiet time we share together.

Thing Three: Baking up some Uglies

Folks I am so Disappointed in myself. Yes, capital D disappointed. I attempted these beautiful supposedly easy butterfly cupcakes and this is what I wound up with.

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Call it quits or redo? I also used an eggless cake recipe that I am not super happy with. Failure all around. Sigh.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to check out the cool posts put up by other Three Things Thursday bloggers!

Beignets

When my husband first had a beignet we were at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and he said “It’s just fried dough with sugar”.

Just. Pffft.

I am no dum dum though, instead of launching into a discussion about whether this marriage was going to work or not I went ahead and finished them heh heh heh

Somehow the idea of making them seemed a little intimidating, but when my little girl watched the Princess and the Frog and asked me what a Beignet was then I knew I had to get cracking. The dough recipe is pretty straightforward. I just halved the usual amount and found it still made several dozen. The dough that I fried up on day one was airier than the more flavourful dough of day two. Either way it is a win. I rolled mine thinner than most recipes suggested because doughy is not a word I am keen on and I must say it worked very well. These petite beignets were slightly chewy on the outside and light on the inside. Yum.

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Confectioners’ sugar and I aren’t best buds so I decided to create a citrus sugar for my beignets and folks, there is no turning back. My taste testers tried them with regular powdered sugar as well as cinnamon sugar, but the citrus sugar was the clear winner.

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My Mama’s Red Lentils

Mama Jafri the formidable lady who brought me and my four other siblings into this world is a helluva cook. I don’t know how she does it – really I don’t, but that’s largely because she somehow manages to give me only half the ingredients in a recipe. Apparently if I want the full list then I should say something like “Mama, what should I put in it if I want it to be delicious?” She seems to think the standard assumption is that I am aiming for mediocrity.

Anyway, I digress, back to Mama J and her amazing cooking. She is not one for rules, more of the creative sort and to this day I have no idea when or where she got this particular recipe for daal (lentils) from, but it has become a family favourite and it is what I make on the days when I am feeling homesick. On some of those days it tastes exactly like moms.

This daal is characterized by an over the top tanginess which is a result of the double whammy of tomato paste and lemon. The garlic in it also adds a wonderful rich note. The best part is that it actually keeps very well, if anything it gets tastier.

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