Sunday, 13 February 2011

Happy Barfi to me: recipe testing for Prepped!

barfi 2

One of the best things about being a food blogger is that, from time to time, some fun and interesting opportunities come along. For me, one of those is recipe testing. I like 'playing' with recipes anyway - and the chance to do so more constructively for someone else is an offer I rarely pass up.

So when Vanessa Kimbell - a woman on a crazy-lady mission to write a recipe book within a year, having given up her job to achieve that ambition - asked me if I'd liked to test her orange and cardamom barfi recipe, I was hardly going to say no.

Two more factors added to inevitability of my taking up this particular challenge: I have an unhealthy love of sweet treats, and I adore Indian food. And how.

But enough about me. This is about Vanessa. It's about her book, Prepped!, now reaching its very final stages before publication. Another book is, I understand, in the pipeline. Prepped!, her first, and not even on the bookshelves just yet, is receiving a great deal of attention, and the sense of expectation is tangible. And her admirable decision to go after her dream is already taking her places - she was recently invited to front a local radio show on which she gets the chance to talk yet more food. A career in the industry is clearly already evolving, and fast.

What's different about Vanessa and her cookbook? Well, I could try giving you a synopsis (it's aimed at 'time-short foodies'), but frankly, you'd do a lot better to read it straight from the horse's blog - at (and you can pre-order the book from there while you're at it).

But the question is - is the book any good? The proof of the recipes is, of course, in the testing and tasting, so here goes... Take a look at it, accompanying video and all, here.

You don't need many ingredients, so that's a good start for a cook in a hurry. You just need these...

barfi ingredients

...none of them particularly difficult to get hold of, although I found I could only get full-fat milk powder from an Asian store. Butter will do in place of ghee, although it's worth going the extra mile for ghee if you can.

Then, as the recipe indicates, it's pretty much a case of warming a few ingredients and mixing them all together. It really is that simple. My only word of warning is that at the second mixing, you need to stir vigorously and thoroughly, or you might find that you get a few lumps forming. If you do, it's not a disaster - but it will mean that your barfi don't have an even texture.

I used an 11" x 7" baking tin to put the mixture in. A shallower, wider tin, such as a swiss roll tin, should also work fine - it all depends on how chunky you like your barfi. I like something I can sink my gnashers into, so the tin I used was perfect, as it yielded barfi a shade under an inch thick (Yes, I know. I have a cavernous mouth.)

Anyway, one way or another, you should end up with something that looks like this:

barfi 2

... at which point, you can either cut it into pretty shapes, like Vanessa did or, as I did, simply cut it into smallish squares. (You might find an oiled knife useful for the task.) I found that I got 24 good-sized pieces from the tray. I don't want to throw down rash challenges, but for me, one piece at a time was ample - what with the full-fat milk powder and the ghee, it's incredibly rich stuff.

And the all-important taste? As scrummy as any barfi I've eaten. The addition of orange zest undoubtedly acts as great foil for the richess, as does the cardamom. I loved 'em. Yes, past tense, because - true to form - I've already hoovered the lot up. And that, I think, tells its own story.

In short, this is a dead easy and speedy recipe that any lover of sweet treats will fall for. And if it's any indication as to the merits of Vanessa's others recipes (more examples here), then I can see Prepped! being a great success.

Thanks, Vanessa - and all the very best of luck with the book!