Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old...

What a difference a year makes. As I look back on 2008, there are so many firsts in my life and so many things I am thankful for. But no lists today.

Instead, on last day of this year, here's another first. I finally dared to make an Indian mithai. Yes, me! To ring out the year in style, here comes rasmalai - my last minute entry to Food in Color - White.



Rasmalai has two parts - the chenna balls and the rabdi/milk these balls are soaked in. To make the balls, heat 1/2 litre milk until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add a tsp of lemon juice to the milk and stir until it curdles. Strain to separate the whey. Textbooks say to use a cheesecloth but I've never managed to do it without spilling everything or burning my hand so I just pass it through a large strainer and press down with a plate for the whey to drain away.

When the chenna has cooled a little, put it on a plate and knead for around 10 minutes. By this time, the grains would be gone and you will have a smooth mass. Add 1/2 tsp cornflour and knead some more to give you a smooth mixture. Divide in 6 parts and shape into round balls, then flatten them a bit.

Mix 2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for around 5 minutes until the syrup gets a bit thick, then carefully drop in the chenna balls. Boil for around 10-15 minutes until the balls double in size. Pour half a cup of cold water and boil for another 5 minutes (no idea why - mom told me to do it this way). Remove from fire, and drop the balls into cold water.

In a separate pan, bring 1/2 litre milk to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until the milk reduces to half. Add 2 tbsp malai or cream and 2 tsbp sugar. Continue to simmer the milk for another 10 minutes until it is thick.

Squeeze the water from the chenna balls and arrange them in a bowl. Pour the hot thickened milk on top. Chill for at least a couple of hours. Your new year party's dessert is ready!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Cake for Anne

I am back with this month's edition of "This Book Makes Me Cook". And this month, we are reading the charming "Anne of Green Gables". Anne comes to the green gables house as a scrawny yet lively orphan girl. The brother-sister duo adopting her are at first shocked at getting a girl instead of a boy, but Anne's charm is hard to resist. With her unruly way, Anne commits several blunders but ends up becoming a favorite of whoever she comes in contact with.

The book is chockful of food - teas they give and go to, including the one Anne fatefully makes her friend drunk at; as well as pies being baked and dinners being hosted. One of Anne's most spectatular failures was a layer cake, so I set to make a decandent chocolate layer cake for her.



The recipe for this cake was followed verbatim from Baking Bites, my favorite baking blog so I won't repeat it here. But let me tell you that the cake, with chocolate and coffee to give it a rich feel, and eggless to boot, is one of the best I've ever eaten.

I did consider cutting it into layers and frosting it, but it was already so rich that I thought Anne would be happy with just the cake.

Want to see what other members made for Anne?
Aparna made Baking Powder Biscuits.
Curry Leaf made Chocolate Pudding.
Siri made Oatmeal Cocunut Cookies.
The other members are busy with holidays and guests, but have promised to be back in January.

For 2009 starts with the sweetest of them all. In January, we are reading Roald Dahl's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. If you would like to come join us, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with more details.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let's play chess



You saw them. You heard about them. Now let me tell you how to make chessboard cookies.

Leave 90 gms butter out of the fridge until it comes to room temperature. Beat with 3 tbsp icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add 120 gms (1 cup) flour and mix until the dough comes together. It will still be very crumbly. Divide the dough into 2 parts. To one part, add 1/2 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence. Mix well, then pat into a rectangle 2-3 inches wide.

To the second part, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder dissolved in a tbsp of boiling water. Mix until the dough is a uniform chocolate color, then pat into a rectangle as similar in size to the first one as possible. Chill for half an hour.

Take the dough out of the fridge. Brush some warm milk on the plain/white dough and put the chocolate dough on top of it. Press lightly to join. Cut the rectangle in the middle lengthwise, then flip one half so that the white dough is on the top. Join the two halves back, and cut into cookies. Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 10-12 minutes. Let harden on the baking tray for a few minutes, then cool on the wire rack.

Simple, isn't it! And yet, they look all complicated and lovely.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

When Food Bloggers Meet

We talked a lot about food
Some more about the world of blogging
And a little bit about ourselves
We shared success stories and misadventures
We brought each other goodies
We laughed and talked some more over cups of coffee
We met as strangers, we left friends

All in all, a great Saturday afternoon spent with Harini and Alka. I totally loved Alka's Koki that we devoured on the spot. And let me tell you that I've eaten at least a few thousand calories since last evening, gorging myself silly on Harini's brownies & cakes and the box of Nariyal Barfi Alka packed for me.

It was fun, girls! Let's do this again sometime soon. And if you already saw the chessboard cookie pictures over at Harini's and Alka's, let me assure you the recipe's coming soon too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hummus...deconstructed!



Chickpeas
Salted Yogurt
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Garlic infused Olive Oil
Sumac

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If I ever move back to Delhi...

This started out as top 5 must-eats in Delhi. But you can't do a top 5 for the city; it's just impossible to pick that few from the city's gems. Instead, this is a definitive list of foods I miss when I am not in Delhi:

1. Chinese at Bercos. And the best fruit beer ever.

2. Marshmallows at Wengers. Peppermints at Wengers. Puddings (and everything else) at Wengers - they are simply the best bakery in the world.

3. Pyaaz Kachori from Ghantewala at Chandni Chowk.

4. Milk Shakes from Keventor's. Remember those milk bottles before they started putting milk in plastic bags. That's what Keventor's milk shakes come in. And it's just round the corner from Wenger's so you go - Chinese at Bercos, dessert at Wenger's and Butterscotch milkshake at Keventor's. Need a huge apetite for it though.

5. Wimpy's Paneer Burger. Move over McDonalds, for it's such a poor match for burgers and fries from Delhi's very own Wimpy's.

6. Bukhara, the only Indian restaurant to make it to top 100 restaurants in the world. For many years running. ITC's restaurants in Bombay don't even come close.

7. Mexican food at Rodeo.

8. Chaat Buffet in vintage cars at Chor Bizarre.

9. Hot chocolate fudge at Nirula's

And dal makhani, paneer butter masala and naan at just about any corner restaurant. Punjabi By Nature is my favorite, but they are all good.

Monday, December 15, 2008

At home with Shirley Temple

If you are not in India, you have probably never seen a mocktail on a menu. Mixed drinks without any alcohol, mocktails are a must have in a country where so many people stay away from alcohol.

My favorite star of the mocktail world is Shirley Temple. Concocted for the teetotaler Ms. Temple, it really is the simplest of mocktails to make. You essentially mix grenadine with a lime-lemon flavored soda. Ginger ale, Sprite, 7 Up all work well here. The fancier versions “build” the drink, meaning you gradually float grenadine on top of soda so you can see two differently colored layers. Others swear by a shot of orange juice to improve the drink. Try it any way you want; for this post is not about Shirley Temple recipes. It's about grenadine.

I have tried buying Grenadine Syrup, but it was frankly too sweet for my taste. Plus every syrup and mixer you buy comes in those huge bottles that would make a thousand drinks. So what's a soul to do when she wants just ONE Shirley Temple. This soul decided to make her own grenadine syrup.



The ruby red Afghani pomegranates are in season now so that's where I started. Extracted 1/2 cup juice from pomegranate arils (seeds), then added 2 tbsp sugar and heated the juice/sugar in a saucepan until it boiled and then simmered it until it was halved and syrupy.

By the time it cooled, the fresh grenadine had all the goodness of pomegranate flavors and none of the bottled preservative feel. And isn't it the most loveliest of colors!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Baking for a cause

I have been tagged by Sunshinemom and Bharti to bake bread for Breadline Africa, a South Africa based charity organisation that seeks to put a lasting end to poverty in Africa. Their Blogger Bakeoff is an online campaign that challenges bloggers to get involved by baking bread, act by donating to end poverty and then challenge their readers and five other bloggers to do the same.

Their rules for bloggers are outlined below:

1. If you are tagged, copy and paste the rules into your post.
2. Bake bread, do something you wouldn’t normally do, and blog about it. Upload your picture and recipe.
3. Give dough, donate to Breadline Africa and help us end poverty.
4. Tag five bloggers, and ping us so we know you’ve done so.

For this bakeoff, I decided to bake the garlic rolls from Nicole's Thanksgiving menu. Easy to make and delicious, the rolls were a sure winner.



To make garlic rolls, heat 1/2 cup milk until lukewarm and stir in a tsp of sugar. Sprinkle a tsp of yeast and let it ferment for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 95C and turn it off. In a bowl, stir together 1 1/3 cups flour, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil and the yeast mixture. Knead for around 5 mintues until you get a smooth dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and place in the warm over to rise for 30 mintues.

In the meantime, mix a tbsp of olive oil and 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Use some of this oil to grease 6 muffin tins. Roll the dough into small balls and place them in sets of 3 in each muffin tin. Top with the rest of olive oil/garlic mix and bake in a 200C oven for 20-25 minutes.

And now, I'd like to tag Rachel, Siri and Foody Guru for this worthy cause.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Flageolet



Isn't this the most poetic of names for this most delicate among beans. Flageolet beans are young kidney beans, dried when they are a very dainty green color. I challenge you to pass by a pack of flageolets without wanting to buy and cook them right away. I know I couldn't; they are so beautiful.

This is a bean I wanted to cook without cluttering it with too many spices. And yet I wanted a proper main dish, not a salad. What I did was adapt my fuss-free rajmah recipe to cook flageolet beans.

Soak 1/2 cup flageolet beans overnight. Next morning, boil beans in salted water until tender. I used a pressure cooker and it took around 7-8 minutes. Chop one large onion into largish pieces and grind to a paste. Also grind 2 tomatoes to a puree separately.

Heat a tbsp of ghee (or olive oil if you like) in a pan. Saute the onion paste on a low heat until it is lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and saute, keeping the heat low, until the onion-tomato paste is well blended and almost dry. Add the boiled beans and 1/2 tsp salt, stir for a minute and then add a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the beans simmer until almost all the water has dried and the onion-tomato masala coats the beans. Add 1/2 tsp of fresh ground black pepper and serve with roti or plain paranthas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pacman Returns



Did you play pacman when you were in school? I think that was the first game I played on a computer and I was hooked. I haven't played Pacman in at least ten years, but I still think fondly of Mr. Pacman and the monsters.

Which brings us to these pacman crackers that I first saw on Natasha's blog. I know this was four months back, but I've been thinking of pacman crackers ever since. And finally, I got around to making them too.

Just combine 60 gms flour, 30 gms butter, 110 gms shredded cheese (I used Amul, use cheddar if you want a punch), 1/4 tsp pepper and 30 ml water and knead into a dough. Leave in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the dough. then cut a round cracker and make the pacman's mouth by cutting out a slice using the pointed end of your heart shaped cutter (or a star shaped cutter). Make smaller crackers for pacman to bite into and bake everything in a 200C oven for 15 minutes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

On a sago trail



I've spent the last hour trying to figure out how sago differs from tapioca. I only know that they are both starches that come from two different plants, but I still don't know whether our sabudana is sago or tapioca pearls. Instead, I am going to tell you my favorite sabudana dishes. The first one's sabudana vadas, the deep fried sago and potato cutlets. But with a few thousand calories each, that's not something I can eat everyday. The other favorite, sabudana khichdi, makes a regular appearance on my breakfast menu.

It's a bit tricky making this one so pay attention now. The previous night, wash 1/2 cup sago/tapioca pearls and soak in just enough water to cover them. Any more, and this will not work. By next morning, the pearls will have soaked up all the water and will now be plump and soft.

Parboil one potato and cut into small pieces. Heat a tbsp of oil in a nonstick pan and add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. When they start to splutter, add the chopped potato and a handful of raw, shelled peanuts. Wait till the potato starts to brown a little, then add the sabudana and 1/2 tsp salt. Lower the heat and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. If it starts to get too starchy, that's your sign to take if off the fire. Top with a tbsp of chopped coriander.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What's better than a plate of carbs?

More carbs, naturally! There's something deeply satifying about a piece of bread, or a bowl of rice. Tuscan peasants knew what they were doing when they invented this rustic pasta dish. Traditionally made with pappardelle or tagliatelle alongwith breadcrumbs and walnuts, it's a dish for days when your fridge is empty.

I, of course, substituted macaroni for fresh pasta. And brazil nuts for walnuts. So here comes Macaroni with Crumbs and Brazil Nuts, the best new pasta dish I've tried in a while.



Boil a cup of macaroni (or spaghetti if you want to be more sensible) in plenty of salted water. Tear 2 slices of white sandwich bread in small pieces, place on a tissue paper and microwave for 30 seconds. The pieces will get soft, but will harden as they cool. Grind to crumbs in a food processor.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add breadcrumbs and stir till the crumbs are crisp and golden in color. Remove from pan. Add another tbsp of olive oil to the same pan, add 2 garlic cloves (chopped) and 8-10 chopped brazil nuts. Cook until garlic is lightly browned, then add back the crumbs and turn off the heat.

Add the pasta to the crumbs alongwith a generous pinch of sea salt and a tbsp of chopped parsley. Make sure you drain the pasta thoroughly. If you have any water left, your crumb mixture will not stay crisp when the pasta goes in. Finally, sprinkle some crushed pepper and you are ready to go to Tuscan heaven.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Forbid Me Not



This rice was cultivated exclusively for emperors of China, and the common men were forbidden to eat it. When I read this on the packet of forbidden rice in New York's Whole Foods, it was incentive enough for me to lug it all the way back to India. The other incentive was it's color - black rice, how could I not try it.

Further research told me that while the rice was black raw, it will become a deep purple once cooked. This presented a problem. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to pair with purple rice. Finally, I decided to cook it like a pulao - sauteed some onions, added rice, salt, black pepper and twice the quantity of water then let the rice simmer for 45 minutes or so till it was done.

The flavor was akin to a very fine basmati, but had more bite to it. And I had it with the only white colored pairing I could think of : spiced yogurt.

I know I am a day late, but this rice - from black to purple - makes a perfect entry for Sunshinemom's Food in Color.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alice in Wonderland

It's hard to say if Alice in Wonderland is a very popular fairytale written by Lewis Carroll, or the biggest piece of literally nonsense ever written. What's easy to say is that the book has the power to mesmerize all readers, irrespective of their age. I've read it many times over the years, and I enjoyed it all over again as this month's pick for "This Book Makes Me Cook".

Funnily enough, I rarely remember Alice at first when I think of Alice in Wonderland. I always recall Cheshire cat's grin and mad hatter's tea party. And I think of the caterpillar on the mushroom. And the queen saying "Off with their head". It's bizarre, but unforgettably so.

It was the memory of the playing card gardeners painting the roses red, and the image of playing cards parading with the king and queen of hearts that prompted me to make my playing cards cake.



The base for the playing cards is the basic madeira cake. I set oven to preheat at 180C. Beat 120 gms butter and 120 gms caster sugar until it was fluffy. In a separate bowl, I broke two eggs and beat them lightly. Also mixed 160 gms flour with a tsp of baking powder. Then I beat in a tbsp of egg at a time, alternating with a tbsp of flour. Added the rest of the flour and mixed well to form the batter. Added a tsp of vanilla essense and then, I poured the whole mixture into a baking sheet lined with paper and baked for 30 minutes so ended up with a sheet cake.

Once the cake had cooled, I cut it into rectangles roughly the size of playing cards. Next, I made buttercream by creaming 50 gms butter with 100 gms icing sugar and adding a tbsp of warm milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence to bring it to a spreadable consistency. Spread the buttercream on the playing card slices, then piped in the numbers and heart/spades designs to make playing cards. It's my first time icing a cake, and it shows but at least it tasted great!

Here are the "Alice in Wonderland" recipes from other members of This Book Makes Me Cook:
Sunshinemom made Vegan Cheesecake Brownies complete with "Eat Me" tags
Aparna made Orange Marmalade Cake
Rachel made Sandwiches for Mad Hatter's Tea Party
Curry Leaf made Chocolate Pudding Cake
Siri made Veggie Finger Sandwiches

For December, We are reading Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Laud Montgomery. If you would like to come join us, leave a comment here and I will get back with more details.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The show must go on

I haven't had any access to internet and emails for the past three days, but I know some of you have been concerned about my safety. So just wanted to quickly stop here and tell you I am fine.

Fine, but scared at the extent of terror in my city. Shocked at the death toll. Sad that the "palace" that symbolized Bombay to me and countless others for the past hundred years is damaged.

Mumbai has responded in the only way it can. The markets are open. People are back in offices. We refuse to acknowledge terror. The show, as they say, goes on...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Cherry a Month

Cherries are the fruit of choice for November's A Fruit A Month being hosted by Rachel. Where will I find cherries in November, I asked? And Rachel assured me that she would let me use them in any form - canned, preserved or dried. So when my friend turned up for lunch on sunday afternoon and I needed a dessert in a hurry, I converted my trusted berry muffin recipe to incorporate dried cherries I had in my fridge.



To make four cherry muffins, mix 100 gms flour with 1 tsp baking powder and 40 gms caster sugar. Set oven to preheat at 200C. Melt 30 gms butter and pour into the flour mixture. Add 1 egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and 50 gms yogurt. Mix well to form a batter, then add a handful of dried cherries. Mix and spoon into four paper lined muffin cases. Top with some more dried cherries and bake for 15 minutes.

I could have browned them a bit more, but I like the contrasting colors and the flavor was just perfect. Yummy lunch dessert ready in a jiffy - who said muffins are only for breakfast!

Monday, November 24, 2008

From boring lunch to Gourmet feast

Scene I. Sunday 9 am
Cook: What do I make for lunch?
Me (sleepy and bleary eyed): Anything. Isn't there spinach in the fridge? Make aloo palak. And leave some dough for me. I'd make rotis.
Cook: Okay. I also cut some cucumber for salad.
Me (just wanting to go back to sleep): Yeah, whatever!

Scene II. Sunday 12.30 pm
Friend: I'm shopping in the neighborhood. Will pop by in half an hour.
Me: Great! Stay for lunch
Friend: Wow! I'm sure you made something interesting. Bye
Me (To Myself): Is Aloo Palak interesting. NO WAY!!!!!!

Which is why I converted aloo palak and cucumber salad to an interesting gourmet lunch. We had my signature mocktail and green salad for starters. Burritos (or something similar) for mains. And while my main course was in the oven, I quickly mixed up the batter for muffins. Ready by the time we finished eating our main course.



When I say green salad, I mean really green. Cucumber, green olives, capers and mint leaves with salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice.

For the main course, I simply reinvented my vegetable and roti in a new avatar. Rolled out the dough really thin, and cooked it on the griddle to make 3 rotis. On each roti, I spread a layer of pizza sauce. Added some chopped tomatoes and finely chopped jalepeno slices. Next added 2 tbsp of the cooked vegetable and rolled everything to form a burrito. Placed all three burritos seam side down on a nonstick baking sheet; drizzled some more pizza sauce then roughly tore a couple of low fat chesse slices and put them on top of the rolls. Baked everything in the oven preheated to 220C until the cheese melted, about 10 minutes.

My friend loved it. And she loved the muffins, recipe for which is coming up in the next post.

Before I sign off, I need to say a big Thank You to Dibs for passing on a zillion awards to me. So much so that I have created a display window at the bottom of this page to showoff all the awards I have received since I started this blog. Thanks a ton, Dibs!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sushi for Beginners

I am incredibly nervous. Sushi is one of the things I never thought I could make at home. But the closest sushi restaurant that passes muster (in fact, the only one in Mumbai) is a couple of hours drive away which means I have to go without sushi for rather a lot of days. So slowly, steadily, I've put all the ingredients together. I have a tube of wasabi, a pack of nori sheets and sushi rice in my pantry. A bottle of dark soy sauce in the fridge. All of which became spring onion and tofu maki rolls for dinner last night.

Wash half cup sushi rice in plenty of water at least 3-4 times until the starch gets washed away. Add 3/4 cup water (or as much as your package say), bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat but let the rice remain covered for another 10 minutes. In a small pan, heat 2 tbsp vinegar with 3/4 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt until well blended. Sushi needs rice vinegar but I didn't have any so I used 1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar mixed with 1/2 tbsp water. Pour the warm vinegar on the warm rice and mix well.

My nori sheets were pre-toasted, but toast yours if they aren't. Place on a mat (okay, a thick napkin since I didn't have the mat) shiny side down. Spread rice all over the nori sheet leaving 1/2 inch at top and bottom free. Arrange spring onions and tofu slices on top of rice at one end of nori sheet. Dot with wasabi and carefully make a roll. Since the rice is warm, the roll will seal automatically.

Cut in 6 slices and serve with dark soy sauce and wasabi for dipping. Pickled ginger is the other typical accompainment, but I am not a big fan so I left it out.

The verdict : I used way too much rice, which gave me plump rolls and had my nori sheets close to tearing. But I loved it. For isn't rice the best part of sushi (in fact, vinegared rice IS sushi. Not raw fish, that's sashimi). But still, the rolls were not perfect. Which means I need to work on it; make this more often. Never heard a better excuse to eat sushi!

And with all this rice, I think sushi makes an apt entry for Srivalli's Rice Mela as well.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I've cracked it!

I dig hot chocolate. So much that I find reasons to have a couple of hours between connecting flights in Delhi. Just so I can hop into Choko La and have a cup of Papua Hot Chocolate. And sometimes I feel that I only go to London so I can go to the Chocolate Bar at Harrods. All because I can never get the right flavor when I make hot chocolate at home. Or didn't, until yesterday. This morning, I finally got it right.

I started with 20 gms of pure dark chocolate. Not milk, not semi-sweet; just plain 70% dark (I use Lindt). I don't have a double boiler so I heated water in a saucepan until it came to a boil, then reduced the heat to let the water simmer. Next I found another pan that fitted in the rim of the saucepan and added chocolate pieces to this one. After a few seconds, when the chocolate started melting, I just swirled it a bit with a fork to break the pieces. Once all the chocolate had melted, in went half a teaspoon of sugar. Mixed for a few seconds, then poured in a cup of warm milk. I mixed the chocolate and milk with a fork at first. Then, after a few seconds, I brought out a wire whisk and whisked the mixture for maybe a minute until it was frothy and slightly thickened.

Deep, dark, mysterious; the flavor was a cross between Choko La and Harrods, and as chocolatey as it gets.

PS: I don't have any pictures; for how was I to know it will turn out so good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Celebration Shortbread



I always get excited about birthdays. And now in the blogging world, I have another birthday to look forward to apart from my own : blog birthday. My first blog birthday is still a few months away, but birthday celebrations are on at Aparna's diverse kitchen. She's asked for a special sweet something to bring to her party.

With her lovely breads, Aparna's my inspiration to dig into baking. So I knew I wanted to bake something for her. And the sinful goodie I immediately thought of was the shortbread I made for our book club last month. In a chocolate version (doesn't that make anything very special!)

To make chocolate-y shortbread, soften 100 gms butter. Mix 130 gms plain flour, 30 gms cornflour and 55 gms caster sugar. Add butter and slowly rub it in. Press with your hands until the dough comes together. Make lemon sized balls of the dough. Arrange on a baking sheet and press lightly to flatten. Sprinkle with chocolate bits. I got mine pre-shaped from my favorite baking supplies store, but you can use grated chocolate if you like. Heat oven to 180C and bake for 35 minutes. Let harden for a few minutes on the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Happy Birthday Aparna! Look forward to many more birthday celebrations on your blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Keeping it simple



Srivalli is back with another of her melas. After roti and curries, it's the turn of rice dishes! For her mela, I have the simplest rice dish in my repertoire. Chana Dal Khichdi, the easiest of comfort foods but also ceremonial. For this is the khichdi we make on bhai dooj, the first thing my brother eats after I put a tilak on his forhead to mark the occasion.

To make chana dal khichdi, boil 1/4 cup chana dal with 1 cup water until it's al dente. I've noticed that 4-5 whistles in the pressure cooker usually does it. While the dal is cooking, wash and soak 1/4 cup rice. Open the pressure cooker and add rice (without any more water, the original one cup is sufficient), 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, a generous pinch of salt and another generous pinch of garam masala. Add a tsp of ghee, close the pressure cooker and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. By this time, you khichdi will be fairly dry and both the rice and dal will be well done. We serve it with plain yogurt, but by all means serve the other traditional accompainments (papad, pickle and chutney) alongside if you like.

Valli, I hope you like this much-loved khichdi as well. Oh! and this is just the first entry. There's more coming your way.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fighting Diabetes

When Sangeeth announced her Fight Diabetes event, I am sure she had in mind special foods for diabetics. I agree that special foods they have to be, with all the restrictions on what you can and can't eat. But having watched diabetes up close, I also know that anything that's too out of ordinary isn't going to cut any ice here. After all, diabetics have to follow a special diet the rest of their life. And if I grew up eating paranthas for breakfast, a fruit salad, no matter how nice, just isn't satisfying enough.

When I think of food for diabetes, I think of things like besan parantha. While I have no medical facts to prove this, family lore has always told me that chickpeas - the small brown variety - help combat diabetes. So does besan or chickpea flour made from these. And this parantha in a version where it isn't fried and has minimal fats is a breakfast that would make my father happy. Without making him feel guilty!



Mix half cup besan with a small finely chopped onion, salt, 1/2 tsp garam masala and 1/2 tsp ajwain. Add enough water to make a thick paste. Also mix 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with enough water to knead it to a smooth dough.

Take a lemon sized ball of wheat flour dough and roll out to a thick disc. Place a tbsp of chickpea paste in the center and gather up the rest of the disc to form a dough ball and seal in the paste. Roll out this ball as thinly as possible. Heat a gridle and place the rolled out parantha on it. Cook on a low heat until it starts to brown evenly. Flip and cook the other side. When the parantha is almost done, apply very little olive oil on one of sides, flip once to sizzle the oil and give the parantha a shine. The finished parantha will have a texture somewhere between a roti and a real fried parantha, and is delicious with low-fat yogurt.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bhathure



Here's the bhathura recipe I promised a couple of days back. Mix one cup plain flour with a tsp of cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp of ajwain (carom seeds) and a hearty pinch of salt. Add 1/2 cup yogurt and knead to a soft dough. You might need to add some water as well. Leave the dough in a warm place for 5-6 hours to ferment. If you live somewhere with a terrace, leave it out in the winter sun. If not, find the warmest place in the house for the dough to live till it swells.

The dough will be very sticky by now, so put in the fridge for half an hour for the dough to firm up a bit. Take a lemon sized ball of dough and roll out thin. You can do this for the entire dough and keep the bhathuras covered while you heat oil to fry them in.

Heat at least half a pan full of oil to smoking point. Reduce the heat and slide a bhathura in. Press lightly and (hopefully!) the bhathura will puff up. Turn and cook until the bhathura is browned on both sides. You just made the perfect partner to chickpeas. Also serve some sliced onions and mango pickle along with the pair; they make delicious additions to the flavor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

You aren't a Punjabi if...

...you can't make great chhole. I am still a work in progress because mine never turn out half as good as mom's. This is her version. My contribution to the entire post was just standing there with a camera.



There are two ways to make chhole. The traditional way is to figure out the right proportion of some twenty odd spices, grind them, etc. The easy way is to buy chhole masala. To make Punjabi chhole the easy way, soak a cup of chickpeas overnight. Boil them in plenty of water until soft with 1/2 tsp of salt and a tea bag thrown in to give chickpeas a brown color. Throw away the teabag and drain the chickpeas but retain the water they were boiled in.

Chop one large onion finely. Also chop a 1 inch piece of ginger and a tbsp of coriander leaves. Puree two tomatoes. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a pan. Saute onion and ginger until brown. Add tomato puree. Also add coriander now - we're using it for flavor not color in this recipe. Saute until the masala is very dry. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp of chhole masala. Add the chickpeas and stir for a minute. Add enough water left over from boiling chickpeas to cover them entirely. Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 15-20 minutes for the flavors to sink in and gravy to thicken.

The chickpea curry is good enough to eat with paranthas, rice or poori. Bhathuras are obviously a great choice, so that's what mom made. For her recipe to make perfect bhaturas every time, stay tuned!

In the meantime, Punjabi Chhole go over to Simona for 5th helping of the Legume Affair

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Versatile Peas



Greeen peas have to be the most versatile vegetable after potatoes. I eat them year round now that you can get them fresh not frozen. But late autumn and early winter is truly their season, when you get them at their freshest. Back at our home, you would notice peas pulao and matar paneer with increasing regularity around now. And by the time December rolls in, mom would be pairing peas with everything under the winter sun : carrots, cauliflower and if all else fails, potatoes to make aloo matar. This is our fail proof lunch : a tangy curry with two of the most favored vegetables that you can eat with either roti or rice.

And what's the best part about making anything with peas? You can eat them raw while you were shelling them, they are that fresh right now! So start by shelling peas and if you have some left to make the vegetable, read on.

Chop a large onion finely. Also chop a tomato into small cubes. Heat 2 tsp ghee in a pan, add onions and saute until lightly browned. Now add the tomato and saute for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the stove and let cool. Grind the sauteed onions and tomatoes to a fine paste to make your masala. Return to the pan with a tsp of ghee, saute for a minute then add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and roughly the same quantity of salt. Let cook until the raw turmeric smell goes away (a minute or so), then add a few tablespoons of water and stir to mix well. Simmer for a minute, then add 1/2 cup shelled peas and a potato cut into cubes. Add a cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is it soup? No, Saar



We are having a Maharashtrian food festival at my home right now. It all starts every few months when my cook, who's a Maharashtrian herself, hands me a list of ingredients to buy because she's had an inspiration to cook something special. And ever since I tasted her sabudana khichdi and usal, it doesn't take a lot of motivation for me to go get coconut, kokam or whatever else she needs. The biggest motivation of all is her tomato saar.

Saar has a soup like consistency and can be eaten on its own. But my cook insists that its a curry to be eaten with plain rice and it's my favorite way too.

To make saar, drop 2 tomatoes in boiling water. Wait for a few minutes and remove. The skin should come off easily by now. Puree the peeled tomatoes. Mix 2-3 tbsp chopped or shredded coconut, a few cloves of garlic, 2 green chillies and 2 tbsp coriander leaves. Grind to a fine paste.

Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan. Add a tsp of cumin seeds and let splutter. Add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and after a few seconds, the coconut paste. Stir fry on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes and a cup of water. Bring to a boil, the reduce the heat and let simmer until the saar has a thickened and cooked through (about 5-7 minutes).

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Resolutions...

No, it's not new year yet. But this is Bombay Foodie's 100th post. I've come a long way in the past months, made a few starts. More importantly, I've made so many friends...lovely people who have stopped by with beautiful, encouraging comments and mails.

And yet, with the last 100 posts, my wishlist of foodie flavors yet to explore hasn't diminished, rather it's grown. This is a wishlist of things I would like to do, but it's a list I fully expect to get longer for my 200th post. So here goes:

1. Bake a whole loaf of bread

2. Eat at one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. And no, Bukhara doesn't count, even if it ever makes to top 50

3. Make sushi

4. Delve into the alchemy of food. Create something, anything that qualifies as molecular gastronomy.

5. Bake and decorate a cake

6. Make fresh mozarella cheese

7. Make macarons

8. Make fresh pasta

9. Taste blood oranges

10. Cook with rhubarb

11. Make mango pickle like mom

12. Make appams

13. Eat a Meyer lemon

14. Make S'Mores

15. Make a cream puffs tower (who knows what it's called; can't pronounce it anyway)

16. Make a perfect cup of hot chocolate

17. Taste wild rice

18. Learn to pare and cook globe artichokes

19. Buy blue cornmeal

20. Try Ethiopian cuisine

21. Taste Gucchhi (morels)

22. Cook with 20 different kinds of beans and/or lentils (11 so far and counting!)

23. Bircher Muesli - make it or find it

24. Recreate the egg korma I once ate in Hyderabad

25. Grow my own herbs

Friday, October 31, 2008

Arbi Style II

Flash back to that time before deep freezers and shopping malls. Before broccoli, bell peppers and avocados became commonplace in Indian kitchens. When vegetables and fruits meant whatever was grown that season within a few hundred kilometers of wherever you lived. I divide that time by vegetables not seasons. I am pretty sure there was more variety, but after you ruled out the bottle gourds and pumpkins, summer for me was arbi and bhindi. Just like winter was sarson ka saag which I would steadfastly refuse to eat and so only options were matar and gobhi. That's what comes out of being picky when you are growing up.

But what also comes out of this limited range is more variety in how you cook these vegetables. Let's start with colcassia or arbi. There's fried arbi I wrote about a few months back. Then there's this commonplace arbi sabzi, close enough to fried arbi but not the same. And there's a third one...but that one later. Featured right now is arbi in it's second avatar.



Peel 200 gms arbi and drop in cold water for some of the starch to wash away. Remove and cut into fingers. Also chop an onion lengthwise. Heat roughly a cup of oil in a pan (enough to deep fry) and let the temperature drop to a simmer. Drop the arbi and onions and cook on a low heat until the arbi is half cooked. Remove and drain as much oil as you can. Return to the pan with just the oil retained in arbi. Add 1/2 tsp each of salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, a tsp of ajwain and 1/4 tsp amchur (dried mango powder). Add 1/3 cup water and simmer till the arbi is well done. Top with a sprinkle of garam masala.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Parantha Time

It's amazing how traditions are made. Take this one for example. For the past many years, we eat gobhi paranthas on diwali night. I think it first started because we were a bit tired of all the sweets, dry fruits and chocolates that are gifted you on diwali day. And it was 11 pm, that time after the festivities are over. You're done with lakshmi puja, have lighted up the rather huge house with electric lights, diyas and candles, bursted tons of crackers and then you don't know what else to do. So the crisp pan-fried gobhi paranthas just sounded perfect. And continue to sound perfect many years later. We had gobhi parathas once again last night after the excitement of the festival.

To make gobhi paranthas, make a smooth, elastic but not too soft a dough with whole wheat flour and water. Grate cauliflower florets. Add salt, garam masala, red chilli powder, ajwain (carom seeds) and some chopped coriander leaves. Mix, then squeeze the mixture between palms to drain out any excess water. Take a lemon sized ball of dough and roll it a bit thickly. Place 2 tbsp of cauliflower mixture in the middle and gather the flour on top to seal and form a flattish dough ball. Roll out as thin as you can. Place on a heated tawa (flat pan) and let cook for a minute. Flip, apply ghee on both sides and shallow fry until crisp and brown. Serve immediately with butter.

A fitting end to the lovliest festival of the year. Hope you also had a great diwali!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to School

Ask any book lover what their favorite childhood read was, and chances are they would name one of the Enid Blytons. Who can ignore the charms of Noddy, or the very mischevious Famous Five and Secret Seven. Blyton must have written hundreds of books in her time. I still devour all her childhood sagas, and I know a lot of you do as well. For when Bhags first ran "This Book Makes Me Cook" in May, didn't half the participants pick an Enid Blyton as inspiration to cook from.

It isn't surprising then that "This Book Makes Me Cook" is reading a Blyton this month. The book we picked was "The Naughtiest Girl in the School", one of the several school series she wrote. With vivid descriptions, the book brings to life a quintessential English boaring school called Whyteleafe. Equally close to life is our heroine Elizabeth, the girl with a heart of gold who's pretending to be naughty.

There is plenty in the book to excite a foodie. The lunches and dinners at school, the tea times and the children's visits to sweet shop to spend their weekly allowance. But what fascinates me the most is the tuck boxes these children bring with them at the start of the term. Filled with cakes and jams, delights they then share with their friends. Elizabeth's tuck box always has shortbread in addition to cakes. And this sinfully buttery Scottish treat is what I am recreating for this month's edition of the book club.



To make shortbread, soften 100 gms butter. Mix 130 gms plain flour, 30 gms cornflour and 55 gms caster sugar. Add butter and slowly rub it in. Press with your hands until the dough comes together. Roll or pat into a square and cut into fingers (or any shape you like). Arrange on a baking sheet and make indentations with a fork. Heat oven to 180C and bake for 35 minutes. Let harden for a few minutes on the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

In the meantime, let's sneak a look into other members' tuck boxes and see what they brought to school:

- Aparna also made Scottish Shortbread
- A fancier shortbread from Curry Leaf. Sweatha made Chocolate Nut Shortbread with Stewed Apples
- Rachel made a Chocolate Cake for Elizabeth

And now on to November. Next month, we are reading Alice in Wonderland. If you would like to join us on the trip to wonderland, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blog Picks : Oregano, Onion and Paneer Rolls



These started off as dill, onion and paneer rolls in Aparna's kitchen a few days back. I loved the interplay of fragrant herbs, paneer and crunchy onions. Plus anything that's a small roll and not a loaf is an instant hit in my view. I didn't have dill when temptation to bake this roll struck me last night, but I had a pack of oregano I didn't have instant use for. This is the only change I made in Aparna's super-easy recipe.

Start by adding a tbsp of honey and 1 1/2 tsp yeast to 1/2 cup warm milk. Leave it for 10-15 minutes until the yeast is bubbling. Mix a cup each of plain flour and whole wheat flour with 1 finely chopped onion, 1/2 cup crumbled paneer, 2 tbsp chopped oregano, 1 tbsp oat bran and 1/2 tsp salt. Add the yeast mixture and knead until you get a soft, smooth and elastic dough. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise till double in volume.

Gently deflate the dough and shape into 6 rolls. Place on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise a little for about 20 minutes. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or till the rolls have browned.

This was my first time baking with whole wheat flour and I was pleasantly surprised with the texture. The rolls also kept well for a day, and were great for sandwiches this morning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blog Picks : Beet Hummus



Beets are one of those super healthy foods your conscience nags you to eat every once in a while. But I don't like beets as it is. Which is why when DK made an exciting version of hummus with beet as part of the recipe marathon in May, I bookmarked it instantly.

If only I get back to my bookmarked recipes in time. But even five months later, beet hummus was a delight. The only change I made to DK's recipe was using sesame seeds instead of tahini. And it only takes 5 minutes to make as long as you remember to soak chickpeas and have them boiled and ready.

Visibly more colorful, and also more delicious than the regular hummus. I am an instant fan.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pita with Pizzazz

When I bought this pita bread, I had a bright idea for a new hummus. Then life happened. And I forgot to soak chickpeas. Which means my hummus will have to wait for another day. But in the meanwhile, I have pita in my fridge. And I have a dinner to cook.

I also have some peppers and baby corn lying around, which reminds me of my favorite sandwich roll filling. From there, it's a simple matter of putting the two together for "Baby Corn and Peppers in Pita"



To make the filling, roast one red bell pepper (see tips for roasting here). Peel and cut into strips. Halve 10-12 babycorns and cut into matchsticks. Heat a tbsp of olive oil and saute babycorn over low heat until it softens. Add peppers and saute for a minute. Next, I added 3 tbsp of red chilli sauce, but you can add your favorite pasta sauce or whatever tomato based bottle of sauce you find in your fridge. Let cook for 2-3 minutes until the filling is almost dry. I didn't need to add any salt or pepper, but go by your tastebuds.

Toast the pita bread. Halve, line with lettuce leaves and fill with the sauteed babycorn/peppers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guacamole!

I was at first a reluctant convert to avocados. The nutty flavor is very different from anything else I'd tasted and it took some getting used to. Then I fell in love with guacamole.

There are as many ways of making guacamole as the number of people who make it. I myself make a mildly spicy dip. But today, I have a salad like version with slightly underripe avocados.



Chop one avocado, one small onion, one firm tomato and a few slices of jalepenos into small cubes. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander (I didn't because I didn't have any). Add as much salt and cayenne pepper as you like and juice of one lemon. Mix. Eat.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Homecoming

After three weeks of world cuisine, all I've wanted to eat in the past week is Indian comfort food. Like this Sai Bhaji, the Sindhi combination of lentils and spinach.



Start by cleaning a bunch of spinach. Wash spinach, remove any tough stalks and chop the leafs into small bits. Heat a tsp of ghee in a pressure cooker. Drop in 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Add one finely chopped onion and stir fry until it is lightly browned. Add one finely chopped tomato and cook for a couple of minutes. Add add 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and salt to taste (1/2 tsp does it for me).

Drop the palak into the spices and stir for a few second till it wilts. Add 1/3 cup masur dal and 2 cups water. Close your pressure cooker and cook for 3 whistles. Add some garam masala and serve on top of plain rice.

Sai Bhaji traditionally uses chana dal (split peas), but they take longer to cook so if you want to make that version start by soaking chana dal for half an hour. The rest of the recipe remains the same but you will need more cooking time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Sights and Sounds of Borough

And of my other favorite farmers market at New York's Union Square. Plus a snapshot of the foods I brought back from my trip. There are some pictures in the older posts as well if you want to go back and sneak a look!








Sunday, October 5, 2008

Melting Pot



I am at New York's JF Kennedy Airport waiting for my trip to end, and my flight home to take off. For all of last week, I have tried and yet not said anything to you about New York city and its foodscape. For what could I have said....in the past week I had Indian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican, new-age raw vegan, Italian and Turkish food. And I had salads and sandwiches and pizzas from the delis of Times Square. And of course, I had bagels with cream cheese and New Yorkers' favorite eggs & cheese on roll for breakfast.

How does one explain this melange, this melting pot of cultures that defines New York city. Every time I come here, I get simply awed by the foods of New York. And every trip I make discoveries new.

Yet, there's one thing I can't do without in NY. Not because it's better than anything else, but because it's what I miss the most when I get back home. We are talking about Starbucks. You can laugh if you like, but I love the way it's the same coffee, no matter where I order it, no matter when. I love the way I can walk into a Starbucks at 7 am or at midnight, when I am freezing with cold, and pick up the drink I love on my way to work or back to the hotel. I really wish I could take it back home with me.

So long New York, until next time....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stars in my eyes

If you are a New Yorker, stop reading right now. This post is only for tourists, specially the folks crowding the Times Square looking for a bit of Broadway magic. You can obviously capture your Broadway memories at one of the many excellent plays or musicals around where I am right now. But the perfect touristy thing to do will be to head out to Stardust Diner.

Stardust is a Broadway parody of American midwest style diners, all chrome tables and faux leather booths. I am sure they have excellent burgers and fries or other diner-like food that I haven't seen as a vegetarian. But despite the awful food, I do end up here one evening every time I come to visit the Big Apple. Two reasons : one, the drinks. They do awesome grown-ups milkshakes that come in a tall metal tumbler. I only always drink malted mudslide and can vouch for it being out of the world.

The second, touristy, cheesy reason is their singing waiters. So one moment, your waitress is taking your order, the next one she is up there singing to glory. All of these are Broadway aspirants and not exactly superstars but it's a great fun way to spend an hour.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Book Makes Me Cook : Harry Potter Special

We are having a magical month at This Book Makes Me Cook. September is Harry Potter Special, and we have decided to create a recipe based on our favorite harry potter book. I so completely love the world Rowling has created in her seven books. But the magic starts wearing off just a little bit in her later ones, so I always enjoy the first three books in the series the most.

And my top favorite; that has to be the very first one. When a common little boy enters the magic castle and meets the half-giant Hagrid, the old wizard Dumbledore and (my favorite) the sorting hat. Oh! I completely love the first time Diagon Alley opens to show her wares to Harry, that first trip across the barrier to Platform 9 3/4, the first boat ride to the magical world that is Hogwarts.

If you have been following my trip to London these past days, you probably know already that I am far away from my kitchen and unable to cook. Which makes me sad because I would have so liked to create something from the feasts at Hogwarts. Instead, what I have today is my top five foods from the Harry Potter Series :

1. Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans : Every flavor, literally!

2. Treacle Tart : I always thought treacle's an ameoba, but it's actually a molasses like syrup that makes this delicious tart.

3. Mint Humbugs and Sherbet Lemons : Dumbledore's favorties

4. Foaming mugs of hot butterbeer

5. Hagrid's rock cakes : No one really likes them, but good to know they are there.

To bring this magic home, I am going to tell you how to get at least two of these five. For Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, head to the confectionary store within Harrods (that of the chocolate bar a couple of posts back). The jelly beans counter there has tens of jars all ready to dispense whatever flavor you want to eat. Some pretty unusual ones are there too!



You can also get traditional English sweets, mint humbugs and sherbet lemons included, at Harrods. But the best place to buy them is a tiny shop in a little nook of the very pretty Covent Garden Market. They have most English traditional sweets known to man, and you can mix-and-match to your heart's content.



Now, while I have to make do with these store bought substitutes, there are other members of the book club hard at work recreating the Harry Potter Magic. Some new members too this month!

Siri made the very English Crumpets.

Aparna continues the English tradition with her Vegetarian Shepherds Pie.

Foody Guru brings the christmas magic alive with her Christmas Pudding.

Rachel made Harry's favorite Treacle Tarts.

And Bhags, the original brain behind This Book Makes Me Cook, has come out of her exile to write about Harry Potter too.

The school stories continue at This Book Makes Me Cook for another month. For October, we are reading "The Naughtiest Girl in the School", a 1940s boarding school story by Enid Blyton. If you would like to join us, do leave a comment here and I will get back with details.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Macaroon-ed



Does it ever happen to you when you go to a new city that you pass by a place you want to go in, think you have enough time later, but never end up coming back that way. Always happens to me. I think I still have another 2-3-5 or whatever number of days, but the end always comes so soon and then I end up having lots of what-ifs, my little bits of unfinished business in the city I might never come back to.

Like this small kiosk set up by the french bakery chain Paul in a canary wharf mall. I had a sandwich there, but I was bewitched by their macaroons. It was morning, and too early for the sugar rush so I thought I'd come back in the evening. And every evening I'd get late at work and they would be closed by the time I got there.

So I made myself leave office a bit early yesterday. And Paul was open. And I got my little bit of heaven. Paul makes those super large macaroons filled with butter cream in a few flavors. But that's regular enough. What I loved at Paul was a tray of bite-sized macaroons. Each tray has 12 bites in six different flavors. The one I got last night had chocolate, coffee, pistachio, lemon and buttersctoch with cream fillings and a raspberry one with a jam filling. Crunchy yet light, sweet but not overly so, I simply love these macaroons.

There's another variation to this tray with more exotic flavors : coconut, figs, walnut, gingercream. Maybe I'd get to leave a little early tonight. If not, there's always next time, at least in London.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chocolate at Harrods



Now you probably know of Harrods already as the heaven for shoppers. Synonymous with luxury retailing, Harrods can be a bit over the top at time. But there is no doubting that an hour at Harrods can put you in touch with the best any store has to offer anywhere.

My favorite part of Harrods is (not suprisingly) their food halls. The confectionary, chocolates, cheeses, caviar and restaurants counters from around the world - I always get lost and end up spending hours there. And then I head up to second floor to a relatively unknown jewel at Harrods. It's called the Chocolate Bar, and the name really says it all this time.

You can have a chocolate shot - similiar to espresso but decidely more delicious. Or the long version, which is pure chocolate with cream or milk. My favorite is their big platter of strawberries and mini-marshmallows with a chocolate dip. In true Harrods style, you can have a glass of champagne to go with that.

I haven't tried their chocolate shakes but I have friends who tell me they are the best in the world. Isn't everything at Harrods!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dinner at 84 Charing Cross Road

It's now called Med Kitchen. But the oakwood floors are the same. You walk into the hall where Frank Doel came back from his buying trips; to ship Newman's first edition and Latin Vulgate to Helene. And you climb down the solid wood stairs to the cellars (now restrooms) that held long tables with their precious treasures.

I was sombre over my starter of olives with Pimms. By the time I finished my entree of Penne Arrabita, I was close to tears. I could not order dessert for the fear I'd burst out crying.

For gone are the display windows. And the upstairs room where Helene scooped up the white lettering. Also long gone is the Poole's at 86 where Pat Buckley showed up to get his copy autographed.

But how about this Helene - I finally made it!

PS: I wrote this in July 2007, but it is such an integral part of my London memories that I just had to post it...If you don't know what I am talking about, go read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff!

PPS: Contrary to my fears, London weather is holding up beautifully. Five days, and it's still sunny!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tea for a queen


An average Britisher enjoys an elaborate meal of cucumber sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jam and rich cakes sometime between lunch and dinner. The afternoon tea is more than a meal; its a tradition, the hallmark of British culture and almost sancrosanct. Right?

Extremely wrong, as it turns out! Sorry to disappoint all Jane Austen and Wodehouse fans out there, but the English afternoon tea is a fallacy re-created entirely for the gullible tourist. An average Londoner would hop into the nearest cafe and order a cuppa with some finger food just like an average New Yorker would pick up a coffee from Starbucks.

Ah well! a setback to my plans for non-touristy afternoon tea. But then, I can always go to one of the fantasy places. I am a tourist after all. The top of the tourist ladder, Ritz, is sold out. You apparently have to book six weeks in advance. I tried the more unconventional Wolseley instead, but they were full out for the afternoon. There's one thing to be said about London though. The people are so friendly. The conceirge outside Wolseley told me to walk down the street and try Fortnum and Mason.

I have been to the legendary grocery store before (is it heresy to call something as beautiful a grocery store). Today I headed upstairs to their tea room. It's beautiful : chandeliers, live piano, stuffy oversized chairs. Just like a Victorian tea-room should be. There was a queue but I got my table in less than half an hour.

On to tea. There's a wide choice of teas available but I picked Assam out of habit. And along with my tea pot came the three-tier cake stand of the Jane Austen's world. The bottom tier had cucumber and egg sandwiches (I remembered at the last minute, and told them to replace my meat sandwiches). In the middle were fresh, warm scones with clotted cream and jam. The top tier was empty but a very friendly waiter emerged with a plate full of mini-pasteries and tarts. I picked a fruit tart and a delicious little chocolate thing. All supplemented by my two cups of tea.

I haven't eaten so much at one go for a long time, but if those Victorians could do it so can I. And I loved every bit of it. To round up my afternoon tea experience, I plan to go for something less fancy next time. Top choices are Orangery (if its sunny and not too cold) and Cafe in the Crypt. I am a bit fascinated about the last one. Tea! In a crypt!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A sticky toffee pudding doesn't stick

That kind of defeats the point. But it's very very nice. Think of it as a warm, gooey, chocolate-y muffin coated with toffee sauce. I don't care much for the clotted cream that it comes with but it helps balance the sweetness.



This is from Browns, my lifesaver in Canary Wharf when I am jet lagged and so not up to going to town to eat. It's always Browns or Japanese fast-food chain Wagamama on my first day here. Because I get so little time in the city outside work, these are my London traditions. Little goalposts that define my feel of the city, places I return to on every visit.

Oh! I am so looking forward to rediscovering the city. Even though I know my next two weeks in London are going to be cold and cloudy at best; rainy and miserable at worst. Even though london never feels like summer, it feels great to be back!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Up, up and Away

Bombay Foodie is going away. For the next 3 weeks, you are not going to hear from my kitchen. But don't think that lets you off. My trip to London and New York might be work-only, but there will be some sightseeing sneaked in. And there will be food. For isn't that the only sightseeing I ever do : restaurants, grocery stores and farmers markets.

Stay tuned for a flavor of London next two weeks, and then some food reports from the Big Apple.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kadhi Chawal



I just can't think of what to write today. That's what my absolute favorite meal does to me, I just want to stop talking and dig right in. So I won't ramble and go straight on the recipe for kadhi.

First, make the pakoras that would go in the kadhi. Slice an onion lengthwise. Make a batter with 1/2 cup chickpea flour (besan), salt, red chilli powder and water. Dip onions in this batter and deep fry until crisp. Keep aside.

Now blend 1 cup yogurt and 1/3 cup besan into a paste. Add 3-4 cups water to make a very thin blend. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan. Add a tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ajwain (carom seeds) and methre (fenugreek seeds). Let splutter for a few seconds. Now add a large onion, cut lengthwise into thin slices and cook until browned lightly. Pour in the yogurt/besan mix and add 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for at least half an hour. You have to stir this occasionally but apart from this you can leave the kadhi pretty much on its own.

The kadhi has to be fairly thick - if you've had a thin, watery kadhi before that was the Gujarati version. This one's the hearty Punjabi one, so just before you take it off the stove add the reserved pakoras and bring to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp of garam masala to up the spiciness and a tsp of amchur (dried mango powder) to add the tangy flavor.

What are you waiting for now; go right ahead and eat with plain rice. And because it's impossible to make kadhi in small quantities (or so my mom says), you will end up having leftovers for dinner. I'm having mine with roti and plenty of ghee tonight!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It's raining, again

This has been a strange year for rains. The monsoons arrived late, threw a few tantrums and then dried up. Now, after a few dry weeks, we are most likely getting the last rains of the year.

The only thing I ever feel like eating when it rains are pakoras and chai. Vegetables, most likely onions and potatoes but sometimes paneer, dipped in a gramflour batter and deep fried. Warm and crisp - the most perfect antidote to grey skies there is.



There's another reason I'm making paneer pakoras today. We have a family tradition - it's always cakes and paneer pakoras for birthdays. Always, ever since I was a really small kid. You can add to this menu if it's a bigger party, but these two are must have for a very special birthday today.

Happy Birthday, Papa! You are the best father in the world.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Konkan Yatra

If you were wondering where I went to last weekend (and I know some of you did, since I vanished on our book posting day), I was out on a trip to the Konkan coast. No, not the Goa Konkan. But some truly beautiful, unspoilt, off-the-beaten-track beaches. Some lovely small towns, and a journey through the Ghats. Where the mountains and the sea give you a California-like feel.

Surprisingly, despite the fishing vessels spread all along its coasts, the town we went to was mostly vegetarian. At least, our resort was. Since being this close to the sea leaves them with very little fresh vegetable/fruit options, the cuisine is heavy on grains and legumes. As you can see in one of the our dinners:



This is by no means typical Maharashtrian food. But there are bits and pieces you won't see anywhere else. Like the nachani papad. Or the very delicious dal and aloo bhaji.

Oh! and the breakfast was such fun. We got sabudana wada and poha one day. Batata wada and sheera the next. A few thousand calories each time, but who counts on a vacation!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mumbai brings its favorite God home

The day started with drumbeats as Mumbai's public societies and countless homes started bringing in Ganesha idols. Ganesha, first among gods and Bombay's favorite, will be worshiped for the next ten days and then immersed in the sea. This is Mumbai's favorite festival, one that whole city celebrates.

Most homes would do the visarjan (immersion) tomorrow so today's the day for dinner invitations. And everywhere you go you see modaks, Ganpati's much loved sweet. And since I have three dinner invitations already, Bombay Foodie's celebrating with kheer instead.



To make kheer, wash 1/4 cup short grain rice and soak in 1/3 cup water for half an hour. Boil the rice in the water it was soaked in until the water almost dries and the rice is half cooked. Now add 3 cups (around 1/2 litre) milk. Bring to a boil and simmer until the milk thickens to a custard like consistency. Stir occasionally. Add 2 tbsp sugar, simmer for another couple of minutes and pour into a pretty bowl. You can also add a handful of raisins just before removing it from fire; they will absorb the liquid and get plump by the time you get around to eating kheer. Garnish with almonds and raisins. Leave to cool.

Kheer can be served hot or cold, but my favorite way to have kheer is lukewarm.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cooking with Anita and Me

Anita and Me, the Indian immigrant story by Meera Syal, is book of the month at "This Book Makes Me Cook". Meera Syal's picture of an Indian family that immigrated to Britain in early 70s is meant to convey the struggles of childhood, the difficulties of being the only brown face in a very British small town. Curiously enough, I found her Meena to be just any teenager anywhere.

The people who intrigued me were her parents. And all other parents who migrated to a strange land to make fortunes for their families. But who also left their hearts and souls behind in India. The book's real enough in its character's attempts to forget, yet relive partition. In their mehfils, in their attempt to get together and sing, to keep their memories alive.

What this book wanted me to cook was something the family would serve when guests came over for these mehfils. Not the British curry that passes as Indian food. But something truly desi like samosas, the omnipresent Indian snack. Or Lahori Chhole that would bridge the divide in their hearts. I ended up making rajma-chawal (red kidney beans curry with rice), a dish served at numerous Indian lunches. It's also the first "Indian" dish I ate in London so nothing could have been more apt.

To make rajma, soak 1/2 cup kidney beans overnight. Boil until soft. Retain the water in which the rajma was boiled. Grate a large onion. Also grate/puree 2 tomatoes. Heat ghee (clarified butter) in a pan. Add onion and stir fry until it's lightly browned. Now add tomato puree and cook, stirring constantly, until the mix is fairly dry. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and 1/4 cup water. Simmer for a few minutes until everything is mixed in and the water is almost dry. Now add the rajma (without the water) and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add enough of the water retained from boiling rajma to cover the beans completely. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Take out a tbsp of rajma and mash them. Add them back to the pan to thicken the curry. Simmer for a few minutes until the curry is thick enough for your liking and serve topped with coriander and a sprinkle of garam masala. Plain rice goes best with rajma, but by all means have a parantha instead if you like.

If you want to see what else "Anita and Me" inspired, check out Dee's fabulous Gobi and Paneer Bhurji.

And now for a magical announcement. Next month is Harry Potter Special. We are going to pick any of the Harry Potter books we like and create a recipe inspired from it. If you would like to be a part of "This Book Makes me Cook", do leave a comment here and I will get back with more details.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chocolate Shots

One of the banes of living in tiny Bombay flats is the miniscule kitchen they come with. Which means that my kitchen shelf could fit my gas stove and my oven, but no microwave. Yes! No Microwave all these years, for I would never let go of my precious little oven-cum-grill. But Papa came over for a visit last month and he's fixed up a space for my brand-new microwave.

So now, I can send an entry for Srivalli's Microwave Easy Cooking. To make it easier for a first timer, Srivalli's actually made it a potluck party. Bring what you like, she said. I bring Chocolate Shots.



Soak 1/2 tbsp of chinagrass flakes in 1/4 cup water and leave aside for half an hour. These can be made with gelatine as well, but I just got hold of a pack of china grass and have been wanting to make something of it. Microwave for 1 minute, and stir until chinagrass dissolves completely.

In another bowl mix 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tbsp caster sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence. Microwave for 5 minutes, stopping to stir in between if it looks that the milk will boil over (or use a bigger bowl). Now add chinagrass to the bowl and microwave for another 5 minutes.

Pour into shot glasses. Chill for half an hour, then leave in the fridge to cool for a few hours. Garnish with a cherry or grated chocolate. But do not, like me, try to make it pretty before the pudding sets. One of my cherries sank, and the other one barely stayed on top. So wait for a couple of hours and garnish just before you eat!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Award and a Meme

I never knew there are such sweet awards you got for writing a blog. Or I would have started sooner. The latest one comes my way from Kitchen Flavours.



The Wylde Woman Award was started by Tammy Vitale to send love and acknowledgment to men and women, who brighten your day, teach you new things and live their lives fully with generosity and joy.

There are so many lovely people I got to know through this blog, and they really make my day every time they stop by, leave a comment or send a mail to say hello. There is no way I can say a thank you to all, so I am passing on this award to just a few of these absolutely lovely people:

notyet100, who surely has lot of talents apart from her amazing cooking.

Rachel, the baker, the book lover!

Harini, the perfect Sunshine MOM.

Aparna, baking to glory in beautiful Goa.

Sukanya, now how does she think of such creative cookies!

And now the Meme....

Shreya send me this bookie Meme a while back. It's quite silly really, but aren't all of them. So what Shreya told me to do is pick up the nearest book, open to page 123, find the 5th sentence and post the next three sentences.

As luck has it, my nearest book (always on my bed, never sleep without one!) is something I left half-read on the plane the other day. It's a hard core chic-lit, one of those funny things that cropped up all over the place almost the same time as the magic/fantasy trilogies. There are so many books in these two genres that it's hard to keep track. Mindless stuff really, but who's looking to read Kafka on a 6 am flight. When "The Undomestic Goddess" is so much fun!

So, page 123 of my second favorite chic-lit from my top favorite chic-lit writer:

“Keep stirring!”

On Sunday afternoon, under Iris’s calm guidance, I make roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing, steamed broccoli, cumin-scented carrots, and roast potatoes.

As I heave the huge roasting tin out of the oven, I pause for a moment and let the warm, chicken-scented air rise over me.


Now who do I pass this MeMe on to. I thought of my book club buddies, but we post our August read in 5 days. So let me spare you 4 versions of the same 3 sentences from page 123 of Anita and Me. Some other time, friends!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Truly Punjabi by Nature

Back from a trip to Delhi, with just enough time between flights to drop into "Punjabi by Nature" for lunch. It's Punjabi food at its finest, though their most famous (infamous!) menu item is not food. They were the first to introduce vodka golgappa shots - 2 large golgappas filled with pepper vodka and their in-house sweet-n-sour. I've heard of Punjabi by Nature in "vodka golgappas" context for the past several years. However, this is not what I had on my trip there.

I ordered the north Indian staples - Lahori Paneer and butter naan. The waiter stifled my attempts to order a couple of nans with "order just one - it's quite big". Now big is quite an understatement, it's huge, mammoth, gigantic. There were two of us, and we could not finish one naan.

And I felt so full I had to miss out on the other famous thing on their menu I have craved for years, flambed gulab jamuns. Just imagine the drama of it - a large gulab jamum covered with cognac and set on fire. Well, there's always next time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taste & Create Redux

Another month, another taste & create! This month my partner is Temperance from High on the Hog. Temperance has another lovely blog for her non-food thoughts, but she recently started this one to stash away her recipes.

A lot of cooking she does is for other events. Now, I have no ambition to attempt anything from the Daring Bakers challenges for say another few years. And I did bake once for Bread Baking Day, but that's going to last me for a while. Which largely leaves me with her recipes from the past taste & create challenges to pick from.

To add to my motivation to recreate a past T&C entry, one of Temperance's entries is actually bookmarked in my favorites. I loved Souffled Eggs when she made them back in June, and have been looking for an occasion to make them. No better day than today!



When Smita first made them, she used 3 eggs. Temperance thought they were too many and only used two. I, in my recipe reduction mode as always, have made a single serving using just one egg.

Separate the egg. Beat the yolk with a tablespoon of milk. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Using a hand mixer, whip egg whites until frothy. Temperance then added a tsp of vinegar and beat eggs until soft peaks formed. I might be offending some egg-white-whipping purists here but I was out of vinegar and ended up using 1/2 tsp of lemon juice instead. It was some acid, right? And I got lovely soft peaks and tons of volume from my egg whites. Add egg whites to yolk and mix gently.

Now you can do what all wise men did and bake this mix in a pie dish. I just didn't feel like heating up the oven for one solitary egg. So I heated and greased my griddle. Also greased the largest cookie cutter I could find and placed it on the griddle. Dropped the egg into the cookie cutter and let it fluff up. I figured I just needed to turn it after a few mintues (it was really low flame) and cook both sides. But somewhere in between the cookie cutter fell through and things went a bit awry.

However, while my souffled eggs look a bit crooked, they tasted delicious. And I forget, I topped them with finely chopped tomatoes, jalepenos and parsley. You can also do what Temperance did and saute your toppings in a bit of olive oil.

Either way, it feels like eating clouds!