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Showing posts from 2009

A book, A quest, A recipe

Ladies Coupe was the book our book club - This Book Makes Me Cook - chose to read for December. Anita Nair's story is about journeys - a train journey for Akhila, our middle-aged heroine who's on a quest to discover some answers for her life. But also a journey through her past, and through the lives of her other co-travelers. Through the life stories of the women in her Ladies Coupe, Akhila seeks to find answers to her dilemmas.

The book's well written, and even though I don't agree with most of Akhila's (and by extension, Anita Nair's) view of life the book never got boring. It moves at an even pace, the train journey happily coinciding with the life stories of these six women.

Picking a recipe from the book was easy. For when the train stops at a station midway, Akhila and one of her travelling companions venture out to have the soft, lacy appams.

If you have been following the wishlists I create every year, appams have been on my to-do list for a really long …

The Best of Bombay

This post has been a long time coming. What I have tried to do is create a ready reckoner of my favorite restaurants. Not a list of all restaurants I like, mind you! Instead, this is the list of the best for each genre. It's classified the way I get my eating out cravings. And I've also typecast restaurants by how pricey they are - the prices are for meals for two, minus the drinks (and very general ranges that vary considerably for me).

I hope this points you in the right direction if you find yourself in Bombay.

When life hands you lemons...

Or, in this case, I was given brownies too fudgy for their own good. See, I wasn't too happy with the brownies I made last week. Then, when browsing the archives of Min, my taste & create partner this month, I came across Moosewood Fudge Brownies. Min said they were the best of brownies, so I went ahead and made her recipe.

Trust me, I followed the recipe exactly as Min wrote it. The only change I made was to scale it down to a 2 egg recipe from Min's 5. But at the end of 25 minutes, the recommended baking time, my brownies were not set. And they were too soft at the end of 30, even 35 minutes. But the toothpick came out clean and I took the brownie pan out of the oven thinking they will harden as they cool.

But they didn't. Not at all, not even when they had cooled for around half an hour. That's when I decided to cut them into squares and disaster struck. The brownies fell into a heap, more of a brownie halwa than a fudge.

But were they delicious! What's a girl…

The Desi Lima

I live next to the biggest grocery store in Mumbai. And because "Hypercity" has pretty much every hard to find exotic ingredient you can buy in India, I rarely venture elsewhere. Except I was out shopping and landed up in Food Bazaar last weekend. What a shock it was! There was this whole section of stuff I never thought you could buy - Tamilian style chillies dried in yogurt, idli podi, garlic chutney powder, dried lemon pickle and lots of other stuff I can't name.

And then, the vegetable section was another shocker. I found green wheat, folks! Another excellent addition to my salads was ragi sprouts, something I never knew existed. But my proudest buy that day was a pack of green lima beans. I love beans and this is one kind I have never tasted before, fresh or dried. Clearly, I was in awe of my shopping.

Except my cook had one look at my fresh lima beans and told me bluntly that it's something I could have bought very easily if I'd been looking at the grocery s…

Chegodilu Who?

Ignorant as I am in all things in fried snacks, this was my first reaction to this month's Indian Cooking Challenge. Srivalli picked this apparently very popular "ring murukku" as the December challenge. Since I rarely buy any fried snacks, this was a totally new world to me.

I picked the simpler of the two recipes we were given to choose from. It involved making a dough from rice flour, plain flour and hot water with some spices added in. Then you pinch lemon sized balls, pull them into ropes and bring the ends together to form the rings. The chegodilu rings are then fried in hot oil to what should be a crunchy snack.

Mine never got too crisp though. But even with the crunch missing, it was delicious and gone in a few minutes. I just made one-third the recipe, all right. And of course, I ate it all myself. Wouldn't you?

Fudgy, Sticky, Gooey Brownies

I've never baked brownies before. No, really! I've eaten tons of them. Most of the time, cafes and restaurants seem to have brownie with icecream as the only half-decent choice for dessert. But I don't think I've given too much thought to brownies per se. Except last week when I was browsing Shaheen's beautiful blog and came across her recipe for Baked brownies. I know all brownies are baked, but these were made with a recipe from Baked, the famous New York bakery.

They are quite simple to make too. Melt 90 grams butter and 130 grams chocolate in a microwave. Let cool to room temperature, then add 3/4 cup sugar and mix. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence, then fold in 1/2 cup flour that you have mixed with 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder. Pour everything in a foil lined 7 x 5 baking dish, top with walnuts and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into squares.

Are they good brownies? Sure. I liked them, and so did my friends. Are they the best…

I made the best bread of my life

But you don't get to see it. Sometimes I can't believe how incredibly stupid I can be. See, I set to make Ciabatta, the Italian flat-ish bread used to make sandwiches. I picked the best recipe there is, from the fine folks at King Arthur's Flour. And it was a lot of work. You make a sponge overnight. Then you knead this dough with a processor. It's so soft, almost batter like, that my favorite kneading by hand method is impossible.

The first rise was impressive, but the dough was still too soft. Which should have told me to use parchment. But stupid me went ahead and plonked the ciabattas on a greased baking sheet. It rose, it browned, it smelled wonderful. But it stuck! I could not get the bread off the baking sheet.

Now that it's cooled and mellowed a bit, I've been able to take it off in parts. It's not the prettiest bread there is, but it's surely the tastiest I've ever eaten. I think I've discovered the secret of light, holey bread - use a…

Pankis, Chilas and All Things Nice

That's Swati Snacks in Mumbai's Tardeo for you. When you first look at their menu, full of homely comfort foods, you can't really understand the crowds in this small-ish eatery. Neither did I first get the long queues waiting patiently outside.

But a meal is all it takes to convince you to make long, arduous treks (at least for me!) to eat a meal that gets over too quickly. First, there's Panki, A thin rice flour crepe cooked between two banana leaves. This method steams rather than fries the batter, leaving you with super soft pankis. Every panki comes with a pickled chilli, the high point of the dish if you ask me. But there's also a coriander chutney and a sweet mango sauce if you are interested.

Then, there's khickdi. It's really the basic mung dal and rice you cook at home. But Swati takes it to another level with the right level of spice and tons of ghee. Khichdi comes up a spicy kadhi and a uniformly excellent side of potatoes. Because I would have …

In A Pickle

Pickles are serious business in India. Because quantities are huge and the room for error high, only the eldest women in the household take on pickle making. When my mother took on pickle making many years ago, it was with the combined consent of her mother and her mother-in-law. Recipes from both my grandmothers, closely guarded and never written down, were enhanced with experience and tips from friends over the year.

In my home, we make only two kinds of pickles. Mango pickle in summers and now, with the onset of winter, the gobhi gajar achaar - spicy, sour, sweet cauliflower and carrot pickle. I'd try and get you my favorite mango pickle recipe sometime. But even this one was hard to pin down, requiring translation from best guesses to measurements. But here it is:

Separate 1 kg cauliflower into florets. Cut 1/2 kg carrots into long fingers. Wash the vegetables, then dunk them in boiling water for 10 seconds. Drain, then spread out on a tray and let dry in the sun for an hour …

This Book Makes Me Cook : Bread Alone

Bread makes you happy. Bread makes you friends. Fresh baked bread, in short, can set most things right. It certainly heals the broken heart of our heroine Wynter. The novel, our book club's pick for the month, seems all fluff at first glance. Your typical story of a trophy wife about to be divorced looking for solace in a job that involves baking bread.

But there is depth of feeling here. And there is nuance that makes "Bread Alone" a little bit more than yet another romance. I like the way Judith Ryan Hedricks builds the characters, going from their appearances to their lives to the emotions that intertwine them. And I love the fact that there are no minor characters here. Even the short-staying absentee cake baking partner makes a lasting impact. Wynter obviously does, in her vulnerable yet steely role, and in her transition. But bread remains the star - be it the age old recipes of the old bread baker Linda or the blizzard of new recipes Wynter brings in.

Baking a lo…


I should totally stop cooking until I get a new camera. But this was taste & create, and I had signed up before the whole camera dropping event happened. Plus, I have a lovely partner in Jen from PiccanteDolce. Literally, the blog name means spicy & sweet (yes, I had to look that up). That's exactly what the blog is - a collection of a wide range of recipes.

I felt an instant affinity as that's pretty much how I cook; just anything that takes my fancy, be it salad or cake. What I decided to cook from Jen's blog is a simple applesauce. I've been planning to make some for a long time, so this was finally my chance.

The only change I made was to use golden delicious apples and all brown sugar (instead of part white that Jen does). Now go look at her picture, and look at mine. I totally can't understand how my applesauce gets to be this brown when she has a pale cream concoction. Whatever the color though, this was superbly delicious. Had some warm with granol…

Edamame at Hypercity

Will my neighborhood grocery store never stop shocking me. Here I was just walking past the section with packaged vegetables and herbs. I noticed something from the corner of my eye and did a quick double take. Labeled green soybeans, sitting pretty on the counter were edamame. I love the salted steamed beans to death. And because you couldn't buy them in India so far, I would spend half my lunches and dinners on trips outside India eating plates of plain salted edamame in overpriced Japanese restaurants.

But now, I can just bring home this packet, pop it in the microwave with a tbsp of water, sprinkle some coarse salt after a couple of minutes. And have the bestest guilt free snack on earth.

I wonder what they will come up with next. Globe Artichokes?

PS: If you have noticed the lack of pictures around here recently, that's because I dropped and broke my camera. Making do with my cellphone until I find a replacement.

Back to Indian Cooking Challenge

Since I do so little traditional Indian cooking, I was super thrilled when Srivalli came up with the Indian Cooking Challenge in July. But one month down, I got lost in the whirlwind of events that have deadlines at the same time and ICC sort of got left out in the melange. Then Srivalli announced gulab jamuns as the October challenge. That's like, my absolutely favorite sweet. There was a time I would pester whoever's going out to dine with me to stop and have gulab jamuns before we go home. And I still eat them every chance I get. And then the challenge got even better - Srivalli changed the deadline to November 15 so I had every chance in the world to try and make my favorite dessert.

You know I made khoya yesterday. The first thing I did this morning was to take it out of the fridge and pick a recipe. Yes, we were given a choice of three recipes to pick from. Already, a lot of people had tried the gulab jamuns with the recipe from The Yum Blog or Alka. So contrarian that …

Making Khoya from scratch

I have a memory. My mother, stirring the milk as it boils down to a solid mass. Me, a 10 year old, waiting eagerly as she stirs in sugar and a little ghee and hands it over to me.

Apart from being being a delicious treat on its own, khoya (aka khova or mava) is the base for countless Indian desserts. If you are still wondering what it is, all you do is boil a liter of milk (more, if you dare) and then simmer it until the liquid's almost all gone and you are left with a rich, solid mass. It's critical to use a heavy saucepan. And dropping a couple of steel spoons in the milk as it starts to boil usually helps prevent burning. Apart from that, it's just solid effort in terms of stirring it for an hour or two, waiting for the transformation to happen.

I've never made khoya before simply because it has a terrible effort to rewards ratio. And also because it's so easy to get good quality store bought khoya around here. But when Srivalli announced Gulab Jamuns as the Oc…

Meet Ms. Tippity

I haven't gone crazy. It's perfectly normal and legitimate for sourdough bakers to name their starters. And as of yesterday, I count myself among the privileged. No, I can't believe it either. But the starter I began last sunday is finally up and running.

Twice during the past week, my starter gave up showing signs of life. Then I realized, that like any moody pet, this one doesn't like a change of diet. Feed it rye flour and it's happy. Change the food to plain flour and it begins to ebb. By and by, we have got to a stage where it expands every 8-10 hours. My sourdough flowchart says it's time to bake bread, so I baked some rolls.

Saturday night, I fed my starter as usual but didn't throw away the rest of it. Instead, I mixed 2 tbsp starter with 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup of rye flour. Sunday morning, I added enough plain flour to make a soft dough, then left it for 4 hours to rise until doubled. Shaped it into rolls, then left it to double again. All in all…

Chickpeas, Spinach, Tomato, Garlic

I think I am getting influenced by that Alinea chap. What else will explain this title up there? But then, this is a dish worthy of an Alinea-like title. You already know I like chickpeas. And I like spinach. But this combination...well, it's gobsmackingly good, even if I say this myself.

The Chickpeas : Soak 1/2 a cup overnight, then boil until just tender. Heat a tsp of ghee and add 2 freshly ground tomatoes. Cook on a low heat, stirring continuously, until your tomatoes turn to a thick paste. Add salt, a pinch of red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp chana masala (okay, confession time - I didn not have chana masala, so I put in pao bhaji masala instead!).

Cook for a minute or two to mix. Do not add any water. You will be tempted to do it. Just don't - trust me here! Add the boiled chanas (minus the water they were boiled in) and cook for 5 minutes or so until dry.

The Spinach : Wash and roughly chop 2 cups of spinach leaves. Add 1/2 cup water, one small chopped onion and 2-3 cloves …

Forbidden Rice Salad

I know you are eager to get to the salad. But for those waiting with bated breath to hear about my starter (you are, right?), I have created a spreadsheet tracking it's progress versus the Debra Wink recipe I am using. Have a look here.

Now, the salad. This is black rice that's grown in China. I think the legend of only emperors being allowed to eat it is a marketing gimmick. But I always fall for the name - it's forbidden rice after all. So I soaked 1/2 cup of forbidden rice for 2 hours. Then boiled it in plenty for water until it was cooked (just like pasta). It took around 20-25 minutes. Mixed in a thinly sliced spring onion, 2-3 chopped radishes and a handful of cilantro.

For the dressing, I mixed juice of one lemon with a tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac (for that extra tang and the lovely, lovely color). Whisked it together and poured it on top of the rice.

An update and an award

The alchemy has started to work. When I got back from office tonight, my precious starter was full of bubbles and almost double from where I left it this morning. Oh! I am so excited. I've just mixed in 2 tbsp each of rye flour and mixed fruit juice and moved it to a clean container. This is the last dose of rye and juice it gets. If the magic continues to work, my starter moves to plain flour and water tomorrow. If not, well...we'd see.

In the meantime, I have no pictures to share with you. But I do have an award. Kanchan has passed on the Presentation Award to me.

Thanks a lot for the award, Kanchan. And I'd see you all tomorrow with an update on my pet project.

Sourdough Starter : End of Day 1

There comes a time in the life of every bread baker when yeast is not enough. Then you have to catch, cultivate and pet that wild beast; the sourdough. If you are new to the concept, sourdough breads are breads made out of naturally cultivated yeast rather than relying on those little packets of the instant variety.

It's a long process, success is never guaranteed and you end up with a living pet on your refrigerator shelf forever. Yet, every bread baker does it. And finally, I am doing it too. I've read about sourdoughs for years. There are recipes that start with just plain flour and water. Some that resort to exotic stuff like red cabbage. But the one I picked from the melange is Debara Wink's pineapple juice starter. Paul over at Yumarama created this starter alongside another competing recipe and his step-by-step detailed instructions give me confidence enough to take the plunge.

But I couldn't find unsweetened pineapple juice. Trust me, I looked everywhere. Ther…

Pesto and Mushroom Calzone

For you can't have pizza for breakfast...

And because I had a pot of pesto lying in my fridge...

And some mushrooms too....

I made calzone instead. Now, that's not pizza, right? All it does is start with the basic pizza dough - 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tsp yeast, 1/2 tsp honey and 1/2 tsp olive oil mixed and kept aside for 10 minutes. Then kneaded with enough flour to make a soft dough (and a pinch of salt somewhere along the way).

Once it doubles, you punch it down, pull out a golf ball of dough and roll it. Here it is spread with pesto, sauteed mushrooms and grated cheddar.

Then folded over, and pressed down with a fork:

Left to rise again for 10-15 minutes. And finally, baked at 270C (or as high as your oven goes) until it browns.

Now that's what I call breakfast.

Happy Feet

Macarons? That's something I had written off as "not in this lifetime" recipe after two failures in the past year. But then daring bakers came up with macarons as the October challenge. Partly because you can't miss two challenges in a row, and possibly because I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, I had visions of Lisa and Ivonne in full regalia pointing at me. "You there, you are banished from the daring bakers kingdom forever".

So I dutifully aged one egg white for two days, ground some almonds and sifted them with icing sugar. The next part is tough. You beat the egg white to stiff peaks and then fold in the almond/sugar combo. Practically every possibility - underfolding, overfolding, even breathing - can result in your macarons coming out flat and without the coveted "feet".

Macaron gods must be looking over me this morning for when I looked in 2 minutes before end of baking time, my plain vanilla macarons had developed at …

Chocolate Sandesh for the Hindi Bindi Club

I really hesitated before I bought my copy of the Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan. That was a year or so ago, and I thought the book looked and felt the same as the Joy Luck Club. Immigrant mothers and American daughters, so similar yet so distant - the basic theme of the two books is the same. But I loved the Hindi Bindi Club so much more. Because it was so familiar, and because I know and I can relate to the Marathi Meenal, Punjabi Saroj and Bengali Uma so much more. Also to their daughters who grew up in an alien culture and no longer know what's right versus wrong.

This second time, when "This Book Makes Me Cook" picked the book for October, I thought I'd just go back and pick a recipe (there's one at the end of each chapter). But I got drawn into the story and ended up reading it all over again. The Meenal-Kiran duo gets the most coverage in the book, but my favorite of the lot is Uma the rebel. Who understands her daughter Rani way better than the other …

Warm Potato and Bean Salad

I think the biggest reason I love taste & create is because it's almost like a treasure hunt. Every month, when Nicole pairs me with another partner website, I end up going places I would have never been to on my own. This month, my partner is hungrywoolf who in her own words is a British transplant living in Columbus Ohio.

Her blog's a roller coaster ride of the food events and restaurant visits in Columbus (don't miss her taco truck nights). Then there are her visits to farmer's markets that I loved reading about. All peppered with some great recipes. Hungrywoolf had plenty of fall options for me to pick from, but Bombay still feels like summer. Which is why it's a salad I picked from my partner blog.

Boiled baby potatoes and steamed beans tossed with basil, onions, capers and a tangy dressing that's got all my favorite elements (lemon juice, mustard, garlic), this salad made a great dinner last night.


Did I ever tell you about this little secret of mine? I travel often to a city that has a connecting flight through Delhi. But I rarely ever book the connections the airlines give me. What I always do instead is find a flight that leaves me with a couple of hours of roaming time in Delhi. All for this cafe-restaurant called Choko-La.

Set in the sprawling market next to Priya Theatre, Choko-La is a chocoholics heaven. Just like the Harrods Chocolate Bar in London, they sell single origin chocolates that you can drink hot or cold. I always order a hot chocolate that comes in a tall glass of not-too-sweet, milky goodness. While they are getting your chocolate ready, you can stroll over to their baked goodies counter and tell them to warm you a cinnamon roll. Light as air, it's the best cinnamon roll I've eaten anywhere, ever.

Or you can order potato wedges that come with a great aioli. Or a grilled vegetable sandwich.

But remember that these nibbles are just a side show. The sta…

Happy Diwali

Here's wishing you a festival full of lights, warmth and sweet goodies.

Bombay Foodie's festive sweetness comes from Alka's Nariyal Barfi. I loved it when she got some for us at the blogger's meet so I thought I'd make some for diwali. Just a little twist though; I added a bit of citrus flavoring when boiling the sugar syrup and topped the barfi with candied orange peel.

Like all good things...

My travels with the trio of bakers from A Year in Bread have come to an end. Back in February, and simply on an impulse, I decided to bake the breads Susan, Kevin and Beth baked in 2007. From March that year to February 2008, they picked ten themes and each of them baked a bread for each. I gave two of the themes a miss, but the other eight were a phenomenal success. I might not bake Susan's white sandwich bread that often and have found another recipe for pizza but some, like Beth's Wheatberry Bread and Susan's Carrot Rolls are now staples.

I think the experience made me a better baker. And I never thought I'd say this, but just like Beth, I no longer measure out ingredients when making a pizza. I've also found depths of flavors I never thought possible in a bread - like Beth's Pesto Rolls or this last one, Kevin's Gougeres.

The last theme was bite sized breads. Susan sat this one out; Beth made Onion Cheddar Breadsticks. And Kevin made something that'…

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's my mom's birthday today. And birthdays call for cake, even if the birthday girl is too far away to enjoy this one.

I've perfected my chocolate cake a long time ago, but plain vanilla cake has so far eluded me. Not any longer. I've heard and read about Dorie Greenspan's perfect party cake so many times. And perfect it is. I can't find Dorie's book in India, but the Tuesdays with Dorie gang made this cake a while back and I turned to one of them for inspiration.

Esi made two 4.5 inch layers with her recipe, so I knew this will be perfect for my 9X7 pan. I also knew that I am not going to frost the cake so ten minutes into the baking time, I brought the cake out and scattered dried cherries on the top.

Rich and moist with hints of vanilla and notes of lemon, this is cake that's hard to share. I only hope I manage to save some for my lunch party tomorrow.

Mushroom and Mint Risotto

I promise this is the last risotto you will hear about, for a while. But this was too good not to share. This was the first time I made a risotto with homemade mushroom stock rather than the cubes and let me tell you this, the difference is mindblowing.

I heated 1 1/3 cup of the mushroom stock I'd made the day before and left it at a low simmer. In a pan, I heated a tsp of olive oil and sauteed 8-10 mushrooms, chopped into thin slices for a couple of minutes. Added 1/3 cup of arborio rice and stirred for a bit to coat it with oil. Poured in a glug of white wine. When the wine dried off, I added 1/2 cup of stock. It simmered away at a medium heat and I continued to add more stock, 1/3 cup at a time until the rice was done. With the last addition, I also added salt.

Once the last instalment of stock had dried, I took the rice off the heat and poured it into a serving dish. Then topped it with parmesan, fresh ground pepper and mint leaves. Earthy, cheesy, minty - rice this flavorful i…

Not your standard mushroom stock

At first I was intimidated by the Alinea cookbook recipes. Then I thought it couldn't be true. After all, Ultra Tex 3 can only belong to food in science fiction. But the more I read the book, the more I realized there was no need to make these recipes as is. Most recipes in the Alinea cookbook come with sub recipes that hide gems like vanilla pudding and cheese sauce. Or in this case, mushroom stock.

The last time I made vegetable stock from a cookbook, it made me decide stock making wasn't worth the effort. This time, the Alinea recipe has sworn me off stock cubes forever. It's such a simple recipe. Chop half a pack of mushroom, a carrot and an onion coarsely, then pulse them in the food processor. Bring to a simmer with parsley, thyme, bay leaf and a litre of water. Simmer for 45 minutes, then strain and return to the saucepan. Simmer again until halved. Strain again. Cool.

I don't know how it tastes yet because I made the stock for something I am cooking tomorrow. Bu…

Yet Another Stash

I thought you will be bored of seeing what I bring back from my shopping excursions. But so many of you asked to see my London shopping that I finally thought I will put this up.

At least the part that lets me talk about my favorite market. Set in the heart of Central London is Covent Garden Market. It's a mishmash of artists selling handicrafts, plenty of local food and some permanent yet extremely interesting shops. Think of things like candy stores selling almost extinct traditional English sweets. Or Whittard, where almost all these mugs come from. Whittard is a tea and coffee store, which means they sell several types of teas, numerous coffees and everything in the equipment/crockery department you need to enjoy these beverages. The first time I went there, I wanted to buy the entire store. As an added bonus, they had a 50% sale this time round so I got me that lovely harlequin hand painted kettle that rests on top of a matching cup. The cute little striped cups are hand pain…

Eat Cake

Cake can set most things right. At least for Ruth, heroine of "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray, the book our club is reading this month. She bakes when she's happy or sad or stressed. Basically, cakes are the ultimate comfort for Ruth. And then she uses these cakes to actually set things right with her life.

You know what I like best about Ruth. Her firm belief that cake eating has to be a happy thing; not the "guilty I am breaking my diet" thing. I am totally with her there; even though I don't always agree with her solution to problems. But no one said this is a serious read. Instead, Eat Cake is one of those feel good books you pick up when you are lost for next reading idea.

Eat Cake also comes up with a series of cake recipes, all of them extremely complicated or elaborate. In fact, every recipe has at least one quirky element. I read this book just before I left for London so I had no time to try one of her elaborate masterpieces. Instead, I picked Pistachio…

Going Away

What's your biggest fear when you are travelling? Losing your passport? Missing your flight?

Mine is getting stuck in a hotel room with nothing to eat except chips and bad chocolate. Which is why I always pack a bunch of granola bars and some nuts. Except this time I had a look at the list of ingredients and was super shocked at what goes into that granola bar. Just think of all that sugar and chemicals.

So I'm packing my own granola this time round. The recipe was inspired by smitten kitchen, but I've managed to change it beyond recognition. For one, I made granola not bars. And two, I made it on stovetop rather than switch on my oven.

But the basics remain the same. Mix a cup of rolled oats with 1/2 cup chopped almonds (I whizzed my almonds in the blender rather than chop them). Heat a non stick pan and add the oats-almond mix. Roast on a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until lightly toasted. Be very careful and take the pan off immediately if they start to brown. Mi…

Spinach and 3 Cheese Risotto

So I had this pack of arborio rice for a whole year, and I did nothing about it. Then, a few days back, I made my first risotto. And I've been feeling like making a new one every other day. This one's my favorite so far.

Like any other risotto, start by making stock. For my 1/3 cup of rice, I need 1 1/3 cup of warm vegetable stock. Chop 1/2 cup of spinach. Cut ricotta into small cubes. Grate cheddar and parmesan cheeses separately. How much of each of these three? Really, as much as you like.

Now, heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan. Drop your 1/3 cup of arborio rice and toss of coat. Add 1/3 cup stock, reduce the heat to medium and let cook. When the rice has absorbed part of the stock, add another 1/3 cup. With the third addition, add spinach. When the water level reduces this time round, check the rice for doneness. You may need the last 1/3 cup of stock, or not. Either way, once the last bit of stock is added and the rice is done but still has a bite, cook it for another 2-3 m…

Just a Dosa

Are you sitting there scratching your head, wondering what I am doing blogging about a plain dosa. And not a very good one at that. Well, the thing is, I've wanted to try my hand at dosa making for quite a long time. That seemed to be the only way to get exactly what I wanted : crisp but not paper thin plain dosa. And finally, I did!

There's no recipe for this one, because it's made of store bought batter. That's one good thing about Bombay. Every store around here sells freshly ground idli and dosa batter, so you never need think about soaking and fermenting things for 2 days and what not.

It's pretty much instant. Buy the batter, drop a couple of tbsp on a heated nonstick griddle, spread it out as thin as a crepe, add a bit of oil, let it brown, then fold. Still to perfect the technique but the initial results were not too bad.

Breakfast Carb Fix

It's like bircher muesli but better. What you do is mix 2 tbsp of rolled oats with 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt and leave them to soak overnight. Next morning, blend the yogurt/oats with 2-3 slices of pineapple (or another fruit; I think apples would be great) and a tbsp of no sugar strawberry jam.

Raise a toast to a new day.

The Loot

What's a girl to do when all the home stuff stores in the vicinity go on sale at the same time. And I really only bought necessities, like pots and pans. And you can never have too many sunshine yellow bowls or way too many glass bowls, can you?

Ah okay! so maybe the Japanese soup bowls were really not a necessity. But let's not get all technical here. Specially about my new quirky wine color mugs...anyway, just thought you might want to know what I have been up to all this weekend since I am certainly not cooking.

Risotto Primero

Even with all the cooking I do, I've never made a risotto. Surprising, I know. It's just rice, right? But there's something about the precise technique that books and recipes describe that scares me off. Plus anything that requires making stock doesn't fly in my book. And I never ever have wine in my fridge.

But I love eating risotto and I've had a pack of arborio rice hanging around for a long time. As I often do when making something the first time, I went to foodgawker and searched for risottos. Plenty of interesting ideas popped up, but this sweet corn risotto caught my eye. The recipe doesn't call for any wine, and this is just the season for local corn. And stock? well, I just used one of those nifty stock cubes.

Thyme made a lovely pair with the fresh local corn I bought, and I added tons of parmesan and fresh pepper to up the flavors a notch. See! I made risotto and it wasn't scary and it was totally delicious.

This Book Makes Me Cook : Pomegranate Soup

I had a sense of deja vu reading our book club's pick for August. Marsha Mehran's Pomegrante Soup is a story of three Iranian sisters who escape the revolution, flee to London, then land up in an Irish village where they set up a cafe. The book is replete with references to food, and has plenty of drama thrown in both as a clash of cultures and the memories haunting from the past.

Now where have I read this before? You're right; the plot, down to the minutest detail, is from Chocolat. The village bully, the friendly folks who reluctantly get drawn to the exotic cafe never seen in these parts before - you've read everything from this story before in a French setting. Yet Pomegranate Soup is a pleasant way to pass a weekend afternoon. Certainly, everyone on the book club loved it.

The best part of the book is that each chapter starts with a recipe, and that dish is then folded into the story being told. There are plenty of great ideas to pick from. What I picked was a br…

Be careful what you wish for...

For didn't I say last month that the daring bakers challenges were getting to be too simple. And just a few days later, Angela and Lorraine, this month's hosts, responded with a Dobos Torte. I haven't heard of this Hungarian torte before and I read the eight page pdf of the recipe with growing apprehension.

You'd know when I explain what a Dobos Torte is. It's a five layer sponge cake with chocolate buttercream, topped with caramel. Now I've never made a sponge cake before. I've made buttercream once but I wouldn't know how to apply it neatly on a cake. And caramel! Isn't it that scary thing that goes from just done to burnt in a second.

To make it easier, I decided to make a mini cake with just 1/6th the original recipe. That's where Audax comes in. You don't know Audax? He's got to be the most helpful daring baker. And because he usually completes the challenge the day it's announced, we rely on him to clarify techniques and occasi…

It's arrived!

It's good that flipkart sends you a mail the day they ship the books you have ordered. Or I might have fainted, or something. As it is, my heart skipped a few beats as I opened the brown packaging and came face to face with this most beautiful of cookbooks.

Or rather, it's so not a cookbook. It's a chronicle of Alinea, the restaurant and the dining experience it's vastly talented yet whimsical chef Grant Achatz has created. I don't think I will have the courage to cook a single recipe in this book even if I can find the ingredients (right now I cant!). But at least in the meantime, or at least until I get to Chicago and eat at Alinea, I can gawk at this beautiful work of art.

Healthy Spinach Rice for Microwave Potluck Party

Is it really two years that Srivalli has been running her innovative microwave cooking event. She's prompted me to try my microwave for more than just heating several times. Just like last year, Srivalli celebrates the event anniversary with a potluck party. I took a dessert to the party last time around, but this time I was rooting for something healthier. I turned to last year's roundup, and there was this spinach rice. Valli, hope you don't mind getting the same dish on the menu again.

To make spinach rice, wash and soak 1/2 cup rice. In a microwave safe dish, heat a tsp of ghee for 30 seconds. Add 5-6 peppercorns and heat for another 10 seconds. Now add a small onion, chopped finely and microwave for another 30 seconds. Add a cup of finely chopped spinach, 1/2 a tsp of garam masala and another 1/2 tsp of salt. Mix and cook for 2-3 minutes until the spinach wilts. Add rice to the bowl, and a cup of water then pop it back in the microwave for 5 minutes. Bring it out and…

Go Nuts!

This recipe is pure coincidence. I was baking shortbread last week, and ran out of chocolate chips to top the cookies. So, instead, I pressed an almond in the center of each one. One of these almonds was less than stuck so it popped out, and I just ate it right out of the oven. Bliss! I first thought I will pull out the almonds and eat them, each one of them. But then, I just decided to be nice and make the roasted almonds by themselves.

This time around, I mixed half a cup of almonds with a tsp of olive oil, 1/2 a tsp of sea salt and a generous pinch of herbs de Provence. Then lined a baking tray with parchment and arranged the almonds in a single layer. Mimicking the baking time for my cookies, I baked these on the top shelf at 170C for 30 minutes, rotating once in between. The savory version was even lovlier, so much that you should make them right away. Really. I insist.

On a side note, if you aren't familiar with herbs de Provence, that's a lovely combination of dried herb…

Bombay Foodie is changing...

I have always been a proponent of healthy eating. But somewhere along the line, with my new found love of baking, I've veered towards the devilish treats a bit too much. It's been fun baking those buttery cookies and chocolate-y cakes, but now I'm taking a pause and setting my diet straight.

No, this does not mean you will only see salads over here from now on. And I am surely gonna bake whatever sinful decadence daring bakers come up with. But do expect more whole wheat treats rather than white bread; and some olive oil instead of butter.

I make a start with this month's taste and create.

Laura is my partner the second time round. Even the first time, I was impressed by the range of her cooking; from lovely breads to tons of chocolate cookies to vegetarian dishes from around the world. This time, I picked her chickpea salad.

First, you boil the chickpeas. Then, you mix roughly a cup of boiled chickpeas with a tbsp of chopped cilantro and a small sliced onion. Then you m…

Christmas in August

Cinnamon, sugar, raisins and a house full of sweet baking fragrance. That's the bread I picked from the seasonal breads the three bakers from A Year in Bread baked in December. This was Kevin's recipe, and although I made one major change (replaced the eggs with an equal quantity of milk), the rolls came out real nice.

Can't write more as my mom's here and we are off to the beach as soon as we finish eating the rolls. She goes back tomorrow, and once I'm over the paranthas and kadhi-chawal she's been feeding me this past week, I'd be back with some new stuff.

A curry, an award and seven top secrets

Once, at a dinner in Hyderabad, I ate an egg curry. It was actually called an Egg Korma and had a brown curry very different from the red tomato based curries of North India. Nor was this curry tangy with tamarind. And it had a peculiar fragrant spicy flavor. I've looked to replicate this recipe for a few years now. And finally, it worked. I spotted this recipe over at Prasukitchen a few days back. Followed it just as she made it, and it was simply perfect. That spice I mentioned, that was kasuri methi - the missing link in all my previous attempts.

And I have more things to be thankful for today. Aquadaze and Jaya, two friends I've come to know through the book club, have passed the Kreativ Blogger award to me. Thanks a lot, both of you!

I have to pass on this award to seven other people. So off it goes to Harini, Sweatha, Shaheen, Lubna, Debbie, Laura and Bluespriite.

This award also requires me to tell seven secrets about me. Just in case you are interested, read on:

1. I was…

AWED Roundup : An English Summer

I asked for English food, and did you guys awe me with your ideas. 17 lovely entries, and one of mine - great British food for you to pick from.

An English Breakfast

If you read your Wodehouse right, you would remember those breakfast sideboards heaving with dishes. What I have instead is something even better: traditional yet healthy ideas.

Bhagyashri had to search a bit for an English dish fitting her current diet. And did she come up with a winner, with this lovely beans on toast.

Sweatha makes the traditional Scottish breakfast of Tattie Scones. That's panfried mashed potatoes, enough motivation to me to try these immediately.

And DK, the brain behind AWED, delivers a breakfast winner with her English Muffins.

Teatime Soiree

The afternoon tea, with its formality, and its lovely sandwiches and cakes and scones, is my favorite part of British cuisine.

And scones we have, of three different kinds. Four, actually. Yamini makes scones with strawberries and another version with choco…

Simple Pleasures

Last night, I got a call from my maid/cook. Her daughter wanted a fruit salad for a school project and did I have any ideas. I did, of course, but this turned out to be a bit tricky. Thanks to next door supermarket, I haven't shopped at the local fruit seller's for a few months. So I first had to find out the range of fruits to expect. Pretty slim pickings, as it turns out. She had bananas, chickoos and pears. And probably some sour plums or pomegranate. But no kiwi or pineapple. Not even mangoes, now that monsoons have set in. And who's heard of sprigs of mint once the rain has started. I was also reliably informed that you can't buy heavy whipping cream at the local grocer's.

As this simple idea took root in my mind, I was tempted to try the salad for myself. First in a glass goes a layer of chopped bananas. Then a layer of peeled and diced chickoos. I put the fruit in the freezer to chill for a few minutes. In the meantime, I mixed a tbsp each of yogurt and mala…