Saturday, December 26, 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 time. I love eating them every chance I get but I knew I had to learn to make them because, for some strange reasons, all restaurants pair them with stew and I love them with sambar. They looked so tough to make though.

So a few months back, I asked Srivalli and she pointed me to her ever-green appam recipe. I immediately realized I was ill-equipped to deal with this one for (i) They are way too soft and delicate and I was scared I'd never make them; (ii) I had no idea where to find coconut water (the water from brown not green coconut, and not coconut milk! and (iii) I did not own an appam pan. But for Srivalli's encouragement, I would have given up with idea altogether. But she would remind me every once in a while. And finally, I got my vegetable guy to break open a coconut and pack me the water to take home, bought an appam pan and get set to make this delicious pancake.

Srivalli's recipe works like a dream. The appams were so nice even I can't believe it was my first time making them. End of a quest for me too, just like Akhila!

Want to know where other members' quests led them?
Sweatha made cutlets, one food that always reminds me of train journeys.
Bhagyashri made aubergine fritters.
Also, don't forget to stop by at Sheba's for a lovely review.

Next month, the club is reading it's first non-fiction ever. The book we picked is Madhur Jaffrey's "Climbing the Mango Tree". Please leave a comment here if you would like to join us and I'd get back to you with details.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

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.


Monday, December 21, 2009

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 to do when faced with something that tastes great but is nowhere close to what you wanted. What I did was call my icecream store for 2 scoops of vanilla icrecream. I spread the icrcream in a freezer container and plonked my brownie goo on top of it. Mixed it well, then let it freeze for a few hours.

Best decision I ever made!

Friday, December 18, 2009

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 shelves more carefully. She then proceeded to tell me not to bother with a recipe as this is something she makes at home all the time. And off she went to make her very desi lima bean masala. Here's her very delicious recipe if you find some green lima beans wherever you are.

Peel and coarsely chop a large onion, then grind to a paste. Blanch, peel and puree two tomatoes. In a pan, heat a tbsp of ghee. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and wait for them to splutter. Add the onion paste and stir fry on a medium heat until the onions are lightly browned, very fragrant and the ghee starts to separate. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric and after a few seconds, add the tomato puree. Stir fry until the mixture is almost dry, then add green lima beans (i had about a cup of those), salt and 1/4 tsp red chilli powder. Add enough water to cover the beans, bring to a boil and let simmer until the beans are tender. It takes about 20-30 minutes this way, but you can always speed up the process with a pressure cooker.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

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?

Friday, December 11, 2009

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 brownies I've eaten? Surely not. Some blogs I read said they would get better after 24 hours, but the brownies didn't last long enough for me to test that. But now that I've made my first good brownie, I am on a lookout for the "best" brownie recipe. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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 lot less flour than I do when I knead by hand. And you should go make this too. Just remember to use parchment.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

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 also had Swati's fresh juice or buttermilk by now, I haven't ventured outside these two menu items often.

But my friends today ordered moong dal chila, a lentil pancake studded with garlic and peanut sauce that just might become a regular order too.

Service isn't a high point at Swati. They always smile and they won't rush you, but they'd rather you finish your meal soon and make way for the next guest. With food this good, I don't really care!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

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 or so. If you live in a place where the whole sun-drying business is not possible, you can try leaving them in a very low oven for a bit.

Grind 100 grams fresh ginger to a paste. Separately, grind 10-12 cloves to garlic to a paste. Combine 5-6 black cardamom pods, 5-6 cloves, a tbsp of cumin seeds and a tbsp of peppercorns. Grind all these spices to a powder.

In a separate, preferably stainless steel pan, mix a cup of white vinegar (the industrial quality is fine here) and 2 tbsp of jaggery or your darkest brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook just until the sugar melts completely.

Just to complete your mise en place and because you will need these in a rush later, measure out a tsp of rai (black wholegrain mustard), 3 tbsp of salt and a tbsp of red chilli powder.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in a really large pan and add garlic paste. Stir until it starts to brown slightly, then add the ginger paste and stir fry until it's browned. Reduce the heat and add the powdered spices, rai, salt and chilli powder. Turn off the heat and mix in the vegetables until they are completed coated with the spices. Pour over the vinegar-jaggery mixture. Let cool, then store in a glass jar.

Keeps for a month or so just like this, but I prefer to keep it in the fridge.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

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 loaf of bread was the only cooking this book could have inspired me to do. Wynter has her "Chef", the starter of her French baking days. I have my newly formed Ms. Tippity, the sourdough starter I baked my first loaf with. The night before, I took the starter out of the fridge and measured out 2 tbsp. To this I added 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, then left it overnight. Next morning, I added another 1/2 cup of warm water and enough plain flour to knead it into a smooth dough. Once I'd added all the flour and halfway through my kneading, I also added 1/2 tsp salt.

Formed it into a ball and left it in a greased bowl for 3 hours to double. Punched it down gently, then shaped it into a round loaf. Left it on a baking sheet lined with parchment to double again, another two hours. Heated the oven to 190C, then slashed the top of the loaf with a sharp knife and baked until golden. Because I used a lot of starter, the bread was less sour than my previous rolls. But off it came with a crackling crust and a soft crumb, the perfect bread.

Janaki, our newest member, takes the "halve the yeast" message from the book and makes a whole wheat bread.

Aqua tries "halve the yeast" too for her white bread.

Sweatha makes Swirled Nutella Scones.

Sheba, another new member of the book club, bakes Patty's Cake.

And we have another new member still. Bhagyashri, our third new entrant this month, makes cherry scones.

Also hop over to Ann's to read her review.

Next month, we are reading Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair. Please leave a comment here if you would like to join us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Applesauce



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 granola, then cold mixed in yogurt. The rest of it is now in the freezer. Any ideas on how to use it up?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

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.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

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 I am, I decided to go with Indo's recipe. Except that I divided it by 1/8.

And gosh! I could hardly wait for the lovely looking gulab jamuns to soak in the syrup before I tried them. They are soft, not too sweet and more delicious that any store bought gulab jamuns I've eaten. Now the next challenge is to keep me from eating all of these at one go.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

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 October dare for Indian cooking challenge, she also added that we need to make our own khoya.

I love gulab jamuns and when Srivalli extended the deadline to November 15, I had no choice but to get going on this project. I started with just half a liter of milk, and the khoya didn't take that long to make. But it's too much effort for one day, so the gulab jamuns have to wait. Until tomorrow, that is...

Monday, November 9, 2009

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, it took a whole day to get to the baking stage.

Finally, at 7 pm, the rolls were in the oven. And half an hour later, I had my first sourdough success. I've never tasted sourdough before so I was surprised at how sour it actually was.

Ms. Tippity was fed again and now rests in the fridge. I'd bring her out again next friday to help with my weekend bread baking. So long, and enjoy your break.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

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 of garlic then cook until the spinach is soft. It takes 2 whistles in the pressure cooker if you are using that. Blend into a puree and return to the pan. Simmer until the spinach, onion, garlic mixture thickens to a soup like consistency.

The Plating : Take a shallow soup plate and flood it with spinach puree. Arrange chickpeas in the center. If you are Grant Achatz, you will make a neat circle with a tweezer. This chef here was too busy trying to eat it to make it any prettier.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

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.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

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.

Monday, November 2, 2009

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. There's orange juice and there's apple juice but there's no pineapple.

Then last night, I mixed 2 tbsp of wholemeal rye flour with 2 tbsp of unsweetened mixed fruit juice. And my starter's officially started. Maybe it will work; maybe it won't.

At least, nothing much had happened when I got home tonight. The mixture was just as I left it. Just now, I've added the second shot of rye flour and juice (2 tbsp of each). Going by the time it took Paul's starter to bubble, next 24 hours is when the magic should work. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 30, 2009

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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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 least some skirts around them if not real feet. They did stick to the parchment though. Here's where our macaron guru Helen comes to rescue. She always says to sprinkle a drop of water below the parchment and the macarons come out clean.

I sandwiched them with some ganache (equal quantities of cream and dark chocolate melted in the microwave) and now I'm off to heaven to celebrate. I think it must be the sugar rush.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

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 two. Or maybe I just like her independent streak.

When it came to picking a recipe, I wanted to pick one from the Uma-Rani repertoire. Not to mention something that showcased their combined cultural influences. So I picked Rani's chocolate Sandesh truffles - the delicate, traditional sandesh presented as you would a truffle.

Rani's recipe uses homemade chhena and cocoa powder. I converted it to use store bought paneer and melted chocolate (never use cocoa when you can use chocolate!).

So first, take 100 grams paneer and knead it lightly will your palms until the grains disappear and it turns very smooth. In a microwave safe pan, melt 70 grams semi-sweet chocolate. Do it in 30 second bursts i.e. heat it for 30 seconds, whisk with a fork, back in the microwave for 30 seconds until melted and smooth. Add the kneaded paneer and mix well. Pop it back in the microwave and cook on high, again in 30 second bursts and stirring each time, until the mixture loses most of the moisture and thickens. It took 2 minutes in mine.

Let cool to a temperature where you can handle it but it's still warm. Shape into balls with a cookie scoop or between two spoons, then roll to smoothen out the truffles. Roll in coarsely ground almonds and let cool.

Looks like I am not the only Uma fan in our book club. Aparna made chocolate sandesh truffles too, complete with a chocolate drizzle.

Ann picks an Uma recipe too and makes Bengali Grilled Salmon. Also check out her review.

Aqua made Saroj's Punjabi samosas.

And finally, Jaya makes Meenal's kheer.

Next month, we are reading Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks. Leave a comment here if you want to join us and I will get back with more details.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Choko-La

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 star, the chocolate, is what draws me back every single time to my favorite table by the window.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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's been on my mind a lot lately - the buttery, cheesy, gougeres. It's eclairs dough, which means you cook water, butter, flour then beat in the eggs, mix some gruyere cheese and let the steam puff it all up.

A fitting finale to a great year!

Gourgeres are my entry to High Tea Treats, this month's edition of Meeta's monthly mingle hosted by Aparna.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

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.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

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 is hard to find.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

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. But the whole house smells of mushrooms and herbs and something very, very nice this whole has become. I think I will make this again just for this smell.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

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 painted too. And do you see that nursery rhyme cup - the hare rests with a cup of tea while the smart tortoise makes it to the finish line with a cupcake.

The one mug that doesn't come from Whittard comes from my other favorite place in London. My friend had seen these penguin mugs with names of books on them and wanted one, so I went to the best place for everything bookish - the Charing Cross Road.

What you don't see here is my big huge stash of groceries. I think I bought a year's supply of everything you can't find easily in India. So if you are in Mumbai and craving something you can't buy here, give me a shout.

Monday, September 28, 2009

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 Cake. The quirky element in this one is cardamom.

I decided to make regular cupcakes replacing pistachios with almonds and cardamom with vanilla. But I don't think you can do regular with this book. The moment I opened my new bottle of vanilla essence and dropped 1/4 tsp into the batter, I knew the label was wrong and I have added coconut essence to my cake instead. So here it is, the very tropical almond cake.


Grind 1/4 cup almonds in a food processor taking care they don't become a paste. Add 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Combine 3 tbsp milk and 1/4 tsp vanilla essence (or coconut if you are feeling adventurous).

Beat together 50 gms butter with 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat well. Alternately add almond flour and milk in batches, starting and ending with flour and mix until combined. Pour into 6 cupcake pans lined with paper and bake at 180C for about 20 minutes.

Ann, our newest member, makes the pistachio cake for real.

Sweatha bakes an easy microwave version of the carrot cake.

Also head over to Jaya's for another review, although she did not have the patience to create one of the complicated cakes.

And to Aqua for her review and a recap of some gorgeous baking experiments

.For October, we are reading the Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan. If you liked the Joy Luck Club, you will love this. I've read this one before, but can't wait to go back and try one of the recipes. Want to read with us? Just leave a comment here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

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. Mix in 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds. Now pour in 1/3 cup honey and mix well.

Add 1/2 cup dried fruits of your choice. I used golden raisins and dried black grapes, but anything you fancy works. Line a tray with waxed paper and pour the granola in. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and let cool. Break up into chunks and pack into an airtight container.

Now I'm ready to face that hotel room. See you after a week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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 minutes. Add ricotta, cook for another minute or so and turn off the heat. Stir in grated cheddar, then top with parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Friday, September 11, 2009

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.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

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.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

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 bread/cracker I'd been planning to bake for a while anyway. The thin, crisp, lavash.

To make lavash, mix 1/2 tbsp yeast with 1/4 cup warm water. After 10-15 minutes, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tbsp sugar and a tsp of salt. Slowly mix in a cup of whole wheat flour. Knead into the dough, adding more plain flour as necessary. You will probably need another cup, which makes it half whole wheat, half all purpose flour bread. Knead until the dough feels smooth. Roll into a ball, put in a covered container and let rise until doubled.

Knead the dough for a few seconds to flatten the big bubbles. Now pinch a ball of dough as big as you can handle and roll until it's what Marsha calls paper thin. Cut into long strips as I did, or into smaller crackers and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or anything else you fancy. Heat the oven to as high as it would go; mine's highest is 270C. Bake for 5-7 minutes until they get brown and crisp.

That's my flavor of Iran. What's other members?

Jaya makes this gorgeous lentil soup.
Sweatha makes the Pomegranate Soup itself.
Aqua makes the refreshing dugh.

Next month, we are reading Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray. If you would like to join us, please leave a comment here and I will get back with details.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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 occasional bugs in the recipes. I know I do.

So Audax came with this fabulous way to make even layers of sponge cake just as thick as a matchstick. I took his advice and baked a sheet of cake, then used my round cookie cutter to cut out five circles of thin cake. And a sixth smaller circle for the caramel layer. So far so good.

Making the buttercream was easy too. I am not a fan of lightly cooked eggs in buttercream, so I took Aparna's advice and replaced the eggs with a paste made of milk and corn starch. Lovely, shiny, silky cream. If only I could apply it in an even layer. That so didn't happen as you can see but it was delicious.

And finally, the caramel. To me, that was the bit that brought this cake together. A lot of members thought they found the caramel with lemon juice too lemony so I made one important change to the recipe. Instead of the lemon juice, I added 1/2 a tsp of lemon essence. Yes, it was hard to judge when it was done. But it didn't burn, and it was so delicious. Of course I got more than just that little disk that you see there, so I dropped chunks of it on a parchment that I then picked and ate. Just like that. It was like toffee, but better.

The final cake was too sweet for me, so maybe I'd make my buttercream with bitter chocolate if I do this a second time.

Before I sign-off, the mandatory blog checking lines:
The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

And a quick look at the half eaten cake, just before it all vanished.



Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

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 check how far you are from the rice getting cooked (the amount of water left in the rice is a good guide). I had to cook the rice for another 5 minutes and let it rest for another 5 to finish cooking in the steam.

And now for some award time. Faiza Ali and Mrignayani, two new found friends, have passed on the Scrumptious Blog award to me:



Thanks a lot, both of you. It feels great to know you enjoy the blog.

In turn, I would like to pass on the award to seven other scrumptious blogs:

- Alka, the Sindhi foodie, who's taking a blog break but continues to show up with some yummy words of wisdom at Beyond Curries.
- Aqua, whose many easy recipes I've tried and loved.
- Jaya, the multifaceted cook, potter and booklover.
- Prathibha, cooking to glory in my own city of Mumbai.
- Priya for her easy, tasty and healthy recipes.
- Rush, the Ex-Bombayiite with a passion for life. I love her thoughts, her rants, her experiences.
- Siri, whose lovely blog just completed a scrumptious two years.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

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 herbs. Mine's got thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano and rosemary. Substitute with any of these herbs individually if you like, or omit it entirely - the plain salted ones are in the oven now and they seem mightily good too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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 mix a tbsp each of lemon juice and olive oil and whisk it with ground cumin, salt and black pepper. All of this goes into the chickpeas that you arrange on a bed of seasonal greens.

In a separate bowl, you whisk together 3 tbsp yogurt, a tbsp of orange juice, a tsp of honey, a tbsp of chopped mint and just a pinch of salt. Pour this on top of the chickpeas. Individually, the chickpeas and the yogurt sauce would have been delicious. Together, they just explode with taste.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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 a very picky eater as a child. Even though the range of foods I eat has expanded, I still frown on at least half the vegetables I know of.

2. I love to cook alone. Being in the kitchen when I am cooking is not fun, trust me!

3. I buy cookbooks only for the glamrous food photography. There are several I've never cooked a single recipe from.

4. I read a book about an American missionary to China when I was ten year old, and I've wanted to learn mandarin ever since.

5. I love to read thrillers and science fiction.

6. I try to avoid eggs when baking as I can't stand the eggy smell of sweet goodies. Eggs in savory dishes don't bother me.

7. I hate getting up in the mornings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

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 chocolate chips.

Sweatha comes up with these lovely cream and ginger scones.

And I have apricot orange scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam as part of my formal tea setting. This tea table also has cucumber sandwiches.

For a weekend treat, our teatime has traditional pound cake courtesy Ann.

And Madhuram over at Eggless Cooking chips in with some healthy whole wheat digestive cookies.

Dinner's Served



The main course has never been a mainstay of British cuisine. For didn't the Englishmen prefer the French dishes. But there are some hidden gems.

And then some inspired from the Indian cuisine as well. One of my favorite dishes that the Britishers adapted and took back with them is this Mulligatawny Soup that Meena comes up with.

And Ramki has another Indo-British inspiration, with his rice recipes from the British Raj.

As a side dish, Sweatha has Colcannon, a simple Irish dish of cabbage and mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes make a grand appearance again in two variations of that rustic dish, the Shepherd's pie.

Naina from Le-Bouffe take her mother's recipe and makes a delicious shepherd's pie, both in traditional and a vegan version with soybean granules.

And Sheba comes up with a Lentils Shepherd's Pie.

What's for Dessert



What defines an English summer for you? For me, it's Wimbledon and strawberries with cream. Aqua makes a healthier version with yogurt instead of cream.

Another English dessert not to trifle with; Faiza makes the English Trifle complete with sponge cake, custard, strawberries and whipped cream.

I was hoping someone will come up with this one. Jaya makes that dessert with a funny name; a vegan version of Spotted Dick.

And then two versions of those famed British puddings. First, a self-saucing Butterscotch Pudding from Johanna. Delicious for a winter night, and you don't even need any sauce or icing.

And finally, that English classic - the Bread and Butter Pudding, in an eggless version from Pari. I dislike the eggy flavor of the original one too, so this one's gone straight to my to-try list.

I hope you enjoyed our journey through British cuisine. And I hope I didn't miss anyone. Do let me know if I did, and I will promptly correct this post.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

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 malai (top cream off the milk) with a tsp of caster sugar and beat everything until smooth. Poured this on top of chilled fruit, then topped with ruby red pomegranate seeds.

Simple, but totally delicious!