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Showing posts from March, 2009

The Follies of Innovation

Taste & Create is my favorite event in the whole blogging world. But I missed the deadline last few months and had to remain without a partner. This month, Nicole had a glitch in her mail and had to extend the deadline. Time enough for me to sign up.

And I have a fabulous partner this month. Laura said that we are on the same wavelength and I couldn't agree more. She cooks a range of stuff : Indian, Mexican, cookies, breads and whatnot. And those lovely bundt cakes I couldn't take my eyes off. It's not just food. Sitting in my tiny Bombay flat, I can't help admiring her new Midwest home (is that a real river in her backyard!) with that huge kitchen. And I am totally in awe of her spice drawer.

I was sorely tempted to try one of her 20 chocolate chip cookie recipes. But because I am trying to be eat healthy (ha!) and more because I am in a bread baking mood nowadays, I decided to bake a bread she learnt from the Guru. The bread was Cinnamon Raisin Loaf, adapted from…

Vino Extraordinaire

If I make a list of my favorite authors, Joanne Harris will feature in the top 5. I have read everything she has written, and with two exceptions, liked them all. Blackberry Wine, our book club's pick for this month and the second book of her food trilogy, is my favorite.

The book flips back and forth in time. Between three summers in mid-seventies that a teenaged Jay Mackintosh spent with Jackapple Joe, ex-miner and amateur gardener/winemaker who brings a little of everyday magic to Jay's life. And a time in Jay's life some 20 years later as a has-been writer who is struggling to find himself. A time when Joe enters his life again, in form of six bottles of Joe's fruit wines. Bottled memories, he calls them.

This is the happiest book Joanne has written. No, everyone in the book isn't happy all the time. But you will close the book with a very good feeling. Layman's alchemy, Joe calls it and I agree.

I cannot make wine. But the book inspired me to bottle memor…


I am not a fan of store bought pesto. Not because it's not fresh, or because it contains preservatives. I don't like it because of the cheese.

I don't like parmesan. There, it's heresy, but I've said it now. Give me fresh mozzarella, crumbly feta or even gorgonzola. But parmesan's just not my thing. Now pesto is a sauce hard to avoid if you like Italian, so I decided to make my own cheese-less version of the classic.

Drop a loosely packed cup of basil leaves and 2 chopped garlic cloves in a blender. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Now add a tbsp of pine nuts, another tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of coarse sea salt and blend again. But stop while your sauce is still grainy - remember that pesto is something you originally made with mortar & pestle so we aren't looking for smooth here.

Dip a spoon and dig in. If any of it survives beyond the first ten minutes, scrape it into an airtight container and leave it in the fridge. I've heard it lasts a few d…

Hot Off the Streets?

I'd torn this recipe from a magazine many years ago. The author claimed that "pyaali" made a perfect pair for the brun bread. She also said that this is the quintessential Bombay street food. Which is where I hit a snag. In the last many years in the city, I've never heard of pyaali - as a street food or otherwise. But as I read on, I became intrigued with this curry of dried white peas and the rainbow of accompainments it comes with. For this is how my torn magazine fragment describes the dish. You fill your bowl with the curry, then top with your pick from an assortment of toppings.

To make the curry, soak 1/2 cup dried white peas (called matar or vatana in Mumbai) overnight. Boil with 1/2 tsp each of salt and turmeric powder in plenty of water until soft. Around 10 minutes in the pressure cooker did it for me. Also boil two small potatoes and chop them in small pieces. Add one of the chopped potatoes to the peas and boil until they are blended with the peas and s…

Of Brun and Bun Maska

There is more to Bombay's breads than the pao that goes into pao bhaji and vada pao. There's Brun. and there's bun. We will get there. First, you have to get to know the city's Parsis. And Iranis, who are also Zoroastrians, but came to city a little later, in the late 19th or early 20th century. And when they came, they brought with them these little cafes that dot the city.

I am no expert on Irani chai cafes. And I can't tell you whether Yazdani Bakery will provide you the best experience or Kyani's. But I can tell you a few things you need to ignore when you get there. Appearances don't matter; so ignore the fact that the marble/glass top tables and the wooden chairs look a bit dilapidated. Also ignore the rundown look the place sports.

Instead, get yourself settled. And order a bun muska. This one's familiar to you as a first cousin of the soft hamburger bun. It's similar, but just a tad bit sweeter. Maska, of course, is the generous dollop of b…


Talk about myths busted. I went to Dubai planning to buy zat'ar, the fragrant herb and spice mix. And Dukkah, the interesting blend of nuts and spices. Not sumac, because I still have a pack left in my fridge. So zat'ar was easy - every Carrefour supermarket had that one. But no one had dukkah and I was like, how can they not have dukkah? It's a middle eastern thing, right! But well, they don't sell dukkah in Dubai, so I came back and armed with recipes from 10-odd blogs (all roughly the same), I set to make my own.

The key to making dukkah is : line up all your ingredients, toast each of them separately in a heavy non-stick pan till they are fragrant and lightly roasted, then put everything in a blender and grind coarsely. This is your dukkah. Now dip your bread in olive oil, then dip it in dukkah and indulge. A final word of warning: this can be highly addictive.

And finally, my list of ingredients:

1/4 cup almonds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tb…

Blog Picks : Frozen Strawberry Yogurt

Do you get amazed by the amount of food blogging facts I don't know. Take this example. For a long time, I had no idea who David Lebovitz is. And for a really long time after that, I had him filed away as "that icecream book guy". It's only recently that I discovered this American in Paris as not just a culinary genuis, but also someone whose writing style I enjoy.

The very first recipe I bookmarked when I was reading David's blog was Strawberry Frozen Yogurt. And with strawberries season about to end in Bombay, and the summer heat about to set in, this was a perfectly simple recipe to make.

Slice 400 gms strawberries into small slices. David tossed them in a bowl with 2/3 cup sugar, but I remembered just in time that the strawberries here are sweeter so I reduced the sugar to less than half (around 3 tbsp). In around an hour, when the sugar had dissolved, blend the strawberries with a cup of yogurt and juice of half a lemon.

I don't have the fancy Cuisinart…

From a Year in Bread : White Sandwich Loaf

A few days back, I took a bread baking challenge upon myself. If you missed the plot first time round, the idea is that I will follow the three bakers from A Year in Bread in their year long one-bread-a-month odyssey. I even have a partner now. Siri wrote to ask if she could join me in bread baking; and I sure can do with some more prompting.

I'd done the March pizza recipe already, so both of us moved promptly to April's pick - the famed No Knead Bread. But it was not to be. I made it first and while it wasn't a disaster, it just wasn't good enough. Siri decided she didn't want to do the No Knead bread either so we moved on, instead, to the May bread. Which happens to be something on my mind for a long, long time. I've always wanted to bake a whole loaf of bread and in May 2007, the trio baked white sandwich loaf.

I picked Susan's recipe, which is just what she calls it - an easy basic white sandwich bread. Her recipe is for 3 loaves, so I divided everyt…

South Indian Cooking like a pro

My sole criteria for buying cookbooks is that they should have good looking pictures. But this one time and for two very special reasons, I've bought a book that does not have glamorous food photos on every page. One, because while I am fairly adept at north Indian cooking, I do not know a whole lot about the south Indian cuisines. Two, my friend says that Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan is the definite word on Tamil Brahmin cooking - and knowing what he knows, I trust him on this one.

As with every cookbook I've bought, our relationship starts like an uneasy friendship. I need time to get to terms with the author's flavors and how they differ from mine. I also need to make a trip to the store, as some of these ingredients - known though they are to me - don't make a regular appearance in my cooking. As I make my first dish from the book, I realize that she uses way too much oil and halve it everywhere. But I add the spices as she dictates and understand too late that …

The Perfect Pizza Sauce

I'm back from the land of shopping malls and hotels; of ski slopes and water worlds in the middle of the desert. It was fun while it lasted (and thanks for all the tips, Bharti!) but I guess I'd pick something with a few more forts, palaces and museums next time.

Before I do any more cooking, here's the pizza sauce I promised you just before I left. I never bought any packaged pizza or pasta sauce after I made this the first time and I've been making the same one for years , so you can guess it has to be super easy. Once you get through with all the chopping, that is.

So on to the chopping board. Cut 6 tomatoes into largish cubes. Peel a small onion and cut into quarters. Peel and smash 3 garlic cloves to bits. Tear a handful of coriander leaves. If you feel like, roughly chop any of these you have in the fridge (but it's truly optional) - 1/2 bell pepper or some celery or the green bits from 2-3 spring onions.

Heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan. Add garlic and onio…