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Showing posts from November, 2010

American Pie

We don't really celebrate Thanksgiving. But then, any holiday that is created with the sole purpose of cooking and eating food has my wholehearted support. Which is why I baked myself a pie yesterday.

An open face, rustic, free form pie filled with the goodness of apples and cinnamon. I had half the dough left over from my fruit tart. Given how much it shrank in the tart pan, I thought of doing a more informal version of the pie called the galette.

I took out the cold dough from the fridge and rolled it out as thin as it would go, transferred it to a nonstick baking sheet and put in back in the fridge to chill. Next, I peeled and thinly sliced two apples.

If you work quickly and assemble your pie in the next two minutes, you don't need to worry about the apples browning. So as fast as you can, mix 2 tbsp brown sugar with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Grab a handful of raisins.

Set the oven to preheat to 200C. Take the rolled dough out of the fridge and arrange a layer of apples in the center…

Pastry Wars : Tart Dough

Or pie crust if you like. I know that the American pie crusts tend to be very different from the tender pate sablee that goes into the French tart, but all I am trying to do here is figure out one perfectly crispy, flaky dough. After all, there are too many things to sort out already without getting into the pie versus tart debate:

- Should you use all butter or butter + lard? Or butter + shortening
- Food processor? I don't have one so that debate is out - we are making the dough by hand
- Butter the size of peas? Large beans? Breadcrumbs? Or everything in between?
- Or should you just ditch cutting the butter and grate it instead.

Gosh! There is so much to pick from. Thankfully, some things are a given. No matter what you do, you are looking for a dough that isn't mishandled too much, and has specks of butter left to rise into flaky crust. And the dough likes cold, so prepare for several rounds of chilling.

I read books and blogs and recipes, then picked the most recent addition …

Pastry Wars

Some of you have asked what happened to the Indigo challenge. The thing is, I go through phases in cooking. I was in the exotic main dishes phase when Indigo challenge started, but for the last couple of months, I only seem to be thinking of making desserts.

I am possibly watching too many reality cooking shows, but as all the funky creations by contestants of Top Chef : Just Desserts went past, it had me thinking only one thought. There's so much I don't know. See, I only started baking a couple of years back so there never was much time. And I haven't tried some things, like creme anglaise, because I dislike desserts with an eggy smell. Others, like souffle, because I am plain scared. All of which is about to change with the PASTRY WARS.

It's the quest for the perfect version of every basic recipe that needs to be in a pastry chef's arsenal. And it's simple - we just keep at something until we find our perfect version. If I try the classic version and it ta…

My favorite neighborhood bakery

When I first arrived in Malad, you couldn't buy edible bread anywhere in the vicinity. Fast forward six years and we are now spoilt for choices. I now have six bakeries within a five minute walking distance. And that's before counting the bread baking shops inside my next door supermarkets.

So why do I return to just one of these bakeries every single time...

French connection is for the days I want to eat healthy. Their USP is their 100% whole wheat breads. They also sell half loaves so I can buy one of those Atta Bread ones and finish it before it gets stale. There's also pure whole wheat cookies and the biggest winner of the lot - 100% whole wheat pizza base. It's so soft and delicious I don't bother to make any more pizza bases at home.

French Connection is also for the days I am feeling lazy. Or days I don't feel like eating home cooked food. I venture into the bakery on my way back from work and pick up their spinach paneer roll. Or Paneer Tikka Strudel.…

Quick Vegetable Lasagna

This one was an on-the-spur dish when a couple of friends decided to stop by for lunch. I've had some lasagna disasters before, so how was I to know this impromptu variation, done in under an hour, will have my guests looking longingly at the empty dishes and asking when they could come back for more. Hence, no pictures but I had to write the recipe down before I forgot what I did!

First off, I boiled a large pan of water, added a bit of salt and dropped in 8 sheets of lasagna. The dish I bake my lasagna in snugly fits two sheets at a time, so you should boil as many sheets as you need for 4 layers. The package said I should let it be for 12 minutes, so I used the time to clean a bunch of spinach and chop it finely to get around a cup of greens. I popped it in a bowl alongwith 2 tbsp of water. I took another bowl, in which went 1/2 cup of sweet corn and another 2 tbsp water. Both bowls then went into the microwave for 2 minutes of steaming.

My pasta was cooked to al dente now, so…

Of Diwali Traditions and Nankhatai

I told you we don't make diwali sweets or snacks at home. But other people I know have charming diwali traditions; and I bring you one of those from my friend A.



For as long as I remember, we've made nankhatai at diwali. Or rather, since we haven't owned an oven as long, we've made nankhatai dough that goes to the neighborhood bakery to turn into crisply baked cookies. This year, as my mother took out the ingredients to make this lovely diwali dish to serve all the guests who will visit during the four days of the festival, I decided to volunteer.

The ingredients, as I said, were already measured so let me quickly recount those for you. A kilo each of plain flour, powdered sugar and ghee (clarified butter) plus 100 grams of semolina. First I mixed the flour, sugar and semolina. Then I melted the ghee and started to add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, until it all came together. I kneaded it lightly with my palms until it was all a smooth dough (and if you only …

The Spaghetti Book

Guilia Melucci is a sad woman. A victim of the New York dating game, she runs through one man after the other, searching for her true love. When it is amply clear to any reader of "I loved, I lost, I made spaghetti" (or the spaghetti book, as the members of This Book Makes Me Cook have taken to call it) that the first and the only love of her life is the food she cooks.

The book is chock full of recipes, almost all a nod to Ms. Melucci's Italian past. And quite unlike the weak, average story the recipes are written in a witty and charming manner, reflecting the author's mood at the time. Like the Ineffectual Eggplant Parmigiana, cooked for two in a flailing relationship, "plus the three other people you wish were there to help keep the conversation going". Or the yorkshire puddings that deflate rapidly, like expectations!

I picked a dish from Guilia's happy times. The beginning of a relationship, when she's cooking bright, sunny dishes for two. This …

Here's for a happy, fun filled diwali!

I love starting traditions. Take diwali sweets, we never make them at home but last year I went ahead and made some coconut barfi. Haven't tried it again all of last year but decided to make it again for diwali. After all, it's so simple - thanks to the recipe from Alka over at sindhi rasoi.

First I mixed 100 grams dessicated coconut with 2 tsp of milk powder. Then, I mixed 75 grams sugar with 1/2 cup water and cooked it until it was a thick syrup. Added the coconut, milk powder and stirred around for around 5 minutes, until the mixture started to stick to the pan.

Then I poured the mix into my 6 inch tart tin and spread it around. I had some macadamia praline lying around from last week's cupcakes so a layer of that went on top of the hot fudge. Cut it into square when cool for a lovely nutty flavored coconut barfi.

Hope your diwali's as sweet this year!

Easy-Peasy Theplas

I should technically call this a guest post, since I've never made theplas in my life. But they are currently my favorite breakfast, thanks to my maid who makes a killer version. And she's sitting here all flustered, trying to answer my questions on ingredients and quantities so allow for this recipe being a collection of guesses and estimates. But try it all the same. With plain yogurt or some pickle on the side, they are the best breakfast there is. It's also not as complicated as your regular theplas so the incentive to make them's even higher.

Tear the leaves off a bunch of fenugreek. You need about half a cup. Wash them well and chop finely. Add this fenugreek to a cup of whole wheat flour alongwith 1 tbsp yogurt, 1 tsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric. Also add salt to taste and a tbsp of oil. Mix everything well, then add just enough water to make a dough. Knead it for 5-7 minutes and keep aside for at least half an hour (she insists …