Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Life is like a box of macarons

Photo Credit: Nikhil Merchant

You never know what the next flavor is going to be.
And you will never find out until you take a risk and take that first bite.

Life's just handed me a box of macarons.

Next week, I will give up my job and move to London as a full time student. You will see a little less of me at Bombay Foodie in the coming months, but you can follow my adventures all of next year, as A Student in London.

Come join me as I explore a new lifestyle in my favorite city!



Saturday, December 17, 2011

Strawberries and Cream

Strawberries and Panacotta by Bombay Foodie

Panacotta - for isn't that just another name for cooked cream - as the new friend for first strawberries of this season.

David Lebovitz said that you are doing something wrong if you need more than 5 minutes to make panacotta. It actually took me less than the allotted five minutes to get the panacotta ready, pour it into shot glasses and put it in the fridge to set.

Topping the panacotta is a balsamic strawberry coulis. Start with one cup of sliced strawberries. This goes into a blender with a tbsp of balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp basil leaves and a tbsp of caster sugar (more if you like your strawberries sweeter). Blend into a puree.

Once the panacotta has set 2-4 hours later, carefully pour the coulis into the glass. Chill some more, then enjoy the newfangled strawberries and cream.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

The setting is Edgecombe St. Mary, a sleepy little village in the English countryside. The unlikely hero is Major Pettigrew - old retired Major who sticks to tradition and honor above all else. When he decides to turn tradition on its head and falls in love with a Pakistani widow running the only store in the village, chaos ensues. Helen Simonson's first book - our book club's pick for the month - is thoroughly enjoyable for its quirky characters and funny, almost absurd situations. I ended up being charmed by the Major.

To celebrate one of the best books I've read in a while, I thought up a rather elaborate dessert. It had to be British, and what's more English than a trifle.


Caramel Apple Trifle by Bombay Foodie

The bottom layer is an apple jelly. I knew my other layers will be super sweet so I kept this one fresh and simple. I soaked one gelatin sheet in cold water. Next, I heated 50 ml apple juice. Squeezed out water from the gelatin and added it to the now warm juice. Stirred it around until the gelatin was completely dissolved, then added another 100 ml of apple juice to the mix and gave it a minute or so on the stove so everything was heated. I poured this jelly into three glasses, let it cool, then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.

In the meantime, I made the next layer - the sponge cake. I've had limited luck making sponge in the past but Deeba said her recipe works like a charm. And it does! The sponge cake had a perfect texture. I still think it tastes a little eggy but it wont matter in this trifle. Once the sponge was cooled, I cut rounds with my cookie cutter to fit the glass and dropped them on top of the jelly.

Next comes caramel apple, the star of the show. I peeled two golden apples (you can use granny smith) and cut them into 1 cm cubes. In a thick bottomed pan, I mixed apples with 3 tbsp sugar and heated them until the sugar started to caramalize. Added a tbsp of butter, mixed everything in and kept cooking until the sugar had turned into a rich amber caramel and the apples were cooked through. I let them cool and then added them on top of the sponge.

Are you thinking that there's something off in this dish...that it's so English. And where, then you say, is Mrs. Ali. She comes forth in the last layer, the custard that isn't your creme anglaise but is in fact the way pouring custard is made in India and Pakistan. This is the custard that comes in a packet and all you need to do is mix it with milk and sugar, then boil until thick. Let it cool a bit too before you pour it as the final layer on the trifle. Put the assembled dessert in the fridge for a few hours and it will taste a lot better.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Balsamic Stuffed Mushrooms

Balsamic Stuffed Mushrooms by Bombay Foodie

This is one of those perfect appetizers for lazy afternoons or weekend evenings. Start with a packet of button mushrooms. Mine had 15-16 mushrooms. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly, then take off the stems to leave some space in the caps for you to stuff. You can use the stems in a stock if you like (don't be like me and throw them away - they make a great stock).

In a bowl big enough to fit all mushrooms, mix 2 tbsp olive oil, a tbsp of balsamic vinegar and plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk until you have an emulsion. Add mushrooms and toss to coat well. Leave these in the fridge until you are ready to cook them, but at least for half an hour.

In the meantime, make the stuffing. Start with 50 grams of paneer (or ricotta if that's what you have). Mash well. Add 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese and 8-10 basil leaves that you have chopped finely. I find that cutting the herbs with scissors is usually much quicker and neater than using any knives. Also add salt to taste but go easy here because there's salt already in mushrooms and in parmesan.

When you are ready to eat the mushrooms, preheat the oven to as high as it will go. Mine goes up to 270C. Fill each mushroom with the stuffing and arrange on a baking tray. Bake on the top rack of the oven until the mushrooms are cooked through and the stuffing gets a little browned on top.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Looks familiar?

Domino's Garlic Bread by Bombay Foodie

This is the ultimate quandary. I like pizzas from Pizza Hut but can't stand their garlic bread. And it's just the reverse for Domino's - LOVE their garlic bread but would rather pass on their pizzas. If only it was that simple.

Domino's steadfastly refuses to deliver anything unless you order a pizza first. And tired of ordering a pizza which I give away the next morning, I decided to make my own garlic bread.

It's a basic focaccia recipe, altered to fit the bill. First off, heat 1/2 cup water until it's warm but not hot. 20 seconds in the microwave usually does it. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast and let proof for 5 minutes.

To the now bubbling yeast, add 1 tbsp olive oil and a cup of plain flour. Mix until the flour is all blended in, then cover and let rise until doubled. Took about half an hour in Mumbai weather.

Now that you have a sponge, add another 1/2 cup flour, salt to taste and (this is most critical) 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Knead for around 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough. It will still be very wet. Let it rise again until doubled.

At this stage, preheat your oven to as high as it goes. Lightly flour your counter and roll out the dough to a rough rectangle. Transfer it to a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush olive oil on top and open up a few packets of Domino's seasoning you saved from the last order to sprinkle on top (or oregano if you must). Cut into strips with a pizza cutter and bake until browned on top, about 10-12 minutes.

The bread looked and tasted "almost" like Domino's. Almost but not quite because my courage failed me at the last minute and I simply could not pour as much oil on top as Domino's does. But go ahead and do that if you like and you will never have to order extra pizzas again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Night Salad

Salad with black cherry tomatoes by Bombay Foodie


I don't know about you, but I usually start thinking about making a salad by the time sunday evening rolls in. Sort of a compensation for pizza and chocolate excesses of the past two days.
Usually made with whatever I can find in the fridge, this sunday night salad can be a hit or miss affair. Today's was a hit. The salad is a mix of steamed corn, alfalfa sprouts, feta cheese and basil. Dressed simply with salt, pepper and lime juice. Then surrounded by my latest find this season - black cherry tomatoes.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Beach Cafe

Sometimes we get the best gifts and don't even realize how big they are. In the Beach Cafe, the book our club read this month, this happens to Evie, our heroine. Evie is one of those people who muddle alongside a highly successful family. They know Evie's not in their league and never fail to remind her. Everyone except for her aunt, who dies in a car crash and leaves her cafe set by a Cornwall beach to Evie.

Even then, Evie doesn't realize the gift she's been given. After a series of mishaps involving her trying to remotely run the cafe, dealing with some sticky staff situations, Evie comes over to this little Cornish town to live. And to enjoy her legacy. The book is all about this ugly duckling turning into a swan. There is also some romance thrown in and while the story is utterly predictable, this is a great sunday afternoon read.

What else is great on sunday afternoons? Cakes, specially since cakes were what made Evie's aunt so popular. And cakes were what put Evie back on track in running the cafe (well, Cornish pasties did too, but Sweatha already made some). And for this book, I decided to spend my sunday afternoon baking the ultimate vanilla cupcakes. Stef over at cupcake project nominated test bloggers for this one...I wrote in but she didn't pick me so I had to wait until she made the recipe public a few days back.

To make the cupcakes, leave 30 grams butter and an egg out of the fridge until they come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 175 C. Scrape the seeds off a vanilla bean and add them to 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, mixing to break any clumps of seeds and to infuse the sugar with vanilla. Mix 7/8 cup (or 90 grams) plain flour with 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda. Add vanilla sugar and mix to combine. Now add butter and mix until you get a fine crumb like texture. In another bowl, combine the egg, 1/6 cup yogurt, 30 ml (2 tbsp) canola oil and 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract. Add this to the flour and mix until just combined. Finally, add 1/3 cup milk and mix until everything's blended in. Don't worry that the batter's too liquid, that's how it's meant to be. Fill 8 muffin tins a little more than halfway with the batter. Don't be like me and try to fit everything in 7 cups (and dont even dare think about 6) - you need to get 8 muffin tins filled!

Bake for 15 minutes, test with a toothpick to see if it comes with any crumbs attached. If it does, continue to bake, checking every 2 minutes, until the cupcakes are done. So are these the ultimate vanilla cupcakes? Sure, they are. With a much lighter crumb and sponge like texture, these cupcakes displace the currently reigning French Yogurt Cake as my default go-to cake. There isn't a picture because they look quite ordinary. So you will just have to bake them yourself to find out how special they are.

And if you would like to find out what our next book is and read along with the club, just write in!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How can something this simple be this hard!

Brownies by Bombay Foodie

Brownies are one of those recipes bakers are supposed to whip up in a jiffy. Grandmas make brownies. Why, even 5 year olds bake brownies. And yet, I've been disappointed with recipe after recipe.

Finally, I turned to the most trusted baking gurus of all. And finally, in Dorie Greenspan's classic brownies, I have a winner.

I halved the recipe and got six of these gorgeous creations. And let me tell you that this is the stuff brownie legends are made of. Fudgy but not overly so, gooey but not excessively, and not even too sweet. There's also a hint of coffee in there that somehow makes it more chocolate-y. I've finally found a keeper!

Update: Since so many of you asked, here's the recipe. Line a 7 X 4 inch dish with foil or parchment paper. Or use an 8 inch square dish and double the recipe to give you Dorie's original measures. Preheat the oven to 160 C or 325 F.

Measure out 35 grams butter and 85 grams chocolate (I used 70% dark, but even something lighter is fine). Heat for 30 seconds in the microwave, stir and continue to heat in 10-20 second increments until chocolate is fully melted. Add 3/8 cup powdered sugar. Wait until the mixture cools a bit, then whisk in one egg. Once its mixed in, add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and 1/4 tsp instant coffee granules. Mix well, then fold in 1/6 cup flour. Don't be heavy handed here, only stir until the flour in just mixed in. Finally, mix in 1/3 cup chopped walnuts.

Pour into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is dry and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the dish comes out with only a few crumbs. If you get a clean toothpick, you overcooked your brownies so don't go too far. Wait for the brownies to cool before you unmold them. I cut mine into 6 brownies and Dorie says her original recipe will give you 16 pieces so I guess it depends on how big you make each piece.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Like Water for Chocolate

Laura Esquivels' first novel could have been a simple love story of two star crossed lovers. Instead, Tita and Pedro become characters in something that's part fable and part fantasy. Set in Mexico, and published in monthly instalments, the novel has a chapter for each month of the year.

Because so much in Tita's life in linked to the kitchen and the food she cooks, every chapter starts with a recipe. The dishes may look ordinary at first glance but their effect on the book's cast is nothing short of magical. With every passing month, the book's magic draws you to Mexico and its strange ancient traditions.

So much in the book is linked to weddings that I decided to bake Mexican wedding cookies in honor of the book.



Also called snowballs, these are really gorgeous cookies. The recipe comes straight from Lottie & Doof, although I replaced pecans with walnuts. As a quick recap, toast 1/2 cup walnuts and chill them. Measure out 1/3 cup icing sugar and use 2 tbsp of that to mix with walnuts. Grind the walnuts+sugar finely in a processor.

Beat 100 grams softened butter with the remaining sugar. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and mix it in. Add the ground walnuts, mix well and then add a cup of plain flour. Mix everything until thoroughly combined. Roll into 1-inch balls, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake in an oven preheated to 170C for 15-20 minutes (or until the cookies get to light golden).

Let cool completely, then sift icing sugar all over the cookies.

If you'd like to see more Mexican treats, head over to the book club for other members' take on the book.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The only pizza topping recipe you will ever need



Specially if, like me, you are always clamoring to order Pizza Hut's Kadhai Paneer or one of those tandoori pizza. I used a store bought pizza base for this one, but the topping is really the topic of discussion here. Think of it as a new and improved version of veg jhalfrazee, the mixed vegetable dish that inevitably shows up on any restaurant menu.

My pizza topping has mushrooms, babycorn, paneer and spinach but you can really pick any combination of vegetables you like. Cut everything into small pieces, say the size of the pea. So, for my pizza, I diced 4-5 mushrooms. Then sliced 4 babycorns into thin round slices. Took a handful of spinach leaves, rolled them up and cut into thin strips. And yes, cut paneer into little dices.

In addition to the vegetables you have picked, you need to finely chop a small onion, tear a handful of basil leaves into little pieces and get yourself a pack of tomato puree. You would also need some dried oregano, although I just used those leftover seasoning packets from Pizza Hut.

Let's get to cooking the topping. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan. Add the onion and let it cook until it starts to brown. Add 3 tbsp of tomato puree and stir for a minute of so. Now add the mushrooms and babycorn and cook, stirring on a low heat, for 5-7 minutes until they are just about cooked. Add spinach now because it needs just a minute. Finally, mix in the paneer and basil. Add a couple of packets of Pizza Hut seasoning (or a tsp of oregano), then taste the sauce and add as much salt as you think it needs. Also some fresh ground pepper and you are done making your pizza topping.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Apple A Day

It was in fact a lot of apples at Brown Paper Bag's Forbidden Fruit Workshop at JW Marriott this afternoon. Now I am generally a self taught kind of cook/baker. But I've been to BPB's workshops in the past and they are generally good fun. Plus tarts and pies have been a source of contention within me - I like the ones I bake but know they are not perfect - so this was just the chance to learn from a pro.

Chef Savio Fernandes is the presiding pastry chef at Marriott and he promised to spill some secrets in the three hours we spent baking. We started with the classic shortcrust. That's been my nemesis so far. So I watched the chef like a hawk, and I fully intend to copy his movements and get the consistency of the pastry where he got it the next time I bake tarts. We put the pastry to rest in the fridge and the chef moved to tarte tatin.

A French feast of caramized apples over puff pastry, the recipe starts with - horror of horrors - a dry caramel. I've burnt my hands, literally, trying to make this caramel without any water so that was the second scoop of the day. Chef Savio showed a technique that certainly falls in the realm of "interesting" and again, it's something that makes to my to-try list. There was, alas, no recipe for an easy puff as the chef suggested we save our sanity and use the store bought version.

The next two hours were quickly lost in baking a classic apple pie and two tarts. The rabdi and caramelized apple tart showed the fusion techniques of our pastry chef. The second tart is the one I would squarely put down as whimsical. You will have to wait for details on that one though as I am working on a variation myself.

Once the tarts were all in the oven, the folks at the restaurant brought out sandwiches and icecream. Coffee was on the table already and then trays after trays of the goodies came out. And we ate, well, a lot! My only regret is that the workshop was not very hands on. But some top secret baking tips, 15-20 amateur foodies and a whole afternoon spent in the middle of sugar and butter has left me very happy indeed!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lost Traditions

Challi Aboo je.... a loud voice rings out in front of my house in Amritsar. And then this man rolls in with a cart. On top of the cart, a beige box filled with sand. And packed in this sand is that wonder called aboo challi, or roasted corn on the cob. Yet, it's not what you think of when you first hear corn on the cob.

Let me explain. Aboo challi is a rare breed. Unlike the charred, grilled corn on the cob, there is no open fire. The cart guy fills the beige wood box with red hot sand and then buries raw corn cobs deep into the hot pit. Several hours later, the corn slowly cooks into a flavor that's quite unlike the boiled or the roasted versions. The sand is still smoldering when the cart rolls into our neighborhood in the afternoon. The cart guy dips his hand in and brings out a perfectly cooked piece, brushes off the sand and then proceeds to brush rock salt and lime juice all over the corn.

Alas! aboo challi is a dying breed. My dad tells me that it takes too long to roast corn cobs the traditional way so the vendors have resorted to a shortcut. The boil the corn, then put it in lukewarm sand to create the same atmosphere but not the same flavor. No wonder the aboo challi I bought on the trip home last week did not bring back any memories.

And then I realized, Punjab (like indeed, any other place) is full of food traditions no google search will bring up. Food traditions that my parents and uncles and aunts grew up with, but traditions that are now just memories. So I'm going to sit these people down, get their stories and write them here. Just so someone remembers!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Enid Blyton strikes again!

Cherry Crumb Pie by Bombay Foodie

Now you may not remember because this was such a long time ago, but my book club - This Book Makes Me Cook - actually started with an event that Bhags ran. Read a book, and bring back the story and a recipe is what she said. Eventually, more than half the participants brought in their memories of food read from the pages of Enid Blytons.

This month, it's once again back to the memories Enid Blyton put into our young minds way back in school. The book club is reading the Malory Towers. There are six books in the series, chronicling the life of Darrell Rivers, as she goes through six years of education at this Cornish boarding school.

We could have read any one of the books. But once I started, I couldn't stop and ended up reading all six. The camaraderie of young girls living together, the bonding over books and games and the various little things that bring excitement to their otherwise dull lives - Malory Towers is something you can enjoy at any age.

Now food at Malory Towers can tend to be boring. Specially the supper. But not on the first day of the term. When the girls return for another term at school, the cooks put up a feast to welcome them. There are always cakes and pies at this term and I like to think Darrell would have been welcomed to her favorite Easter term by this cherry crumb pie at least once.

I adapted the recipe for the pie crust from something I saw at Masterchef recently. It was not an unqualified success so I'd suggest you go with your favorite crust. But the filling and crumb topping is so gorgeous, its something you absolutely must try.

Or just go see what other book clubbers got to this month.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perfect Pancakes

Perfect Pancakes by Bombay Foodie

This recipe is typical Pioneer Woman. She takes what you and I do when making pancakes - mix flour, sugar, baking powder and add milk and eggs and butter. But she adds her little touches. Like the flour is cake flour so its much, much lighter. And she adds melted butter at the very end and I think that makes this pancakes extra soft.

If that wasn't a good enough start to the sunday, I topped the stack of pancakes with caramalized bananas. First, you cut the bananas in thick slices. Then you roll them in caster sugar. Now heat a non stick pan and add the bananas in a single layer. Wait a couple of minutes to them to brown, then flip and brown the other side too. All this should not take more than 3 minutes. Slide the bananas off the pan right on to the pancakes. NOT on the plate. It's sugar and it will stick.

For that last finishing touch, add chocolate syrup. Or honey, or maple syrup. Just add a lot of something sweet. It makes weekends sweeter.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Before there was McDonalds

Bun Tikki by Bombay Foodie

And even before there was any kind of burger shop in Amritsar, there were street carts selling band tikki or aloo tikki in a bun. It's a dinner that brings back memories from decades ago.

For the tikki or the potato croquette, I boiled two medium sized potatoes. Peeled them when they were still warm and mashed them. Next, I cut off the sides of a slide of white bread, soaked the slice in water and squeezed it dry. I added the bread to the mashed potatoes along with salt and black pepper. Go easy on the spices here because we are going to add some zing later.

I divided the potatoes into four parts and shaped each into a round flat-ish tikki. Heated some oil in a non-stick pan and pan fried the tikkis till they were golden brown on both sides.

This takes 4-5 minutes so while the tikkis were cooking, I split two burger buns in half and toasted them. Also thinly sliced a small onion. The recipe assumes that you have tamarind chutney and green (cilantro) chutney tucked away in the fridge already but write in if you would like my recipes.

To assemble, spread tamarind chutney on the bun. Arrange two tikkis on top, add some sliced onions and sprinkle the fiery green chutney. Top with the other half of the bun, squish it closed and time travel to your ten year old self.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Wrong Book

Last month, our book club read A Moveable Feast, a collection of food stories published by Lonely Planet. When I went to buy it on flipkart like I do every month, the first book to show up was in fact another book by the same name. The “other” Moveable feast turned out be Ernest Hemingway’s memoirs, written as a young man living in Paris in the 1920s. This is the time before “For Whom The Bell Tolls”. And way before “The Old Man and the Sea”. No wonder I ended up ordering this book of memoirs instead of what the club had planned.

And what a feast this book is. This is Paris is 1920s, a haunt of American artists. Hemingway has not yet made it as a writer so he is as poor as a church mouse. But you can’t say the same of the people he hobnobs with. His friends and associates – Gertrude Stein, Erza Pound, Scott Fitzgerald – famous yet eccentric all of them, feature more prominently than the author himself.

In between these friendships and conversations, there are a lot of Parisian cafes. But there is mostly drinking and very little eating. Oh! what a life these footloose Americans had! The book had me in stitches with its humorous bent.

Croque Monsieur by Bombay Foodie


And wrong book it might be, it still prompted me to cook. Parisian bistro fare is what I wanted to make and my brain just screamed one dish – croque monsieur. It’s originally a ham and cheese sandwich but I made it in a vegetarian version. There are quite a few components to the dish:

Bread: Nothing too soft, crusty baguettes work but day old white bread is classic and that’s what I used.

Instead of ham: I have sautéed mushrooms. Sliced 5-6 mushrooms thinly. Heated a tsp of olive oil in a pan, added mushrooms and stirred until they started to exude some water. Then let them cook until the moisture all evaporated and the mushrooms were cooked through. Seasoned lightly with salt and dried oregano.

Bechamel Sauce (trust me, you will need it soon!): Warm ½ cup milk. Heat ½ tbsp butter in a pan. Reduce the heat to low and add ½ tbsp flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. It should not brown. Add the milk slowly, stirring all the while so you get no lumps. Let cook for another minute or two until the sauce thickens a bit. I usually have to stir it all the time to get rid of any lumps. Add salt and pepper.

The Sandwich: Set your oven to preheat to 250C (or your broiler or grill, whatever works for you – I only have this one oven!). Butter one side of two slices of bread. Take one of the slices and dab some mustard on the unbuttered side. Arrange mushrooms in a single layer and add a layer of gruyere cheese. Top with the second slice and pan fry the sandwich until both sides are lightly browned.

Spread a thin layer of béchamel sauce on top of the sandwich. Its traditional to add more gruyere cheese on top but I varied the routine and decided on parmesan instead. Pop this under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese melts and starts to brown.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Contemporary Indian

My problem with Oberoi's Ziya is not that it takes familiar Indian dishes and whacks them out of shape to create continental style plated food. My problem is that the food that emerges at the end of this transformation is mere "meh" and not worthy of the Michelin stars its chef holds. We are seated for lunch at a fabulous table by the window, facing the sea. And the server shows up with two shot glasses of chaas. Totally ordinary, everyday buttermilk.

From the menu, we pick mushroom galouti as starters. I thought it will be interesting and it was delicious for sure, but not a hint of mushroom in there. By now, my dining partner was clamoring for mushrooms so for mains, we picked paneer lifafa with mushroom khichdi. What showed up was a very pretty plate but in the end, it was paneer bhurji in puff pastry. One of the best puff pastries I've eaten, mind you, but just a puff all the same. And mushroom khichdi? Well, there was really only two spoonfuls of it so not sure what to say.

What bugs me even more is that the server asked us what breads we will want, and totally failed to mention that there will be nothing to dunk my black olive naan in. To be fair, he did bring us some kaali daal after the fact but still...

Dessert was a chocolate platter. Served on a faux color palette, and very, very pretty. Wish it were flavorful...the brownie was dry. The white chocolate kulfi just not worth it, neither were the chocolate samosas. The paan flavored white chocolate mousse was nice and refreshing. And I am glad I discovered at least one redeeming fact about Ziya...the chocolate mousse with praline was yummy but that was the only one in everything that day to be so!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chaat Street

Dahi Puri by Bombay Foodie

I once tried explaining chaat to an American friend. It's not an entree or a main dish, I told her. For chaat's never eaten at meals. It's for snacking.

So it's finger food, she asked. Or a canape?

Neither, I said. Chaat comes on a plate because its dunked in sauces and its messy. And it's so spicy it makes your eyes water. But it's the best food there is.

By now, my friend sported such a bewildered look that I gave up. You don't explain chaat. You experience it. And preferably, because a little plate of food requires so much work, you don't cook it at home. In fact, chaat always tastes better when eaten off a street cart.

My favorite chaat experiences are dunking puffed golgappas in chilli and tamarind water. And eating that plate of coin sized papdis and dahi vadas drowning in chutneys and yogurt, aptly called bhalla papdi chaat back home.

Then in Mumbai, I made a new favorite. The Dahi Puri - the puffed golgappa filled with spicy mashed potatoes, some sprouted lentils and topped with tamarind chutney that's sweet and savory and spicy at the same time. Also with the extremely spicy cilantro and chilli chutney. Laced with yogurt. And finally garnished with fried gramflour strings as thin as rice vermicelli. Some fresh cilantro too, just for effect. You can't explain the dish, you have to experience it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mystery Fruit



This only happened a few times every year, just when the rainy season kicked in. A street hawker will come by, straw basket on head. He will yell "kaul chapni" and I will run out to buy a bundle of these. Stuck together like flowers, they looked like a bouquet. Every hole contains a little fruit. You break out the package, peel the tiny fruit that pops out and eat it. Done slowly, it can take you an hour to eat an head. Or did, when I was about 12 years old.

That was the last time I saw this fruit. I've never seen it again, didn't even know what it was called or where it came from. Three weeks back, Vikram Doctor wrote about a store in Khar that sells Sindhi foods. He described this fruit and I knew it came from my vivid childhood memories. And finally, I knew we were talking about lotus fruit.

Now talk about coincidences. Last weekend, I was passing by a lane in Bandra and for the first time in many, many years I saw the straw basket filled with my mytery fruit. It was like meeting an old friend. I wish I could say that the fruit was as sweet as my memories. The bag I bought was overripe and tough. But now I know where to look for it. Will be back with an update next weekend!

And Vikram Doctor, please write about falsas next. It's a tiny purple berry and again, I don't know what the world calls it outside Punjab. Maybe you'd be the lucky omen and I'd find that one too.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Savory Cookies for ICC

Savory Cookies by Bombay Foodie

You must have noticed that I haven't been participating in many events lately. No taste & create, and no daring bakers challenges for months now. It's not that I don't want to - I just seem to have a to-do list so long I never get around to doing any challenge in time.

But I do snap out of this laziness for some special ones. Like last month's Indian Cooking Challenge. Srivalli picked khara biscuits or savory cookies from Karnataka's famous Iyengar bakery. I told her there was no way I was staying away from ICC's first baking challenge.

There's another reason too. I am still searching for a good savory cookie or a cracker recipe. Nothing I've baked so far comes anywhere near my concept of what these cookies should be.

So it might be ten days late, but I finally have the khara biscuits for you. Instead of the chillies and herbs in the original recipe, I made my cookies with cumin seeds and some fresh ground pepper.

Interesting flavors, but still not the crunchy cookie I am looking for. The search continues...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crepes

Crepes by Bombay Foodie

I'm putting my crepe class at Suzette to good use. Two weeks on, and this is the second time I've made crepes at home. It's really that easy.

If you plan to have crepes for breakfast, you better make the batter the night before. It's okay if you don't but crepes just taste better if the batter gets time to rest.

So the batter...take 250 grams plain flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add two eggs. Whisk to mix them in, then slowly add 500 ml of milk. Whisk until you get a smooth, lump free batter. Let rest for at least an hour.

Heat a nonstick pan. Your dosa tava is your best bet here. Put a few drops of oil on a tissue paper and use that to wipe your pan. Pour a ladleful of batter in the center of the pan and spread it out as thin as you can. Let brown, then flip and cook the other side.

You can fill these crepes with literally anything you like. I put a tbsp of apricot compote in the middle of mine then folded them up and topped with strawberry coulis.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Best Vanilla Cake

Cherries and Cake by Bombay Foodie

The shortest book review in the history of our book club:
The book was My Life from Scratch by Gesine Bullock-Prado. I didn't like it.

Despite the lackluster storyline, the book did have some interesting recipes. I chose to bake Gesine's all purpose vanilla cake. Her cafe sells this as golden eggs - egg shaped cake drenched in butter and sugar. I baked regular muffins, adding some pitted cherries for flavor.

The cherries all sunk to the bottom though so what you see up tops is cherry jam, also homemade, circa yesterday.

So is this the best vanilla cake? If the top was a bit less moist, which it could get to with adjustments in baking time, it well may be.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Cherry Season is Now On



Bombay Foodie celebrates the start of the cherry season with a parfait. It's a layer of granola, then one of pitted cherries tossed with sugar and lime juice. Finally, some plain yogurt topped with strawberry coulis.

Pretty, isn't it!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Apricot Frangipane Tart

Partly baked sweet pie crust courtesy Dorie's Baking Bible

A layer of Dorie's almond cream

And a layer of poached apricots





















A gorgeous, sinful tart!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living the French Life

Antonia, Jeremie and Pierre grew up eating crepes in France. Then they learnt to make crepes properly in Brittany. Luckily for Mumbai, their next step was to land up here and set up a downtown creperie called Suzette. Even more luckily for me, I was one of the first few to read the mail when Brown Paper Bag announced a crepe making class at Suzette. Looks like hundreds of people wrote in and I was one of the first 16 to sign up!

So 16 of us descended on Suzette this afternoon to be greeted by the three owners and the ever charming Mansi from BPB. Once we'd met the other "strangers" and had our first round of coffees, we were introduced to bilig - the cast iron griddle they use to make crepes. Antonia also showed up the wooden tool they use to spread the crepe batter. All of that requires tons of practice though so they had set up non-stick mini crepe making stations for us instead.

The class began with a lesson on making the crepe batter. They use the plain flour and egg batter for sweet crepes in Suzette and an eggless buckwheat flour batter for savory crepes. Since the flour batter is versatile and can be used for both sweet and savory versions, that's the one we set to make. A few minutes of frantic mixing and whipping later, three pristine bowls of batter were put aside to rest.

In the meantime, we made cream of tuna - one of the four crepe fillings we were to try. Then crepe making started in earnest. The crepe pan was wiped with a little bit of oil and the batter was poured in, spread out thin and cooked on both sides. My first crepe turned out to be a bit too thick, and others had too thin crepes but once we'd tried a few, most of us could proudly made perfect crepes.

And we did end up trying more than a few. First there was the one with cream of tuna. Then, another one with olive tapenade. The sweet versions came out next. The suggested combination was thinly sliced bananas with nutella and coconut. But I know I overdosed on nutella and forgot the rest of the plan. Then, because we were being so nice, Jeremie and Antonia brought us some dark chocolate ganache and a heavenly salted caramel sauce.

Finally, Antonia showed us her favorite. The simplest crepe, yet the best - sprinkled with caster sugar, topped with a squeeze of lime juice and left to caramelize on the griddle. All this while, the room was filled with chatter of people getting to know each other, but mainly getting to know each other's interest in food.

All in all, one of the most enjoyable afternoons I've had in a while.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Most Decadent Tart on Earth



Cookies have been used in tart bases for eons. There's the oreo crust and the graham cracker crust. I've used both to make pies. Then one day, I decided to use good day butter cookies to make crust. My! what decadence!

Good Day is a brand of rich butter cookies. I took 6 of those, put them in a plastic bag and beat them to crumbs with a rolling pin. Added 20 grams of melted butter and pressed the whole mixture onto the base and sides of a 3 inch tart pan. This I left to set in the fridge for an hour.

Once the base was set, I added a layer of caramel sauce. Chilled it for half an hour or so, then covered it with a layer of ganache. After some more chilling, I discovered the richest, most delicious tart I've tasted.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mulberry Nights



It's truly summer when frosty glasses full of ice cubes start showing up around the house. But this drink is super special.

Mulberries are such a rare commodity in Mumbai that I instantly gobble up any that I am able to get. Although they grow in nearby Mahabaleshwar, the fruit is so delicate that half of it gets overripe by the time it reaches the markets. Which is why I am always on the lookout for just-ripe mulberries. And which is why I ended up with a pack of underripe, tangy fruit instead.

So I made a mulberry syrup. Throughly washed a cup of mulberries, then put them in a pan with 3 tbsp caster sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cooked them until the mulberries got just a little mushy. Then, when they cooled down a little, I pureed them in the blender and passed them through a sieve.

To make the actual drink, I put a tbsp of this syrup in a champagne flute, sprinkled some rock salt, filled the glass with ice cubes and topped with plain soda (sparkling water). Now isn't that a gorgeous color to have around on a summer night.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tutti Frutti Buns



When I went home last time, papa bought a pack of sweet buns. Looks like he's been sneaking off one of those for a quick mid-morning snack, just like I would do when I was in school.

I told him I could bake him the buns that tasted just the same as the bakery version and that's what this is.

I started with 1/3 cup milk, a tsp of vegetable oil and a tbsp of sugar. Heated all of these in the microwave for 30 seconds until the sugar dissolved in the liquid. By then, the milk was quite hot so I let it sit for a while to cool back to lukewarm. Sprinkled half a tsp of instant yeast , waited a couple of minutes, then added enough plain flour to make a soft, sticky dough. I used a little more than half a cup of flour but it really depends on the type of flour, the weather and your stars!

Gather then dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl to rise. Once it doubles, punch it down. Add about a tbsp of tutti frutti - not too much because in the bakery version, you literally have to hunt for the sweet red bits - and mix it well into the dough.

Split into 2-3 parts depending on how large you want to make these rolls, and shape into round buns. Let rise for an hour or so. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220C. Bake the buns until they turn a golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

These buns would make papa happy as is. Read on for my decadent school day treats. Sit down first, specially if you are one of those diet conscious souls who are easily shocked.

Split the buns in half and toast them. Spread a generous layer of salted (Amul) butter and sprinkle caster sugar all over. Then, if you are eight years old, enjoy. If you are me, enjoy but start planning the fruit and salad diet you will start tomorrow!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A cheese called quark



Every month, the food blogging world gets abuzz with an event called Tried and Tasted. The host for the month picks their favorite blog and invites other bloggers to cook a dish they like from the chosen site. I've been an occasional participant in the event, but I just couldn't stay away this month when Jayasri picked Deeba, my favorite baker.

When you first visit Passionate About Baking, you can't help getting impressed with Deeba's sweet goodies. But the moment I saw the announcement, the only thing I thought of was quark.

Deeba got enamored with this curd cheese a couple of years back. I make Neufchatel frequently as a cream cheese substitute so I've often wondered how quark will stand up. This is finally my chance.

All this needs is milk and buttermilk. And a lot of patience; two whole days worth of it. The end result is a delicious product that's part sour cream, part cheese. At some point, I'd amble over to Deeba's blog again and pick a recipe to use the quark. In the meantime, I've been enjoying it with honey and granola.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Lure of Frozen Yogurt

After resisting the charms of frozen yogurt chains Cocoberry and Fro Yo, I've fallen prey to the newest kid on the block. Set among the plethora of cafes and eateries off Bandra's Carter Road, Yogurtbay is just a tiny nook. In fact, I doubt two customers could enter the place at once.

Thankfully, the place was empty of any customers when I walked by. Except for a punk rocker enjoying his yogurt who then turned out to be the guy running the place.

Yogurtbay has three soft serve machines churning out frozen yogurt and a few dozen toppings on the counter (fruits, nuts, chocolates, everything under the sun). I got confused by the options and asked the guy to suggest. Which was a good thing because his bestselling topping was hidden under the counter. So the little tub I got is called frozen blueberry cheesecake. First he put some cake crumbs in the tub. Then a rather large serving of blueberry frozen yogurt, a topping of canned blueberries and finally some more cake crumbs. Move over icecreams and gelatos, this is a truly delicious affair.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paneer and Onion Rolls



It feels good to bake bread after a hiatus. In the past months, great bread started to sell at my neighborhood bakeries so I haven't had an incentive to bake. But the aroma circulating in the house reminds me why it's a bad idea to buy bread. No matter how good the product, it won't make your living room smell this nice.

And aren't I amazed at how brave I've become. When I started baking, I was scared of yeast. I'd take recipes with me to the kitchen, and stick to them faithfully, not changing even a gram of an ingredient. For this one, I merely took Pioneer Woman's cinnamon roll as a starting point and fearlessly converted it to a savory version.

To make the dough, put 1/2 cup milk and a tbsp of vegetable oil in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat until it's a little warmer than lukewarm. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp yeast. Wait 5 minutes, then add a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir together, then cover and let rise for an hour.

After an hour, add 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt and half tsp of baking soda. Mix everything well, then pop the dough in the fridge for an hour.

In the meantime, make the filling. Crumble 100 grams of paneer. Add a small red onion, chopped finely, a handful of mint leaves, salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp ajwain.

Sprinkle your work surface with flour. Take your dough out of the fridge and stretch to form a rectangle. Then roll the dough as thin as you can, maintaining a rectangular shape. Spread the filling over the dough and roll it up into a log. Cut the log into one inch rolls - although you can see I made mine a bit larger. Brush the top with milk and scatter some mixed seeds.

Let the rolls sit for 20 to 30 minutes to rise, then bake at 220C until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can you store cake batters



I always thought you couldn't. In fact, I used to get stressed out if I had to wait even 5 minutes after mixing the batter. I'd get nightmares about baking a brick instead of a light cake if a few minutes were to pass without the batter getting into the cake tin and right into the oven.

But two days back, when I baked the caramel muffins, I had some batter left over. Instead of throwing it away, I tried a little experiment. I stored the batter in the fridge for a whole day.

24 hours later, no major catastrophe happened. The cakes went into these cute little heart molds and rose perfectly. They were just a tad bit denser than my first batch, so there is some disadvantage to keeping the batter overnight.

But even if I am not going to make a habit of storing cake batters, I now know it's not the end of the world. I can totally stop panicking when the doorbell rings right after I stir everything in and the cake has to wait an hour because a friend dropped by.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Donuts?



Isn't that a gorgeous tray of golden fried, sugar crusted donuts.

Except it isn't! What you see up there are in fact sugar donut muffins. This was the first recipe I thought of the moment I had a successful batch of caramel sauce.

When Valerie filled her muffin tins with batter and added a drizzle of caramel on top, she fully intended the caramel to sink in the middle and become a filling for a muffin.

My caramel sauce must be heavier for it sort of sunk and then created donut holes. Which is fab because I seem to have accidentally discovered a dessert that looks like part muffin, part donut. And once brushed with butter and dipped in sugar, tastes better than either!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Burnt Sugar



If there's something that evokes fear in even experienced cooks, that's sugar. Think caramel, butterscotch, praline - all examples of recipes that take you to brink of disaster. And yet, no food creates more excitement than sugar when its burnt.

I've had a trial by fire myself. Now, after several unsuccessful attempts, I have a delicious, golden bowl of caramel sauce. Mixing sugar with water and vinegar, then boiling it until it gets to the right shade of amber, adding cream to the bubbling lava - every step in making caramel is fraught with danger.

So I'm not going to give you a recipe. I made mine without a thermometer so it's not going to be much use anyway. But I'd give you an advice. When you've poured the caramel sauce in a bowl, resist the urge to dip your finger. It's delicious but it's hot, and you'd burn yourself. Don't ask me how I know!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lasagna Rolls

It's like lasagna but better!

Start with 4 lasagna sheets boiled al dente.
Add a layer of ricotta/paneer mixed with salt and oregano.
And a layer of spinach sauteed in olive oil with some garlic.


Drizzle some roasted marinara sauce and add a layer of roasted peppers.


Now sprinkle some parmesan. Well, mozzarella if you like but I prefer parmesan.
Roll it up.


Arrange in an ovenproof dish, cover with marinara and more parmesan.
Bake in an oven heated to 220C until the cheese melts.
And voila! picture perfect lasagna rolls.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Memories of New York



Where others collect memories of places they visit and people they meet, my travels net me images of food stalls and restaurants. Not surprisingly, New York to me means delis of Broadway and Times Square.

In that ubiquitous world of sandwiches and salads, some names stand out. One of them is Cosi, where the first sight to greet you is a massive wood fired oven. Every hour, several batches of crunchy bread emerge from this oven. Some of them go on to become sandwiches. If you are salad buyer though, you can pick a piece of warm bread (or two!) on your way out after picking the salad for lunch.

My oft-remembered favorite is the Cosi Signature Salad. It's a mixture of conflicting flavors; some sweet, some savory:

- Mixed Greens (I got iceberg lettuce)
- Pears
- Red Grapes (okay, mine are black)
- Gorgonzola Cheese
- Cranberries
- Pistachios

The dressing is a sherry shallot vinaigrette. You take equal parts sherry vinegar and olive oil, whisk until they emulsify and add 2 finely minced shallots, salt and pepper.

Cosi puts all ingredients in a bowl and tosses them with the dressing. I put everything on a skewer so if dip it in the dressing and gulp it down in one go, I get a burst of flavors that takes me back to New York.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato Marinara



I know I say this every time I discover a new version, but this is really my new favorite tomato sauce. At its very basic, marinara sauce is made of tomatoes, garlic and oregano. I've added some pizzaz - a smoky flavor from roasting the tomatoes, lots of herbs and some acidity from vinegar.

First off, line a baking sheet with foil. Cut 6 medium sized tomatoes in 1-inch pieces and arrange on the baking sheet in a single layer. Also cut a small red onion into inch sized bits and add to the baking sheet alongwith 4-5 peeled garlic cloves. Drizzle a tbsp of olive oil on the tomatoes and sprinkle a tbsp of herbs de provence all over. This goes into the oven preheated to 220C for 45 minutes.

By this time, your tomatoes and onion should be softened so everything goes from the baking tray to a thick bottomed pan. Mash them lightly with the back of a spoon, then add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and a tbsp of white wine vinegar. Let simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Finally, add salt to taste and a tsp of olive oil, mix everything in and take the pan off the heat.

Let it cool down a bit, then pulse it in the food processor until you get to a consistency you like. This is good with pasta, and makes a good topping for pizzas too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Which Apple



It may not look like it from all the desserts I bake, but I actually eat a lot of fruits and salads. Growing up, apples and tomatoes were my top two food groups. I even had my own nicknames for both of them. Even now, despite all the new flavors I keep discovering, these are the two fruits I love tucking into any day.

So imagine what would have happened when Washington Apples called me to say that with some recently launches, they now retail seven types of apples in India and will I like a sample. First, I was shocked at the number 7 - I didn't even know there are that many types around. The next thing, I got this pretty package with all kinds. Some, like golden and gala, are my regular buys. And some, like braeburn, were totally new. But what surprised me was how crisp, how fresh each of these apples tasted compared to anything I buy in the markets. As I excitedly ate one variety after the other, I realized that my plans to bake with these apples were going to remain just plans.

But there is one apple so tart I can never eat it on its own. I originally thought of turning this granny smith into an apple pie, but I happened to see a tangy apple coleslaw on tastespotting the same day.



Made with no mayo, this is my kind of coleslaw. I followed the recipe exactly, except I used just the granny smiths where foodiebride used two different kinds of apples. And I did think there was a LOT of dressing so I will halve it the next time.

You can obviously match this up with burgers and stuff, but I ended up eating a lot of coleslaw by itself. With tang from vinegar, the sharp bite from mustard and the sweetness of sugar, it's actually a fabulous salad. And the perfect showcase for a lovely apple!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Mom's Lime Pickle



Don't go by how ugly this bowl looks. You are in the presence of the tastiest pickle in the world. Second tastiest actually, since my mom's mango pickle is the tops. But this lime pickle comes quite close.

You need a kilo of limes to start with. Wash them well and pat dry with a dish towel. Now spread them out on a tray to dry completely.

In the meantime, make your stuffing. First you mix the whole spices and grind them. You need a tbsp of black peppercorns, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 4-5 pods of black cardamom and 8-10 cloves. Once these spices are ground to a fine powder, mix in 100 grams salt, 3 tbsp granulated sugar, 2 tbsp rock salt and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Finally, add in 4 tbsp of the most critical spice - ajwain (also called carom seeds or bishop's weed).

Slit each lime into four, keeping the base intact so the pieces still stay together. Fill with as much spice stuffing as you can fit in a lime (1-2 tsp usually does it). Arrange these limes in a glass or a ceramic jar. When you have only 3 limes left, pour any spices you have left in the jar. Juice the last 3 limes and add that juice to the jar.

Now cover your jar and put it out on the porch, or any place you get direct sunlight. Leave the jar in the sun for two days, then let it be for another 8-10 days.

At the end of two weeks, the spices and the lemons mingle into a delicious pickle. My mom then puts it in the fridge where it keeps for at least 6 months.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Salad Days



I've been bad, I know. Who knows what I was thinking baking all those tarts and cheesecakes one after the other. So it's a salad today instead. What I did last night was really put together odds and ends from my fridge to make dinner. But these do happen to be my favorite salad ingredients and the whole combination worked so well that you should totally know about it.

It started with steamed corn. I put corn in a microwave safe bowl, added a little water and cooked on high for 2 minutes. With the corn done steaming and now cooling, I looked into the fridge for other ideas.

To me, a salad needs a green leaf. I do salads without greens sometimes but nothing feels as fresh as a heap of lettuce. My favorite type is the iceberg and that's the one that goes in this salad. To washed lettuce torn into bite sized pieces, I added the corn, a chopped tomato and some cubed paneer.

Then I made vinaigrette. Now my salad dressing is very different from the traditional recipes. Most people will tell you to make it with three parts oil to one part vinegar. But I just like it tangier. So I poured a tablespoon each of olive oil and white wine vinegar in a bowl. Added a large pinch of sea salt and a sprinkle of pepper, then beat everything with a fork to emulsify the dressing.

Once I'd poured the dressing onto the salad and tossed everything, I felt that the salad needed another texture, maybe a bit of crunch. So what you see scattered around on top of salad is a small bag of mixed nuts. Add it after you toss the salad with the dressing, in fact just before eating, so it keeps crunchy to the end.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Paneer Lover's Guide to Eating Out in Bombay

Paneer, India's favorite fresh cheese, gets the most prominent place in all vegetarian menus. Faced with no meat and no fish, restaurant menu designers often fill a major chunk of their vegetarian sections with paneer dishes. Which ends up dividing the diners in two camps. There are those who order paneer at every opportunity, and there are some who can't stand the sight of a paneer dish. No points for guessing which camp I belong to. Give me some well cooked paneer and I rarely ask for anything more.

From my sampling of paneer dishes through the city, here's a list of what to eat as a vegetarian:

1. The fiery Paneer Tikka Masala and its milder cousin, Paneer Makhani should be your first point of call. And no one does it better than Copper Chimney. Or go to Kareem's and order their Lahori Paneer.

2. The Paneer Pizza: After eating my way through Indianized versions of Dominos and Pizza Hut and everything paneer-like on local pizzerias, I've found a clear winner. It's the Kadhai Paneer from Pizza Hut. A Mughlai-inspired spicy tomato sauce, paneer tikka pieces and paprika - its the best combination out there.

3. Chinese Connection: Here you need to look at the outlets selling Indo-Chinese. And while paneer schezwan is a universal favorite, I will suggest you look instead at China Gate's Crispy Spinach Paneer. It's some seriously delicious sauteed paneer and babycorn, with other half of the plate covered with crackling slightly sweetish spinach.

4. You've heard me say this before, but there ain't a better way to eat paneer than the Paneer Tikka Indi Sizzler at Pop Tates (or Jugheads as it is now called).

5. Street Food: Go for Tibbs, Mumbai's favorite frankie. A large parantha stuffed with paneer curry, onions and a special frankie spice usually perks me up.

And now for a list of things you are better off avoiding. Really, hard day-old paneer annoys me a lot. But there are other ways to mess it up, so stay away from:

1. The Mughlai Mess: When at a Kebab place, order paneer tikka. Everything else that mashes up paneer with other stuff - things like galouti kebab and malai kebab - are dishes you don't want to eat. And while we're at it, stay off seafood places like Mahesh Lunch Home or hardcore kebab joints like Bade Miyan. They might have a dish or two to please vegetarians but it's not really that good.

2. Dosa Diner and Dosa Plaza both offer a paneer dosa. But the light crisp dosas and the heavy cheese filling, they just don't go together.

3. Paneer Shawarma just doesn't cut it. Specially when Maroush slowly grills the paneer. It toughens up and is best avoided.

Is your list any different. Am I missing a paneer experience - do write in.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pastry Wars: Chocolate Ganache Tart



I don't know how to get a flaky tart with shortcrust pastry. I've tried a few times already and have been less than impressed with the results. So I'm resorting to other options. Like this molten butter tart from David Lebovitz. No frozen butter, no delicate mixing - yet the crust is light and flaky.

My recipe is for a mini 3 inch tart so do go over to David's for the full recipe. Also, I always use salted butter in my baking but this is one recipe where you want to go hunt for unsalted butter (a rarity in India but essential this time round).

First off, put 30 grams butter, a tsp of canola oil (or other neutral oil), a tsp of sugar and a tbsp of water in a small saucepan. Heat on a very low flame until the butter starts of brown. Quickly dump in 1/3rd cup of flour and mix until it forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell and press it up the sides of the tart mold. Prick the tart all over with a fork and bake in an oven preheated to 210C for around 15 minutes or until it starts to turn a golden brown.

This is a very delicate crust when warm so cool it completely in the tin, then put it in the fridge for at least an hour while you make the filling. I chose to fill my tart with a chocolate ganache.

Now there are many ways to make chocolate ganache, and there are fancy recipes that add all sorts of ingredients. But really, ganache is just cream and chocolate. Traditional recipes call for heating the cream and pouring it on top of chopped chocolate but somehow it never works for me. I also like to use a lot more cream than most people do.

So here's my way of making smooth and lite ganache. Pour 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips in a microwave bowl (I use 70% chips). Pour 1/3 cup cream on top of the chocolate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir until the chocolate melts completely to get a silken ganache. This quantity is enough to fill a now-chilled tart. Once filled, put it back in the fridge and let set for a few hours before unmolding.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pastry Wars: White Chocolate Cheesecake



Pastry Wars is my quest to find the ultimate recipe for every must-have in a pastry chef's repertoire. And this is really the only cheesecake recipe you will ever need.

I picked the recipe straight from The Family Kitchen but divided it by a third to give me 5 cupcakes. The recipe has a graham cracker crust but I used butter cookies (called Good Day out here). Put 6 of them in a ziploc bag and bashed them up with a rolling pin until I had crumbs. I melted 2 tbsp butter in the microwave, poured it on the crumbs and mixed it all. Lined 5 cupcake tins with liners and pressed the crust on the base of each.

The crust went into a 180C oven to bake for 10 minutes. In the meantime, I made the cheesecake layer. First, I melted 60 grams white chocolate chips and set them aside to cool. Beat 250 grams cream cheese with an electric mixer, then added 1/3 cup sugar and a tbsp of flour. Once it was blended and with the mixer still running, added an egg. Beat that well and finally added the chocolate.

While the crust was cooling, I turned the oven up to 210C. Poured the batter over the crust and popped it in the oven. 10 minutes later, I turned to oven down to 150C and cooked the cheesecake for another 25 minutes until it looked set. Cool it completely, but no need to put it in the fridge to chill right away.

The big advantage of making individual cheesecakes is that you dont need to wait a day to eat them. There's no cutting involved so go ahead and eat one right away. But save some for later; they do taste better after 24 hours.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The End is Nigh



No doomsday prediction this. But I start getting into a panic mode as the strawberry season draws to an end. Except for two weeks of overpriced blueberries, this is the only berry we get in India. And they go away before it's strawberry season elsewhere in world. In June, when bloggers in Europe and US put up their gorgeous strawberry creations, I have no color to top up my desserts.

Then two years back, other bloggers told me to try freezing strawberries. Which is what I am doing this weekend. Washing, hulling and prepping the red berries for their stay in the freezer. I freeze them two ways - sliced and pureed. I froze whole strawberries too last year, but they turn to a mush by the time they defrost so I ditched that version this year.

First off, I divided my strawberries into the perfect and not-so-perfect heaps. The not perfect heaps were washed thoroughly, then hulled and pureed in a blender. I put them in ice cube trays so I can take out as much puree as I need later.

The perfect ones go for the sliced version. Hull and thinly slice the strawberries. Then arrange them in a single layer in a large airtight container. Once this layer freezes, I cover them with parchment and add another layer. Right now, I have four layers in the freezer and this seems enough to top all cheesecakes and tarts I might want to bake in the next few months!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tender at the Bone

A few months back, our book club read the story of Ruth Reichl as the food critic of NY Times. In what's certainly one of the most influential food writing jobs in the world, Ruth set a benchmark for reviews that were insightful yet hugely entertaining. Even when reviewing that 100th burger joint, Ruth's personality would clearly shine through.

This month, the book club is reading another book by Ruth Reichl. And this one tells you how Ruth got to be what she is. Tender at the Bone starts from Ruth's school years. She comes from a family of story tellers. And everyone at her home from her manic-depressive mother to her three grandmothers (yes, three - you go figure!) seems to love food. Even though her over enthusiastic mother could have killed you with her moldy food.

Tender at the Bone then goes on to chronicle Ruth's school years, her time in Europe, her first job in a restaurant, and her writing assignments. Family, friends and lovers - everyone in Ruth's life comes with a distinct personality; every event seems to propel herself a bit more towards her love of good food and good writing.

While the book is enjoyable in itself, the recipes Ruth scatters all through it makes it extra special. I did try one of them, I promise! The recipe I chose was her fail proof brownies. But like all my past attempt at brownies, I ended up with a not-perfect batch. Delicious, but super extra fudgy. I think the brownies don't like me. But never mind, this book is compensation enough. Read it even if you are not a foodie. Ruth's eccentric life will charm you into becoming one.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Arusuvai : The Friendship Chain

I started my blog as a way to store my recipes. At that time, three years ago, I had no idea I was entering a close knit community of food bloggers. One of the first comments on my blog was from Srivalli. She asked me if I was blogging from India and if yes, whether I wanted to become a part of Arusuvai Friendship Chain. Of course I did! Who wouldn't like receiving a secret ingredient from another blogger and spend a happy afternoon guessing what it was. From there on, you cook something with that ingredient, post the recipe and send something to another blogger. And so goes the chain. Except they stopped it before it was my turn.

Looks like I wasn't the only one who thought it was a great idea. Sayantani restarted the Arusuvai chain in November. Four months later, the chain has reached Bombay Foodie. My link to the chain is Shalini. With her secret ingredient came a lovely hand written note and a cook book. Curious to know what Shalini sent?

It was dried ginger root. I was excited because I almost never cook with ginger and although I bookmark these recipes all the time, I've not managed to bake with ginger even once. The first thing that came to my mind was gingersnaps. Sugar encrusted, spicy sweet cookies - gingersnaps it is!



The recipe originally came from joy of baking. But I've managed to change it beyond recognition. First, I didn't have any molasses. I went through the options (maple syrup, corn syrup, honey) but then made my own molasses by stirring 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar into an equal quantity of warm water. And I did away with eggs, entirely! This is also 1/4th of the original recipe, in case the measurements all sound a little weird.

So what you do is let 40 grams of salted butter soften at room temperature. Add 1/4 cup or 55 grams of sugar - the recipe calls for half white, half dark but I used all white caster sugar. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add 2 tbsp of molasses and beat well to mix it in. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, 1/8th tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and a pinch of ground cloves. Add to the butter mixture, mix well and chill for half an hour.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment. Take a one inch ball of dough, dip it in caster sugar and place on the baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Place next cookie at some distance as they expand quite a lot. I think I might have made bigger cookies too as I got eight out of this dough rather than an even dozen.

I baked these for around 18 minutes, but the recipe calls for 12-15 minutes so just go by how they look. You want the top of the cookies to be firm when you take them out, and you should bake them a little longer if you like these to be crisp like I do.

Thanks Shalini for a great treat! My secret ingredients will soon make their way to Santosh and Nithya. And so the friendship chain continues!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring Time Drink



Once we get past the piping hot teas and hot chocolates of January and before the cool summer drinks kick in, my mother makes kanji. Spring is the time when purple carrots, the color of beets, come into season. Between February and March, a clay pot (called a ghada back home) is filled with kanji, the drink constantly replenished with a fresh batch as the previous one runs out. We drink it whenever we pass through the kitchen, even though the tangy kanji gives us a sore throat. It's that delicious!

I'm going to give you my mother's recipe, but please tweak it if it doesn't work for you. Mom never measures anything and these are simply best estimates.

First, find yourself a clay or ceramic pot with at least a 3 liter capacity. A glass jar will do in a pinch. Peel half a kilo of purple carrots and cut them into one inch long batons. Drop these into your jar with 2 liter water. Coarsely grind 2 tbsp of brown mustard seeds and add them to the mix alongwith 2 tbsp salt and 1/2 tsp red chilli powder. Mix well, then set it aside for 3-4 days, stirring up the mixture once a day. By the end of the 4 day resting period, the water will take the color from the carrots and the tang from the mustard. And the carrots are delicious enough to eat too.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pretend Cannelloni



You have lasagna sheets at home but you don't want anything drenched in sauce and drowning in cheese. Instead, you are craving cannelloni in butter sauce. So here's what you do.

You pick three lasagna sheets and set them to boil in plenty of water. In the 10-12 minutes they will take to boil (follow your package directions here), you make your spinach and ricotta filling. Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped spinach and 1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions (just the green bits). Cook, stirring constantly until all the moisture your spinach exuded evaporates. Add salt and black pepper, turn off the heat and mix in 2 tbsp crumbled paneer or ricotta cheese.

Now drain your lasagna sheets and cut them all in half to get even squares. Place a tablespoon of your filling along the side of one of the squares and roll to form a tube. Just repeat the process for the other five and that's your cannelloni.

I was in a no-sauce mood so I then heated 2 tbsp of butter in a pan. Once it melted and started to brown, I dropped in a handful of basil leaves. Arranged my cannelloni on top of this and as they started to sear, i topped them off with grated parmesan and some more basil.

And then, because it was just me, I ate them straight out of the pan. It might be a lovely effect even for company - just try it once!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quick Fix Cake



This isn't the best cake there is. But when you get that craving for chocolate cake in the middle of the night, or you want to eat cake in the next five minutes, a microwave is the way to go.

With microwave cakes, the texture tends to be denser than a regular cake, more like a pudding. But Stefani, of cupcake project fame, added some extra zing with her chocolate spice cupcakes.

Designed to make just two cupcakes, this is a recipe perfect for those sudden cravings. It's also got cinnamon and ginger and allspice to give your chocolate a kick.

Stefani dressed her cupcakes with whipped cream but since I'm not likely to have any around, I dipped mine in some melted chocolate and topped them with silver balls. Remember that this is not tempered chocolate so you should dip your cupcakes just before you are ready to eat them. But then, that's why you'd make these in the first place, right!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Red Pepper Risotto



My first brush with risotto of any kind was a red pepper risotto. That was many years ago; my boss took me and a colleague out for lunch. Can't quite remember what the occasion was, but it must have been a big deal because we didn't go to fancy places that often back in time. I'd read about risottos, had no idea what they looked like, so of course that's what I ordered.

Except what showed up was rice in tomato sauce with tons of chili. It was so spicy that no one could have eaten it. But I put a brave face on and kept on nibbling at it. I now wonder why (I was a big one for keeping up appearances back then). That was until a fellow diner asked to taste it and pronounced it inedible.

Soon thereafter, I discovered the creamy, mushroom and cheese laden risottos and the tomato version dropped off the radar. It resurfaced some 3 years back in Goa, when I ordered tomato and garlic risotto as my comfort meal after a day spent at the beaches and an evening at Goa's popular nightspots. It hit home with the right blend of flavors, and I've been craving the taste ever since.

So that's what this risotto is - recreated from the memories of that dinner in Goa. I couldn't find a recipe to fit what I was looking for so I created a variation on my pasta recipe.

First off, chop two tomatoes and half of a small red pepper. Put this in a blender with a tsp of dried oregano. Defrost 1 1/2 cup of mushroom stock sitting in your freezer and pour 1/4 cup into the blender. Blend everything to a smooth paste.

Separately, chop one small onion finely. Peel and mince 2-3 garlic cloves. Heat the stock and bring it to a simmer.

Pour a tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, followed a few seconds later by onion. Stir for a minute, then add 1/2 cup arborio rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil. At this stage of risotto making, I usually add white wine. But I didn't have any in the fridge today, so I added 1/4 cup of red wine instead. Stir it around until it all evaporates, then add the tomato and pepper paste. Let it cook, stirring often. A few minutes later, add a ladleful of stock. Keep adding more stock, a little at a time as the previous additions get absorbed.

Start checking your rice after 15 minutes or so before you add any more stock. You are looking for rice to get cooked but still retain a little bite. When the rice is done, add a tbsp of butter, mix it in and take the risotto off the heat. Top with basil cut into thin strips and a sprinkle of parmesan, or any cheese you like.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Sneak Peek

You folks know Harini, right? She blogs at Sunshinemom and was one of the first bloggers I met in person.

Some time back, Harini and I decided to have a foodies day out - she came over to my place and we had fun talking and eating all day. Harini's post on the day just came out so you might want to head over and read all about it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bombay Foodie Awards

Bombay Foodie completes three years today. In true Oscar style, we celebrate three years of blogging by dishing out some awards of our own.

Reader's Choice Award
(Most viewed and commented post)




Ms. Photogenic
(Most Popular on Flickr)




The Prima Donna
(The Scariest Thing I Cooked)


Tiramisu for the Daring Bakers

Critic's Award
(My Favorite Dish)




Lifetime Achievement Award
(Most Popular on Bombay Foodie...ever!)