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Life is like a box of macarons

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!



Strawberries and Cream

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.

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.



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 gelati…

Balsamic Stuffed Mushrooms

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 bu…

Looks familiar?

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 m…

Sunday Night Salad

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.

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 p…

How can something this simple be this hard!

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…

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 o…

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…

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 h…

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 roa…

Enid Blyton strikes again!

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 c…

Perfect Pancakes

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.

Before there was McDonalds

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…

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. B…

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…

Chaat Street

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 sp…

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…

Savory Cookies for ICC

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…

Crepes

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 s…

The Best Vanilla Cake

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.

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!

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!

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 eg…

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.

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 gorge…

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 …

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 t…

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. Mov…

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…

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.

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!

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!

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.

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 shallo…

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 ta…

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.

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…

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 …

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.…

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 …

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 chocol…

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 per…

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 lif…

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 e…

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…

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 butte…

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!

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 …

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.

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)

Pineapple Pastry
Ms. Photogenic (Most Popular on Flickr)

Pasta Al Bakunin
The Prima Donna (The Scariest Thing I Cooked)

Tiramisu for the Daring Bakers
Critic's Award (My Favorite Dish)


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


Spinach Cheese Sandwich