Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Colour Me Pink


Friends often ask me why I take the trouble to go all the way to Borough Market every weekend. It's crowded, it's touristy and London has so many other farmers markets that are much quieter and easier to shop in. But Borough is nicer because it's touristy -which means that competitive farmers and traders show up not just with fresh rhubarb and raspberries but also with unique treasures like these pink mushrooms I got last week. I got two other things from the mushroom forager - a bulb of smoked garlic and advice on how to cook these mushrooms.

Although they are pink, these are just a variant of your standard oyster mushrooms. So I just tore them roughly with my hands. The mushrooms were quite delicate and didn't even need a knife. Next, I finely chopped two cloves of smoked garlic. Heated a tbsp of olive oil and added the garlic. Once it started to brown, I added the mushrooms and cooked for 4-5 minutes until they looked done. I added a dollop of cream to the pan and some roughly chopped marjoram leaves to finish. Mixed in with some fresh tagliatelle, from my favourite Italian store in the market for a gorgeous lunch.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How to eat mincemeat in March

But then, you may wonder why someone would want to eat mincemeat in the first place. To begin with, there is the whole confusion with the name. For years, I kept away from mince pies as I assumed they had meat. It was only around last christmas that I figured that this was a misnomer and the mincemeat referred to a concoction of dried fruit, sugar and booze. At around the same time, I learnt that mince pies get a bad rap for being too sweet and too stodgy and generally not good.

But then, I tried them and fell in love with mince. I think my lack of experience with mince pies of yesteryears helped. This year, London supermarkets were stocked with Heston Bluementhal's dreamy puff pastry pies that came with sachets of pine needle sugar. Even my school did some great take with filo pies and there wasn't a stodgy shortcrust one in sight.

Of course, the jars of mincemeat went on sale at the same time and I brought one home. But then I didn't get around to baking with mince in December and it sort of went to the back of the shelf. After all, you can't possibly eat mince pies in the new year. Instead, you call them fruit cookies.



The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver, naturally given the British obsession with mince and thus his long experience with leftovers from christmas. First off, leave 250 grams butter out of the fridge to soften. A few hours later, set the oven to preheat at 180C and beat the butter with 140 grams sugar until light and creamy. Add an egg yolk and beat to combine. Add 300 grams plain flour and mix to form a dough. Now add a jar of mincemeat (which for some strange reason, is always 411 grams) and mix well. The dough will be fairly wet and I found it best to mix with my hands.

Pinch out balls of dough and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment, pressing down a little to flatten. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Wait until cookies start to cool and harden, then transfer to a cooling rack. The cookies are very delicious but also soft and moist so its best to eat them the day they are baked. Not that that's going to be a problem!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Brownie Cake

Brownie cake by Bombay Foodie

One upside of having a large bunch of classmates is that it solves the perennial problem I've had with trying out new recipes - finding enough people to eat what I bake. What was even more fun was baking birthday cakes and surprise birthday parties.

This cake is from one of the first surprise birthday parties I planned. While there were a few others after this one, this cake was my favourite among all the cakes I baked so I thought I'd tell you where to look if you are planning to bake a decadent chocolate cake.

The recipe's from Dorie Greenspan. In her book, it's a rather elaborate cake topped with caramel and peanuts. What I did was bake the cake, then pour a layer of ganache to cover. And while you don't see it here, the cake then had a happy birthday written on it with a tube of "white chocolate writing icing". Of all the things I discovered on the London supermarket aisles, this little tube of icing is my favourite. Takes the hassle away from piping bags et al, tastes like real white chocolate and even works for people like me who can't ever write with a piping bag. You should get one too, and plan some surprise birthday parties. They are such fun!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tahini cookies

Tahini cookies by Bombay Foodie

One of the first things I did when I got to London last year was seek out ingredients hard to find in India. Like tahini, the sesame seed paste used to make hummus. What I didn't realise though was that good hummus was equally easy to buy, practically at every supermarket and there was no need to fuss with making your own. Which is why the jar of tahini has been lurking in the cupboard ever since.

I decided to look up other uses for tahini, apart from hummus, and found it to be a good addition to cookies. Other bloggers advocated using tahini just like peanut butter and so these cookies came into being, adapted from multiple peanut butter and oatmeal cookie recipes.

First off, mix a cup of oats, 1/2 cup plain flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp baking soda. In another bowl, mix 60 grams softened butter with 1/4 cup tahini. Add 2/3 cup castor sugar, a tsp of vanilla extract and an egg. Mix with a whisk until everything is blended. Pour the flour mix from the first bowl into this one and stir to combine.

At this stage, I added about 1 1/2 cups of walnuts and raisins but feel free to add other dried berries or chocolate chips.

Drop the batter by the tablespoon on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in an oven preheated to 170C for about 10-12 minutes until the cookies look set but are still a bit soft. Wait for a few minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gozleme

Yesterday, I decided to make a trip out to Stoke Newington in North London, quite far away from my Central London home but known to have one of the best South Indian restaurants in the city. Coming from my part of town with Starbucks and Pret A Manger at every corner, the quaint and charming Stoke Newington blew me away. Tiny stores selling toys and mugs and pottery and not a single chain store in sight. I didn't know places like this still existed. The restaurant alas, was a lot less impressive and when I left, the bland food was still half uneaten, I still a little hungry.

Then I remembered a sign I'd seen from the bus on the way. Right opposite Newington Green, a tiny hole in the wall promising gozleme. I first heard of gozleme on Masterchef Australia last year when a Turkish contestant made them. I've been intrigued by this filled flat bread ever since but this was the first time I've seen it being advertised in an actual store.

So I got off the bus at the right stop and entered this little patisserie called Basak. They had shelves of cakes and desserts on display and right at the shop entrance, a woman sat rolling dough into pastry so thin and into a circle so big it was fascinating. She then put some fresh spinach and some feta cheese on one half of the pastry and folded the other half over to make a semi-circle. On to the hot pan, where the gozleme cooked until golden on both sides, getting brushed with either oil or butter on the way.

Basak Patisserie is a takeaway but that shouldn't bother you because you can take your gozleme and sit in the park right opposite. I found myself a bench and bit into the very hot pastry. It then gave way to fresh spinach and then I discovered there were other flavours too. I spotted onions first and then some chilli. The whole package was like a stuffed parantha but so much different with a plain flour pastry rolled real thin and cooked out so crisp.

It was nothing fancy but out in a cold day, on the park bench, the gozleme somehow became the most sublime food experience I've had in a long time.