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Showing posts from 2014

30 Days of Christmas: Festive Jelly

Now that Christmas is over, we are out of the season for hearty fruitcakes. Instead, the new year's eve calls for dainty canapes and elegant desserts. Which is why I am calling Jamie Oliver's elderflower jelly into action. Originally made as a summer dessert, this is festive enough to bring in the new year. I scaled down the recipe considerably to make only one bowl of dessert but look up Jamie's recipe if you are cooking a full batch.

This jelly is typically made with mixed berries but since we only get strawberries here, I added black grapes and bright orange cape gooseberries to the mix. Washed and halved enough fruit to fill 2/3 of a bowl (about the size of a standard cup). Next, I took one sheet of gelatin and soaked it in cold water. 5 minutes later, I lifted the gelatin sheet out of water and put it in a heavy bottom saucepan. Added 2 tbsp elderflower cordial and set the pan on very low heat, stirring constantly until the gelatin melted completely. Added 1/2 tbsp c…

30 Days of Christmas: Milk Cream

Of the Goan Christmas sweets I spoke about the other day, the one that intrigued me the most was milk cream. It was also the easiest to make so here is my own take on it. Milk cream is a fudge made with milk, sugar and cashews. A simple recipe, though it does require a bit of work.

First off, grind 50 grams cashewnuts to a rough powder and keep it aside. Make sure you don't over process them in the grinder and they would release oil and turn into cashew butter which we don't want. Now get hold of a heavy duty saucepan and pour 1/2 litre of milk in it. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the milk cook until halved in quantity. Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir until it's all mixed in. Bring the milk to a boil again, reduce the heat and cook until the milk and sugar syrup is thickened to a condensed milk kind of consistency. Add the cashews and a tbsp of butter, then cook on a medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid the fudge burning. Test every few minutes…

30 Days of Christmas: Pancake Muffins

One of the biggest problems with making pancakes for one person is that you always have too much batter. Even the smallest batch, made with one egg, makes enough batter to make pancakes for two. So what's a person to do when you are by yourself and want pancakes. One, you can have crepes because crepe batter lasts for a couple of days in the fridge and is even batter the second day. But if it's pancakes that you want, here's what you do. Make pancakes with half the batter, then pour the remaining batter into muffin tins and bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.

I did this with the eggnog pancakes I made yesterday. Now, because pancake batter is not as sweet as your cake batter, you need to up the sugar level in your muffins once they come out of the oven. You have several options to do that:

1. Add another tbsp of sugar to your batter before you bake.

2. Brush your muffin tops with butter as they come out o…

30 Days of Christmas: Eggnog Pancakes

I really liked the eggnog flavour yesterday so decided to continue the eggnog flowing in the form of these eggnog pancakes from Joy the Baker. These pancakes contain no real eggnog but replicate the flavour with nutty brown butter, some brown sugar and Christmas spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Put 40 grams of butter in a small saucepan and heat gently until much of the water has evaporated and small brown flecks appear at the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of grated nutmeg to the butter. Let it cool while you ready everything else.
In a bowl, mix in 1 cup plain flour, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda. In another small bowl, beat 1 cup buttermilk with 1 egg. Add the melted butter (it should be cool, if not wait a few minutes). Also add 1 tbsp rum and whisk it all together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour and stir to mix. Do not overmix, it's okay to have a few lumps.
Let the batter …

30 Days of Christmas: Vegan Eggnog

Let me start by saying that I've never had eggnog. The idea of Christmas having its own trademark drink intrigues me but I usually stay away from drinks or desserts that have raw eggs, and I definitely don't like the eggy smell that is the hallmark of an eggnog. So then, when huffington post offered an egg free version of the creamy drink that still has the signature nutmeg and creamy flavours, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon.
To make the vegan eggnog, soak 3/4 cups of cashews overnight. The next morning, drain the cashews and put them in a blender alongwith 400 ml coconut milk, 2 cups water, 1/3 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/3 cup date syrup and if you like, 1/3 cup rum. Now blitz away until it is all blended. Because of the cashews, the drink will start out grainy but be patient and give it a few minutes to become smooth.
Pour in a glass bottle or a flask, then chill thoroughly before drinking. It is rich enough to be served in shot glasses a…

30 Days of Christmas: Kuswar

In a country as culturally diverse as India, it is easy to miss on all the good things that go on in different parts of the country. Or even in your own city. Take Christmas treats - I've always associated Christmas in India with plum cake. A cross between fruit cake and the British plum pudding, the cake is rich with dried fruits and nuts, boozy enough to make you drunk and deliciously dark brown because of the added caramel. Plum cake is something that springs up all over Mumbai, possibly all over India mid-December and I've always thought that this is the only Christmas goodie making the rounds every year.

For the first time this year, I've spent Christmas surrounded by East Indians and Goan Catholics and imagine my surprise on discovering a whole world of Christmas goodies I've never heard about. So if you are as unaware as me, let me introduce you to the concept of kuswar. A Goan Catholic tradition, kuswar refers to the collection of treats that are made at home …

30 Days of Christmas: Cake

Chock full of dried fruits and nuts, this is the classic fruit cake. The recipe is courtesy Nigel Slater but I haven't cut into the cake yet and I will be back with an update if the recipe works.

30 Days of Christmas: Mince Pies

So here we are at the day before Christmas and there are still two major orders of business left to post - Christmas cake and mince pies. So let's do mince pies today and we will save the cake for the big day. Puff pastry makes a much lighter contrast to the sweet mince so I prefer it to the traditional pie crust. And if you can get hold of frozen puff pastry, its no work at all.

Thaw the puff pastry in the fridge. When it is soft, dredge it in plain flour so it is easy to work with. Roll the puff pastry block into a large rectangle. Split the rectangle into two. Cut the first half into smaller rectangles that will form the base of your pie. Spread mincemeat on the base to cover, leaving a 2 cm border all round. Cut the second rectangle into thin strips and use those to make lattice pattern to cover the base and the mincemeat. You can use a pastry brush dipped in cold water to make the strips stick. Arrange the pies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle with some…

30 Days of Christmas: Grain Salad

I thought long and hard about the vegetarian main course for the Christmas meal. The best option that I've found is this millet salad made with a lot of different flavours and textures. The salad take a while to make but it's completely gorgeous and festive.

24 hours before, take a bunch of rainbow swiss chard. Cut off the stems and set the leaves aside for later. Wash the stems and pat them dry, then cut them into 2-3 inch long pieces. Mix 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup white vinegar. Add 1/2 tbsp. salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Pack the swiss chard stems into a glass jar, pour over the liquid to cover and pop into the fridge to pickle.

12 hours before, soak 1/2 cup millet in plenty of water. You can also use other grains like quinoa or barley - they may not need soaking so follow the package directions on how to cook them.

To put together the salad, boil a saucepan of water. Add the soaked millet, bring to a boil and let cook on a simmer until the grains are soft. This…

30 Days of Christmas: Roast Potatoes

Potatoes are my favourite food group. And when Christmas rolls around, along come all the sinful ways to eat potatoes like mash and gratins. My absolute favourite though are the roast potatoes. Usually served as a side to turkey or ham, I actually enjoy a bowl of these just on their own. A good roast potato needs to have a balance between crisp edges and fluffy, soft centres but obviously the most crisp, brown edges you have the better it is.

After reading through a host of recipes, I decided that par-boiling followed by a long stint in the oven was the best bet for these potatoes. I also cut them as thick discs to maximise the surface area that will get brown and crisp. So wash 2-3 medium sized potatoes and slice them. Pop them in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until they begin to soften. Drain the potatoes and put them in a bowl alongwith 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt and fresh ground pepper. Mix to coat th…

30 Days of Christmas: Ischler Cookies

Today was secret Santa day. Christmas is still a few days away but the food bloggers exchanged gifts today through the secret Santa elfs who zipped around town. In anticipation of the elf visit, I baked these Ischler cookies.

This Austrian cookie tastes quite similar to a buttery shortbread. Rose Levy grinds her own almonds but I used ground almonds I already had. Additionally, her recipe is adapted so it's eggless and the dough is made by made rather than a food processor.

About half an hour before you start baking, cube 110 grams of salted butter and set it aside to soften. Now to the actual dough. Mix 100 grams ground almonds wih 60 grams caster sugar. Add the softened butter and mix until everything is well blended. All 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1 tbsp milk. Finally add 110 grams of plain flour and mix/knead lightly until it comes together as a dough. Divide into two halves and wrap each in cling wrap, then let chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll…

30 Days of Christmas: Apricot Lekvar

This time of the year, a lot of websites and blogs come up with recipe series like '12 days of cookies'. Given the number of food websites and books I read, it is getting quite rare for me to get excited over a new cookie. No excitement really, in a new flavour of shortbread or yet another variation on the snowballs. But one cookie caught my eye this year. The Ischler, from a book by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is an almond cookie filled with chocolate and a thick apricot spread called lekvar. We will get to the cookie in due time but the lekvar deserves a post of its own.

Lekvar is like a fruit butter but made with dried apricots. When buying apricots, you will have the choice between bright orange and the brown variety. I chose the brown ones because they have no sulphur and are healthier. I halved the apricots to remove the seeds. You are looking for 230 grams of deseeded apricots. Combine these with 1 cup water in a saucepan and let soak for 2 hours to soften the apricots. After…

30 Days of Christmas: Pomegranate Bark

NY Times' food section is responsible for some of the most popular food innovations of our time. Remember the No Knead bread that started a huge revolution in bread making. This pomegranate bark might be another one of those memorable inventions. Melissa Clark calls the chocolate bark the workhorse of holiday recipes. This one certainly is, with a recipe that's almost impossible to mess up.

You melt 140 grams of dark chocolate, add 20 grams of finely minced candied ginger and 1/2 cups of fresh pomegranate seeds. Spread this on a baking sheet lined with parchment and top with another 1/2 cup of pomegranate and a tsp of sea salt, pressing lightly to make sure the seeds and salt stick to the chocolate. Let cool until set.

Because of the juicy pomegranate burst you get when you bite into it, the bark has a fresh flavour, quite unlike the rich chocolates you will be used to eating. And that flavour combination of bitter dark chocolate tangy sweet pomegranate and spicy ginger truly…

30 Days of Christmas: Fruit Cookies

I liked the ginger cookies I baked day before yesterday but the other tasters thought they were not sweet enough. I still had half a batch of dough left and I wasn't going to let it go so I decided to fix it. To half of the dough from the previous recipe, I added 1/3 cup of mincemeat. Mixed it well and scooped out balls of dough. I arranged the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment, flattening them a little. Baked in an oven preheated to 180C for 15 minutes. The mincemeat add not just the fruit flavours but also more butter and sugar to the mix, resulting in sweeter and chewier cookies.

30 Days of Christmas: Roasted Vegetables

Vegetarians have to set priorities a little differently when considering the Christmas meal. While everyone else is focused on Turkey or ham, the vegetarian options like nut roast or tofurkey are usually a let down. But take the main dish out and focus instead on the sides, the salads and the breads and you have a fantastic meal on hand.
This tray of roasted vegetables ranks among my all time favourite sides. Pick 3-4 vegetables that you like. This time, I have a mix of broccoli, zucchini, baby corn and onions. Other options include cauliflower, mushrooms, leeks, spring onions and most root vegetables. One word of warning - while we are mixing up everything here, if you pick something very watery like mushrooms, keep it separate from the rest of the gang.
Cut vegetables in approximately equal bite size pieces. In a bowl, mix chopped vegetables with 1 tbsp olive oil for each cup of veggies, salt and pepper. Also add a tbsp of balsamic vinegar. Mix well and spread on a baking tray in a…

30 Days of Christmas: Lebkuchen

If you think of the most iconic Christmas foods, ginger people will be up tops alongwith gingerbread houses. Now gingerbread houses require more effort than I am willing to put in but I managed to find a gingerman cutter. I also wanted to try the German version of gingerbread cookies called lebkuchen so I combined the two to make some lebkuchen gingermen. In my last three weeks of research on Christmas recipes, I've found BBC Good Food to be one of the best sources out there. So this one comes from BBC as well. In all the cookies I've baked in the past, I've never encountered a recipe like this. There is absolutely no sugar in the cookie, and all the sweetness comes from honey (which I replaced with date syrup hence the dark color).

It's quite an easy cookie to put together too. In a bowl, mix together 125 grams plain flour, 40 grams ground almonds, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp baking powder. In a small saucepan, mix 40…

30 Days of Christmas: Latkes

Among all the hoopla on Christmas, I want to take a minute to take about the other festival that comes around the same time - hanukkah. I honestly don't know much about Jewish culture but hanukkah first caught my attention when I spotted all the posts for potato pancakes called latkes.

Now I am a big fan of fried potato, be it fries or hasbrowns or the Indian aloo tikki. Which is why I've wanted to make latkes for a long time. I looked at a lot of recipes but I still had two concerns. One, most latke recipes use egg and I wanted something with no eggy taste. Two, have made the Indian potato cakes with boiled potatoes all my life, I wasn't sure if the raw potatoes will cook through. So I looked some more for vegan and eggless latke recipes. Everyone agreed that the potatoes will stick together even without eggs but some starch was recommended. So I adapted the recipe with some cornflour.

I made latkes with one medium sized potato and that gave me 4 cakes. So take one potat…

30 Days of Christmas: Peppermint Mocha

I eagerly await the Starbucks red cups and special christmas flavours every year. My first brush with these Christmas specials was in New York, maybe ten years back. At the time, and ever since, my favourite Christmas drink is peppermint mocha. Alas, starbucks took it off their Christmas menu a few years back. What's more - they don't even stock mint syrup in India so you can't even order it a la carte as you can in New York.

Which is why I am telling you how to make your own. First step, make a chocolate syrup. In a small saucepan, mix 1 tbsp each of cocoa powder and brown sugar. Add 1/4 cup water and cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until you have a thick syrup. Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp peppermint extract. If you want to skip syrup making, get a tbsp of Hershey's syrup and add mint extract.

Next, make a shot of espresso in your coffee machine or moka pot. Drip coffee will do in a pinch, but avoid instant if you can. In a separate saucepan, heat 1/3 c…

30 Days of Christmas: Coconut Fudge

Today's recipe isn't from your traditional Christmas repertoire but it's deliciously sweet and makes a great gift. I first met this coconut fudge or kopra pak at the Upper Crust Food Festival last weekend. Perzen aka Bawi Bride had this on her menu at the festival stall and I took an instant liking to the dessert.
As Perzen said, this is a simple recipe but takes a bit of effort. I buy grated fresh coconut so I took a cup of that. In a wide saucepan, I added the coconut, 2 cups of milk and 4 tbsp sugar. Also popped in two whole cardamoms. Put it on a low heat and simmered it for a really long time. That's really it - you stir the coconut/milk every few minutes until the whole thing is reduced to a thick fudge. The coconut will be soft by the time it's cooked and the milk will be reduced to thick solids. Perzen colors her fudge a lovely pale pink, so towards the end of the cooking time, i sprinkled a pinch of beetroot powder and mixed it in. You can also use liquid…

30 Days of Christmas: Roast Chestnuts

About an hour's train ride from London is a small town called Rochester. As far as I can tell, there isn't much that happens out there throughout the year. Except for this one weekend in December when they host a Victorian Christmas parade. On my train from London to Rochester, I could already see folks dressed as Dickens characters. The whole town gets into the party mode right from puppet shows in the library to fake snow coming down the only high street in town.

Of course, the reality also includes too many people showing up in a sleepy town, leading to overbooked restaurants and crowds all round. So while the day itself turned out to be the mixed experience, what I clearly remember is the roast chestnuts. Holding the warm bag is hugely comforting as fake snow and real winds pelt you, while waiting for the Victorian parade to start.

Then last week, I spotted chestnuts on bigbasket.com and instantly added them to my grocery order. The next day, I set about the task of prepa…

30 Days of Christmas: Granola

When I am not eating all the Christmas goodies I am baking, I've been balancing out my diet with salads and roasted vegetables. Also high on my healthy eating list is granola, which has to be the healthiest way to eat something sweet and nutty and delicious. In keeping with the festival spirit, I made a new batch this morning that's red and green and white - all the colors of Christmas.

First off, heat up the largest nonstick pan you have. Reduce the heat to low and evenly spread out 1/2 cup flaxseeds to cover the base of the pan. Keep stirring often, until the seeds begin to pop, then take them off the heat and put in a bowl. Return the pan to heat and this time, add 2 cups of rolled oats. Roast on a low heat until the oats are turning brown. Stir often to make sure the oats brown evenly or you might end up with a partly burnt, partly raw batch.

Add the roasted oats to the flax seeds and pour 1/4 cup of honey into the bowl. Mix well so the honey coats the oats and seeds and …

30 Days of Christmas: Gingerbread

Let's take a moment to talk about snacking cakes, the unfussy, girl next door version of the cake world. These are cakes that last at least a few days so you have them around when sudden appetite for cake shows up (like when you have to wait 24 hours for cinnamon rolls but want something sweet NOW). By definition, you are looking for a cake that's easy to put together. Which means that anything that requires softened butter or whipped egg whites is out. Frosting is out too - instead, you are looking for something that can be simply dusted with icing sugar (or not) and has enough flavour on its own.

My favourite snacking cake to have around at this time of the year is something akin to a gingerbread. Instead of the hardy gingerbread houses or gingermen cookies, you are looking for a soft cake that's sweet and spicy and super quick to bake. I picked the recipe from smitten kitchen, and made a few adjustments like omitting the fresh ginger. I also replaced molasses with date…

30 Days of Christmas: Mincemeat

For the longest time, I thought mince pies must be savoury pies filled with some kind of meat. Then, when I was living in London, my British flatmate explained that mincemeat referred to a rich, sweet mix of apples and dried fruits, with suet being the 'meat' in the recipe. She immediately added that mince pies are stodgy and too sweet and most people don't like them. But living in London anytime from mid-November, you can't really avoid mince pies. From my college cafetaria to grocery stores to coffee shops, mince pies take over London during Christmas even more than eggnog and christmas cakes.

My first mince pie was somewhat unconventional. Heston Bluementhal does a range of goodies for Waitrose every year and that year, Heston did a mince pie in puff pastry, not the standard pie crust. Alongside the pies came a sachet of pine sugar, that made my house smell like forest and snow and Christmas trees. Much to my British friends' surprise, I loved not just the Hest…

30 Days of Christmas

I have always been a big fan of Christmas. Now remember that when I was growing up, Christmas did not even register as a festival on social calendars as it does now. There were no trees, no overly decorated shopping malls filled with Christmas music and certainly no gifts. But for our family, there was a difference. Up until high school, my family lived on the first floor of this two storey house. Our ground floor neighbours were Catholics and when you live in the same house for as long as we did, you practically think of them as family. As a kid, I wondered at the Chistmas tree when they invited us to visit and marvelled at the wreaths and holly and their traditions of midnight mass. And on Christmas day, I looked forward to cake. Every year, like clockwork, they would show up on the morning of 25th December with a plum cake. In 1990s Amritsar, this was both rare and fascinating.

I loved Christmas then and I've never stopped loving it since. I love the Christmas markets, even th…

Breakfast Muffins

I was looking through my blog archives yesterday and figured there isn't a recipe here for lemon poppyseed cake, one of my all time favourites. And I just happened to remember this again when I woke this morning, a bit earlier than usual. Now normally I would just roll over and go back to sleep but today, I thought I'd use that extra time to bake some lime and poppyseed cakes. Or because I just ate these for breakfast, let's call them muffins instead. Makes you feel better about eating cake in the morning.

The recipe is from my baking guru, Dorie Greenspan and is quite a breeze to put together. First off, line 6-8 muffin tins with paper liners (Dorie says 6, but I got 8 because I have smaller tins). Set the oven to preheat at 200C.

Now put 60 grams of butter in a small saucepan and heat gently until it's melted. Let it cool a little while you collect all other ingredients. Zest a lime and add it to 1/3 cup caster sugar. Mix it in until the sugar smells all lemony. To …

Carrot and Manchego Salad

A couple of months back, I was watching Masterchef Australia. It was an immunity pin challenge, where a contestant fights off a big name chef. The theme was cheese and while this contestant was busy fiddling with soufflés and what not, the chef announced he was making a salad. Rarely am I so impressed with a dish but the complexity of his carrot and manchego salad totally zapped me. So much so that I have been going back to the masterchef website and hoping they will put up a recipe. Which they didn't so I decided to recreate the salad all on my own.

Matt Stone's version was beautifully plated with carrot coins poached in whey, sweet carrot syrup, manchego cheese and burnt leeks. I got hold of some baby carrots so I created a slightly different spin on it. Here is a layer by layer description of my 'shot glass' salad.

A day before: To poach carrots in whey, you need to get some whey. So the night before or the morning of the day you are going to make this salad, take …

Diwali Cheer

This year, for the very first time in my life, I decided to make homemade gifts for Diwali. I've baked cakes for friends' birthdays and stuff but never before have I made pretty looking packages of sweet goodies. And it truly made a difference, seeing how happy it made my friends to get something that wasn't store bought. I hope you are having a happy Diwali too and just in case I couldn't get one of these over to you, here are the recipes to help you make your Diwali a little bit sweeter.

Because it was my first time making a gift, I chose something super simple. Two bottles of sweet sauces - one salted caramel, one chocolate. I also used this as an excuse to make a trip to South Bombay's Crawford Market. What a place that is! Full of stores that sell all kinds of beautiful packaging and boxes. I asked for a place to buy glass jars and got guided down to another market, just opposite the bustling Crawford building, and into a store that had pretty much everything…

Baba Ghanoush

I have an almost automatic reaction to the word eggplant. Blame it on mushy baingan curries I saw growing up, but ask me if I want to eat a dish with eggplant and I won't even think a minute before I say no. The only exception to this rule, thus far, is the baingan bhartha. The smoky mashed eggplant curry filled with fried onions and tomatoes and garam masala has always been the solitary eggplant favourite of mine.

Now, it is time to add a second. I think it has got to do with smoking the eggplant but I instantly fell in love with baba ghanoush. Well, not maybe not instantly - I can remember many a middle eastern mezze platters where I inhaled all the hummus and tzatziki and let my friends finish the baba ghanoush. But I tried making it at home for the first time last week and I totally loved it. I think it helps that the recipe, texture and flavours are so close to my other favourite dip: hummus.

So whether you are an old baba ghanoush fan or have never tried it before, here'…

Healthy Couscous Salad

For the past month, I have been forced to take a hard look at my lifestyle choices. It's not that I haven't been keeping an eye on my sugar and fat intake all these years. But being the foodie that I am, it is easy to get distracted by a new restaurant, or yet another fabulous dessert. Alas, those options are starting to look like a distant pipedream.

But instead of giving up on eating out and exciting foods, here's what I am doing - being sensible! Yes, I order fewer milkshakes and lots more glasses of sparkling water with lime. But I am also creating some exciting new salads and soups and healthy dishes. This is one of those new experiments that make me almost excited about eating healthy.

The base of this salad is pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous). Now that I am counting calories, I measured out 2 tbsp. of dried pasta and cooked it as per package directions. To the cooked, drained and now fluffy couscous grains, I added a handful of cooked chickpeas. I usua…

The Making of a Caramel Macchiato

Now that I have perfected the art of making an espresso at home, I've been dabbling in fancier drinks. Starting with the one drink I always order at Starbucks - a caramel macchiato. At Starbucks, this is a layered drink that starts with a shot of vanilla syrup. They then fill the mug with hot steamed milk, add a shot of espresso and top with a drizzle of caramel.

The starting point of making this drink at home is the caramel drizzle. I used to be scared of making caramel but with this super easy sauce, I can make caramel in my sleep, with no thermometer whatsoever. You can make the drizzle as much as a week in advance but if you are anything like me, you will go back and eat it all by the spoonful so make it the same day or the day before at the earliest. If you want a professional drizzle, put the caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle while it's still warm. You can also forget all of the above and buy a bottle of caramel if burning sugar at home scares you.

Next step is to make …

Stuffed Garlic Bread

A few years back, I successfully recreated Domino's garlic bread at home. Since then, several people have written to me saying they tried baking the bread and loved it. So when Domino's launched a new version that has become my favourite, I felt it's about time to recreate that one too.

The stuffed garlic bread at Domino's comes filled with cheese, corn and jalapenos (and that's why I made these pickled jalapenos). But the basic bread recipes remains the same. So first off, heat 1/2 cup water until it's warm but not hot. You can do it on the stovetop or microwave it for 15-20 seconds. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast and let proof for 5 minutes. By this time, the yeast will be bubbling. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and a cup of plain flour. Stir everything together until the flour is all blended in, then cover and let rise until doubled.

Once the dough has doubled in volume, add another 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Knead for around 5 min…

Quick Pickled Jalapeños

Even though I am not a big fan of chilli, I like the mildly spicy, tangy flavour of pickled jalapeños. But have you ever tried buying a jar of those. The last couple of jars I bought, the jalapeños were several months old and kinda mushy. Plus every commercial pickle out there has some added sugar and I was looking for something with just salt and vinegar so I decided to make my own.

Most recipes I found on the net had sugar, but I finally settled on this quick and easy recipe by Valerie. As this happens to be my first pickling experiment, I started with only 3 jalapenos. The first step is to cut these chillis. Wash and wipe the jalapenos. Then chop the stem off and slice into thin rings. Make sure to wash the knife and your hands right after. And whatever you do, don't touch your face or eyes while you are chopping.

Put the jalapenos aside and mix up your pickling liquid. Mix 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup vinegar. I used normal white vinegar but you can use rice vinegar or white wi…

Espresso

Fifteen years back, when the first chain of coffee shops opened in India, customers were understandably puzzled by the espresso that showed up on the menus. Until then, expresso (notice the different spelling) referred to a small, drum like machine that spewed out foamy, milky Nescafe coffees. Expresso stalls were de rigueur at weddings and in winters in Northern India, you could pick a styrofoam cup of steaming coffee in neighbourhood markets.

Espresso on the other hand is everything that's good with Italian coffee. By forcing a small amount of water with a lot of pressure through ground coffee beans, you get deep, dark coffee flavours crowned with a lighter foam called crema. Making good espresso requires a combination of sophisticated equipment and barista skills, which means that it remains a drink more suited for cafes than home brewing.

I am firmly in the sweet, milky coffee camp so while I don't relish espresso per se, I am a big fan of cappuccinos and lattes that are …

Memories of a Risotto

Goa is a funny place. With so many beaches and resorts, you would think it would be all calm and serene. But every time I head out there, I find myself in the middle of one big party. Now I'm usually the one to tag along with the group to whichever nightlife spot they are headed to, but I find it much harder to find food I can enjoy. After all, all the beach shacks are equipped to cook and sell seafood and a vegetarian dish is a rarity in Goan cuisine. So on one of the trips to Goa, I found myself in an Italian restaurant called Italie, just down the road from Baga Beach (it's now closed and has been replaced with a Russian restaurant). The hour was late, I was hungry and a tomato risotto seemed like a logical choice. It was the kind of comfort food that lingers in your memory long after you are back from the trip and finally, last night, I decided to recreate it.


The starting point was the tomato sauce I made a few days back. In addition to measuring out half a cup of tomato…

Pao Bhaji Toasties

There is a new trend in Mumbai restaurants. Everyone is reinventing street food, putting their own twists and turns on age old favourites. "The Spare Kitchen" serves a Chowpatty platter that has some beautifully presented vada pao, bhelpuri and pani puri shots. "Masala Library" is putting a molecular twist on sev puri. My favourite reinventions so far are in the Juhu open air pub - Copa. Their ragda pattice redux is delicious and I have become a big fan of their pao bhaji toasties. But delicious as they are, these toasties come slathered with a huge quantity of butter so I tried making a healthier, yet equally delicious version at home.

First, you make pao bhaji. Next, you take two slices of whole wheat or multi grain bread. I am using a ciabatta here. Apply ghee or butter on one side of both slices of bread, as sparsely as you can. Spread a layer of pao bhaji on the unbuttered side of one of the bread slices. Next, grab a handful of arugula and cut it into thin s…

The Holy Grail Tomato Sauce

A good tomato sauce is really handy to have around. It's obviously great for mixing in pastas and topping pizzas but once you have a batch in the fridge, you will be surprised at how many other uses come up. Like sandwiches, or eggs, or even a quick sauté of vegetables. I have come across many tomato sauce recipes in my life. And on at leastthreeoccasions, I have proclaimed a particular recipe to be the best so far. But this particular tomato sauce beats all of those hands down. In fact, this is so good that you should make it right now.

Start off with 4-6 tomatoes. Wash them and cut them into quarters. With a paring knife, take out the seeds - try and get as many as you can but don't kill yourself trying to get to every last seed. Also grab 3-4 cloves of garlic and peel them. Heat a non stick pan that is large enough to hold the tomatoes in a single layer. Add a tbsp of olive oil to the pan and swirl it around so it coats the base. Arrange the tomatoes on the pan and also th…

Cute as a Button

I am not a big fan of peppers. But walking down the vegetable market last week, I saw this guy with a basket full of small chilli peppers. On second glance, they turned out to be not chillies but miniature versions of bell peppers. And they looked too cute to pass up so I bought myself a mixed bag of red and yellow peppers. Without any idea whatsoever on what to make of them.


Since the peppers were really tiny, I thought I'd keep them whole and bake them. So first off, I washed the peppers and cut the tops off. Using a small knife, I removed the seeds and hollowed out the peppers. I then brushed the outside of the peppers with olive oil. Next up - the stuffing. It's made by mixing up 1/4 cup paneer (you can also use ricotta) and 1/4 cup grated cheddar. To the cheese mix, I added fresh ground pepper and a generous helping of dry oregano. You should check the mix at this stage to see if it needs any salt. You will need only a tiny amount of filling for each pepper - use a small…

Peaches and Cream

June is my favourite month to live in Bombay. That's when all the stone fruits show up at the same time. So whether you like eating fruits as is or baking them into pies and crumbles, you are spoilt for choice with plums, peaches, cherries, litchis and apricots. This year, with the monsoons getting delayed, we are getting all the goodies right into July. And the weather's just perfect to turn them into warm crumbles.

One trouble I've had with baking crumbles in the past has been all the liquid in the fruit that seeps up and makes the crust soggy. So I decided to try this new experiment. I baked the fruit and the crumble layers separately.
For the peach layer, select 2 ripe peaches. Heat half a saucepan of water until it is boiling. Pop the peaches in water for about 15-20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and use a knife to peel the skin. It should slip off nicely. Cut the peeled peaches into half, remove the stone and dice into small cubes. Put the peaches in an ovenp…

Beetroot Risotto

I often take cooking inspiration from restaurant dishes. Sometimes I eat a great dish and instantly find a way to recreate it at home. Other times, the memory stays at the back of my head for months until I find the right way to cook that meal again. One such memory was a beetroot risotto I ate at Heston's The Fat Duck. In true mad science way, Heston's risotto is covered with a radish carpaccio and topped with beet chips and frozen sour cream pellets. I knew I would never replicate that, but I wanted to bring the deep pink of a beet to my risotto.
For my take on the beet risotto, I first peeled a small beet and roughly chopped it in cubes. Boiled it until it was cooked through. This cooked beet went into a blender alongwith a cup of water, a hearty pinch of salt and a handful of fresh thyme leaves. Once everything was combined into a thick puree, I added another 1 1/2 cups of water to create a thin beet stock. Since the stock needs to be warm while you are cooking risotto, I…

A Food Challenge from Home

One of the most fun things about the blogging world is all the contests and challenges that only blogging insiders know about and participate in. Back when I was a more enthusiastic blogger, I’ve participated in everything from microwave cooking challenges to the very scary daring bakers. For a while, I even ran a challenge of my own. But somewhere along the line, I got lazy and it’s been more than a few months that I have cooked for a challenge, let alone hosted one.

One of my favourites, back when I used to do these events, was the Indian Cooking Challenge run by my oldest friend in the blogging world – Srivalli. I’ve contributed my mum’s recipes for a couple of challenges in the past. Then, last month, Srivalli decided to throw a challenge of her own that comes all the way from home. It was Amritsari Kulcha and lazy or not, this is one challenge I was determined to participate in. So even though it’s a month late, I did create the Amritsari Kulchas.

Kulchas are stuffed flatbreads …

Greek Goddess Dip

One of my favourite pastimes is walking down supermarket aisles, just exploring the foods and flavours you can cook with. A special favourite of mine is recently opened Foodhall in Lower Parel's Pheonix Mills. The name is clearly borrowed from Harrods and just like its London counterpart, Foodhall boasts of hard to find, delicious goodies from around the world.

They also have in house chefs who bake and cook stuff you can take away. I always try the new things they have out to taste. On last trip, I encountered something called the greek goddess dip. I instantly liked the tangy, salty blend of flavours. The chef, who was standing right there with his creations, listed out some of the ingredients that went into the dip. It's taken me a couple of weeks and a few tries but I finally have something fairly close to what they make at Foodhall.
You need Greek yogurt for this (hence the name) but since you can't find it easily in India, put a cup of normal curd in a cheescloth an…

Perfect Hummus

One of the first posts I wrote on this blog was on how to make hummus. Six years on, nothing much has changed. Hummus paired with pita bread or with crispy lavash remains my favourite snack. Add a salad or a couple of falafels and we're talking about a regular dinnertime occurence.

One thing has changed though. Tahini, the sesame seed paste essential to hummus recipes, was impossible to find in India then so I wrote of a makeshift recipe. Middle Eastern foods have since become much easier to source so it's high time we talked about a proper hummus recipe.

At least 12 hours before you make hummus (usually the night before), soak 1/3 cup chickpeas in 2 cups of water. The next morning, boil chickpeas in a pressure cooker until they are very soft. You should have around a cup of cooked chickpeas. Put them in a blender alongwith 3 cloves of peeled and minced garlic, 2 tbsp tahini paste, 1 tsp lime juice (half a lime should do), 2 tbsp olive oil and a hearty pinch of salt. Blend in…

Chips and Dips

The other day, I was making a list of my favourite comfort foods. It surprised me to see how many of those involved a crunchy carb paired with something soft and gooey. In short, a chip and a dip. So in this brand new series, let's talk about my favourite chip and dip pairings.

The top of this list will always be guacamole. In London, I made many a meal of nachos and guacamole, on other days it was potato chips and guac. I even had this farmer in borough market who would sell a whole basket of avocados for a pound, thus ensuring a whole week of guacamole meals.

Good avocados are harder to find in mumbai but I never pass one by. So whether you are an old fan or someone who is yet to be converted, go look for ripe avocados and make yourself a batch.

The only secret to good guacamole is good avocados. When shopping, look for the ones that are soft when pressed. The hard ones take weeks to ripen and some never do. Before you cut open your avocado, get all your ingredients ready. For …