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Showing posts from October, 2015

Aloo Tikkis and Memories

My favourite memories of college are the time spent with my four friends. There were classes of course, but there were also long gossip sessions in the garden. And when we could afford it (not too often at the time), there was food. I recall our college had a juice guy and we went on a juice kick for a while. And then there was the canteen - fairly basic cafe - dishing out coffee and samosas and other fried snacky stuff.

One dish in particular stands out - the band tikki or potato tikki in a bun. This was the precursor to McDonalds aloo tikki burger; a potato patty fried and encased in a burger-like bun, full of spicy chutneys. I was the nerdy type in school and a friend of mine claims she would offer to buy me band tikki after class, so I could bring her up to speed on whatever got taught that day. Fact or not, a mention of band tikki still brings a smile to all our faces.

I make band tikki often. At first, I used to make the potato patty from scratch. But a few months back, I disco…

Barmbrack

Halloween is just around the corner which means that foodies and bloggers have started thinking about spooky foods to put on the table. However, if scary food and candy is not the way you lean, you will be glad to hear of this Irish hallow's eve tradition that my bread baking group 'We Knead to Bake' has found - the barmbrack. The name of the bread literally means speckled bread, on account of the bread being studded with raisins. There are all kinds of dried fruits you can use and I went for a combination of golden raisins and apricots. The original recipe I saw used sultanas and cranberries for a much better colour contrast so pick the ones you like.

Now many bread recipes use dried fruits so you must be wondering what's special about this one. The distinctive feature of barmbrack is that the fruits are first soaked in tea. Some of that tea then also gets incorporated in the dough, giving the bread a warm and delightfully spicy kick, which gets complemented by the s…

Ashtami Food

Yesterday was ashtami, the eighth day of the navratras. Twice a year in my home state of Punjab, in April and then again in October, ashtami is celebrated as kanjak. Technically, this means that it is a day you pray to the Goddess Durga and invite 7 girls to your place to treat them to a meal. But given the logistics of everyone needing to invite girls (there are only so many kids in the neighbourhood after all), here is how it works: my mum and dad will get up early in the morning and make the traditional ashtami meal of puris, semolina halwa and dried black chickpeas. We will then create little snack packs with two puris topped with a scoop of halwa and another scoop of the chickpeas.

One of us will then go out out get hold of neighbourhood kids - both boys and girls are welcome and the more the merrier. They will come in, you will spend 5 minutes doing the puja. My dad will light the traditional lamp, hand over tiny bites of halwa as prasad to the kids and then fill the plates the…

A Field Guide to Avocados

Anyone who thinks fats are unhealthy has surely not met an avocado. High in both calories and fat and yet good for your heart, avocado is one of the most delicious ways to stay healthy. Because I love avocados and can eat guacamole for pretty much every meal, several readers of this blog have asked me where to buy good avocados. I can't vouch for the rest of world but if you live in Mumbai, specifically the western suburbs, read on to find out where and how to buy the best avocados.

Step 1: Local or Imported - There are several variants of avocados. In Mumbai though, storekeepers only know of two varieties. The imported avocado (it's typically haas avocado) or the Indian avocado. I have seen the quality of Indian avocados get better over time so I see little point in paying 3-4 times the price for the imported version.

Step 2: Where to buy - In order of preference, my top 3 locations to buy the avocados are:

Pali Hill Vegetable Market: First get to 5 Spice/Wok Express on Pali Na…

Lessons in Bread Baking

I remember the first time I baked bread. It was a pizza, and I was nervous as I followed the recipe exactly, wondering if the yeast will work at all and if the dough will rise. Fast forward a few years, to this bread I baked last week. I warmed some water, added a bit of sugar and oil, then eyeballed the quantity of yeast that went in. My kitchenaid made short work of kneading the dough after I added flour and salt, and then it was just a question of waiting for the dough to rise, shaping it and popping it in the oven. So what's changed between then and now, you're thinking, that makes me so confident I don't even need a recipe. It's really just some basic rules and things to keep in mind when you set out to bake breads. So if you are just starting out or still scared of yeast, here are my top tips:

Every yeast is different: Recipes are really just guidelines for baking breads. For everything from how long to wait for the dough to rise to how long it should spend in th…

Sugarcraft at Home: Fougasse

You were expecting jam, weren't you? And quite rightly too. Chef Anees makes a lovely range of quirky jams and he first shared with me a recipe for his red pepper and chilli jam. But I couldn't find any pectin at short notice so he sent along a second recipe for a cherry tomato and onion fougasse.

The dough was easy to make and an absolute delight to work with. I've made some adjustments to allow for how my yeast works, and I ended up using sundried tomatoes but it's a lovely, lovey bread either way. The original recipe was for 4 fougasse breads but I have halved it here to make two.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried or fresh oregano
2-3 sundried tomatoes (the ones that come in oil)
1 small onion. thinly sliced
sea salt

Heat the water to a little bit warmer than lukewarm. Add olive oil, sugar and yeast. Leave it aside for 5 minutes until the yeast is all bubbly. Add the flour, salt…