Friday, December 11, 2009

Snowman Cake - Cake Decoration with Fondant Icing: A Step by Step Guide

I personally think fondant is too cloyingly sweet, but there are 2 things that must be said in its defense - one, that kids seem to absolutely love it and two, it is the easiest way to decorate a cake, especially for those just venturing into cake decoration.

Being very pliable, you can roll it, mould it and shape it any which way you want to. But what exactly is fondant? It is essentially a mixture of water, sugar and gelatin. I always buy ready-to-roll fondant, but you can even make it yourself.

So, roll your sleeves and lets get decorating with fondant. Follow the first 7 steps from my previous post and then proceed as follows:





Knead a ball of the fondant with your hands till it feels soft and pliable, much like moulding clay/play doh. Use corn starch if needed. Line your work space with some parchment paper. Roll it with a rolling pin, using some corn flour for dusting should it get too sticky.








Invert the parchment paper over the cake and then slowly peel it off. Careful here, as the fondant does tend to tear easily.

BTW, do ensure that your parchment paper is free of any creases, for they will get transferred onto the icing. I learnt it the hard way!






Smooth the fondant with your hands, starting at the centre and moving outwards and on to the sides of the cake. Should any air bubbles form, use a toothpick to remove them. Trim off the excess fondant hanging from the sides of the cake. Don't worry about the creases, smooth them over with your fingertips (do dab them with corn starch as and how required).



Let it sit on the cake for about an hour or two, then decorate as desired.



Isn't he cute? I just gave him a muffler and even though his trademark black hat is mising, he seems all set to Jingle at Priyanka's Christmas Event!

Oh, and if you must know, I missed my blog's first anniversary which was in November but fortunately, the Snowman comes just in time for my 100th post!


Should you need any ideas for any Christmas cakes and cookies, do take a look at my Christmas Stocking Cake , the Yule Log and the Holiday Lights Cookie Tree.




Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Decorating a birthday cake: Step By Step Tutorial

After I posted my cake pictures here, I had quite a few mails with questions on decorating cakes. So, this is my attempt at answering all your questions - by outlining the things I do when I decorate birthday cakes. I am no expert and though I have tried my best to explain the process, do take the time to take a look at the links - those are phenomenal sources of information! Please bear with me if some steps appear too basic and do feel free to ask me for clarifications, if any.



There is great pleasure and satisfaction in being able to decorate your child's birthday cake. Every single year, when I am decorating my daughter's birthday cake, I tell everyone willing to listen to remind me never to do it again - it is quite tiring and very messy. But when the cake is all done, I have this stupid grin on my face and I make several trips to the fridge to stare at the decorated cake and vow to do it all over again!


So where do you begin?

1. Decide on the theme: believe me, once the theme is is decided, everything else falls into place quite easily. I always refer to these sites for inspiration. Depending on my daughter's preference, we zero-in on the theme.


2. Get an estimate of the number of children. I don't understand cake estimates in terms of "how many kilos". It never works for me. So what I do is eye-ball the no. of cake slices based on the size of the cake pan. For eg: an 10" square cake pan is good to feed about 18-20 kids. Do remember, we are talking of kids here who never hesitate to ask for second helpings, so you want to be generous in your estimate.


3. Now, based on the theme and the size of the cake, decide on the final design of the cake. If you want to cut the cake into any particular shape (as in this particular cake), then based on the size of your pan(s), cut the shape out on a newspaper a couple of times - till the time you are satisfied with the look of the design.


4. Pre-preparation: Before you've even baked the cake, get the basic material ready. To be able to comfortably decorate a cake, you need a good cake board. Most of the times, I buy my cake board from some bake store, but it is very easy to make your own as well. Just get a sturdy cardboard, cut it to the requisite size and cover it with foil. Ideally, your cake board should be an inch wider than the cake on all sides (mine wasn't, in this case)


Also buy all the supplies you would need to ice the cake. To me, an undecorated cake is like a canvas - before I have even baked the cake, I have a pretty good idea of what design elements I am going to have on the cake (like flowers or boulders or trees in this case), based on which I make sure that I have all the requisite things like piping tips, piping bags, icing colours and other cake toppers before I start decorating the cake. There is nothing more irritating than realising at the last minute that you don't have something ready at hand.


A word on piping tips: I think the following tips should be more than sufficient for starters: round tips in at least 2 sizes, the star tip, the basketweave tip and a drop flower tip. You can find further details here; my first ever set of piping tips came not from any speciality store but from a supermarket - and it did the job very well.


Piping bags: I prefer to use the plastic disposable ones - there is less washing up to do once you've finished decorating the cake; you can make your own with parchment paper. My friend saves the plastic milk bags to make hers. Watch this video to know more.


5. Prepare the Frosting: I normally use buttercream for my cakes and I use butter, not shortening, for making my icing. True, butter is a lot difficult to work with, especially in humid/hot places but somehow, I prefer the taste of butter over shortening and I cannot bring myself to use eggs in preparing the frosting. Take a peek here and find which one suits you the most.


6. Preparing your cake:
a. Leveling: Cakes tend to dome or crack during the baking process and before you start icing your cake, you need to level your cake. First, take your cake off the pan and allow it to cool completely - I allow the cake to cool for at least 3 hours. Then, level the cake by slicing the dome with a knife or with a cake leveler. Though I have never tried it, dental floss apparently is excellent for this.


The easiest way? First, slice the dome with a knife - don't fret if it is not perfect. Just like a coin, a cake too has two sides - just flip the cake over - now, you have that perfect straight surface to work on!


b. Filling: Take the height and the taste of your cake up a few notches by sandwiching two layers of cake with some jam or mousse or fruit or some buttercream. Again, slice your cake with a serrated knife or a cake leveler or dental floss, add the filling of your choice and then sandwich with the leveled side on top. Leave the cake in the fridge for an hour before proceeding to the next step.






c. Patterning: Secure the desired pattern with toothpicks or quilting pins (do remember how many you've used!) and cut along the edges. Then arrange the patterns on the cake board for the desired shape. I used an 8" square cake for the straight lines of the cake and an 9" round cake for the curved part. (I used my butter cake recipe for the cake, it is perfect for an 8" cake, for the 9" one, I increased the quantities a bit).





7. Crumb coat your cake: Think painting the walls of a house: you need to level the surface, fill in any holes and then apply a base coat. That is exactly what a crumb coat does - fills in any gaps, especially when you sandwich the cake layers and most importantly, keeps those loose crumbs together. And it comes in particularly handy to "glue" the cake blocks in a a patterned cake like this one.



To crumb coat your cake, apply a thin layer of icing all over the cake and put it in the fridge for about an hour.


You will not believe me, but you are now 70% done. The back breaking part is now nearly done, what follows now is the fun part!

8. Decorate your cake: Apply a generous layer of the frosting all over your cake and smooth it with your spatula. If you are using butter, getting a smooth flawless surface is going to be a little challenging.




Here are 3 things you could do: cool the cake in the fridge for about 15 mins, then place some parchment paper on top and quickly smooth over with the back of a flat plate. Or dip your spatula in hot water and quickly run over the cake.

Or ignore it. I do. Ignore it, that is. For, as you unleash your creativity, the uneveness that you see at this stage will disappear. Trust me on this!

Here's what I did to decorate the cake (sorry no step by step pictures here as I was really engrossed in putting everything together!):

Actually dragged a Thomas engine along the cake to give me the track lines.



Then, I piped the train tracks using tip#4 and tip#47. Put honey stars (crushed) to complete the look of the train track.

Piped grass on the edges (obviously, to hide the imperfections there!) using tip#233. Added flowers using a flower press to add colour to the cake.

Added boulders here n there. To get the marbled effect, take a piece of white fondant, and add some dots of brown colour. Then knead it for a few minutes, you will see the marbling as you knead.

Cut the tunnel out using the remaining bit of the round cake and secured it on the cake using toothpicks.

This is the final look:










Yes, I know that this is a rather long post. And thank you for reading through, I do hope this helps you in decorating your cakes!!



Monday, December 7, 2009

Achari Arbi

This is a recipe that just happened.

I actually wanted to make arbi this way which incidentally is my favourite way of making arbi; however, the when I set out to make it, I realised that I had run out of ajwain. There wasn't enough time to make the tangy arbi either, but I was craving a slightly tangy taste and made this achari arbi on the spur of the moment.

And we just loved it! It is ridiculously easy to put together and very delicious.



Method:

Pressure cook the arbi (I need 3 whistles). Peel and cut into bite - sized pieces. Let the arbi cool completely.

Heat oil and pop in some curry leaves, followed by about 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder. Add the arbi and stir fry on high flame for about 5 mins so that the arbi is slightly crisp on the outside.

Now add about 2 tsps of achari masala (any brand is OK, I use Shaan's Achari Meat Masala), some black salt and chopped green chillies. Stir till the arbi is evenly coated by the masala.

Serve hot with some dal and rotis/rice.

We liked it so much that the following day I made it again; this time, I fried the arbi till it was crisper on the outside. And instead of serving it with rotis/rice, we had it as a starter - it was delicious!

I think even potatoes and paneer should be yum in a similar stir fry, will keep you posted if and when I make it with either of the two!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Basic White Bread

Bread Alone (by Judith Ryan Hendricks) was a book that I had never heard of before. When the book club chose this book for November, I skimmed through the reviews on the net and decided, before I'd even read the first line in the book, that I wasn't going to like it.

31 year old Wyn, married to a upwardly mobile executive David, leads a life of leisure and luxury. Till the day when David announces that the seven year old marriage seems to cage him and wants out of it.


Stunned and devastated, Wyn moves to Seattle, where her best friend lives. As she fritters away most of her time at a nearby bakery - cafe, the aroma of freshly baked bread re-kindles her own love of bread baking. Many years ago, as a teenager, Wyn had spent a summer in Toulouse baking bread. The desire to pursue her passion is irresistible and for a paltry amount of $8 an hour, she starts working at the bakery and begins life anew in Seattle.


Somewhere down the road, she re-discovers herself and what she would like to do with her life and in the process, comes to terms with the people and other issues in her life.

Surprisingly, though, I rather enjoyed reading Bread Alone.

Yes, it is an out and out chic-lit. Yes, the plot is familiar and the ending is rather expected. And yes, sometimes, the story seems to simply drag its feet.

Yet, something worked for me and that something is the way Judith Hendricks has built the characters in the novel. More than anything else, I really liked her for coming up with a protagonist like Wyn. She wallows in self pity when her husband dumps her, clutches at the straws in the naive hope that he will come grovelling back to her, throws away her self respect when she tries to desperately seduce him, behaves petulantly when her mother decides to re-marry. In other words, here is a protagonist who is seriously flawed but has the courage to accept it and therefore, comes across as very real, as very human.

The other thing that I loved was the way bread was woven through the fabric of the story - the aroma of freshly baked bread literally wafted through the pages of the novel. No surprise then that I just had to bake a loaf!




I've just started baking bread; however, Wyn's method of halving the yeast and thereby doubling the rising time intrigued me. I followed the 'plain old bread' recipe from the novel, but halved it.

Ingredients:

bread flour - 3.5 cups
warm water - 1 cup ( I used 1 cup and about 2 tbsps)
active dry yeast - 1.5 tsp
sugar - 2 tsps
salt - 1.5 tsp

Method:


Stir the yeast and the sugar in 3 bsps of water and let it sit for about 15-20 mins.
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the water and the yeast mixture and begin kneading.
When it clumps together, turn it onto the kitchen counter and knead for a further 10 - 12 mins, adding some flour if needed.


Finally, add in the salt ("because salt strengthens the gluten and makes the dough fight you") and knead for a few minutes more.


Oil a large (glass) bowl, turn the dough over in the oil so that the entire surface is oiled, cover it with a damp tea cloth and leave it to rise.


I left my dough out for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge overnight. Next morning, I let it rise for about 4 hrs after which I turned it on the kitchen counter and punched out all the air and kneaded it for a few minutes. Shaped it into a loaf, put it into the tin and left it to rise.


After about 3 hrs ( I lost track of time here), lightly glaze the top with some water and bake it at 200 deg C for about 30 mins or till the top is browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped from below.


The bread was awesome - it smelt heavenly, there was no trace of any yeast scent. If you've never baked before, go ahead now and bake a loaf, this is truly worth the effort!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dulce de Leche : 4 Tried and Tested Ways

I remember as a kid when my mom would buy condensed milk, my sis and I would sneak into the kitchen and eat it by the spoonful. It seemed, at that time, that nothing could be better than sweetened condensed milk.

Of course, I had yet to discover dulce de leche. (pronounced dulchay the laychay)

When I first discovered dulce de leche, I was no longer a child and yet, its rich caramel - toffee taste transformed me into one. I found myself heading to the kitchen over and over again to eat it by the spoonful!

So what is dulce de leche? Nothing but sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked till it thickens and gets a deep caramel colour. But that doesn't still describe the phenomenon that is dulce de leche. If you ask me, it is decadence in a tin. You can't just stop at a spoonful!

You can use it to make ice creams; I've made kulfi using dulce de leche (replaced pista with almonds), I've also made a flan (recipe coming soon) and it is excellent as a topping on ice creams, cakes and fried bananas.









Over the last 4 years, I have made dulce de leche several times in different ways. I have described them in the order of my least favourite to most favourite way of making it.

All you need to make it is a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I have made it with both full fat and low fat condensed milk; there is just a marginal difference in the two, so go ahead use the low fat version.

1. In the tin:


Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in a pot. Pour water till the tin is completely immersed in the water - the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Place the pot on the stove on medium high heat, when the water starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 3 hours.


Caution: Add hot water if the water level starts to fall, never let the water drop below the tin - this is very very important, so again, NEVER let the water level fall below the tin or you risk the tin bursting.


Then drain the water and let the tin cool completely before opening it. I let my can cool down for at least 4-6 hours before opening it.


Pros: Since the dulce de leche is made in the closed tin, you can make it ahead of time and use whenever needed.

Cons: Simmer for 3 hours. Carbon footprint, anyone? Also, you cannot use it right away as you have to let the tin cool before opening it.


2. In the oven:

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C.
Pour a tin of condensed milk into a shallow baking dish (preferably use a glass dish so that you can check the progress of the dulce de leche). Cover with aluminium foil. Set this baking dish into a larger baking dish or roasting pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan till it reaches halfway up the baking dish containing the condensed milk.

Bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hour*. Keep checking the water level at 20 minute intervals and top up the water as and how required.

Cool in the oven with the oven door ajar for about an hour.


*oven temperatures vary, mine got done in an hour.


Pros: A comparitively quicker way of making the dulce de leche.

Cons: If you don't have a glass dish, it means in order to check if the dulce de leche is done, you have to remove both pans from the oven to check it and run the risk of the hot water spilling out.
(been there, done that!)



3. In the microwave:


Pour the contents of a condensed milk can into a deep microwave proof bowl. Microwave on medium power for 2 minutes. Stir.


Continue to microwave and stir till the condensed milk becomes thick and caramel coloured.


Pros: This is the quickest way of making dulce de leche; it took me all of 16 mins to make the dulce de leche in my microwave. Also, it allows you better control over how thick and caramel coloured you want your dulce de leche to be.

Cons: The constant attention required. You have to maintain a near constant vigil next to the microwave.


4. In the pressure cooker


Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in the pressure cooker. Cover completely with water; again the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Close the pressure cooker (remember, DONT use the weight).

Once it begins to steam, drop the heat to medium - slow and let it steam away for another 60 minutes.

(I let mine steam for about 45 minutes, but I would have liked a more deeper colour - the picture above is of the one I made in the pressure cooker - and a more caramelised taste and hence, the next time, I plan to steam it for an hour).


Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool before you open the lid. Then drain away the water and let the tin cool completely for about 4-6 hours before you open it.


Pros: This is my favourite method of making dulce de leche. It is quick and "hands-free". Also, if you have a large pressure cooker, you can make several tins in one go and store them for future use. I made 2 tins and stored them in the fridge for over 3 months.

Cons: The time taken to cool the tin before you can open and use it.

So, tell me, how do you make your dulce de leche?

(I have referred here for the different ways of making dulce de leche; however, I do not recollect th website I referred to for the first method listed above).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beetroot Salad

Say beetroot and the first reaction of most people is likely be "oh oh" or "ugh". At least, I used to get completely put off by its deep crimson colour.

Of course, it is good for you - which is my mum would regularly force it down out throats in various soups. The moment I stepped out of the house, I turned my back firmly on beetroot.

Until few years ago that is. My cook made this salad insisting it was the best salad I could've ever had. Very grudgingly, I had to admit that it was nice. Better than nice, infact. So nice, that there are days when I actually crave this salad. Yes, notwithstanding the colour, I actually enjoy beetroot (salad).


All you need to do is this:

Boil a beet till it is cooked but still firm. After it cools, peel and grate it.
Toss the grated beet with about 2 tbsps of coarse (roasted) peanut powder, juice of a lime, 3 finely chopped green chillies, 2 tbsps of chopped coriander leaves, salt and a tsp of sugar.
The salad has to be spicy, sweet and tangy all at the same time so adjust seasonings according to your taste.
Sending this to Lisa's No Croutons Required; the theme this month is soups and salads containing root vegetables.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spicy Prawn Curry

I am one who is likes to experiment with different cuisines.
psst...Except when it comes to fish. I am very very biased where fish is concerned. I love to have my fish cooked only in the desi (Indian) style, the spicier, the better.

I also don't like monotony in food and therefore, I tend to experiment with different recipes very often.
psst...However, when it comes to prawns, there are absolutely no experiments. I tend to alternate between two recipes. This spicy prawn curry is my favourite; I've been having it for as long as I can remember and needless to say, it is the one I make most often.




Ingredients:

Prawns - 500 gms, peeled and de-veined ( I leave the tail on as it makes for a nicer presentation)

Shallots - 3/4 cup, sliced (if you don't have shallots, use normal onions by all means)
Tomatoes - 2 large
Garlic - 1 tbsp, finely minced
Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
Green chillies - 3, finely chopped
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp, lightly roast these and pound to a powder
Curry leaves - 10 - 12
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Coconut milk - 100 ml
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt
Oil - 1 tbsp + 1.5 tbsp

Method:

Marinate the prawns in a little turmeric powder and juice of half a lemon for about 30 mins.

Heat about a tbsp of oil, add the half the curry leaves followed by the prawns. Fry for about 2 mins or till the prawns turn white in colour. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil. Add the balance curry leaves and the garlic. Fry for a minute and then add the onions, ginger and the green chillies, stirring constantly till the onions turn pink.

Now, toss in the tomatoes and fry till they become soft and mushy. Stir in the remaining turmeric, coriander seed powder, red chilli powder and salt and then tip in the prawns. Increase the heat to high and keep stirring constantly and briskly till the prawns are firm but cooked.
(don't over cook the prawns, that will just kill the taste and the texture!)

Add the coconut milk, once it starts to simmer, take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped coriander leaves. Cover and let it rest for about an hour before serving so as to allow all the flavours to mingle together.

Served with piping hot rice, this is the closest you can get to culinary heaven!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Egg Burji

A lot of my memories are associated with food. Of course, I am not the only one - for all of us, the smell, taste and sight of some foods often triggers memories .

Often, it is only a recollection - on the lines of "remember that time when we ate ....", or "every summer, the smell of mangoes would permeate through the house...", or "I remember eating it when we were on a vacation to...", or "remember the chaat wallah.."

But every once in a while, food stirs memories that warm the cockles of ones heart. And so, sometimes, it is not the food per se, but the memories it triggers in us that makes it so special.

Egg burji (spiced scrambled eggs) - or anda burji, as it is popularly called, is the one food that is special to me - not because it is so easy and convenient to make. It is special because of the time it makes me recall.

Terradaze and I were about to be married and were house-hunting in full earnest. After a back-breaking search, we finally found a house that was within our budget and in the area we wanted; more importantly, it was a house that we wanted to call home.

We'll sign the lease documents today and then go and celebrate at a good restaurant, we decided.

H.O.W.E.V.E.R, as they say, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip - at the last minute, the house slipped out of our hands.

Stunned, we made our way back to our hostels. An hour in the train , spent in absolute stony silence. There was precious little to be said anyway - the wedding was less than two weeks away, and we had no other apartments short-listed. Without it being said , we knew that staying in our hostels after getting married was a distinct possibility! By the time the train pulled into Churchgate station, it was past midnight. We were tired and frustrated, not to mention very very hungry.

As we were walking out of the station, we heard the hiss of a gas stove and a the clanging of a spoon on a wok. Something smelt delicious. A street cart selling burji - pav (bread).

Perhaps, it was because we were feeling so miserable. Perhaps it was because we weren't expecting to get any hot food being sold at that hour. But the sight of that street cart filled us with great joy. And at that moment, the hopelessness we felt, lifted. Just a minor hiccup, we told each other. We would find a way out, we said.

To this day, whenever I make anda burji, I can recall the minutest details of that night - the ebony coloured man cranking up the flame, throwing in the ingredients one after the other, stirring them quickly and vigorously, tiny beads of sweat on his fore-head, his banian that once must've been white, now faded and stained with splotches of turmeric here and there. The two of us, wolfing down the burji pav, filled with renewed hope.



Egg burji is one very easy thing to make. There are no fixed measures here, so my quantities keep changing; use the following just as a guideline, but this is one recipe where you can do as you please!

Ingredients:

Onions - 1 large, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2 medium, chopped
Green bell pepper - 1/2, chopped (optional)
Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
Green chillies - 2, chopped
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp, chopped
Salt
Oil
Eggs - 4, lightly beaten
(vegetarians can substitute eggs with crumbed paneer, vegans can use soy granules)

Method:

Heat oil and saute the onions till pink. Add in the ginger and the bell pepper, if using. Stir till the bell pepper softens, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric and salt and stir till the tomatoes become soft and mushy, then toss in the coriander leaves.

Add the eggs in and mix till the eggs are set.

I serve my burji with these butter rolls ; it is as delicious with rotis.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Aloo Gobi

So, the husband comes home the other day and asks to see the pictures.
What pictures, I ask him.
The ones you clicked of the aloo gobi, he responds.


(As you can seee, he has become very conditioned to this cooking-clicking-reviewing the pictures-then finally eating routine).

But I didn't click any, I tell him
Oh, aren't you going to blog about it, he queries.

Blog? About aloo gobi? No, not really, I tell him.
For one, it is the most basic of veggies. Everyone knows how to make this.

Ahem, he smiles. Everyone knows how to make it, he repeats.

For, a long time ago, aloo gobi was my nemesis. I'd never get it right - either the potatoes would be burnt or the gobi (cauliflower) would be mushy and over-cooked. But then, one learns!

So well, yes, I know that aloo gobi is one of the easiest of all veggies that one can make. That almost everyone has their own perfect way of making it. Here's mine.




Ingredients:


Cauliflower, broken into florets - 1 1/2 cup
Potato - 1 large, peeled and cut into cubes
Ginger - 1 tbsp, grated
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Dry masalas: cumin powder - 1 tsp, coriander powder - 1.5 tsp, turmeric - 1/2 tsp,
aamchur - 1/4 tsp, red chilli powder - to your taste

Oil - 1.5 tbsp
Salt

Chopped coriander

Method:

Par-boil the potatoes with a pinch of salt and turmeric. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil and fry the cumin seeds until they begin to splutter. Add the cauliflower florets and the ginger and stir on high heat for about 5 minutes.

Add in the par-boiled potatoes, all the dry spices and salt and stir till all the vegetables are evenly coated by the spices. Cover and cook on a low flame for a further 10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked, stirring frequently.

Garnish with coriander and serve hot with rotis.

Notes:

As far as possible, avoid adding any water when making aloo gobhi, else the cauliflowers will look quite wilted. If the veggies start sticking to the bottom of the pan, just sprinkle a few drops of water.

You could also add some green peas or carrots to make a more colourful dish.

I sometimes substitute the cumin SEEDS with kalonji or panch phoran to change the taste a bit.

The stalks and leaves of the cauliflower are edible and nutritious. If you have the time, combine these with some mushrooms, tomatoes, salt, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves to make vegetable stock. Freeze the stock in ice trays and use it to flavour your soups or to cook pasta.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Samosas


I don't know anything about the publication business, but I do know this much - that before a novel gets published, the draft gets read and proof read several times after which the novel gets into print.

And so, here's a question to Monica Pradhan, the author of The Hindi Bindi Club and all the others who must've worked on that novel : how did this horror of an error slip into the novel?

Starting at one end of the sari, she tucked the corner into the waistband of my petticoat at my naval, instructed me to hold it there, circled behind me, and returned to my naval.

Naval? Really? How?!!
Now, I don't have too many years of experience in wearing a sari, but I always thought that I needed to tuck in the sari at the navel.

Sorry for the nit-picking, but then this one (which means there are a couple of others) really blew me away! Anyway, lets get on to the book, shall we?

The Hindi Bindi Club essentially deals with the trials, the tribulations and the triumps of three immigrant Indian women and their American born daughters. But more than that, it is a story of the delicate mother - daughter relationships, of friendships among women and in many ways, a return to ones roots.

Meenal, Saroj and Uma hail from very different backgrounds but bond together when they find themselves away from their desh in the U.S of A. Together the trio are nicknamed The Hindi Bindi Club by their daughters, Kiran, Preity and Rani. As children, the girls would meet whenever the trio met; however their bond is nowhere as close as the one their mothers have formed.

Kiran Desai, a doctor by profession, is returning home after 5 years of estrangement with her parents over her marriage and subsequent divorce to a wannabe rock star. With her biological clock ticking fast, Kiran now wonders whether the traditional arranged marriage that she had once scoffed upon could be the thing for her. Meenal, having had to go through a crisis herself in the past year, wants to reach out to her daughter in every way she can, but has to struggle to make Yash, her husband, accept the daughter Kiran is rather than daughter he wants her to be.

Saroj Chawla, who hails from Punjab is a cook par excellence and runs a very successful catering business. Having lived through the partition, she struggles to come to terms with the past and her resulting prejudices. Her daughter Preity Chawla Lindstorm lives an almost fairy tale life - a perfect daughter, a good job, happily married with two children , she couldn't ask for anything more from her life. Yet, the memories of a past love and thoughts on 'what might have been' give her sleepless nights.

Uma Basu McGuiness has defied convention in coming to the US to pursue further studies. But when she marries an American, her father disowns her, refusing to forgive her even on his death-bed. Consequently, and sometimes, much to the chagrin of her friends, she gives her daughter Rani a lot of freedom in making her own decisions. A rocket scientist turned artist, Rani deals with the fear of artistic expression turning repetitive and with her husband, Bryan's fallen morale owing to some work related matters.

Now, the three girls are back home for the holidays, each dealing with her own demons. As they re-connect, they begin to look at each other in a new light, in the process breaking down the walls that separated them in childhood.

Every character in the book tells her own story in her own voice in alternating chapters, while e-mails and letters give it a great continuity as the narrative moves effortlessly from one person to the other and between past and present. Also, the mother-daughter relationships and the women's friendships are dealt with very sensitively.

However, though the novel started off well, somewhere down the line, it disintegrated into finding a suitable groom for Kiran and her subsequent marriage and therefore, was a bit of a let down. Moreover, I got the feeling that the author tried to fit in too many stories into one novel and then had to hastily finish it off; the story lines of Saroj - Preity and Uma-Rani seemed quite abrupt and therefore, incomplete. Also, there were parts that read more like speeches - the one where Saroj's guest waxes eloquent about how to solve the Indo-Pak problem was downright amateurish.

Nevertheless, The Hindi Bindi Club was an engaging and heart-warming read.

There are some very interesting recipes at the end of every chapter and since I've never made samosas before, I tried out Saroj's Famous Samosas.




Ingredients (for the crust)

All purpose flour - 1 cup
Butter and shortening - 2.5 tbsps each, chilled
Ice cold water - 2 tbsps
Ajwain - 1/2 tsp
Salt

Method:

Rub the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients (flour, salt and ajwain) till it ressembles biscuit crumbs.
Add in the water, a little at a time, till the dough holds together.
Knead for a further 5 mins or till the dough looks smooth and shiny. Wrap in a cling wrap and chill for an hour.

Ingredients (for the stuffing):

Potatoes - 2 medium, boiled and cut into cubes
Green peas - 1/2 cup
Ginger - 2 tsps, grated
Cumin seeds and fennel seeds - 3/4 tsp each
Dry masalas - cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala, red chilli powder, turmeric and aamchoor powder - as per your taste
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Salt
Fresh coriander leaves - 2 tbsps, chopped

Method:

Heat oil and add in the cumin seeds and the fennel seeds. When the start to crackle, add the potatoes and the peas, followed by the ginger and all the dry masalas, as well as the salt and sugar. Mix till the veggies are evenly coated by the masalas.

Reduce the heat to a minimum, cover and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add in the coriander leaves and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Assembling and making the samosas:

Knead the chilled dough for about 5 minutes and then divide into 4 portions.

Roll each ball of dough into a 6 - inch circle and divide it into two, so that you have 2 half- moons. Repeat with all the remaining balls of the dough.





Spoon about 1.5 tbsps of the stuffing into the centre of each half moon, then fold the left and right corners to form a cone.


Fold the top end to form an inverted pyramid and seal all the edges carefully, using some water if necessary.

Deep fry till golden brown and serve hot with any chutney of your choice.

Here is what the other members of the book club made:
Simran and Aparna made Chocolate Sandesh Truffles while Ann made Bengali Grilled Salmon with Panch Phoran.


Join us again next month, we are reading Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Food: The Other Side (PART 2)

I had written this post on the 16th, but didnt have the heart to publish it, given that it was the festive season last week. There is a picture here that is disturbing, do exercise due caution if you are reading this with your kids.


Today is World Food Day. Observed in around 150 countries, its aim is to raise awareness about poverty and hunger.

Lets look at some statistics, shall we?

The population of the world today stands at over 6 billion. Of which, about 1 billion don't get a square meal every day. That translates to a whopping 1/6th of the world population!

Articles abound about poverty, hunger and malnutrition. But none can depict the horror of hunger quite like this picture.




Taken in 1994 during the Sudan famine, this Pulitzer prize winning picture by Kevin Carter shook the world. A vulture waiting for a child to die so that it can eat it.

There are numerous schemes and many agencies that have programmes to feed the hungry. Programmes that rely on donations, sponsorships and volunteers. And these obviously go a long way in alleviating the suffering of people.

But the bitter truth about hunger is that many people go hungry because of escalting food prices and an appalling amount of food that goes wasted - wasted by the farmers, by supermarkets, in the food distribution chain and yes, in our kitchens.

Not surprisingly, every small morsel of food that we waste in our kitchens has a huge collective impact.

"I follow these items with a moldy loaf of bread, expired eggs and five bags of shredded cheese that practically walked itself to the trash can. This carried on for another hour. Needless to say, when I was done, more food was in my garbage than in my fridge."

Ever happened to you? Much as I hate to admit it, something similar - though not on a similar scale - has happened to me. Those were the days when I was just getting enamoured by cooking and would buy a lot of things from the supermarket, hoping to cook it up soon. But it was never soon enough! And one day, when I had to clear out the fridge before going on a holiday, I woke up to the error of my ways. In this article, Chef Dayo Jones shares some very simple tips and tricks on avoiding food wastage in our kitchens.

But we all know this, don't we? I am sure you all have different ways in which you have successfully cut wastage in your kitchens.

My way? Have a smaller refrigerator. Now that really limits the amount of food that can be hoarded! Jokes apart, the one way that has really worked for me is to clear my fridge every week. Yes, every week. That has really worked wonders as I no longer have stuff that is lurking in some corner gathering mold. The other thing I do is shop for fruits and veggies and other perishables as and how I need them - even if that means making trips to the supermarket a couple of times a week. Sometimes, I even buy it from a smaller grocery store closer to my house that sells stuff at a slightly higher cost. In the end, it all evens out - buying too much at a cheaper price only to throw it off, or spending a bit more to buy what I need.

And no, I don't mean to imply that I run a super efficient kitchen where no wastages happen. But I am far more conscious today than I ever was on how not to waste food.

So what are the ways in which you have countered food wastage? Do share them with me, I am sure there is a lot more to learn on how to use food more effectively.

But the last word in avoiding food wastage? Well, that truly rests with the tight fist!



All this collection of articles making its way to Sra's The Write Taste.

I do realise that this is quite a long list of articles, take your time and read these when you can.
For these are truly eye opening.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Eat Cake

Now I am the kind of air traveller who cannot sleep a wink on a flight. Not a wink. But I also am that wierdo who can't watch movies on flights. No matter that some of the airlines have excellent in-flight entertainment.

Books - now that is an entirely different story. Nothing like a good book on a flight. So, when we went for our vacation last month, Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray seemed like the perfect book to keep me company on the 10 hr flight.

Bad Choice. Very bad choice. There you are, thousands of feet above sea level, with nothing but some (good) sandwiches and chips to eat, reading about a book that has some cake or the other on almost every page of the book. That is a very sad situation, is it not?

So, when you read this book, make sure that you have some cake squirelled away somewhere. You're going to want to eat some.

For Ruth, the protagonist of the novel, baking is the best way to relax and unwind. Living with a rebellious teeanged daughter and her sometimes cantankerous mother, it does seem that she needs a lot of cake to maintain her sanity. In this already chaotic household, things come to head a when her husband, Sam, is given the pink slip and her estranged father, left physically helpless after a fall, has to move in with them.

Under subtle encouragement from the father-in-law, Sam loses sight of the urgency to look for another job and instead tries to 'discover' himself. With the monetary situation starting to look grim, Ruth decides to turn her avocation into her means of livelihood.

I simply loved this book. Firstly, because I love baking and this book celebrates eating cake. "A slice of cake never made anyone fat."

And just like the icing makes cakes even sweeter, everything works out very nicely for Ruth making it a typical 'happily ever after' book - and I think that was precisely the reason I loved reading it. After all who wants anything but a easy-breezy read at the start of a vacation!

I just wished Ruth to be more like a normal woman - one who raves and rants - at least sometimes. She was just too accomodating all through the book!

The last few pages of the book are all cake recipes. Yes, I read them first and was wondering which one to make...till I read this:

"the cakes I made for my children, especially before they were old enough to ask me to tone it down a little, were tributes to the architectural abilities of frosting. Any mother who brought her child to our parties must have left our house shaking her head. Poor, bored woman, they must have thought. That was the height of my frosting phase. I made trains and pine trees, tracks that spelled out Happy Birthday, Wyatt. Ballerinas that pirouetted over Happy Birthday Camille. The bigger the sheet cake, the bigger the canvas. Mine were enormous."

That sounded terribly familiar. So, instead of baking anything, I will leave you with some cakes that I have baked:







The above 3 are the ones I made for my daughter's birthdays while the ones that follow were baked for some friends' daughters.



Do check out what the other members of the book club have made: Simran , Jaya, Ann and Curry Leaf.
Do join us next month, we are reading Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan in October.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Food: The Other Side (Part 1)

If you looked up a dictionary, the entry under food would read something like this:


any nourishing substance that is eaten, drunk, or otherwise taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc.

But, of course, you don't not need to look up a dictionary for that - after all, we know that food is something that nurtures life. We approach food with that thought - sustaining life and enriching it. As we cook, our thoughts are nutrition, taste, aroma, variety and the like. The clanging of pots and pans, the medley of various ingredients, the steps of a recipe - all coming together to create well - balanced, tasty meals.

Consider, however, a situation where food doesn't nurture life. Consider a situation where it claims lives instead. Or becomes the reason for life to be snuffed out.

Everything was automatic now-down the steps to the cellar, the light switch, the deep freeze, the hand inside the cabinet taking hold of the first object it met. She lifted it out, and looked at it. It was wrapped in paper, so she took off the paper and looked at it again.

A leg of lamb.

All right then, they would have lamb for supper. She carried it upstairs, holding the thin bone-end of it with both her hands, and as she went through the living-room, she saw him standing over by the window with his back to her, and she stopped.

“For God’s sake,” he said, hearing her, but not turning round. “Don’t make supper for me. I’m going out.”

At that point, Mary Maloney simply walked up behind him and without any pause she swung the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and brought it down as hard as she could on the back of his head.She might just as well have hit him with a steel club.She stepped back a pace, waiting, and the funny thing was that he remained standing there for at least four or five seconds, gently swaying. Then he crashed to the carpet.

The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped bring her out of he shock. She came out slowly, feeling cold and surprised, and she stood for a while blinking at the body, still holding the ridiculous piece of meat tight with both hands.


All right, she told herself. So I’ve killed him.

- Roald Dahl, Lamb to the Slaughter


'They were on the point, therefore, of drawing lots on the raft when the doctor's voice was heard:"Mesdames and Messieurs," said the doctor,"You have lost all your belongsings in the wreck of the ship, but I have saved my case of instruments and my forceps for arresting haemorrhage. This is my suggestion:There is no object in any one of us running the risk of being eaten as a whole. Let us, to begin with, draw lots of an arm or leg at will, and we will then see tomorrow what the day brings forth,and perhaps a sail may appear on the horizon." '
- Gaston Leroux, A Terrible Tale

As you would've guessed, the above are extracts from - and thank god for that - some brilliant short stories compiled in an unlikely collection of short stories titled Murder on Menu. Edited by Peter Haining, this anthology has stories mixing food and well, death - some decidedly gruesome, some nauseating, others devilishly amusing. In either case, this 'gourmet guide to death' shows food laid out on a completely different table.

A word of advice though....don't read it before or immediately after meals!

Sending this to Sra's event, The Write Taste.

Friday, September 11, 2009

See you all....iss break ke baad!!

Not updated my blog in over two weeks - YES
Visited all your lovely blogs only sporadically - YES
Not participated in events - YES
Posted entries for events and not mailed them on time - YES

Doesn't this happen when one is on a break?

Hmmm....I have been really busy and though every night I'd sit with the laptop willing myself to update the blog and go blog hopping, all I really wanted to do was sleep!!

Guess this means that I am on a break! I will see you all in the first week of October. Till then, happy cooking!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dugh - a yogurt drink

This month, we at the book club read Marsha Mehran's Pomegranate Soup.

So how does one make - I mean - write a novel call Pomegranate Soup?

Method:

You need 3 Aminpour sisters - Marjan, Bahar and Layla - who come to a small, not a melting pot kind of town called Ballinacroagh in Ireland.

Throw in a widowed, motherly Italian lady, Estelle Delmonico from whom they lease the premises for their restaurant - Babylon Cafe. As foreigners, they are looked upon with suspicion; cooking a cuisine that is decidedly exotic only serves to feed the gossip.

Now, add in a villan to the broth in the form of Thomas McGuire who for long has unsuccessfully tried to acquire Estelle's cafe to expand his own business and therefore tries to create trouble for the 3 sisters.

Cardamom, cinnamon, saffron, rosewater - soon enough, the townspeople are drawn in by the exotic scented food and the cafe is well on its way to becoming popular.

Now, add in some more spice to further enhance the broth: the Aminpour sisters have fled Iran seven years ago and started life anew in London. But when the echoes from their past threatened to reach out into the present, they seek refuge Ireland . However, it seems that the past is going to hound them, yet again.

Now, that sure sounds like the recipe for a great book, doesn't it?

However....

For starters, Marsha Mehran's Pomegranate Soup has very distinct echoes of Joanne Hariis' Chocolat - strangers coming into a town and winning over suspicious residents with the magic of the food they cook.

And then, the stereotypes: the motherly Italian lady, the beefy villain, the friendly priest, the exotic youngest sister Layla with her "natural cinnamon rose" perfume.

But the biggest drawback was the story telling. The plot had plenty of drama and therefore the potential for a tale with a lot of twists - the sisters fleeing Iran even as the country is engulfed in the Islamic revolution, the ghost of their past, the undercurrent of conflict with Thomas McGuire - but was all squandered away by the narrative that didn't deliver any punch and the rather abrupt way in which things fall into place all through the book, finishing finally with an end that was too neatly tied up for my liking.

Where the author really excels is the way the recipes are woven into the very fabric of the story. You can actually picture the sisters in the kitchen frying the elephants ears or chopping the mint leaves for the dugh or stuffing and rolling the grape leaves for the dolmeh.



Every chapter in the novel begins with a recipe. Dugh - a yogurt drink is what I decided to make. It is something very similar to masala chaas - with mint added.

Pound together mint (lots of it), a couple of green chillies and a small piece of ginger. Add it to the buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, just thin yogurt with some water) alongwith some ground cumin and rock salt. Pour this into a bottle or a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously till the buttermilk takes a pale green colour (I really had to shake it for long for this, at the end of which my arms were killing me!).
Serve topped with some ice.

This is really, really yummy. Truth be told, I made it just for this post - I know, you aren't surprised, for don't we all cook for the blog - but we loved it so much that I've made it a couple of times again.


Here's what the other members of the book club made:
Simran made lavash bread, Jaya made lentil soup and Sweatha served us some Pomegranate Soup!!

If you want to Eat Cake with us - for that's the title of the book we are reading next month - Jeanne Ray's Eat Cake, do drop in a line to Simran whose email is bombayfoodie(at)gmail(dot)com

Friday, August 28, 2009

Coconut Burfi or Naaralachi Wadi

Many many moons ago, I knew a boy. He would wait for me patiently every single evening. He would be impatient and would sulk if I were even a little late. As he heard me come up the stairs, he would run down and carry my bag for me.

"Hurry up, let's go", he would order me. "I've been waiting so long for you".

I was six, he was five and we were the best of playmates. His school finished in the afternoon, mine started in the afternoon and I would be back home around 6 in the evening. And so, playtime in evening was really very precious. Not a moment to be wasted.

And though I'd also be hungry, I didn't have time to eat. So my mum would have some atte ke ladoo or vadis or coconut burfi (we call it naaralachi wadi) always ready on hand. A glass of milk and a couple of ladoos or wadis in each hand and I'd be out of the door.

Naaral wadi is something that I still love very much and I make a batch of this pretty often.



Ingredients:

Scrapped coconut: 1.5 cups
Milk: 1.5 cups
Sugar:1 cup sugar (I put about 3/4 cup and was quite happy with the sweetness)
Almond powder: 1/4 cup (you could also substitute this with pistachio or cashewnut powder)

for flavouring:

powdered cardamom
saffron (optional)
or
rose essence: 1/4 tsp
pink food colour

Method:

Combine the scrapped coconut and milk in a wide wok. (Also add the saffron, if using). Cook, stirring occasionally, till the milk thickens.
Then add in the sugar and the almond powder and continue to stir and cook the mixture. As the mixture reduces, it tends to splutter so do have your gloves on!
When it leaves the sides of the pan and converges to the centre of the pan, add in the cardamom powder. If you opt to make rose flavoured burfis, then skip the cardamom powder and add the rose essence and the pink food colour. Stir for a bit more till it becomes a little dry around the outside edges.

Layer the mixture on a plate lined with butter paper - I use my 9" round cake pan for this. Grease the back of a flat plate with some ghee and run it over the layer to get an even finish.
The size of the layer is entirely upto you, just remember, the thicker the layer, the longer it will take for the wadi to set. I normally make a one cm thick layer.

After about half an hour, when the mixture is at room temperature, cut into squares or diamonds and let the wadi cool further for about 4 hrs (patience, patience), after which, peel off the butter paper, separate the pieces and store in an airtight container.
I store mine in the fridge.

This wadi is highly addictive, you just can't stop at one!! And, packed with the goodness of milk and almond powder, with sugar to give the added energy boost, these are the ideal grab and go evening energy snack!

So, this is my entry to Cooking For Kids: Evening Snacks hosted by Divya, event started by Sharmi of Neivedyam.

Also sending this to Sanghi's FIL: Milk.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Butter Rolls

I've been so so busy lately that blogging and visiting other blogs has had to take a complete back seat!

Though I have neglected everything else (read paying bills, exercising, returning calls, replying to emails - yes, I've really been mean), my kitchen, fortunately, has been buzzing with activity!

My latest craze is bread baking. I've been forcing, no, sweetly coaxing the husband to eat more bread so that I can bake more of it. Doesn't look like he has any complaints - homemade bread is really something else.

Seriously, I've had to wonder why I didn't bake bread all these years. I seem to have fallen in love with the whole process of kneading the shaggy mess into a smooth dough, to watching it rise and to punching it down, only to watch it rise once again and then have my entire house infused with the lovely aroma of freshly baked bread. This is something magical - no amount of words can even start to describe the phenomenon that is bread baking. You just have to experience it to understand it!





Butter Rolls:

Ingredients:

Bread flour: 2.5 cups
OR

Bread flour: 1.5 cups and strong whole wheat bread flour: 1 cup


Egg: 1

Lukewarm Milk: 1/2 cup (you might need about a tbsp more if you are using a combination of whole wheat and white bread flour)

Sugar : 3 tsps

Salt: 3/4 tsp

Yeast: 1 tsp

Water: 1 tbsp

Butter: 3 tbsps


for glazing and topping:

1 tbsp milk

1 tsp egg

sesame seeds, sugar, mixed herbs, coarsely ground pepper (optional)


Method:


Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in lukewarm water. Cover and leave for about 15 mins at the end of which it will look creamy and frothy.


Beat the egg, reserve about a tsp of the beaten egg for the glaze and whisk the remaining egg with the milk.


Mix the flours with the remaining sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre of the vessel, add in the yeast mixture and the milk and egg mixture.


Add in the butter and knead till it is all incorporated into the dough. At this point, it will seem like there is too much butter and the dough will keep sliding out from between your fingers, but it will feel wonderfully soft as all the butter gets kneaded in.


Transfer the dough on to a well floured surface and knead for a further 15 mins. To ensure that the dough has been kneaded enough, here's what I do:
1. Stretch a small ball of dough between your fingers. If you have kneaded the dough enough, the stretched dough will ressemble a blown bubblegum - translucent and thin, the dough will not tear as you stretch it. This is also called as the windowpane test.
2. Press your finger into the dough, if it springs back, the dough has been kneaded enough.


Transfer the dough to a well oiled glass vessel, cover and leave it to rise till it has doubled in volume. This usually takes me about an hour and a half.


Knock back the dough and knead again for a minute or two. Cut it into 8 or 10 or 12 (basically, as many as you want - I normally make 8) evenly sized pieces and roll each piece on a floured surface pressing the air out till you have an evenly shaped round ball.


Cover and let the rolls double in size - this takes me about 40-45 mins.


Preheat the oven to 200 deg C .


Mix in the reserved tsp of egg with a tbsp of milk to prepare the glaze - you can also leave out the egg and use just the milk. Just before baking them, glaze the rolls with a soft pastry brush. Add any topping you want, I normally top half the batch with sesame seeds.


Bake the rolls for about 15 mins or till the top is golden brown and the rolls sound hollow when tapped underneath.


Divine. Absolutely divine!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Plagiarism!!

Just a short note - I read Malar's post and obviously followed the link - only to find my creamy egg curry picture (I left a message and the picture has since been taken off).


I don't even want to start to rant about the lack of ethics of such people.


And, here's the irony - blogs such as this one don't deserve to be visited and yet, it is important that you do take a peep and see if any of your pictures have been lifted!


http://www.samayalblog.com/

Monday, August 17, 2009

Soft Spongy Idlis and The Tag!


I have not had a very great relationship with idlis....I seemed to be playing hide and seek with really good idlis for the longest time - they'd hide and I would seek!! Not that I was too bothered - as it is, making idlis at home is too much of a hassle - what with all the grinding that is involved. And so I was more than happy to just go a restaurant whenever we felt like having idlis.

But then, one day, my little one demanded idlis. No, she didn't want to go to the nearby restaurant, she wanted them made at home - in the pressure cooker.

And there began my search for the perfect soft and spongy idli. I first started by adjusting the rice to urad dal ratio. The idlis then turned out just fine...but still, not great. Not like soft pillows or wispy clouds and all such euphemisms that have been bestowed on idlis.

And then one day, while browsing the many blogs, I came across Ramya's blog. She suggested using sago for really soft idlis. And boy, did that work!!

No longer elusive, my idlis come out (like soft pillows and wispy clouds) soft and spongy every single time!



Ingredients:

Rice: 4 cups (I use ponni rice)
Urad Dal: 3/4 cup
Sago/sabudana: 1/2 cup
Methi seeds: 1 tbsp
(do use your own ratio, this combination currently works perfectly for me. Idlis, I have realised are very, shall we say, capricious - rice varieties, water and temperature variations all affect the final result.)
Method:

Soak rice, sago and methi seeds together for about 6 hours.
Soak the urad dal for 3 hours. An hour before grinding, transfer it to the fridge.

Grind the soaked rice first. You don't need a smooth paste, a slightly coarse texture (like semolina) is good enough.

Grinding the urad dal till it is silken smooth is the key to good idlis. You know that you've ground the urad dal enough when it feels ever so slightly warm to the touch - remember, you'll be taking it straight from the fridge before grinding it.

When grinding both, the rice and the urad dal, add the water a bit by bit. The final consistency should be neither too thick or too watery.

Mix the two batters together and add salt. Cover and leave it undisturbed for about 12 - 15 hours, at the end of which the batter would have risen considerably. Sometimes, it also tends to overflow, so do use a large vessel!!

To make the idlis, grease the idli moulds and drop the batter into them.

Pour about an inch of water into the pressure cooker and bring it to a boil. Put the idli stand into the cooker and shut the lid - without the weight. Turn up the flame to high and let it steam for 7 minutes after which lower the flame to the lowest setting for another 2 minutes.
Take the stand off the cooker immediately, unmould the idlis after a couple of minutes and eat them right away!!



Shri passed me these awards with a tag. Thanks Shri, I really enjoyed doing this tag :))





Here we go:

What is your current obsession?
Glass painting


What are you wearing today?
Shorts and a tee


What's for dinner?
Dal, roti and tindli ki sabzi.


What’s the last thing you bought?
If we are talking edibles, then beer last night.


What are you listening to right now?
Nursery Rhymes.

What do you think about the person who tagged you?
She seems like someone I'd love to meet - I mean there are some questions here, the answers to which make me feel like I'd hit it off with her!!

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
Queenstown, NZ

What are your must-have pieces for summer?
Sun screen, sun glasses and cotton clothes.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?
Ladakh, India

Which language do you want to learn?
Mandarin. My daughter's learning it at school and I am already dreading the day when she will converse in the language and I will be clueless as to what she is saying.
Psst...I used to do that with my mom when I started learning French!!

What’s your favourite quote?
If He got you to it, He will get you through it.

Who do you want to meet right now?
My sister

What is your favourite colour?
Blue

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own closet?
There's this ages old powder blue dress that I just love.

What is your dream job?
Hosting a food based travel show.

What’s your favourite magazine?
National Geographic

If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
Books.

What do you consider a fashion faux pas? (Faux pas mean error in etiquette.. )
White trousers and....ahem, coloured undies.

Who are your style icons?
No one

Describe your personal style?
Classy and Elegant

What are your favorite movies?
Shawshank Redemption and Usual Suspects.

What are three cosmetic/makeup/perfume products that you can't live without?
I don't use cosmetics too often and I can live without them but these are the 3 that I would highly recommend: SK-II's Facial Treatment Essence, MAC eyeliner and Hermes Rose Ikebana in perfumes.

What inspires you?
Perseverance and a never say die attitude.

What do you try to cook when you have cooking blues (When you feel real lazy to cook some thing)"?
Omelettes. They are so easy to make and always so satisfying.

Which 3 places do you like to visit/vacation?
If I can help it, other than Ladakh, I wouldn't want to go to the same place again, considering that there are so many more I'd like to go. These three places are the ones I have been wanting to go for a long time: Everest Base Camp, Lake Manasarovar and Machhu Pichhu.

What do you do when you “have nothing to wear” (even though your closet’s packed)?
Shop!!

What Kitchen gadget would you like to own?
The Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer

Which is the one gadget/utentsil without which you just can’t work?
My Knife

What do you do when you are feeling low or terribly depressed?
whine my heart out - the poor husband has to bear the brunt of it!

What is the meaning of your name?
;) all in good time! (no that's not the meaning of my name!!)

Which other blogs you love visiting?
Seriously, you want me to name about 100+ blogs here?!!

Favorite Dessert/Sweet?
Cakes and Ice creams. I love them both, so I'd have to say sizzling hot brownie with a scopp of vanilla ice cream!

Favorite Season ?
Spring

What is your funniest cooking disaster?
That one time when I left something to cook on the gas and dozed off. Got woken up by a phone call, sniffed burning food and bitched about how careless people were to let food burn like that to the friend who had called only to discover that....

What is your comfort food?
Tomato Saar

What is the one dish that you love to make over and again?
I am the kind that actually dislikes making the same thing over and over again; that said, I do tend to make a simple chicken curry pretty often.

Who inspired you to start blog?
Browsing through all the blogs in the blogosphere!

Which 2 blogger friends would you like to invite to your place and what would you like to cook for them?
I'd like to invite not 2, but all the members of the Book Club. Coffee, cakes and conversation - oh what a great thing that would be!!

Respond and rework – answer the questions on your own blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your own invention, and add one more question of your own. Then tag eight or ten other people.

Well, I actually enjoyed answering all the questions, and so I pass the awards and the tag without any changes to:
Bindiya, Poornima, Bergamot, Ann, Soma and JZ.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eggless Mayonnaise

I love mayonnaise, but I don't like it.

Duh...what did I just say, I mean, type?

I like mayonnaise, but I don't like the fact that it contains raw eggs. That is more a reflection of what I want meant. So, much as I love mayo, I tend to avoid it.

Then, one day, while browsing this website, I came across an eggless mayo recipe that sounded simple enough to try.

I tweaked the proportions of the ingredients a just a teeny weeny bit, here's what I did.




Ingredients:

Evaporated milk : 1/2 cup
Olive oil: 1/2 cup
Honey - 2 tsps
English mustard: 2 tsps
Lemon juice: 1-2 tbsps*
Salt

Method:

I used both, my hand held mixie and the blender to make the mayo, if you have a food processor, just use that.

So, pour the milk into a deep vessel and get your hand mixie started. Add the oil to it, 2 tbsps at a time. Once you've added all the oil, add the rest of the ingredients.

Transfer to the blender and whip at the highest speed for a couple of minutes.

Tada...eggless mayo!!


Verdict:

Absolutely delicious!! I did think that the lemon juice was a bit on the higher side when I spread it on sandwiches and burgers, but it was perfect with a potato salad I made.
* So, the next time I plan to add the lemon juice bit by bit, tasting as I add it.

Tomato Egg Sandwich with Eggless Mayo!


Not a recipe really, but then she wants to see our sandwiches. So here goes - brown bread, slap on the mayo and some chilli sauce, layer with boiled egg and tomato slices, top with some Sriracha chilli sauce. Cut it into triangles and chomp away!!

Off to Divya's Show Me Your Sandwich!!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Banana Choco Nut Ice Cream

So many bloggers seem to be going, er, bananas over the last couple of days....I am sure you have all noticed banana muffins and breads and halwas that have been going around in the blogosphere recently.

I couldn't resist going their way...going bananas, that is.

So here's a delicious Banana Choco Nut Ice Cream....packed with the goodness of bananas, nuts and low fat milk, this is a (healthy) treat that, to me, is irrestible!





Ingredients:

Low Fat Milk - 250 ml + 50 ml
Skimmed Milk Powder - 4 tbsps
Sugar *- 30
Cornflour - 3/4 tsp
Cocoa powder - 1 tsp
Milk/Dark Chocolate - 30 gms
Walnuts/ Almonds(peeled) - 3 tbsps, chopped (I used equal amounts of both, but I prefer using walnuts)
Banana (peeled) - 150 gms
Lemon juice* - 5 drops

Method:

Mix together skimmed milk powder, cornflour, cocoa powder, sugar with the 50 ml milk.

Boil the remaining milk and add the above mix to it in a thin stream, stirring constantly as you pour it in. Keep stirring till it comes to a boil. Lower the flame and let it simmer for a further 2-3 minutes.

Switch off the gas and add the chocolate to it; stir to melt it.

When the mixture cools, blend together in a mixie along with the bananas.

Add the chopped nuts and freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, then you will need to blend the ice cream in the mixie to a thick slush, about 4 times - do this when the ice cream is in the semi-set stage. In that case, add the nuts after you are done with the last cycle of blending.

Variations:

Instead of blending the bananas in the mixie, mash it up with your hand if you like a chunky ice cream.

For a chocolate chip effect, chill the base custard in the fridge. Melt the chocolate and add it to the chilled custard.

(If you are not using an ice cream maker, add in the above two variations after the last cycle of blending).

Notes:

* if the bananas are very sweet (mine were), add the lemon juice. If they happen to be a little sour, add another 10 gms of sugar and omit the lemon juice.

And don't go by my picture of a melting ice cream - that scoop endured different poses and angles for a not so perfect picture - in fact you'll need to let the ice cream rest for about 5 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Indulge!!

It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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