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!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Scrambled Eggs and An Award

Picture this:

You wake up one day to the drumroll of thunder. And to the cling clang of the window blinds. You squint your eyes open and detect a huge flash of lightning whiz across the sky. Soon, huge raindrops are slapping hard on the window glass.

You check the time, you still have an hour to sleep and just as you start to pull the covers a little tighter, you hear the sound of tiny footsteps, growing louder. The daughter, too, has been awoken by the loud thunder and wants to cuddle beside her mom and dad. The three of you huddle beneath the covers.

An hour later, the alarm goes off. You approach the windows, the rain has stopped - all that remains of the thunderstorm are the wet grounds and the beads of raindrops that cling to the windows. The day is going to be beautiful, you can sense that.

You turn to the husband and manage to coax him to go late to office. "Let's go out for some breakfast", you say.

Think....a cafe by the sea side. As you walk to the cafe, a breeze picks up and the tress unload some raindrops from their branches on your head.

Think...

Steaming hot coffee. Pancakes drizzled with maple syrup, grilled banana on the side. Hash browns. Sizzling hot sausages. Crispy bacon. Sauteed mushrooms. Porridge, loaded with nuts and raisins. Assorted breads, with butter or jam or marmalade. Eggs: omelettes, sunny side up, poaced, scrambled - take your pick. Fruity yogurts. Chilled juices.

Decadent, isn't it? Well, some days are just made for such indulgent breakfasts.





Scrambled Eggs are my favourite breakfast, I could have these every single day. Here's my way of making these.

I have learnt, the very hard way, that the secret to a good scrambled egg is LOW FLAME. When making these, should you think that the pan is getting too hot, do take the pan off the flame for a few seconds.

Lightly beat the eggs. Melt a knob of butter. When the butter just about melts (it is ok to have that little bit of butter that has not yet melted), pour in the eggs. Get your wooden spatula, but wait for a few seconds before you start to use it. The eggs will start to set at the sides first, when that happens, just push them toward the centre of the pan and tilt the pan to distribute the uncooked eggs to the sides. Continue this till the eggs are softly set. Take it off the gas and let them sit in the pan for another 10 seconds. Add the seasonings of your choice, give it a quick stir and load it on top of a toast.

Enjoy!!

Suparna, Sree Vidya and Pinky have given me the Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you very much ladies :))




The award comes with these rules:

1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on which of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

So here goes, 7 things about me:

1. I have this huge water phobia. I cannot swim, I have changed many swimming coaches, sent a lot of money, well, down the drain but no, I still cannot swim.

2. I am also scared of darkness. If and when I have to sleep alone in the house, I need to have atleast one light on through the night. Considerations like carbon footprint notwithsatnding.

3. I am not a picky eater , I can and do eat pretty much anything. However, I cannot have white milk. Plain milk, that is. Need to put something in it. Even turmeric powder will do. But never plain milk.

4. I can cook without any complaints for a crowd. I can spend an entire day in the kitchen, if I need to. But I find it very difficult to make that cup of tea first thing in the morning. For a while, many years ago, I would make tea last thing at night, pour it into a thermos flask and drink it the next morning.

5. I love dogs. From a distance. As long as they keep that distance.

6. I have itchy feet...not just the kind that make me want to travel on holidays all over the world. My itchy feet compel me to move cities, to live in different cities. Or to move apartments within the same city. You guessed it, I thrive on change.

7. Though I live in city where it rains very regularly and often times without warning, I don't carry an umbrella. In fact I haven't carried an umbrella (or a raincoat) for over 12 years now. If I get caught in a shower, I simply wait it out and enjoy the shower. Or I walk in the rain.


I want to pass this award to Simran, Navita, Priya, Curry Leaf, Yasmeen, Varsha and Rush.

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

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