I literally trawled the internet today and asked myself, why am I maintaining this blog. It's a question which pops up every other time I check this account. Is it helpful to anyone? Does anyone actually read this blog with any intent to make anything? Has anyone actually made any of these things I ramble on about? Do you have feedback to share with me? Has any of these things actually tasted good? Or are all these just figments of my imagination?
Perhaps it's my writing, it doesn't prompt reading. Perhaps it's the theme, it is too dreary. Perhaps it's my food, it looks too unappealing. Perhaps it's the ingredients, I use out of the way things too much. Perhaps it's the recipes, really, are they really that complicated?
I've had these doubts since the time I started the blog. Perhaps, its those doubts which translate into reality. Perhaps perhaps and perhaps, oh these doubts... why do they taunt me so much?
I read recently, you can never really remember the beginning of a dream. So I rolled back the years in my head and tried remembering really, what made me start this blog. Of course, there were folks asking for recipes. There always are. But I'd never really felt compelled to document anything. What really made me start? I can only think that I looked upon it as a way to start writing again, a place to jot down stuff, all those random stream of thoughts that run through my head. Well food thoughts actually. And I remembered these onion scapes.
I will always remember onion scapes with fondness. It was in 2012, I took a year off. Think of it as a gap year for someone who'd always been either studying or working. I did go for a course in 2012 too, but more of a fun course at Le Cordon Bleu. When you're single and really are always wondering what next in life, sometimes it feels good to take some time off and sort yourself out. Not that I've finished sorting myself in anyway. But it did help that year. I went back to my folks in Kerala, spent more time there in the house I grew up in than I had in years. I enjoyed spending time with my mum, hanging around the kitchen, watching movies together, trips to SM Street, a pit stop at Kalandans for Sharjah, umpteen trips to the tailor who never ever had my mum's stuff ready. She enjoyed having me around, driving her around, taking her places where my dad would definitely have said no to. She'd try and wake me up in the mornings to go to church. Occasionally she'd succeed and we'd walk to our local parish church. The tiny stores down the street would just be opening up on our way back. We'd almost always stop for bananas, eggs, milk, a few veggies. Daily shopping for a running household. Something I'd never experienced after leaving home.
On one of those days, I spotted these pretty stalks with tiny white flowers. Armed with my food experiences in a country not my own, I was ready to pounce on any new ingredient I saw. I insisted, oh how I insisted, I wanted Mum to make something with this. She resisted for a while, said I wouldn't like it, but gave in to my continued cries of 'let's try, let's atleast try it'. It came out as a thoran, sprinkled with copious amounts of freshly grated coconut. The sting of the onion tamed by the mellow flavours of the coconut, gently melding into something so tantalising, it was something I looked forward to having for lunch almost every other day. So much so my parents now look at an onion scape and say 'Vava likes it'. They can't think of either of their other children who haven't even tried or have so fallen in love with these babies.
Onion scapes are not always available. They are quite seasonal and appear around November, December. Luckily for me when I went home for Christmas, I spotted them again at the store and pounced on them. Mum introduced her other children also to this new greens, though I don't think either of them took to it as much as I have. I brought another whole bunch and brought it back with me to Bombay despite Mum's warning of them being a bit too much to be carried back.
I had plans, major plans for my tiny bunch of scapes. The dream of a quiche with the zing of the scapes mingling with an eggy custard and earthy mushrooms took root. But, as always I revert to my roots when it comes to something that so quintessentially reminds me of home. I made thoran. Again. and Again. Till all I was left with were two scapes and nothing else.
Quiches are easy to make. They are also quite heavy what with all the butter, cream, eggs and cheese. I don't make it often cos it seems like too much of an indulgence for one person. But the simplicity and ease with which the dish comes together makes it worthwhile. They keep well in the fridge, but my 'generous' self almost always finds consumers to finish them off.
To my mind, the only thing that would make anyone think twice about a quiche is the pie crust. Fairly easy, for people in countries where you get pastry crust off the shelf, in India, we are still quite far away from such things. A good thing too. We have enough processed and unhealthy stuff around. To me, a pie crust should be flaky, buttery, with just the right bite that doesn't immediately crumble apart and make a mess around. And it's easy enough to achieve as long as you use chilled butter, chilled flour, chilled water, chill the base, basically chill chill chill everything. Dice the cold butter into small cubes and rub/cut it in gently to flour. Add a bit of water to bring it all together and chill in fridge for 15 minutes before using. The chilled butter in the oven, melts, creating air pockets which makes the crust so tender. So yes, chill chill chill.
150g all purpose flour
100g cold butter diced
2 tbsp chilled water
200g mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 garlic cloves crushed
2 onion scapes, cut in rings
1/2 yellow pepper diced (optional)
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
salt & pepper
Rub butter and flour together gently till it resembles coarse flour (looks like puttu podi for malayalees)
Bring it together to a ball. Add water a teaspoon at a time till it just holds together.
Flatten into a disc, cover in cling wrap and chill in fridge for atleast 15 mins.
Pre heat oven to 200C and keep an 8" pie tin ready
After 15 mins, roll out the dough and lay it over the pie tin. Press it gently into the edges of the tin. Scrimp/Cut the overhang.
Cover the base with parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights/beans/rice and bake in oven for 20 mins.
Remove beans & parchment paper and continue baking for another 10 mins.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, sweat the mushrooms with garlic and a pinch of salt, till the liquid has completely dried up.
Sprinkle the cooked mushrooms, chopped onion scapes & yellow peppers on the baked pie crust base.
Whisk egg, cream & milk together in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Pour this over the base.
Bake at 200C for half hour or till the custard is just set
I picked up a red cabbage last week from the veggie rack at the food store. I didn't know what to do with it, but I thought I'd get it first and think later on. This is part of my initiative to eat more veggies (Uh oh I ordered chicken lollipop again tonight) and try new things.
I googled and found this on BBC Goodfood. It's really good. And the peanuts, they taste so good in this salad. So crunchy and so filling. The original recipe asked for groundnut oil, I used the toasted sesame oil I had at hand. It added a nice nutty flavour to the salad.
Didn't I have you at nachos. Didn't I? And aren't you feeling a bit bad that I don't really have nachos in this pic? Fear not. It's because nachos didn't really strike me at all! Not till dinner time and I just felt an extra crunch missing.
This salad is almost the same as a Pico de Gallo except I added peppers cos I was in the mood for them and I had a both red and yellow peppers at home. It's always been a little exotic, these peppers. We never had them when we were kids. And to me for the longest time, I really didn't think there was any difference. But slowly I can differentiate them in taste, though even now I'm really not that confident of a blind taste test.
For someone beyond a certain age, I sure order in a lot. That is despite having a cook who comes in daily and would make anything I'd ask her to. One problem I have is, I don't like warming up food. I'd rather have it fresh than from the fridge. Of course, there are exceptions. But most days it's either the local Chinese or Punjabi food which makes it to my dinner plate.
Then I realised. The one thing I order the most is something called Teppanyaki Noodles from Wok Hei. I have an unreasonable amount of these noodles. So I thought maybe I should try making it at home just to make myself feel healthier. Off I went in search of Teppanyaki Noodles.
The photo does not do justice to the dip. It's a dip I can go back to any day as a sure fire winner for a party. But, the last time I called people over, I forgot the recipe!!! The dip looked green and no amount of tweaking from my end, would make it this colour. My maid and I could remember only the colour and not the ingredients and we played around with it quite a bit. It was tasty enough, but somehow we couldn't get this particular dip out of my our heads. So we tried it again today, despite not having anyone over. Her kids like this dip a lot and wipe it out really quick every time I send it over with her.
It's the season to keep yourself warm. And warmth is best done with hot chocolate, warm broths and Christmas cards from friends far away. It was quite a surprise getting a card from Jenny. She'd asked me for my address a couple of weeks ago. I shared it, but didn't really check why she needed the address. My neighbour knocked on my door when I got back from my vacation and handed me the card. It isn't everyday I get a handwritten card from anyone. And the thought made me really happy. Thanks Jenny & Roy. My times with you guys in London were some of the best ever. Not to mention all the time we spent together in Bangalore.
When my sister asked me for a Chocolate Fondant recipe, I told her, "it should be simple right? After all, you and I have been baking since forever. And it doesn't seem to difficult."
Wrong. I've been sadly proven wrong. Somehow I've got this bee in my bonnet I'd make anything but a fruit cake this year and hence a lot of other things make their way out of my oven. Chocolate fondant has been going on the past couple of days. My colleagues at work have been quite pleased that I'm so keen on fondant cos I take all my disappointments boxed up to work.
For my first experience cooking with pork, I decided to try making Pork Buns. David Chang has popularised these traditional Chinese buns through his restaurant Momofuku and there are enough and more recipes online to follow through. Now more important than these recipes, to me at this point, are my learnings with pork. I've never cooked pork and I've never seen my mom cooking pork. My aunt makes the best pork dishes ever. But since I haven't seen the actually cooking process or seen the raw meat, I had no idea what to expect. So below are a list of pointers from my end for cooking and dealing with raw pork. A few of them for me to remember and not panic the next time, a few of them hopefully will help other folks cooking with pork for the first time.
Unfortunately, I don't have pictures for each of the different stages. I have to say, I was getting a little worried and taking shots were the last thing on my mind. So here goes.
Some days, some weeks, some months, you space out. You worry about your place in life, in this world, in this universe. Nothing seems to make much sense for a while. A little chocolate, a few berries, toasty bread soaked in a custard base seems to just hit the spot for those moments of just forgetting everything. Forget the extra inches, the jiggle that never lets go, the jeans that's become a tad too stretchy. Embrace the butter, the sugar, the egg and just let go.
I had these really interesting kebabs at one of our company parties. Being in a food company, you get introduced to all sorts of things.This was one of those. They served it with slices of raw mango which was just soo right for the October heat in Bombay. Now that November is not helping us any further in the temperature department, these babies are just right as a cool starter for a party at home.
Last week, my boss took my colleague and me out for dinner to Masala Library. He wanted us to experience an Indian restaurant that does things different. It was certainly interesting, some of those things were really good, but to be really honest, there was nothing that really blew me away. Perhaps I've become too picky. Like they were trying too hard and not really getting there. One of those things I really enjoyed there was the jalebi caviar. Little boondis of jalebis packed into a circular disc surrounded by a pool of rabdi. I knew I had to try making it. So here it is, my foray into Indian desserts on this blog.
As I must have mentioned earlier, I'm trying to put an end to my eating out tendencies and make more stuff at home. I'm not saying everything I make is fantastically healthy, but I'm thinking its perhaps better than not knowing the ingredients used and the amount of fat used. In this case, I know how much butter I'm injecting into my body if my serving size is unusually large and also I can rest assured I have enough veggies going inside me.
Persimmons are a very seasonal fruit. They come right around end of Oct - early November and very quickly disappear. I've hardly seen them with the regular fruit sellers, but have had to go deeper into the market to see them. There are two varieties of persimmons Fuyu and Hachiya. In India we get only the Hachiya. To me they taste like a cross between a chikoo/sapota and a mango. It has a smoother texture than sapota and is actually quite nice.
I've liked the Facebook page of the Bon Appetit Magazine and so read up on quite a lot of the stuff they put up there. Considering the number of recipes I put up from there it shouldn't be a surprise actually. This one sounded nice and a little weird which makes it totally up my alley I think. It involved Italian Sausages, some kind of apples which we don't get in India and Watercress (I'm sure I've never had that and if I have wouldn't recognize it if someone gave it to me again.) I played around and made it my own... Buhahahaha! Does that surprise anyone?
I have this habit of trying out new things all the time at restaurants. So a couple of years ago when I'd gone with my friends to Pondicherry, we went to this café called Le Vietnam. Why would there be a Vietnamese café in a former French Colony? Well, as my friend informed me Vietnam was also a French Colony at one point.
I'm opening up a new category 'Quick Lunches'. I've been trying to eat a little more healthy these days, while still not compromising on taste. It's very difficult to continue on any regime where I feel I'm giving up on major food groups or have major dietary restrictions. I want to have a balance in my food intake, try and cut down on my eating out tendencies, and yes, move around a bit more.
If there is one thing that really fazes me in the kitchen, it's soups. I just can't get my head around them. My mum finds it weird, my friends find it weird. Well it's true, I just cant make soups. But when I do make one I like, I kind of stick to it, so I know it's a dependable one. Something I can keep making without getting all flustered over it.
This here is my dependable pumpkin soup. I like it cold, but then I'm a fan of cold soups especially when it's so hot outside like it is here in October. If you're having fall weather where you are, this soup is good warmed up too.
When my closest friends moved countries, I was the recipient of a lot of goodwill, a lot of love, a lot of memories and a lot of stuff from their pantry. Upali passed on these limes and I very happily accepted them as Kaffir Limes despite them not having the ridgy exterior that kaffir limes have. I kept calling them kaffir limes till after a point even I realized the distinctive kaffir lime aroma was missing. Something, my brother kept mentioning over and over again... 'But it doesn't have thaaaattt... like you know the last time you made it...'
Update from Upali: These limes are called Gondho Lebu in Bengali and they travelled all the way from Calcutta to my cake. Thanks so much Upli!
Are you single? Do you live alone? Let's bond over meals that conquer singledom.
I'm a fan of one bowl meals and an even bigger fan of meals which don't need to be prepped in huge portions resulting in leftovers lasting in the fridge forever and forever. I'm also a fan of meals which can be put together easily. Also as you know a fan of all things delicious. In my opinion, this qualifies for all of the above.
Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs. They have a larger surface area, is drier and hence tends to absorb less oil and remains more crunchy while cooking. You get it in India in wholesale stores, but nothing less than a one kilo pack. Who's going to use all that up? There are a lot of sites out there which explains how to make Panko. I too found the technique searching via Google.
I fear I'm not going to do justice to this entry cos I've a massive writer's block. Not that I'm much of a writer but still... This dish or rather curry is so beautiful, it's worthy of a poem. But I'm not a poet or any such fanciful creature. So I dutifully enter this recipe which is not really a recipe for this divine curry which I could slurp up probably everyday of my life. I'll have to think up a better name also for this dish.
I have a lot of things to be thankful for in this life. One of the main things would be the world wide web. Without that I'd have pored over books and still would never have found out about this delicious Greek dessert. It was an Instagram entry by my Turkish friend Elif which led me to this dessert.
It looked and sounded so delicious, I hunted down a recipe for it and decided to make it one Sunday.
A little difficult to make if you don't have phyllo pastry. But totally doable if you're in one of those places where you get them easily in the frozen section of your supermarket. I was really determined to do the whole thing by myself, but my maid Jayashree chipped in and said she could easily make
those paper thin translucent sheets of pastry.
I admit it. I favour a good breakfast over most meals. Mainly cos simple things are good enough to make me happy. Also helps that breakfast is also the easiest meal to cook with not too many complications. No wonder I can have breakfast anytime of the day.
Right now, I'm an expert in Erussery. Do you spell it Erissery? I always pronounce it Erussery in Malayalam. So I'm going ahead with that spelling. Back to why I'm an expert. In my last post I mentioned I made three of the Onam dishes on Independence day. Plus I had the Inji Puli. So If I made a sambar, I'd pretty much have the main components of a vegetarian meal. Now, now, don't be picky. I know there's more to a vegetarian meal than that. But for now, this works.
The pistachio pancake came from a pistachio peach cake I wanted to make this morning. Unfortunately my oven conked out on me right after I'd done the prep for the cake. So I decided to make the best of it and make some pancakes instead.
And thus starts the Onam recipes. Inji puli is my favourite side dish for Onam. A typical Friday for us back home is vegetarian. Religious reasons for my mum, which we kind of like cos we get to eat the best of vegetarian food. Lunch is typically sambar, erussery/avail, pachchadi or inji puli and of course pappadam. Very different from the pappads you get elsewhere, pappadams puff up like a puri and are light and crispy and give a completely different dimension to a veg meal.
I name it as if all of the Malabar area were eating this kind of bread pudding. No, I name it this way cos flavours of the Malabar are unique and something I've so often repeated in this blog. To me bananas, coconut sugar and a sprinkle of cardamom remind me of home and the food I grew up with.
Perhaps not always the food we made at home, but the food I've come to associate with the region I've spent my childhood years.
I love jam making. It's like everytime I make jam, I'm bottling up a bit of summer, a bit of the season, to be enjoyed for a long long time. If last year, I was the liqueur baroness, this year I am the jam begum.
I made three kinds of orange marmalade, jams, preserves, conserves and so it goes. I'm not sure what I was trying to achieve, but I wanted all kinds of fruit in bottles in my fridge.
While I don't have exact recipes, and I do play around with flavours quite a bit, here are some things to keep in mind while making jam
They say if you make three significant changes to a recipe it becomes your own. I haven't gone the stretch, but its still significant enough for me to call it my own I think,
For a while there after the 'Liqueured Peach Cake' I stopped baking. In fact I stopped going into the kitchen other than for warming up stuff, opening takeaway Chinese, and whipping up some awesome milk shakes with super tasty milk from Sarda Farms, more on that later.
I ought to be ashamed putting up a dish that doesn't look perfect. I should atleast have hidden those crisp edges... ugghh. But these things happen everyday in every kitchen. One wrong pan and this is what happens. Also, I happen to like them a little crispy. That's my excuse. But please note, I've invested in a non-stick pan since. Something I don't normally approve of. I convinced myself I need a new omlette/crepe pan; which I can also use to gently fry chicken maybe just once in a while.
This is going to be a long post. Not because of a recipe actually. More because now that I've got a platform to say something, I really want to say something I've got on my mind.
It all started with that Indira Nooyi article. I'm sure you've all read it. Well, if you're Indian and you're on Facebook, you have. After all, she's the most famous Indian female in the corporate world. Someone all girls in the country are supposed to look up to. We don't have too many idols besides movie stars and rubbish politicians. Then she comes out with a story how women can't have it all. I guess we're all caught up in Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In'. Frankly I don't have the inclination to listen to either of them. I maybe female, I could belong to the working class, but we all have our battles and no two of them are the same. But none of this matters to me. What mattered most to me in Indira Nooyi's article was the milk incident.
The story goes, I wanted to make popcorn cake. And that calls for fresh popcorn. Do you know how difficult it is in this day and age to get fresh popcorn? All you get is the microwavable stuff.
I could do with that, but I so did want to do everything from ground up and I wasn't sure the packaged stuff was the best way to go about it.
Chembur market is a treasure trove of fun stuff. After almost 6 years around this place, like Barney, I have a guy for everything, especially when it comes to Chembur market. Surprisingly though, I didn't know where to get popcorn. Even more surprisingly, I really didn't have to go anywhere. Right in front of the local station was this guy popping corn who was happily willing to part with his share of unpopped corn for next to nothing. Though he did warn me as uninitiated as I am to the whole process, popping corn might be a little different than what I expected. Of course it would be different I thought; I'd never popped corn, microwaveable or otherwise. Little did I know, the whole shaking the bowl shebang is a little tiring not to mention that even after all the shaking I didn't end up with a whole lot of popped corn. I had a whole bunch of unpopped buggers at the bottom of the bowl.
#BadGirlBreakfasts Part 5 - Creamy Garlicky Mushrooms on Toast
At some point I stopped going adventurous with the pics, I just want to get the contents across. This is what the final product looks like. No embellishments, no setups and right on my kitchen top.
This is exactly as it looks. I took inspiration from a Garlic Mushroom dish I always serve as a vegetarian appetizer for dos at my place. The only change I made is using cream instead of using cream cheese and omitting wine in this version. I also didn't add any parsley which I think the original recipe called for.
When I first moved out of home and to Bangalore, there was this café right next to my house, Rendezvous. My cousin Riya and I spent quite a few evenings reading books and eating sandwiches there. Run by a couple, it was a cozy, homely place for us to spend our evenings than at our cramped rental. My favourite over there was their Egg Club Sandwich. A double decker of a sandwich with lovely toasted bread filled with an egg & mayo mix and also something else I couldn't identify but made me love it all the more.
#BadGirlBreakfasts Part 2 - Banana & Coconut flakes on Toast
These are not regular bananas. These are the other bananas, the big long ones from Kerala. You also get them in Cuba, Nigeria and I think Miami cos that's what Jon Favreau picked up in the movie 'Chef' and he called them plantains!!!
Do ya hear me people??? Plantains!!!! I grew up calling these bananas plantains till I was very properly corrected by my sister and my friend that no, they are bananas.
#BadGirlBreakfasts Part 1 - Poached Pears & Bleu Cheese on Toast
Remember one day I woke up and said I'm going to have a breakfast project on Facebook? I actually did go through it. It just took some time to work out things just the way I wanted.
I wish, I wish, I wish I could say this is really complicated. But the only point I wanted to make was Toast is not just Toast when you make a little extra effort. Ask me. I've almost never bothered to have breakfast before heading to work. Always was the hungriest by lunchtime and lasted on endless cups of coffee and biscuits.
I have a theory that if you are writing down a recipe, you better write it down the first time. Or by the time you get around to writing it down, you've played around with the original one so many times that you've completely lost the plot.
This is my case for poaching pears. The first time I poached pears, I measured water, I measured wine, I measure orange juice, I counted cinnamon sticks, I basically had everything in hand. These days I throw everything in together in saucepan and pray it does the job. Almost always it does, which goes to prove, yes, sometimes you don't have to be that perfect and creepily crazy about everything.