Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Crumble-y Apples

There's no dessert simpler than an apple crumble. And for a lover of piping hot desserts like me, there's nothing as tempting. All you do it peel an apple, cut it into thin slices and arrange in a baking dish. Add a few quartered strawberries, sprinkle half a spoon of demerara sugar and maybe 2 tbsp of orange juice.



Now mix a handful of muesli with 1 tbsp flour and a tbsp. of butter and layer this over the fruit. Pop it in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or till it just starts to bubble. Your dessert's ready.



Because it's so simple and so healthy with all the muesli and fruits, I don't even bother to wait for dessert time. My favorite way is to have an apple crumble for breakfast, all by itself. Followed with a cup of tea, it simply makes your day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Muffity muffins

It isn’t the season for strawberries yet anywhere else in the world. But this is the only month we get strawberries in Bombay. Which is why I have been finding an excuse to use strawberries in everything I make. Including my first-ever muffins.

The basic recipe is easy enough. Put 90 gm butter, 90 gm caster sugar, 90 gm flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1 egg into a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Spoon this into six paper-lined muffin moulds, and bake for around 15 minutes, or until they reach the “ready when the top springs back” stage



I don’t have a tray; I have individual cups. And don’t they look cute all lined up in the oven.


My only (slight) problem with this recipe and most other baked goods, custard included, is the slightly eggy smell they come with. If only I had a way to rid the muffins of this!

But I loved them this time split into two, then filled with cherry jam and topped with half a strawberry. What a perfect way it was to end a sunday.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

For ‘tis the Season of Love

I know Valentine’s Day was 10 days back. But it’s still spring out here. And I have only now got around to making one of the cutest recipes that came my way around valentine’s.



Sweetheart cookies look too good to eat, and are fun to bake. Beat 60 gm softened butter and 30 gm caster sugar until smooth. Then add ½ tbsp vanilla extract and 100 gm flour. Knead into a dough, roll it out and cut into heart shapes.

This actually sounds easier than it is. Maybe because it was my first time cutting cookies, or I just don’t know how – but I had to spend several attempts getting my hearts right. Even then, I cut around 8 of them, gave up the rest of it as hard work and made square cookies instead. But if you get to the heart stage, lift them on to buttered baking sheet, put a dot of jam in the center and bake for 7-8 minutes at 200C

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hummus with a Twist



Putting together a bowl of hummus is a fairly simple affair. You grind boiled chickpeas, add tahini paste, olive oil and a bit of salt, and it is done. But what do you do if you live in Bombay and not in Mediterranean; and the grocery stores have never heard of tahini. You adapt!

So here’s my recipe for an Indianized hummus. Soak chickpeas overnight and boil till really tender. You will need one cup of boiled chickpeas. Grind these to a smooth paste with 1 tsp sesame seeds and 2-3 tsp of olive oil. Fold in ½ cup curd and salt to taste. Transfer to a good-looking glass bowl, sprinkle some sesame seeds for fun and eat with toasted pita or any interesting bread that comes to hand. Garlic bread goes particularly well with hummus.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A fresh start to the day



Start with a pretty wine glass and a layer of chopped fresh fruits. Then add a layer of swiss style muesli and top with plain yogurt. Not all fruits work well with this, but these are the ones I've tried successfully: Plum, Strawberry, Pear, Kiwi, Grapes, Peach, Nectarine.

For the little beauty above, I used a mix of pineapple and strawberries. And cheated a bit on the plain yogurt part - I added maple syrup to balance the tartness of fruits I'd chosen.

So stack up these layers any way you like; its the play of colors in an already pretty glass that perks you up much before you take the first bite.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Macaroni in France



First came mushroom duxelles, the quintessential French stuffing. I picked the easy to make recipe from a food column many years back - just chop mushrooms very finely. Heat olive oil, add 2-3 cloves finely chopped garlic and 1 finely chopped onion. Sweat them a bit, but don't let the onions brown. Now add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook on a low heat until all water dries up (usually 5-7 minutes), and let the mushrooms rest in the warm pan for a while.

I find it very useful to make a batch and stack it in the fridge for instant hunger pangs. Think mushroom on toast, or quick mushroom sandwiches with cheese. Or, my all time favorite pairing of this French flavor with the most basic of Italian pastas - the elbow macaroni.

All you need to do is boil the macaroni, and mix with the duxelles. The mushrooms already have plenty of olive oil and flavor, but top with parsley or oregano if you are feeling adventurous. Perfect for lunch!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Comfort Foods #2 – Paneer Sandwich

How do I describe Paneer? It’s a cheese like no other – made by curdling milk with an acidic agent (lemon juice does the trick all right) and left uncured. The closest match I can think of is very very fresh mozzarella, but with no salt.

And how do I describe my love affair with Paneer. As a vegetarian, it was an instant source of proteins when I was growing up, long before I’d heard of tofu. But that’s not all. Paneer’s an all-pervasive, all-time favorite flavor. I've eaten it as a main course, as a curry, in Indian variations of Chinese food, as a topping for pizza, substitute for ricotta in ravioli, and in every other way I could think of all my life.



No wonder then that Paneer forms the focus of my favorite sandwich. For what sandwich could be simpler! A thin layer of paneer between two slices of white bread with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Topped with a dash of ghee and toasted on a pan, it’s the ultimate in comfort food for me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

South Indian Comfort

Back when I first wrote about my "favorite food moments", I forgot to mention my passion for idlis. Growing up far from Idli eating Southern India, I didn’t taste the while fluffy balls until my late teens. But idlis are easy to get hooked on.

Now, the traditional recipe of lentils and rice takes about a year to make at home (fine, two days but it seems like a year when you are cooking!). But the recipe here is an adaptation that takes less than half an hour. Not only is this a huge improvement on time, I’ve grown to like the flavor much more than the traditional idlis.



To make quick rawa idlis featured above, take 1 cup semolina in a large mixing bowl. Add salt, ½ cup yogurt and ½ cup milk. Mix thoroughly. The batter should be runny – add some more milk if it isn’t. Keep aside for 10 minutes. Then just before cooking, add ½ tsp of Eno. Mix well and steam in an idli maker for 15 minutes.



I usually like them plain just off the stove, but this time I indulged myself and made the sambar that goes so well with idlis. So serve on their own, with a dip or dunked in sambar – they work well all ways.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

First Steps

I love food, and I love cooking. But for some reason, baking scares me. I think it’s the almost scientific language in which the recipes are written – the clinical measurements, the careful control of oven temperatures, the almost zealous zest for correct timings has always intimidated me.

But finally, with my first post on this new blog, I take my first shaky steps into the world of baking. After a week of buying measuring cups & spoons, baking powder, the right kind of flour and sugar and of course, butter – my first recipe is Chocolate Spiral Shortbread.


To get to this neat stack, soften 100 g butter, then mix with 150 g plain flour and 50 g caster sugar. Now here’s the trick – you gotta rub it nice and soft with your fingertips to make tiny crumbs. Now divide this into two equal parts.
In the first bowl, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder (dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water). Squeeze the crumbs until they begin to stick together and form an evenly colored dough. Do the same to the second part, but with 1 tsp vanilla essence this time round.

Now comes the fun part. Find four nonstick baking sheets (I used plastic sheets with some butter). Roll out the cocoa dough between two sheet to an approximate square. Do the same with the vanilla dough. The tricky bit is getting the two squares to be almost the same shape and size. Now peel the top sheet off both, and put the cocoa dough on top of the vanilla dough. Peel the second sheet for cocoa dough as well, and roll up the cookie dough into a long roll.

Let it rest in the fridge for for 10-15 minutes, and set your oven to preheat at 180C. Cut the roll into thick slices and bake for 10-12 minutes. You’d know when your kitchen starts smelling nice. My two end pieces didn’t come out right but the rest of it did, so I finished with 8 cookies.

Yummy….maybe baking isn’t that difficult after all!