Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rainbow Sushi



Peppers for Red
Babycorn for yellow
Paneer for white
Leeks for green
Scallions for a lighter green
Beets for purple
And black nori to wrap it all up

I thought that rolling six vegetables in such a tiny sushi will present a challenge so I first rolled the veggies in nori and sealed it with a little water to make a cylinder. Then, on a longer nori sheet, I spread sushi rice, placed the nori-veggie roll on one side and rolled it into a rainbow colored sushi.

Rainbow sushi makes it's way to Lavi who is hosting AWED : Japanese this month.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tropical Fruit Tart for Jane Austen

April is Jane Austen month at This Book Makes Me Cook. Instead of picking one of her books, we decided that all members of the book club will read their favorite Austen and create something inspired from it. I've read all her books many times before, and for this re-reading I first chose Mansfield Park. The least known of her books, it's the story of Fanny Price who comes to Mansfield Park, home to her rich relations, as a child. I think Fanny has to be the meekest of Jane Austen's heroines. Aside from that, this is a typical Jane Austen with society dinners, gentlemen suitors and plenty of scandal for company. However, there is not a single recipe inspiration to be found. There are references aplenty to teas and dinners and suppers; but not one dish by name.

I then read a second Jane Austen. Emma, the antithesis of Fanny, the strongest heroine Austen ever created. And even in the story of fiercely independent Emma, there wasn't a single reference to be found. I've always thought that Jane Austen talked a lot about food; but now that I was reading these books with this singular purpose, I realized that it only seems so. Because there are always meals people are sitting down to, and parties being attended, you have the semblance of seeing so much food but seldom the actual description of some.

So what did I make? A good old fruit tart, apt for Emma's tea parties (even though her father Mr. Woodhouse will disagree).



This is the first time I am making something from cannelle et vanille, a blog I admire a lot. I made the tart base by first creaming 60 gms butter with 40 gms sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla essense. Then added 1/2 tbsp milk and mixed it in. Combined the dry ingredients (100 gms flour, 15 gms ground almonds and 1/2 tsp cocoa powder), then added them to the butter mixture and mixed lightly to make dough. I made a ball of this dough and put it in the fridge to chill. After half an hour, I rolled it as thin as I could and lined a tart tin. Pricked the base and let the base chill in the fridge for an hour. There is some dough left over that I have frozen for some cookies next week.

I preheated the oven to 180C, pressed some foil on the tart case and baked it for 10 minutes. Removed the foil and baked it for another 10 minutes, then let it cool.

In the meantime, I made the cream cheese filling. Mixed 30 gms cream cheese, 75 ml cream and 2 tsp honey and beat with an electric mixer until it got thick. I don't think I made it thick enough though - when I put my fruit toppings (fig, kiwi, mango, mint) - it did sink a bit. But the flavors blended well; and the tart made a fabulous lunch.

Dessert for lunch!!! Yes, that's what Austen does to you. What did Austen inspire other members to do?

Aparna chose to read Emma too, and made that English tea time favorite : Crumpets

Aquadaze, the newest member of the book club, picked Pride & Prejudice and was inspired to make Butter Cake and Masala Chai

Emma inspired Rachel to bake an Apple Tart

Sweatha made Baked Apples, one of the few dishes actually mentioned in Emma.

And finally, Bhags, our hibernating founding member is back with a post.

In May, we are reading the third book in Joanne Harris food trilogy : Five Quarters of an Orange. If you would like to join us, leave a comment here and I'd get back to you with more details.

In the meantime, Tropical Fruit tart is going over to Srivalli for her Mithai Mela.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Microwave Nuts



When Mythreyee announced nuts as this month's theme for Srivalli's Microwave Easy Cooking, my only thought was that I can now finally try making masala peanuts at home. Why wouldn't I make them otherwise? Well...no idea really, it's just something that remains on my to-do list but never gets done.

After browsing through several recipes, I decided to follow the Jugalbandits, even though they had made their version in an oven and advised against making it in the microwave. It's five minutes of my time, so how could it hurt.

So I mixed 1/2 cup chickpea flour with salt, ajwain, amchur, crushed black pepper and 1/2 tbsp cornflour. Added water to half of it to make a thick paste and mixed it into a cup of peanuts. Then sprinkled the rest of the flour mixture and mixed it in. I oiled a microwave safe plate and spread the peanuts on it, trying to break the clusters as best as I could (not that I succeeded). Then microwaved it for two minutes, took it out to check everything was going as per plan and microwaved it for another 2 minutes. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and the peanuts are as crisp and delicious as the fried version sold in makeshift newspaper cones all over the city.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bibimbap



This is the reason I love taking part in Taste & Create. There is so much new to learn and try when you meet new partners. This month, I am visiting Kitschow in Vancouver for a course in Asian cooking. She also tries a lot of other cuisines, but wok is her favorite way to cook. I first thought I'd find very little vegetarian choice at her place. But as luck would have it, she has recently done a lot of vegetarian cooking and eating for lent and I had a virtual rainbow to pick from. Everything looked so delicious it was tough to pick one. I picked the one with the cutest name : Bibimbap.

Bibimbap is a Korean rice, usually topped with beef and vegetables but Kitschow made a vegan version for Lent. The recipe has three parts. First you cook the rice. Then, when it's almost done but is still moist, you arrange vegetables on top so it looks colorful and pretty. For the vegan version, Kitschow just put raw veggies there and let them cook in the steam. But I liked the idea of steaming them first. So I chopped all my chosen vegetables - spinach, mushrooms, peppers and babycorn - and microwaved them separately with a tbsp of two of water for a minute.

The third and the most important bit is the dressing. For my 1/2 cup rice, I mixed 2 tbsp chilli soy sauce, a tbsp of vegetable oil, 2 garlic cloves, green bits of a spring onion and 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds. I poured half of this dressing on the rice, then arranged the steamed vegetables on top, added pan fried tofu in the middle and poured the rest of the dressing over. Covered the rice and let it steam for a few minutes. This pretty look is how you take it to the table. Once that's done, you mix it all in and indulge in the best vegetable rice ever.

Monday, April 20, 2009

We have a visitor

Some weekends just pass you by; but this sunday was memorable. Aparna is in Mumbai for a vacation so Harini and I decided to meet her. It was great to finally see someone I've talked food and books to for so long. And it was really great to meet her lovely daughter and food-tester Akshaya - she really is too sweet. I went to see another friend right after meeting them and from both of us : A Big Thank You for the cake and the really delicious Guava Cheese you got us from Goa. Between meeting friends, this was a sunday afternoon well spent.

And sunday morning, that was spent baking cookies that Aparna and Harini hopefully liked. And making watermelon sorbet, for what could be better before venturing into Bombay heat.



It's just plain watermelon. Chop it carefully so that you remove all traces of seeds; then puree two cups of watermelon pieces in a blender. Freeze for an hour then blend to a smooth semi-frozen watermelon ice. Freeze again for half an hour, blend. Freeze and blend one more time and you have the healthiest dessert on earth.

Watermelon Sorbet goes to Aquadaze, who is hosting this month's edition of Bindiya's My Favorite Things Event with the theme Frozen Desserts.

The healthy dessert is also heading over to Srivalli's Mithai Mela.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Udupis of Matunga

An udupi can mean different things to different people. A town in Karnataka, a vegetarian cuisine that first started there or a barebones no-frills cafe serving South Indian food. In Bombay though, an udupi restaurant can also be any neighborhood cafe you can eat familiar, homely food at no great expense.

But if you really want to see an udupi (the cafe, not the town), the only place to head to is Matunga in Central Mumbai. They are all the same, these cafes with metal chairs and tables, quick and efficient service and the best South Indian food on earth.

The first time I went to Matunga's King Circle, which probably has ten udupis next to each other, I settled on Cafe Mysore. It was not a choice really, for I went early in the morning and they were the only one that seemed open and in business. I've since been to Cafe Madras and Idli House and A. Ramanayak and countless others. All of these offer the snacking choices of idlis, dosas and uttapams. Some also offer the thali, depending on what time you get there.

Still I suggest you stick to Cafe Mysore, as I have done once I was finished sampling all the rest. For starters, it's bigger so you stand the best chance of getting a table (in Cafe Madras, the most popular of the lot, you will always end up sharing one). This also means that they will rush you less. Udupis in general are not places to linger - you order, you eat, you leave - but at least in Cafe Mysore they won't mind your staying an extra few mintues.

And finally the food. It's uniformly good, no matter which udupi you land at but you will notice a subtle difference in flavors everywhere. And Cafe Mysore seems to agree the most with my palate with its not-too-spicy sambar and even more amazing rasam vada. I love their idlis, but I love their masala dosa more. And I can never leave without eating the funnily named ulundu dosa, made with just the lentils and no rice. And dare you leave without sampling their filter coffee - there is no better place to go and overeat in all of Bombay.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From A Year in Bread : Pesto Rolls



I've reached June in my travels through A Year in Bread. Which is perfect timing because the trio of bakers out there baked summer breads then. Summer comes early to Bombay, and this is just the time to make Beth's Pesto Rolls.

I first tried making these rolls last week. But I made pesto a day early, and then promptly went ahead and ate half of it. So this time, I started by mixing the starter last night and leaving it overnight in the fridge. Mixed the dough this morning and while it was going through it's first rise, I made my pesto - no chance to eat it all this time!

The dough was just as smooth as Beth claimed it will be, and my halved quantity was easy enough to roll into a rectangle. Then spread it with pesto, rolled it up and cut it into rolls. I got 10 rolls, while Beth got 15 out of double the dough so I am sure I cut them smaller. But baking them was a breeze and they browned in about 20-25 minutes.

Fresh pre-sliced bread meets pesto - that's as close to bread heaven as it can get. Also perfect for spring picnics, I am sending these rolls over to Cindystar who is hosting this month's bread baking day with the theme Spring Country Breads.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Soul Kadhi



In an ideal world, you would read a recipe and buy just the ingredients you need. What actually happens is that I buy a few hundred grams where I use a teaspoon. Just finished a kitchen sanity check, and I count five souring agents. That's just the dry spices, even before I count vinegars. I know what to do with most of them, but kokum presents a challenge. It's not what I use in anything except one recipe I tried, and I don't know what to do with the rest of it.

On to google for "kokum recipe" and all of first page says sol kadhi. Interesting concept, lovely color and you know I happen to have coconut right now. So sol kadhi it is!

Start with 1/2 cup of grated coconut. Add a smashed garlic clove and a small chopped green chilli and blend for a few seconds with a cup of warm water. Strain to get a thick coconut milk. Put the grated cocunut milk back in the blender with another 1/2 cup water, blend and strain again. This time, the coconut milk will be thinner so the two batches together will be just the right consistency. Oh! and you can cut all this out and just buy coconut milk.

Soak 4 kokum pieces in a little water (about 3 tbsp) for 10-15 minutes. Strain and add to the cocunut milk. Add a pinch of salt, mix well and garnish with chopped cilantro. Chill for a couple of hours and serve as a drink. Or, in true konkani style, serve with rice and fish curry.

I loved it as a drink. But since this is my first time drinking sol kadhi, I had to pass on the taste test to a konkani friend. And he says it passes muster, but should be more tangy. More kokum next time. After all, I still have so much left.

PS: If you must know, the other four souring agents I have right now are tamarind, amchur, anardana and sumac. And I have six kind of sugars, and four salts. Is it normal, or is it just me?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Maharashtrian Food Festival

My cook is originally from Mumbai, which means that she knows more about the Maharashtrian cuisine than I ever aspire to. Usal is one of her specials. But because I don't know how to break open and grate a coconut, and she hasn't volunteered either, this is not something we make often.

Every few weeks, when I manage to get hold of some grated coconut in the supermarket, it's usal time.



Buy bean sprouts or make your own. For a cup of sprouts, you need 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a small onion chopped finely and 1/3 cup grated coconut. Parboil the sprouts. Heat a tsp of oil in a pan, add garlic and stir till lightly browned. Add the onions and stir fry on a low heat till softened. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp of cumin-corainder powder (sold as such in Mumbai, but you can make your own with half of each). Now add the sprouts, coconut and salt to taste. Stir, add a little water (very little, just a tbsp or so) and cover the pan. Let cook on a low heat for a few minutes for the sprouts to absorb flavors.

I eat this with roti, but it's a great snack in itself with some lemon juice. Oh! and I still have half that coconut stowed away. There's another treat in the offing, soon.

In the meantime, usal goes to Weekend Wokking, being hosted by Kits Chow this month.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fantasy on My Plate



My friend got me Farfalle Fantasia from Italy almost a year back. Bow ties (my favorite shape of all) in harlequin colors, this pasta looks like something that came visiting from a distant fairy land.

I've held on to the pack for as long as I could. But it looks like my friend won't be coming visiting for a little while, and temptation finally got the better of me. So here it is; Farfalle of your dreams with my favorite sauce.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

No Knead Success



A few weeks ago I tried unsuccessfully to bake the no knead bread made famous by New York Times. It was embarrassing. No, it was more than embarrassing. As far as I know, I am the only person in history to bungle up this super easy idiot-proof bread pioneered by Jim Lahey.

Never the one to give up, I changed tacks and put my faith behind the other no knead bread revolution taking over the food blogging world. I refer to Artisan Bread in five minutes a day, the book published by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The concept is simple enough - you don't knead the bread, but let the slow rise in the fridge do the job of gluten development.

Here's the recipe, if you can call it one. Mix flour, yeast, salt and water to make a wet dough. Let rise for 2 hours until doubled. Then leave in the fridge overnight. Next morning, dust with flour and shape into a loaf. Let it rest for 40 minutes, then bake in a 220C oven for almost 30 minutes until the bread is golden. There are detailed instructions for steam trays and baking stones and whatnot, but none of these would fit in my tiny oven. I omitted all of that, and I even forgot to slash the tops before baking, but I still got a beautiful crust and an even texture.

The authors don't give the exact quantities on their website, so I wouldn't either. But the idea is that you make enough dough for a week and grab just enough to bake a loaf every time you feel like it. Because of my earlier failure, I divided everything by 4 and only made enough dough for one loaf. And it's so good I am already starting my next batch.