Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Shadow of the Wind

It might not be the greatest book ever written, but the Shadow of the Wind is surely the best I've read in the past few years. Originally published in Spanish, this is a book about a book and it's troubled author. It's also a coming of age story for our protagonist who discovers the book as a child, on his first visit to the cemetery of forgotten books. Some parts of the book, like how the child's life mirrors the author and some love stories, are predictable enough. But the book has enough originality, and the right mix of romance and thrill to hold it together. All I'd say is, if you haven't read it so far, read it now. Even if you are not a book lover.

We chose to read the book for "This Book Makes Me Cook" in June. You would have noticed that we usually pick books with plenty of food references. This one was an exception. There aren't that many food references in a thriller set in war-torn Barcelona. But there is one. On the day hero, wet with rain and terrified after a fearful encounter, returns to the cemetery of books and to Isaac, the keeper of the books.

"Isaac threw a couple of blankets over my shoulders and offered me a cup of some steaming concoction that smelled of hot chocolate and some sort of alcohol".


Let's make this hot chocolate, the one that's pure sin. Take 2 tbsp cream in a small microwave safe bowl. Add a tsp of alcohol of your choice. Bailey's is preferable, but vodka will do. If this is your breakfast drink, skip alcohol and add a few drops of vanilla extract. Heat in the microwave for 10 seconds or until the cream is bubbling. Add 30 grams of semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped chocolate). Mix until no chunks remain. Pop it back in the microwave for 10 seconds, then serve in an espresso cup. Recommended for fearful nights, or rainy mornings, or just about any time you want.

And the rest of the book club? I think it was hard to get cooking inspiration from this book. But we have a winner from Sweatha. She made the very Spanish Patatas Bravas with Sangria.

And Aquadaze came up with Spanish Omelette, inspired from a much-loved scene in the book.

In July, we are reading "A Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar. If you would like to join us, do leave a comment here and I will get back with more details.

That's about the book club. Now, a couple of other things. One, this sinful chocolate is on its way to AWED: Swiss being hosted by my friend Sweatha this month.

Two, I noticed this makes an excellent entry for Srivalli's MEC : Breezy Breakfasts that I am hosting in June. Two more days to go folks, so if you have any microwave breakfast ideas, send them over now.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bakewell Tart...er...Pudding for Daring Bakers


Yes, you are reading this right. I am finally, officially a member of that daredevil club called the Daring Bakers.

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Beginners luck, you can call it. Tarts are probably the only thing I make quite a lot so it didn't seem so hard. But Bakewell pudding is more than a tart. It's a shortcrust pastry, made the traditional "rub grated butter in flour" way. This is filled with jam and topped with frangipane.

The tart base was fine, I think I like the earlier ones I've made a lot more. But then, this recipe did not say to blind bake my tart which could have contributed to the slight sogginess (or uncrispness). My first layer of filling was my favorite cherry preserve. Again, I've used it before in tarts and I know what it tastes like.

And then frangipane kicked in and totally, completely blew me away. I'd never had it before so had no idea on what to expect. I certainly didn't expect something this delicious. To me, frangipane is what held this together. I am already thinking of other ways to use frangipane, minus the tart.

Do visit the Daring Kitchen to look at other members' versions. There are some beautiful creations out there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Leftovers


You remember the other half of the pizza dough I had lurking in the freezer. I couldn't think of any breakfast ideas this morning so I took it out and let it defrost for half an hour. Rolled it into a square, then sprinkled some grated cheddar, tons of chopped coriander, salt and pepper, rolled it all up. Then cut it into 6 rolls and baked in a preheated oven at 250C till they were brown and pretty.

Decandent breakfast. And all I had in mind was using leftovers!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

4-in-1 Pizza


For this month's taste & create, I have been paired with bad girl's kitchen. Not the host Min, but another "bad" girl : Shell. And thanks to this fabulous event, I have just discovered my best pizza dough ever. I don't know if it's the honey Shell adds or the extra olive oil but this was a really soft, slightly thick pizza.

I made half of Shell's recipe, which is just enough for two pizzas. So I halved the dough, then rolled it into a circle. This I then divided into four quarters and spread a different topping on each. The one on top is mixed veggies (sliced onions, spinach, corn) topped with my pizza sauce. Going clockwise, you next have plain tomato and cheese. Then comes spinach (pizza sauce, then a layer of chopped spinach topped with a layer of cheese). The last one's the same except we use onions instead of spinach.

A hearty weekend dinner, and enough dough in the freezer for a rainy day.

4-in-1 pizza also goes to Zorra who is celebrating the second anniversary of Bread Baking Day with a pizza party.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

From A Year in Bread : Honey Wheatberry


I have decided to skip August in my journey through a year in bread and go straight to September. So I zip past the quick breads made with baking powder and what not, and land in the midst of whole grain breads. I picked Beth's Honey Wheatberry bread - I would claim that would have been my choice anyway but the fact is that was the only one I had all the ingredients for.

Beth made this bread to recreate the magic of Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry Bread. But there's a catch : the Oroweat bread was made with cracked wheat not wheatberries. So Bombay Foodie's bread is made with cracked wheat too.

Beth's original recipe is for two large loaves. What follows is 1/3rd of this original, enough for my shorter loaf. Pour 2/3 cup boiling water over 1/4 cup cracked wheat. Let rest for an hour for the wheat to fluff up and soften. To this, add 1/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and a tsp of yeast. Mix and set aside for 15-20 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble up. Add a tbsp each of butter and honey, then add enough plain flour to form a dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then sprinkle a tsp of salt and knead until the dough is smooth. I always need to add more flour at this stage to keep the dough from sticking.

Put the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. I use straight plastic containers so it's easy to see when the doubling happens. Once the rise in done, shape the dough into a loaf, put it in a greased loaf pan and let rise again until doubled.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 175C. Bake bread for 45 minutes or until brown. If you want perfect slices for sandwiches, this needs to cool for at least an hour. If not, just tear chunks of warm bread and you will love it with butter.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not quite macarons but...


This is the best alternative I got short of flying to London and buying the mini-macaron tray off Paul whenever the urge to eat these cookies strikes. I've had a couple of disasters making macarons before, so I did two things differently this time. One, I baked on parchment rather than directly on my nonstick baking tray. Two, I used a recipe by bakingbites that uses half the egg whites to bind together almond meal and sugar, and only makes meringue of the other half.

And one thing I learnt. There are some recipes you can't scale down too much. Nicole used 4 egg whites, I used one which means I was trying to beat 1/2 an egg white into stiff peaks. Doesn't work. Take my word for it, you can't get volumes from egg whites if only your mixer tips touch them. So instead of fluffly macarons with feet, I got chewy almond cookies.

They didn't look like macarons but they sure tasted like them. I was so sure I will fail that I hadn't even thought of a filling. But even almost-macarons need to be sandwiched. So I melted some cherry jam to fill my macarons. Just the right flavor blend for these chocolate and almond goodies.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The 60 Minute Rolls are not a myth


I agree with Em, the repressed pastry chef. When you need bread, you usually need it now. And once you get used to eating homemade bread, it's tough to go back to the store bought variety (unless you live in Paris, of course!). Which is why I was intrigued, interested and very keen to try the 60 minute dinner rolls that Em made a few days back.

I made 6 rolls instead of the original 24. And I made them in my brioche cups rather than muffin tins. Apart from that, the original recipe is perfect. In short, you give your flour too much yeast and it literally falls all over itself to rise.

Start by mixing 2 tbsp milk, a tsp of sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tbsp butter. Melt in the microwave for 30 seconds. Also heat 3/8 cup of water to lukewarm - this is what happens when you 1/4th the recipes, but I just took water a little less than 1/2 cup. Add 1 1/2 tsp yeast to water, then add the milk mixture (it should be now lukewarm). Gradually add flour until it stops sticking then knead it for a couple of minutes. Or head over to Em's to see how to do this effortlessly in a stand mixer.

Make a dough ball, put it in a greased bowl and let rise for 15 minutes. Divide it into 6 equal pieces and put each ball in a brioche/muffin cup. Now pick each piece in turn and using scissors, cut in half, then in quarters, and return all four pieces to the cup. Switch on the oven to very low (say 50C) and put the rolls in to rise.

After 15 minutes, increase the oven temperature to 220C and bake the rolls until they are golden. In my oven, this took another 15 minutes. So effectively, it was less than an hour. Ready by the time my pao bhaji got off the stove. And perfect as an accompaniment to the tangy, fiery bhaji.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A taste of Juhu Beach


It's really hard driving by Mumbai's Juhu Beach. You can smell pao bhaji when you are at least 5 minutes away still, and there is no way to resist that kind of temptation. And yet, you know it's not hygenic and are scared to eat what countless shacks on the beach are selling. I usually take refuge in Prithvi Cafe, just a few minutes away, and making probably the best pao bhaji in town.

I've often thought of making my own. I even have inspiration, for Nupur, facing the same temptation as me, came up with a recipe. A recipe countless foodies have first encountered with surprise (what! no onions!), then tried and confirmed as "the authentic street flavor".

I finally tried it last night. And Nupur's right. This does bring the fragrance and flavor of Sukh Sagar, and that of Juhu Beach to your home. Just perfect for RCI : Street Foods of Mumbai that Aquadaze is hosting this month.

I served this authentic bhaji not with pao, but with...hey! the bread's another story. Come back tomorrow.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Microwave Breakfasts : Sabudana Khichdi


Let me tell you a secret. The sabudana khichdi I posted a few months back was made not by me, but by my cook. So you already know I have a cook who does most of the cooking around here, and what's the big deal? Well, the thing is, I have no way to eat sabudana khichdi if my cook is not around. I just can't make it without the whole thing turning into a gooey mess that sticks to the pan.

Which is why I was excited to see the microwave sabudana khichdi that Aquadaze made a few days back. Since I am hosting Srivalli's MEC : Breezy Breakfasts this month, it also seemed just the time to try this out.

Last night, i washed 1/2 cup of sago and soaked it in just enough water to cover the pearls. By morning, it was all fluffed up and dry.

First, I peeled one potato and chopped it into small cubes. Added a couple of tbsp of water and microwaved them for 2 minutes until soft. This could take double or half the time in your microwave depending on how powerful it is (and so will other things in the recipes), so I find it best to cook things in 1 minutes bursts and check.

Once the potatoes were done, I put 1/2 tsp ghee in a bowl and microwaved for 10 seconds to melt it. In this, I added 4-5 curry leaves and a handful of peanuts. Microwaved it all for a minute, then took it out and added the sago, potatoes, salt and pepper. Mixed as well as I could (never an easy thing for sago) and microwaved for 3 minutes. Again, I did this in three rounds of one minutes each, stirring and checking each time to see whether sago looks translucent. Once it was done, I mixed in juice of half a lemon and chopped coriander.

Yay! even I can made sabudana khichdi now. And it was both super-quick and super-yummy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Microwave Breakfasts : Peach Oatmeal



Now that I am hosting a microwave cooking event, I think it's time I bring out some quick and easy recipes I have been thinking of trying for a while. The first in the series is my take on that old favorite, apple crumble. With lovely peaches in season, I thought of trying a peach crumble version in the microwave.

First I chopped one peach and arranged it in a glass bowl. Then sprinkled some sugar and microwaved the peach for one minute. While the peach was cooking, I mixed 2 tbsp oats, 1/2 tbsp plain flour, a tbsp of butter and just a pinch of sugar. I brought out the cooked peach and spread the oats and flour mixture to cover the fruit. Put it back in the microwave for a minute. When I took it out, the oats and flour didn't look quite cooked so I put it back in for another 30 seconds.

Guess what? The crumble (hope I can call it one) was crisp and so, so delicious. So maybe it's time you took out that stove top or oven cooking breakfast recipe and give it a shot in the microwave. You just might discover a newer, quicker favorite.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Announcing MEC : Breezy Breakfasts



Srivalli’s Microwave Easy Cooking stops at Bombay Foodie this month. The choice of theme was easy. If you are anything like me, hitting the snooze button on the alarm every morning, you would know how precious those extra minutes of sleep are. Leaving very little time for that most important meal of the day : breakfast. I love to hear any tips and tricks that help me save time making breakfasts on these mornings. And what better way than some quick and easy microwave recipes.

So get your best breakfast recipes out, make them in the microwave (you can use food processor etc. for grinding, but no stove top cooking please) and send them to MEC : Breezy Breakfasts.

Here are the rules:

1. Cook any breakfast recipe in the microwave and do a post on it on your blog between today and 30 June 2009.

2. Add a link to the event announcement on Srivalli's blog and this announcement. Do use the logo if you choose to.

3. Multiple entries are welcome. Recipes submitted to other events are also accepted.

4. Recipes from archives are allowed provided you do a new post on it.

5. Send me an email at bombayfoodie(at)gmail(dot)com with the following details:

Subject: MEC:Breezy Breakfasts
Your Name
Name of the Dish
Your Post url
A picture of the dish

4. If you are a non-blogger, you can mail me all the details and I will gladly include it in the roundup.

5. This event accepts both vegetarian and non-vegetarian entries.

Okay, the announcement is over. And I am nervous. Incredibly. This is the first event I am hosting. You won't let me down, will you?