Friday, July 31, 2009

Dhokla for Indian Cooking Challenge


What's an easy recipe? I've found that the answer lies not in how complicated a process is, but in how familiar we are to the dish. Growing up with a cuisine helps. For don't I dish out punjabi chhole and rajma masala with elan, but shudder at making appams. Because Indian cuisine is so varied, there are enough challenges for everyone to pick from. Just what Srivalli's brainchild, the newly minted Indian Cooking Challenge wants to do.

We have a long list of dishes that would be familiar and homely to some but unknown challenges to the others. The first one, dhokla, should tell you that. I've eaten plenty of this Gujarati staple as a snack but my couple of attempts to make it at home were total failure. Enter Srivalli's recipe, which I followed verbatim - the only change was my steaming the batter in idli moulds, the only steamer in my kitchen.

I am sure there would be tons of versions of this recipe floating around today, but here's a condensed version. I divided Srivalli's recipe by a third so step one was mixing 1/2 cup gramflour/besan with 1/6 cup curd, 1/6 cup water and a pinch of baking soda. I kept it aside for one hour. Around the end of this rising time, I set some water to heat in my idli steamer and sprinkled a light dust of eno on the idli moulds.

To the batter, I added a mixture of a tsp of oil, a pinch of turmeric, salt, 1/4 tsp red chilli powder and juice of half a lemon. I then added 1/3rd of an eno packet, mixed lightly and poured the batter into idli moulds. Steamed them for 7 minutes, then turned off the gas and let the dhoklas rest for another 5 minutes.

Just before eating, I heated some oil in a pan and added coriander leaves and mustard seeds. When the mustard started popping, I poured the tempering over the dhoklas.

The result was perfect, fluffy dhoklas. And because I omitted the last step in the recipe, they come minus the water every store pours on finished dhoklas intending to make them soft , but actually making them soggy.

I didn't make the green chutney, but Srivalli assures me that was optional. What I ate them with instead was my bottled tamarind chutney. Overall, a perfect snack!

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's cookie time at Daring Bakers


Is it that the Daring Bakers challenges are getting easier, or is it that I am getting to be a better baker? Either ways, my first two challenges have been a breeze.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We had the option of making either or both the cookies. Now, I've made marshmallows in the past but it's not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon. And I am not a big fan of mallows, those sweet sticky chocolate covered marshmallow cookies, anyway. So I decided to make just the milanos.

Making the cookie was simplicity itself. I divided the recipe by a third, so I first creamed 60 gms butter with 110 gms sugar. Then added 2 egg whites, one at a time, using my hand mixer to blend it in. In went after that 2 tsp each of vanilla and lemon extracts. Yes, everyone thought that was way too much. And although others didn't think so, I thought the end result was too lemony. Finally, I mixed in 1/2 cup of flour.

I then filled this dough in a pastry bag, sniped off 1/4 inch off the end and dropped off rounds of dough. My piping skills aren't great, but I need not worry with this one. When baked at 180C, the cookies spread out to thin perfect rounds (so it's just as well I left so much space in between each). At the end of 10 minute baking time, the cookies were brown around the edges but never got too crisp.

The filling is just a dark chocolate ganache. It was supposed to have orange zest. But with my inherent inability to zest anything, I used Lindt Intense Orange, a dark chocolate that has orange zest already added in.

I haven't had the real milanos so I really can't say if this is the real deal. But I enjoyed them (even though they were too lemony) and so did my friends. Overall, fun but not a challenge. Note to daring bakers : this is getting to be too easy! get daring!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We're reading "The Space Between Us"

That's the book "This Book Makes Me Cook" chose to read for July. Set in Mumbai, Thrity Umrigar's book is a story of ties that bind a widow and her household help of many years. The book draws you in with it's mature and sensitive portrayal of these two lives, the complex relationships that divide them and the events that bring this divide to fore. What made the book a bigger hit for me was that all of it was so real : the Parsi household, the slum Bhima lives in and the very vividly described Chowpatty.

In fact, the scene at Chowpatty, where both the employer Sera and the maid Bhima are at equal footing, and where the story finally unfolds, is my favorite in the book. Which is why I decided to make the Bhelpuri both women were eating at Chowpatty. But Bhelpuri, that mishmash of ingredients that makes a delicious whole, is street food I never think of making at home. It's not even a recipe really, for all you need to do is get all the 10 odd ingredients and mix them up. Rather than go find all the things that go into making a bhelpuri, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I can get Bhelpuri at Chowpatty just like the women in the book. And that's exactly what I did.

Here's this month's inspiration to eat - Bhelpuri from Mahalaxmi Bhelpuri-wala:


Our guy gets ready to make bhelpuri:


And here it is, all ready to eat:



I totally enjoyed reading and eating for the club this month. So did other members, who cooked up a Parsi feast among themselves.
- Dee made Akuri, the traditional Parsi scrambled eggs breakfast.
- Sweatha made Tofu Akuri.
- Aqua made Vegetable Dhansak.
- Jaya, our newest member, made mint tea.

And in August, we are reading Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. If you would like to join us, leave a comment here and I will get back to you with details.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

An English Afternoon Tea


Because I am hosting DK's AWED : Britain this month, you already know I love British cuisine. But really, what I like a lot more than the food are the traditions that accompany the cuisine. Take the afternoon tea. There's lunch, and there's dinner. And then, for no reason whatsoever, the Englishmen concocted an elaborate ceremony at 4 pm to not just drink tea. But drink tea alongwith sandwiches and cakes and scones.

For my entry to AWED, I decided to host a traditional Devon cream tea. I borrowed my mother's tea set (for who owns these things any longer) and set about making the cucumber sandwiches and apricot scones, topped with strawberry jam and clotted cream. The scones, just by the way, are from eatmedelicious, my taste and create partner this month. And if you must know, that is a lace tablecloth.

And here are all the recipes:

Cucumber Sandwiches : If you are using homemade white bread, slice it as thinly as possible and cut the crusts off. Spread a layer of softened butter on a slice, then add a layer of thinly sliced cucumbers and sprinkle salt and black pepper. Top with another slice of bread and cut into long "fingers" or triangles.

Scones : Eatmedelicious says these scones made her feel like a scone master. I felt like one too, even though it was my first time making scones. The only change I made in the recipe was to omit the orange zest as I just can't zest an orange. Have never been able to. But the strawberry jam and clotted cream made up for it.

Clotted Cream : To get the real deal, you have to go to Cornwall. But wikipedia offers an easy alternative. There are other recipes you can google, but what's good for Wiki's good for me. So combine a cup of milk with 1/2 cup cream and heat at the very lowest possible heat for half an hour until a skin forms, leave it undisturbed overnight, and then harvest the skin and its underclots. If you've never had the real deal, it's a cross between rabdi and malai.

Tea : That's the easiest bit. Boil 4 cups of water, add 2 tsp Assam tea leaves and turn off the heat. Let steep for 2 minutes, then strain into the teapot. Tea drinkers could either choose to add milk and sugar, or a dash of lemon.

Now the table's set. Will you come over to tea?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yet Another Sushi


But it's a new rolling technique that I am really excited about. The last two times I made sushi, I rolled the rice and veggies fillings in nori sheets all right, but they seemed to tear when I cut it into pieces. So I improvised. And I am so, so pleased with the results I am getting from this rolling technique.

First, get your ingredients in order. Cook 1/2 cup sushi rice or any short grain rice you have, as per package directions. Mine says to soak the rice for 15 minutes, then cook on a low heat for 20. While the rice cooks, mix 2 tbsp rice vinegar with 3/4 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt, heat in the microwave for 10 seconds until boiling and well blended. Spread the cooked rice on a place and pour the warm vinegar mixture over it. Cut your filling in thin strips. I didn't want my babycorn raw, so I put it in the microwave with a tbsp of water for 30 seconds, then spread it on a plate and let it cool. I also found a handful of good looking mint leaves.

I hope you bought your nori sheets pre-toasted, but toast them now for just a few seconds if you didn't and let cool. Now, pick up some clean kitchen scissors and cut the nori sheet into six long strips. Pile the six sheets together and cut a small section off each - roughly 1/4th the strip length, you need enough to just roll your filling. Pick each of these shorter sections in turn, place your filling on one side and roll to form a small cylinder. My babycorn was still warm but you might need a little water to seal.

Now pick the longer strip, wet your hands with cold water and spread rice all over it, leaving a little (maybe a cm) blank at one end. On the other end, put your filling cylinder, then roll and press the other end to seal. Again, if it doesn't close automatically with the steam from warm rice, use a little water.

I tired of rolling by the time I made my first six, so I still have plenty of rice left over. You could either roll another six sushi, or top your rice with some fried onions and mint and pack it for lunch (which is what I am doing at the moment).

This black and white sushi is my entry for Jugalbandi's Click : Bi-colour.

Friday, July 17, 2009

My 200th Post and Another Wishlist

Even as I completed my first 100 posts back in November and posted my first wishlist, I was pretty sure I will end up adding many more things I want to do by the time I do the next one. And so it is, a much larger wishlist for my 200th post

But first a report card. I had 25 foodie things to do on my first wishlist. Of these, I managed to do eight. If this was an exam, I'd fail miserably. But thankfully, there's a second chance and plenty of time to do the 15 that make an appearance again on this list. There are two that are going away because I no longer want to do those.

So here goes:

1. Eat at Alinea. (Earlier : Eat at one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. And no, Bukhara doesn't count, even if it ever makes to top 50)

2. Delve into the alchemy of food. Create something, anything that qualifies as molecular gastronomy.

3. Make fresh mozarella cheese

4. Make fresh pasta

5. Taste blood oranges

6. Cook with rhubarb

7. Make mango pickle like mom

8. Make appams

9. Eat a Meyer lemon

10. Make S'Mores

11. Learn to pare and cook globe artichokes

12. Buy blue cornmeal

13. Try Ethiopian cuisine

14. Taste Gucchhi (morels)

15. Recreate the egg korma I once ate in Hyderabad

16. Cook with Rice Paper

17. Make Vienese Fingers

18. Make souffle

19. Make dosa

20. Taste Absinthe

21. Make Gougeres

22. Make Blinis

23. Make dolmas

24. Make vegetarian french onion soup (is such a thing possible?)

25. Taste fried halloumi

26. Make a flambe dish

27. Make fondue (cheese or chocolate?)

28. Taste fiddleheads

29. Make khandvi

30. Get a sourdough starter going

31. Make my own mascarpone cheese

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From A Year in Bread : Carrot Herb Rolls


I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already at a year in bread. Admittedly, they started in April and I had an early start in February working my way through their year. But I still can't believe I have baked so many breads already and it's only two more to go before their first year ends.

For October/November, the three bakers all baked holiday breads. Tempting choices of rosemary fans from Beth and yeast beer rolls from Kevin. But the third one is something I'd heard so much already about from fellow foodies. Plus I've never made anything savory with carrots before, least of all a bread. So Susan's Carrot Herb Rolls it was.

I followed the recipe religiously, except for substituting the three different herbs Susan used with just thyme (a great match for carrots, just so you know!). The rolls came out a beautiful color, and were so, so delicious. Of all the recipes I've tried from a year in bread so far, this one's going to be on my all-time favorite list.

And Kevin, I know you are mad at me because I always pick one of Beth's or Susan's. But I will break from never telling what's up for next month to let you know that the next two recipes are going to be yours. I did say I will save the best for the last, didn't I!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Better late...


Back in May, when our book club read Five Quarters of the Orange, the only recipe I wanted to create from the book was Framboise' sour cherry liqueur. I've never before tried a recipe given out by a fictional character in a novel, but this was an interesting idea and cherries were in season. Somehow, the liqueur never got made and I missed the may challenge.

Now that cherries are almost gone and I am trying to eat as many of the last batches as I can, I finally got around to making the cherry liqueur. I've read the recipe so many times I didn't even need to open the book this time. In a glass jar (with no metal lid, mind you! mine had a glass lid too), arrange cherries in a single layer. Sprinkle powdered sugar all over. Add a little vodka. Continue adding layers in this fashion until the jar is half full. Mine took 3 layers of cherries and sugar. Now add enough vodka to fill 3/4th of the jar.

Now wait. For a year, or two. In that time, the cherries will make the liqueur turn red and sweet. In the meantime, I have a new, pretty, permanent resident on my fridge shelf.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Announcing AWED : Britain

Before I ate my first Italian wood fired pizza, before I went to that swanky Japanese sushi bar for the first time, or the neighborhood Chinese joint, the first non-Indian cuisine I encountered was British. Not real food, mind you, but the tempting, oh so delicious descriptions in my favorite novels. From Enid Blyton to Jane Austen to P.G. Wodehouse, every favorite character in every favorite novel seems to have food on their mind.

Yes, British food gets ridiculed a lot. But forget their main course dishes for now, and think of the full English breakfast and the elegant afternoon teas. Then try imagining the world without cucumber sandwiches or potato chips and you will realize you can't do without British food.

Which is why when I saw that DK was looking for hosts for her monthly event AWED (A Worldly Epicurean's Delight) and there has never been a British AWED, I promptly signed up.



The rules are simple really:

  • Make any vegetarian or vegan British dish (eggs are allowed in AWED) and post it on your blog between today and August 6. You can use the logo if you wish.
  • The entry should be linked to this post and also to DK's event announcement post.
  • Multiple entries are welcome. Entries sent to other events are also allowed.
  • Send your 'name','recipe','recipe url' and a picture to 'bombayfoodie@gmail.com'
  • If you don't blog but have a British recipe, send it to me and I will include it in the roundup.
If you are looking for inspiration, check out Helen's Top 100 British Foods. They aren't all vegetarian but they can get you started. Or go back and read your classics. Either way, get those British recipes out and start getting AWED.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Surely, you jest!


This is what David Lebovitz wanted to say when first faced with this tart shell. And this was my reaction exactly when David unleashed the recipe on unsuspecting public. I mean, aren't tarts those pastry shells made delicately with cold, even frozen butter. Melted, hot butter doesn't come into it. But David's friend Paule Caillat says it does. I didn't believe it, but I wanted to try it.

Because it sounded rich, I decided to omit sugar in the shell and bake a savory tart. I also divided David's 9-inch tart recipe by a third to do my small 3 inch tart. First, mix 30 grams butter, a tsp of vegetable oil and a tbsp of water. I used salted butter so omitted the pinch of salt this warranted. I also omitted the tsp of sugar called for in the recipe, but do add it back if you are making a sweet version. David says to place this mix in a 210 C oven for 15 minutes. I put it in a small metal bowl and put it on the stove top on very low heat until the butter began to brown.

Remove it from the oven and quickly add 1/3 cup of flour. Mix until it forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell and press it up the sides of the tart mold. Prick the tart all over with a fork and bake in an oven preheated to 210C for around 15 minutes or until it starts to turn a golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool, then fill with whatever takes your fancy. I added steamed mix vegetables lightly sautéed in olive oil with some salt and oregano, then topped the whole thing with grated cheddar and put it under the grill until the cheese melted.

The result is the tastiest, flakiest tart I've ever created. It was also the easiest tart recipe I've encountered. So if you've been holding back on making that favorite tart, try this one instead.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MEC Roundup : Breezy Breakfast Ideas

You people are fabulous. I was nervous hosting my first ever event, thinking no one will send in an entry. And here we are, with 16 quick and breezy breakfast ideas to start your day instead. To Priya, who sent in four wonderful breakfast ideas and to bluespriite who sent in her first ever event entry and to everyone else who came up with these beautiful breakfast dishes : A BIG THANK YOU!

Now on to the roundup. I've divided the entries the way I divide the breakfast dishes in my head. For me, breakfast is either sweet and fruity or hot and savory. And then there are drinks. So it is in this roundup. First, the sweet breakfasts.



First on left are Priya's Muesli N Chocolate Bars. It's chocolate and it's healthy. What else can you ask for!

Next to it you see chocolate in a decadent version. Bluspriite says her Chocolate Cake is the quickest ever. I say it's the best breakfast idea I've ever heard.

Another healthy muesli recipe from Priya on bottom right. Her Swiss Muesli is one of the most colorful I've seen.

And on bottom left, you have my very own Peach Oatmeal Crumble.

Next are the nine savory dishes, but I divided them into seven vegetarian and two non-vegetarian ideas.



First up in the veggie world is bluespriite's Sprouted Moong Salad. She made it to take the guilt away from her previous chocolate cake entry.

Next is Preeti's Upma, the first thing she made in her microwave after the papad. I like her idea of adding milk to make it soft.

Then comes the brain behind MEC. Srivalli got inspiration on the last day of the event to make Mor Kali, a dish she loves but had never cooked before.

In the next row, we have Dipali's Rava Idli. A great sunday breakfast with minimum fuss.

Then comes my fellow Mumbaikar Prathibha with Savory Oats Porridge. And I've finally found a way to use those oats I bought to bake cookies.

And what it is with Priya and healthy eating. Her next entry is the very healthy Stuffed Vegetable Idli.

Finally, what you see lurking in that corner is my Sabudana Khichdi.



Non-veggies get a great choice too. You can heed Priya and make very delicious Poached Egg with Cheese.

Or go with Praveen who wanted something filling but quick on a weekday morning and came up with Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich.



And finally the drinks. You've had elaichi chai. But Bharti makes something different when she comes up with Elaichi Wali Coffee.

Lavi sends in a deliciously pink Oats Buttermilk

And to end it all, I have my new favorite drink. It's Sinful Hot Chocolate so good, it's addictive!

Happy Breakfast! I hope I didn't miss anyone. But drop me a line if I did, and I will correct the roundup promptly.