Saturday, December 25, 2010

Baked on Christmas

Christmas came and went on the calendar, but this quote sums up its true essence -

 "Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing and giving are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself."
-Norman Wesley Brooks

 I baked a very simple cake-mix vanilla sponge cake at teatime. I have never baked with a cake-mix before (yeah!) and I really liked the way the cake turned out. I simply followed the instructions on the packet and 45 minutes later pulled out a very light, spongy and perfectly risen cake from the oven. I'm sure it would've tasted just great as it was with tea. (the words 'selling like hot cakes' kept ringing in my head and I could imagine why!) But when I turned the cake tin over my wire rack, gently tapped the base and lifted the tin away, my heart did a little dance :) The cake was perfect! It easily slid off the tin, it had just the right amount of browning and was well baked. I had to make a topping of some kind, it was too hard to resist. I decided to keep it simple, so I skipped the rich creamy frosting. Instead, I just melted some white chocolate buttons (with a teeny bit of milk) in a saucepan over hot water and spread a thin layer of it over the cake. Then to the same sauce I added some drinking chocolate in order to get a darker shade of brown and drizzled it over the white. That's it! Delicious vanilla sponge cake with a simple white chocolate sauce.

I think I have learnt that the joy of cooking is doubled when the people you cook for enjoy eating. I find happiness in these simple pleasures of life :) I often say this, and couldn't mean it more - 'Good friends, good food, good times!'

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Snack in Need is a Snack Indeed!

Have you ever been bitten by the 'I-wanna-eat-something' bug? Well, it seems to like me, a lot! It specially loves to visit when I'm home alone and bored. That's when a whole lot of emotions and thoughts are running rampant in my head, like so - "I want a snack; but I don't want anything oily; Oh but I do!; No! Nothing oily; But something to munch on; But then I'm too lazy to make anything; Oh what can I eat; Darn! The munchies jar is empty; Now what?!"

One on such crazy afternoon, this great idea sprang to mind and I made besan pancakes (or so I'd like to call them). Quick, easy, not oily. Perfect for those notorious needy-clingy hunger pangs. The best part about this recipe is all the ingredients are at hand and it's made in a jiffy. I love such recipes because then I can prance about in my cozy little kitchen, pretending I'm on a cooking show and go about making my snack with the enthusiasm I started with. The joy of reaching out to just the right jars, measuring out everything, chopping, and preparing is something else! Otherwise my enthusiasm is generally dampened if it means I have to make a quick trip to the supermarket to get something I don't have. Since this recipe calls for just some basic stuff, it's a
favourite. See what I mean -
  • besan (chickpea flour) 1.5 cups
  • finely chopped tomato 1/4 cup
  • finely chopped onion 1/2 cup
  • 1 tbspn finely chopped coriander/cilantro
  • 1 tspn whole jeera (cumin)
  • 1 tspn paprika/chilli powder
  • 1/4 tspn turmeric powder optional
  • a pinch of hing (asafotieda) optional
  • a pinch of carom seeds (ajwain) optional - I generally add this to anything made of besan
  • salt to taste
Mix everything to make a (pouring) batter. Pour a big spoonful onto a heated skillet and spread evenly. Spray some oil and cook on both sides until done. Serve hot with some tangy pickle or maybe some tomato sauce.

Hate not those sudden cravings, instead make these besan pancakes and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who says you can't have street food at home?

Indian Street Food, if we were playing the word association game, by now there would be a really long list of associated words like chaat, pav bhaji, masala dosa, grilled sandwich, samosas, jalebis, vada pav, etc. etc. etc!! Oh those glorious streets of Bengalooru! The enticing aroma of spices, the hissing sound as a splash of water hits the hot grill, the crowd, the bustle, the lip smacking food, the experience. The bajjis never tasted as good anywhere except on the streets, the secret - oil that's used and reused (God knows how many times!). The samosa chaat is finger lickin' good, the secret - rustic bare fingers of the man who smashes the samosa in a quick blow. And the dosa, oh the dosa is divine, crisp yet spongy, the secret - a very hot griddle frequently splashed with a generous dose of oil and deftly spread with a stiff broom! Well, pardon my almost oxymoronic description. But I think that's entirely the essence of Indian Street Food, pure deliciousness amidst small 'eyebrow raisers' that can be easily ignored. I mean, come to think of it, we've been enjoying eating out for ages now and we've survived (!), so I guess we've kind of settled on the fact that reused oil, tap water and not the cleanest of kitchens can all be dismissed as 'not that big a deal'. But then again, maybe I can't generalise the conclusion. Maybe I speak only on behalf of my Indian counterparts who, by now, seemed to have developed a 'withstand-all' kind of a gene. Delhi Belly was coined for a reason, I'm sure! Nevertheless, if not in Bengalooru, then I'm sure some place else, most of us would know the true sense of an evening enjoyed gorging on street food.
Having said that, the effects of street food can be created at home as well. The same feeling of heightened senses as the spice hits just the right spots, the same medley of flavours and with some Bollywood numbers blasting from the iPod dock, voila! it's the street food experience right at home, and with clean water and washed hands :)

Bhelpuri - a (very) popular Indian street food item, tangy, sweet, crunchy and oh-so-yummy!

Ingredients - (will serve 2, 1 if you have a very strong craving)
(I haven't mentioned the quantity of some ingredients as it's totally up to your taste and liking. More if you love it, less if you don't so much)
  • puffed rice 2 cups
  • finely chopped onion
  • finely chopped cucumber
  • grated carrot
  • roughly diced boiled potato
  • finely chopped tomato
  • finely chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
  • a handful of roasted peanuts
  • a splash of lime juice
  • ready made papdi (available in Indian grocery stores), optional
  • salt, chaat masala powder (available in Indian grocery stores) and tamarind chutney (available in Indian grocery stores to taste
  • sev (available in Indian grocery stores) to garnish, optional
Method -
  • Simply combine everything, except puffed rice and sev, in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add puffed rice just before you're ready to serve and toss it well.
  • Garnish generously with sev and some extra chopped coriander and serve immediately.
Apparently, bhelpuri is considered a low fat snack, minus the papdi and sev. That's how I made it yesterday.

So hope you try this street food classic at your place and maybe it will inspire you to try it on the streets of India, if you haven't already!

Until then, cook, serve, love!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mango Cupcakes

Hello! A quick little post to share a great recipe I found here.

I simply doubled the recipe as I wanted about a dozen of these :)

I've been spending some good time in my cozy little kitchen. I should take more pictures and post more often here. Sigh!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Teatime Nibbles

A strong cup of Indian masala chai (or south Indian filter kaapi) is somewhat incomplete without some snacks or nibbles on the side. Typically, it would be biscuits (Marie or Parle G) dunked and unceremoniously popped into the mouth in a hurry, lest the soggy bikkie disintegrates. I've had one too many dunking accidents and the resulting gooey sediment at the bottom of my teacup is not one of the most appealing things. So, bicuits with tea are more like a thing of the past for me. I digress. I was talking about the popular chai accompaniments. Samosas, pakodas or bajjis*, mixture* (what an innovative name, pah!), etc. are all popular teatime snacks. Basically, something deep fried and crisp (and oozing with fat that goes straight to the hips) is very gratifying at teatime.
On the list is a simple fried snack that my family calls 'thukudi'. I don't really know why it is called that! I think it is quite similar to what my north Indian friends call namakpare. Oh well, what's in a name? It's great for teatime, that's what matters, right? It's kind of like crisp, flaky puff pastry. It's a very simple recipe, yields a substantial quantity and keeps for a couple of weeks. Now that's my kind of recipe, a handy jar of crisp thukudi to perk up teatimes.
Here's the recipe -

1.5 cups wheat flour (or wholemeal, whatever you have at hand)
1/4 cup all purpose flour (you could skip this totally if you wish)
2 tbspns besan (chickpea flour)
salt and red chilli powder (or paprika) to taste
oil for deep frying
1 tbspn hot oil

Method -

  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • Heat 1tbspn oil in a small skillet ( not to smoking point, just a little bit) and pour into the flour mixture.
  • Rub in the oil using your fingers until the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs.
  • Using very little water gradually, work the mixture into a stiff dough.
  • Leave to rest for about 15mins.
  • Before you begin with the rested dough, pour oil in a wok or pot and place on medium heat.
  • Knead the dough on a work surface that's slightly dusted with flour and divide the dough into lemon sized balls.
  • Roll each ball of dough into a circle, slightly on the thinner side. But don't worry too much about it, 'cos if you try and roll it out too thin, it might get all clingy and stick to your work surface.The intention is to get crips nibbles and not soft  & soggy  (like mini pooris). So the thinner, the better.
  • Using a pizza cutter (or a knife) cut the rolled out dough into approx half inch strips. Then rotate about 40deg and cut into strips again, to get little diamond shapes.
  • Carefully tip in all the little dough diamonds into the hot oil (steer clear from tiny oil splashes in the process) and fry on both sides until crisp and light brown. Take care not to over fry them.
  • Drain onto a paper towel and store in an airtight jar.
  • You could even sprinkle a wee bit of chat masala powder when they're out of the oil and before they go into the jar.
I hope you enjoy these with your next cup of tea or coffee :)

*pakodas & bajjis: vegetable or onion fritters made with chickpea flour
*mixture: a medley of tiny deep fried (or toasted) nibbles (often sev & boondi, made from chickpea flour) and peanuts.


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