Archive | May, 2011

A Vegetable and Paneer Quiche from Scraps

24 May

I have been fond of Quiche since the time I tasted it first during my visit to the US. It was 2007. My client’s office had a lovely cafeteria that served sumptuous food and huge portions. I always struggled trying to finished my portion which was almost always wasted despite my best efforts. I was a vegetarian back then and was pretty pleased to see ample options wherever I chose to dine in the US. Mexican by far, had endless options and the chef who was always eager to please, would easily convert a meat based dish into a vegetarian version to my delight. I have only fond memories of good food and lovely people in the US.

Fast forward, 2011 and I am still fond of Quiche and the incredible variations you can make of this exotic sounding humble dish. I have had meat based, vegetarian based and all sorts of Quiche. I also find it interesting that a Quiche could be easily devoured no matter, any time of the day or night. I could have a hearty breakfast with Quiche and some black coffee or break into a Quiche and salad lunch and last but not the least, an early supper with Quiche and some hearty soup. Wow! I can visualize all that spread already.

But I made this particular vegetarian version as  desperate breakfast attempt. We had just a day before we were to embark on a  3 week trip to London, and my refrigerator was stark naked. It is not a heartening sight since I always stock it up to the brim with wanted and unwanted stuff. Since the trip was planned, I made it a point to empty and use what was already there. I had just the amount of flour, some butter, some frozen vegetables and 4 eggs. I worked at dough to make the crust with some butter but soon found out why shortening was used usually. It was extremely difficult to make the crust but I did manage somehow after a lot of crumbling and breakouts.

The Recipe for Vegetable Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour + a little more when you roll out to make the crust
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • dash salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter( or substitute 3 Tbsp of shortening)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Filling

  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese ( I did not have any so I skipped this but inclusion of cheese would take it to new levels of gooey deliciousness)
  • 1/2 cups frozen peas and diced carrots, beans cooked and well-drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen paneer
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder(optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Preparation:

  • Combine flour, 1/4 teaspoon oregano.
  • Cut in 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons shortening (or all butter like I did) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Sprinkle with the milk, one tablespoon at a time, mixing until dry ingredients are moistened. Shape dough into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to form a circle 12-inches in diameter.
  • Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; turn under edges and flute, forming a rather high rim.

For filling,

  • Combine cheese, vegetables, flour,  salt, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper; gently toss.
  • Place cheese mixture in bottom of pie crust. ( I skipped this)
  • Melt butter in a skillet; saute onion until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle onion over cheese mixture.
  • Combine milk and eggs; pour over cheese mixture.
  • Add the paneer pieces
  • Bake at 350° 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Let vegetable Quiche stand 10 to 12 minutes before serving.
So all  the Quiche was devoured that day for Breakfast/Brunch, lunch and as an evening snack. All the time I enjoyed eating it, I wondered as to why I never tried making this incredibly easy Snack before. Made a mental note to try it with different combination such as zucchini and broccoli, chicken and paneer and much more.
I was really happy that I was able to use the scraps from my fridge and convert it into this delightful dish.

Living the Guilt – Free Life!

19 May

Mimi turned 20 months two days ago. I missed her so much because on each of her monthly birthdays I always make plans to celebrate. I bake, cook, and do something special to make it memorable. I am in London these days searching for employment and am missing her like crazy. It’s like falling in love all over again, like one of my close mommy friends suggested. I pine for her, miss her that it seems sometimes impossible to breathe and it doesn’t bother me that it could be entirely one-sided.

When I tell people that I have travelled to London and would be here for a while in my bid to search for employment, I get gasps of horror and unsolicited advice on how it wasn’t the best decision on my part to leave my child in the custody of somebody else. Here the somebody else in question are my own parents, the same set who raised me. If anything at all, I should be more than relieved to beget their support and kind co-operation while I try to kick-start my career. Being a mum is a package deal which consists extending yourself beyond you might have never deemed possible and being /feeling/ made to feel guilty about everything that you do or do not do.

I kept procrastinating this post because I felt I was making a big ado about nothing. But it was when the final straw was plucked and placed neatly outside the realm of my tolerance that I decided to do this post. I found myself justifying my travel to everybody which was not at all necessary. So some self correction was in order. To put it down in words like this helps me get things back into perspective.

When I took up blogging and put up posts at the rate of 2-3 posts per week depending on how inspired I felt, I got a few pats and most of the time some flak stating how I was wasting my time and not investing in my daughter. After all, wasn’t that the purpose of quitting my job and staying at home. I didn’t care and trudged along without caring much because the joy I felt on expressing via the written word was new to me. Appreciation followed from mommy batchmates, colleagues and they felt I was resounding their sentiments precisely. So I was encouraged to keep at it. Since the flak came from known quarters, it did hurt sometimes but I had already sorted it out in my head. I knew that I had given up my work by choice but that didn’t mean I didn’t want a window to the outside world. Being in Bahrain, made things more difficult since the only adult interaction I had day in and day out was with my husband. I sought refuge in my blog and comments that I got through each post. It was this two-way (and on somedays one way) communication that helped me figure out so many things about me unknown to me. The supportive comments from friends who were in the same kind of boat made me resolute and built my conviction on how I was raising my child. There was so much learning coming in and I was able to share my two cents (however underconfident)

There’s this constant tug of war that goes on between how it is inappropriate to spend on self when you have a toddler at home. You are constantly scrutinized and your mommy abilities put to test when questions like, ” Has she not started walking yet?”, “Has she not started speaking yet?”, “Doesnt she do puzzles?”, and when the answer to all if it is negative, you realized you have committed a gruesome crime. You are then made to feel guilty about all the potential time you “wasted” sitting on the internet doing what you were doing. Surely writing a blog is not more important than making sure you child starts speaking extempore before she completes 18 months?
For most I kept my mouth shut and did what I had to do. It would have been nothing less than blasphemy had I divulged that I was only mildly ambitious for my daughter.

My parenting involved being interactive right at her level which would mean playing hide and seek with her, building blocks with her, dancing with her on bollywood music etc. I would only prod till the time I thought it was doing some good. The moment I found that her interest was fleeting, I just let her go to do what she wanted to. Afterall she too has priorities charted out. To her, at 18 -19-20 months, playing with her building blocks, watching the nursery rhymes, pulling out clothes from the cupboard were more important and enjoyable than counting 1 to 10. Even admist all this distraction, she managed to learn 1,2 and 3 and instantly recognizes them when she sees them on number plates of cars. I think that is a fantastic achievement.
Some of the significant people in her life have already decided what was going to grow up to be and I would be wasting my breath, if I were to explain to them that it should entirely be upto her.
I know amidst all the time I wasted blogging I did try to teach her a few basic things which I felt would be the tools she would really need. I taught her some sensitivity – she would immediately show concern if you are hurt and be by your side caressing your forehead, till she perceives you are feeling better. I taught her to comprehend the changes in my tone– she instantly knows when I am serious and when she needs to stop doing something that is annoying or disturbing the environment.
For most parts I treat her like an adult speaking to her as I would to another grown up person. I try to get down to her level as much as I can while I speak with her. She is a smart child and instantly gets the drift of what I want to convey. Though by our Indian standards, she hasn’t start speaking in sentences yet, but it doesn’t worry me as she will in no time, I am sure. By nature, she is a very social child and smiling and acknowledging people in her vicinity comes naturally to her. I didn’t have to make any effort to establish any of that.

So that is the kind of progress we have made in spite of my ravages on the internet, joining some book club and wasting all the time. I am pretty pleased with my progress. Isn’t that really important?

So I have decided to lead a guilt free life where I am not going to be bothered about people would think of me spending so much time browsing, watching porn or whatever it is that they think I am doing.

Blogging has given me the support and the reason to keep my sanity when I was pushed into this entirely new world of parenting. I needed a window which when I opened enabled me to breathe some fresh air. Blogging ensured that I met some like-minded people and that we learnt so much from each other. My writing has improved (atleast I would like to think so) and it has given me some confidence when I felt my brain freeze due to zero mental stimulation.

Getting back to the job front is going to be difficult and so is the tug of war of how much focus on career would be good enough? Should I work full-time, part-time, work from home or not work at all or search for something entirely different? All these questions plague me! For most parts I was worried what everybody would think because the kind of profile I had before I quit included a lot of travelling and I stood better chances of getting similar profiles only. If I were to travel like before, would it mess up my family life? How am I going to balance? A huge compromise is in order or should I just take things as they come?

This is what I think about while tossing and turning in bed at night.

But now after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to take things as they come and then tweak it to suit my circumstances. Isn’t that the most logical thing to do. You can plan all that you want but external factors aren’t always going to be in your favour. Considering all this, I am not going to put one more constraint about what people will think about me, if I start working full-time. I think I have enough on my platter to worry about and manage.

To this thought I say CHEERS and would go out in the evening to treat myself with a cone of ice cream. While I slurp and devour the ice cream I shall miss Mimi all the more.

Restaurant Review Project 17- Coco’s

18 May

I came back to Bahrain on the 12th of May and there was something so reassuring about being back to the familiar setting. I was all the more excited about taking it from where I had left off. My Restaurant Review Project seemed like a scrapped project when I went back to India, amidst all the crisis.

As I stood against the backdrop of the Financial Harbour in Manama city and the setting sun, my heart experience mixed emotions. Life seemed to limping back to normalcy but the sight of tanks /APCs undid the small confidence. Below is the picture of Financial Harbour in Manama.

Soon plans were made and we found ourselves ( my hubby and my friend, Namit) at ZoE in block 338. I always wanted to check out Zoe before but never got around doing it. A quick survey of the menu and it was unexciting like a mall without sale signs. We still ordered for some drinks but the wine was too meh! I was hopelessly disappointed with the whole set up. The seats weren’t comfortable and the food unappealing. We were forced to search for something else in the same block where the food didn’t seem so stodgy. After a little flurrying around we landed at COCOs. So a review that was going to be about ZOE is now about Coco’s.

Coco’s is in block 338 and is a clear case of a beautiful vintage Villa being turned into a restaurant that even had garden seating for customers. It was tad too humid and warm to sit outside but the indoors were packed. The statement fountain intrigued me and found myself looking at it every now and then.

We were given the impression that a wine list would be given to us but after a few minutes of waiting it was made clear that no alcohol was sold at Cocos. Having made to sit outside and with no wine to chill, it wasn’t the best start. Meanwhile the menu cards arrived and the list seemed pretty exhaustive.

The brunch and breakfast list seemed very interesting. A huge selection of eggs and I am sure, you’d find the the one’s the way you like them on the list. It was a mix of all kinds of cuisine. It had Italian, some middle eastern, some french and Asian dishes thrown it. But what struck me was the prices and I found it pretty affordable. At 3 or 4 BD per dish( average), this place can make for a regular haunt, I decided.
But I was made to bite my tongue sooner than I would have liked.

I had ordered Grilled Hammour with mashed potatoes and steamed veggies, all covered in tomato sauce. It arrived piping hot and was a decent fare. The hammour was well done and mashed potatoes were their buttery best. I was happy with my dish until the point I actually got bored of eating it. All the buttered mash potatoes and the grilled to perfection Hammour seemed bland and boring after some time. Wonder why!

Amit, ordered some grilled chicken sandwich (a safe choice) with some refreshing watermelon juice. He felt that the chicken was too tough to chew on and extremely dry. It was a four part sandwich and he couldn’t get past two.

Namit had ordered Penne Ariabiata which seemed appetising from afar that I almost wished I had ordered it instead of my unexciting hammour. But soon similar complaints of a bland fare were exchanged from his end too.

So all in all, Coco’s did not manage to impress us lot. Considering the brimming crowd we felt like pariahs and the only ones who thought it wasn’t really that great.
It cost us 10 BD which was the only thumbs up in the whole deal and we made a hasty retreat.
So Coco’s has been SLICED and wasn’t the best place to start with!!

The rating goes like this:
Food- 2.5/5
Service 3/5
Ambience 3/5
Overall 3/5

I still have hope for Cocos and might dare visit them again for brunch or breakfast. Don’t know whether I would have company though:-)

I Need a Fresh Start- Update

13 May

It has been 4 weeks in a row and not a single update on my blog!!

I felt clueless and in parts powerless to write about the rhetoric that seemed to be playing back and forth.  Two months at my mum’s place has been all about relaxation at one end of the life spectrum while the other end made a nervous wreck out of me

Four weeks of utter bliss where I did not have to care about what Mimi’s eating, when she’s sleeping and who’s doing the laundry. But these four weeks were ridden with inglorious dark circle inducing tension of getting back to work. I didn’t get around doing any weekly updates because, I knew it would spell only the tantamount of ranting about the difficulty I am facing, getting back to the work front. I even tweeted about it – “Advice: To would be mums/new mums. Be very sure about leaving your job and staying at home. Searching for one after a break is very difficult” which was retweeted several times and proved that so many stay at home mums felt and seconded my opinion.

So this is the primary thought on my mind and rest all seems sundry.

Apart from that to keep my sanity and to release the negative energy I joined the local gym. My instructor made sure that I had nothing on my mind when I left the gym. I joined the gym for 20 odd days. My schedule was a gruelling one resembling a boot camp. The session spanned over 2.5 to 3 hours everyday barring Sundays and public holidays. To start with,

Some simple warm up exercises and light stretching.

Running on treadmill for 30mins ( 5 mins running – 2 mins walking). I have always run on the treadmill for 30 , 45 mins to 1 hour but this walking -running strategy tired me out more than the running at a stretch. The heart rate plummeted up and down making it very difficult to complete the 30 minute session followed by some stretching.

Weight training ( different parts – different days) with 3-4 sets of 25 repetitions.

Ab crunches + leg raises ( 250 in sets of 10 +200 in sets of 8 )

20 minutes of elliptical trainer

20 minutes of cycling

Finally, some extreme stretching which was a nightmare. But after that I was able to walk back home in one piece.

But towards the end of it all my trainer was devastated when the weighing machine did not move in the favourable direction. My weight remained effectively the same, but I feel fitter, more energized and pepped up. But my enthusiasm did little to assuage my trainer’s disappointment who thought he did everything towards making me look like Deepika Padukone in Dum Maro Dum :-). I had to console his depressed soul that all the fat had converted to muscles and the weight hadn’t budged despite this was because muscle was heavier than fat. He only nodded while posing for the photograph above.

In other news, driving had to be abandoned because of the lack of time from both the student (me) and my teacher. A lot of public holidays ensured that I didn’t get enough practice and my reversing skill is a thing my teacher wouldn’t be too proud of. But I am confident that I can drive safely through shorter distances where I wouldn’t need to reverse, which unfortunately means, I wouldn’t be able to park my car in a parking spot!

So with all my thoughts centered around kick starting my career I have decided to let go of the negativity that came with all the rejections. I have decided to take one thing at a time with a little planning thrown in. I have decided to make a fresh start and to see how it goes from there. If it means taking a few risks, so be it. It has been in my nature to take risks and I am not afraid. I need blessings though to keep a straight face when things aren’t going my way.

So cheers to a second chance at life!!

Vanilla- Chocolate Pudding – Celebrating Mother’s Day

8 May

Wishing all the beautiful Mums A VERY HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY!

This day holds more meaning today because I am mum too and that am able to spend it my mother is like icing on the cake. My daughter is too young to understand the significance but she did give me a BIG HUG and rubbed her pudding smeared face all over my dress.

Sigh! Cleaning up is a 24X7 job when you have a naughty toddler.

I wasn’t really going to do anything for Mother’s day because I feel, as a mum atleast one day you can decide not to do anything and only relax. I began the day in that lazy state of mind and by afternoon,  post after post started dropping in into my inbox. Every single one of them was about Mother’s Day celebration, brunch ideas, desserts, parties, day outs etc. It was difficult not to be affected by all the infectious enthusiasm of my fellow food bloggers. On a whim, I got up and busied myself in the kitchen scavenging for ingredients without the faintest idea of what I was going to make. But as one of my favourite author quotes – when you want something (done) badly, the entire universe conspires to give it to you. So I found all the right ingredients to make a simple Vanilla Chocolate pudding. Since it is incredibly hot here in Cochin these days, the mood was to have something chilled and sweet.

Recipe for Vanilla and Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

1 litre milk ( I used two 500 ml Amul milk packets)

400 ml condensed milk

8 tbsp sugar

5 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

6 tsp of gelatin

4 tsp of vanilla essence.

white and dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preparation

1. Boil milk in two separate vessels ( 500 ml each) with 3 -4  tbsp each.

2. Once the milk boils add the condensed milk – 200 ml each in both the vessels and keep stirring at low -medium heat

3. Add the 3 tsp of vanilla essence in one of them and the 5 tbsp of cocoa powder in the other and keep stirring till it dissolves well in the milk mixture.

4. Dissolve gelatin 3tsp + 3tsp separately in 2 small bowls of warm water. Pour it into the respective milk mixture and keep stirring

5. Let the chocolate and vanilla mixtures cool.

6. Pour them into moulds/bowls and chill in refrigerator. It would take about 5-6 hours to set completely.

7. Decorate with some white and dark chocolate chips and some caramelized sugar topping.

So it did look like an ideal Mother’s day celebratory pudding and I am glad my mum enjoyed it as much as my daughter.  Isn’t it incredible that all the 3 generations of mums and daughters were together for Mother’s day celebration!!

N.B. I had already published this post but editing it again to write about the method of making caramelized sugar decoration.

You will need : 3-4 tbsp of sugar ( I used the white sugar). Keep a sheet of foil ready on the kitchen top.

Preparation: Heat the sugar in a pan on a stove and let it melt.

The moment you see that the sugar has melted and has taken on a light brown colour, remove from heat. It will continue to caramelize and take a deeper colour.

Take a fork and start drizzling the brown liquid sugar on the foil in a random pattern.

Let it cool down on the foil.

Once it cools down, it would be easy for you to pick it off the foil and break it into pieces to use as  decorative pieces on top of cakes, puddings, cupcakes etc.

Super easy and yet so beautiful!

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