Archive | March, 2012

Wooing My Work Place with some Choco Chip Banana Bread

29 Mar

Now that I have started work, I feel like writing about my experiences therein. It has been wonderful going back to work, meeting people, doing seemingly important sounding stuff like conducting meetings, making presentations, reviewing report and so on.

What is more lovely;  the warmth and the support of my colleagues. I feel perfectly comfortable with them and I appreciate how much they support and help me unlearn and relearn everyday stuff. While I take baby steps into this old-new world, I wanted to do something special to thank this amazing bunch of people.  Weekends in this part of the world are Fridays and Saturdays. So on Thursday, I rushed home and scrolled through my recipe books to figure out what I can make. I wasn’t able to put my finger on any of the recipes. I scanned my kitchen and found some ripe bananas and I knew a Banana Bread was in order. I decided to give it a healthy twist by using wholemeal flour ( 1/2 the quantity) and liberally sprinkled chocolate chips to make it as appetizing as possible.

I even added some leftover hazelnut meal to pack in more flavour. All in a bid to show how much their encouragement means to me. The Bread was an instant hit with my little one, grabbing a slice and gobbling it up in no time. That’s a sign, I thought. It will be well received, I was sure now.

So happy and content, I waited for Sunday to come, so that I could take it to office. Sunday is the first day of the week. Seriously. Don’t laugh.

I intentionally kept my bread box outside because has been on the better than pleasant all these days.

Sunday came. Excited, I arranged the slices delicately in  a box and took them to office. I offered it to my lovely colleagues. They praised it to the skies. They said, I shouldn’t be in this office, I should be out there, selling my bakes.

I was so happy and thrilled with the appreciation. I thought this was the best thing I could have done to woo my colleagues. The best idea ever

Post lunch I saw a few crumbs that remained and felt the impulse to taste it. I hadn’t really tasted it. Don’t ask me why. Sometimes I do not even taste whatever I bake.

The moment I put it in my mouth I realized the banana bread had gone stale!!!!!!!

I cursed myself for not keeping it in the refrigerator. Another realization that dawned was that my colleagues had eaten it without a murmur or complaint. In fact they praised my efforts generously. How utterly sweet can they possibly be!!! I wanted the earth to swallow me right then. I apologized to them and asked them why they didn’t tell me that it had gone bad. They said, when they saw it, it looked wonderful and they understood the feeling behind it. They would have it again, if I were to give them a stale banana bread again. Where have these people come from!!

Needless to say, I was touched beyond any measure. Then and there, I made up my mind to compensate and make them something that really tasted good and wasn’t stale. But that is the dope for another post.

For now, here’s the

Recipe for the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup of whole-wheat flour

3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed

2 large eggs

1/3 cup of light olive oil (or any oil)

1/4 cup of milk

1/2 cup hazelnut meal

2 teaspoon Baking Powder

dash of salt

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, dash of fresh nutmeg

3/4 cup  chocolate chips(bittersweet) and or any nuts you like ( handful of roasted nuts)

1/2 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of golden syrup (can substitute maple syrup)

Preparation

  1. Place the flours, dash of salt, baking powder, spices, hazelnut meal,  and sugar in the bowl and mix well.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, oil, corn syrup or maple syrup, milk and mashed bananas. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and mix well with a balloon whisk. Add the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour the batter in a loaf pan, lined with parchment or baking paper. Bake in a preheated 350F (180 C) oven for about 45 to 55 minutes, until a small knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry. Cool, serve.

It feels like I am giving out a recipe of a stale banana bread but you have to trust me it was wonderfully received by my husband and daughter.

I had to share this story about my workplace since it solemnly makes me believe in the goodness of people. Touchwood!

Goofing around after office hours. We are so glad to see each other.

Goofing around after office hours. We are so glad to see each other.

Being Prepared With a No- Bake White Chocolate, Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheese Cake

23 Mar

Quite a title!

But it was only fair to include every ingredient that made this cheesecake so special. It was my friend, Namit’s birthday a few days ago. He is practically family after 2 years of our friendship. On his birthday, I invited him to come home and have dinner of dum aloo, boondi raita  and parathas with us. Knowing Namit, who likes everything to be very simple; no fanfare, no loud celebrations for him. I have also realized that he likes subtle flavours so I thought cheesecake may fit the bill perfectly.

Making this no- bake version of  a cheesecake is what I prefer when I am short of time but want to impress too. I referred plenty of cheesecake recipes and couldn’t put my finger on any one of them so I combined two or three of them and came up with an amalgamated version. It was really exciting to put it altogether, praying fervently that it should set and not fall apart when I try to loosen the springform pan around the sides.

This Cheese cake is special because it has the deep, satisfying flavours of the cinnamon infused oranges that take it to the next level. The fresh golden orange slices bubble and sizzle in a sugary syrup with cinnamon to bring out the exotic in them. The flavours are subtle but vibrant in parts. That makes this cake a class apart. Whenever I have someone coming home for dinner etc, I like to prepare a bit in advance so that I don’t feel harried in the end. Bits and pieces add up in the end to make a spectacular event.

All this talk about preparation makes me recall my experience on the first day at work. As I had mentioned in my previous post about having joined work, I felt underwhelmed by my lack of confidence on the first day at work. I felt my nerves giving away every time I had to pick up the phone to talk to people. I stressed and prayed for the day to end quickly. It wasn’t the most memorable experience. The same evening I had my writers’ circle meeting to attend. I met my dear friend Pooja, ( also a member of the writers’ circle) after work and we took off to attend the meeting. By some divine design, the session was about how to feel confident and excel at public speaking. Mr. Mohamed Isa – A distinguished Toastmasters speaker and a speaking coach gave us a wonderful insight into how one can excel in their personal and professional life by being able to speak confidently.

It was so apt for me and I thanked my stars as the session was most useful. He shared his ideas through plenty of funny anecdotes from his life that had his audience in splits. He emphasized on BEING PREPARED and GAUGING THE AUDIENCE for an effective and confident performance. All my life, I have never underestimated the importance of being prepared.  Be it exams or some presentation at work, I have always prepared well. His session only reiterated what I had known all along. It was time to get the focus back and take things in my control at work. I made mental notes for the next day and surprisingly enough I was able to sail through the day. Hopefully, I should be able to build up on this confidence to be able to tackle anything that is thrown my way at work.

 So I made this cheese cake a day in advance so that in case it flops for any reason, I would have enough time to put together another cake for the d-day. But preparing well ensured I put in sufficient time and energy into it – which basically meant, I was able to give it my best shot. I put this cheesecake in the refrigerator to set overnight and set it did. I arranged the golden slices on top of the cake and inhaled the divine concoction. It was stimulating to say the least.

Recipe for White Chocolate and Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the infused orange slices

Oranges – 4, large

water -2 cups

sugar – 300 gms

cinnamon stick – 1

For the Cheesecake Crust

Digestive biscuits – 180 gm

butter – 75  gm, melted

For the cheese cake

White Chocolate – 400 gm

Cream cheese – 300 gm

Double Cream – 200 ml

Preparation

1. Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin to fine crumbs and add the melted butter and mix well. Tip the mix into a 20 cm lined, loose bottomed cake tin/springform cake tin. Smooth the top of the crumb+butter mix with a spoon and put it in the fridge to set for 30 minutes.

2. Peel and slice or keep the peel on like I did for the oranges and place them in a bowl. Use 3 oranges for this. The last orange has to be grated and the zest kept in a separate bowl.

3. In a saucepan, bring the sugar-water and cinnamon to a boil until slightly thick and syrupy. Pour the syrup over the sliced oranges and the zest (half and half  or to cover both of them completely in their separate bowls) and cover for 30 minutes. You can do this in the morning and keep aside. The flavours will get more time to infuse and the scent of orange and cinnamon will give you a heady feeling. That’s a fantastic feeling to have, trust me.

4. Melt the white chocolate in a microwave and then allow it to cool slightly.

5. Beat the cream cheese and double cream until soft and thick., then stir in the white chocolate. To this add the cinnamon-sugar syrup infused orange zest and mix well. Don’t allow too much of the sugar syrup to fall into the mixture. We have to keep the mixture dense for it to set.

6. Pour this batter on the biscuit base and push it into the fridge to set overnight.

7. Once ready to serve, layer the orange slices on the cheesecake in concentric circles.

The birthday cake was enjoyed by all of us but soon we realized that even a thin slice of this cheesecake goes a long way. It was filling, flavourful and beautiful to look at. So I took Mr. Mohamed Isa’s words to heart – preparing well in advance  by making cheesecake ahead of when it was needed and gauging my audience who was none other than Namit. The birthday boy definitely seemed very happy.

Of Routines & Breakfasts (with Poha)

19 Mar

In my previous post, where in the list of 7 things, I mentioned I am a stickler for routines. It may come as a surprise even to people who have known me  for years.But without a pattern to my daily life, I am a goner. I look for reassurance that a daily routine lends to my life. The simple idea wherein, certain activities  have to be performed at a certain time, every single day, provides the much-needed succor in the otherwise chaotic events that life constantly presents. Certain days are shakier than others and to come out alive and unscathed to the solid ground that a routine provides is something I do not take for granted. Every single day requires that we think and process information and take tough decisions and it is only a routine that lets the brain go passive and lets it relax by making us function involuntarily.

From getting up everyday at 5 45 am till the time I hit the bed at 10 30 pm or 11 pm, I feel secure with the idea that most things wouldn’t change no matter what new circumstances present themselves without a prior warning. Having said that, it is a given that I do not adjust to change easily. Probably it has also to do with the fact that I am a taurus who tend to resist change with all that they can. I have never been good at change and usually take a horrible amount of effort  and time to not spin out of control.

Funnily if you meet me I may come across as the spur of the moment kind of person but at a much primitive level, my need to adhere to a routine is way stronger. I pretend to enjoy spontaneity most of the times but my poor brain at that time is dealing with an emergency short-circuit. Marrying a man who is also routine-oriented, made my life a lot easier.

Before Mimi was born, I had a set pattern to very single day which largely meant going to work and having a fitness routine in place. Weekends were meant for the spontaneous stuff that didn’t make me the boring figure that I have already succeeded in establishing myself as in the first few paragraphs of this post. I went dancing, took dancing classes, met friends, made short trips, watched movies and did things that didn’t mirror my weekdays. When Mimi arrived, inspite of all the mental notes and preparations, my life took a 180 degree flip and routines were sent flying out of the window. I grappled, coaxed, pepped talked myself and even after 2 years of being a stay at home mum, I didn’t have a routine in place. I just couldn’t manage. At all times, I felt like a failure. Now with my job, a new routine has been staring at me, claws and fangs baring. The past week has been chaotic but some semblance of what seems like a routine that may last seems to be taking shape. I know I will have to work towards getting the details in place and every day is going to be a step towards that.

Ironically, I know the blog speaks about something completely different but consider that as a testimony of my futile attempts to steady my routine- less life the past 2 and a half years. But a few things still didn’t change and that were my breakfast habits. Poha which is flattened rice is one of my family’s favourite breakfast options. Without fail, poha turns up on our breakfast table atleast twice a week. Embellished or unadorned, this makes for a tasty and filling breakfast. During my recent trip to India, I happened to eat a divine version of this humble dish and swore to recreate the magic during one of our Poha breakfast days.

Poha, in my honest opinion, does require a certain level of skill. My initial attempts at it ended in large mass of yellow lumps. Finally after practicing for a few months, I started to get it right. Now it seems like I can do it with my eyes closed. The base recipe remains the same but it can be garnished with anything that you please.  I made 3 different versions with different garnishes such as peanuts, pomegranate, sev, boondi and cheese.

Recipe for Poha

Ingredients

Poha – 2 and half cups ( use the thicker variety as the thinner versions tend to disintegrate)

Red onions – 3 medium-sized or 2 large ( we love a lot of onions in our poha)

Peanuts ,skinned and boiled – a handful

Turmeric – 1/2 a tsp

salt to taste

green chillies, chopped  – 1 or 2 ( optional. I didn’t use any)

Sugar – 1 tsp

Oil – 3 tbsp

cumin seeds – 2 tsp

fresh coriander for garnish

Lemon juice – a few tbsp

pomegranate – for garnish

boondi, sev, scrape some cheese – as per your preference.

Preparation

1. Wash and chop onions finely and keep aside

2. In a kadhaai/ wok heat some oil and brown cumin seeds.

3. Add the onions and let them turn translucent.

4. Meanwhile while the onions are cooking, wash the poha on a sieve under a tap. Squeeze out water as carefully as you can. You want only an optimum amount of water to be absorbed by poha otherwise it will reduce into a lump when you start cooking.

5. Once the onions have cooked, add turmeric, salt, sugar, peanuts and let it be for a few seconds before you add the washed poha.

6. Mix it up well. Poha doesn’t really need any cooking so once all of this is thoroughly mixed you can just take it off the heat and garnish it with fresh chopped coriander and others of your choice.

7.  Add lemon juice and mix well.

8. Serve hot with chai.

The other options that can be added to make poha as varied as possible are chopped, boiled potatoes, peas , carrots etc.

Even on days when every bit of my life is off track, making and serving poha tells me all is not lost. It reminds me that my routine however a little skewed, exists. Breakfast fads may come and go but good old poha always stays in my list of meals for all seasons.

#SpiceLove on Twitter and Facebook

17 Mar

A few weeks ago, I had some guests coming for dinner. I immersed myself in the task of preparing their meal. That involved getting my hands dirty with a lot of spices in my pantry. Some of the spices that made their way into the meal inspired me to write something quirky about them. Soon enough, I realized I was having a blast with it on twitter. I got plenty of Retweets and appreciating tweets about the same. So I took the #spicelove to Facebook and put them up as status updates. My friends felt that I might have got up on the wrong side of the bed since I was updating my status every half hour. But that day was extraordinary as I felt a compulsive need to show how much spices meant to me by drawing analogies with real life.

Those status updates/tweets were:

1. Cinnamon is a clever spice. It creates an illusion of sweetness as would a veiled woman of being beautiful. #spicelove

The kind of response  I got was fantastic. One of my friends added to this by writing ” Cinnamon is the sultry dancer waiting in the wings but when she struts her stuff , everyone knows”

2. A Clove is not shy. It is outspoken and dares to challenge other flavours for a debate like an Independent Presidential Campaigner #spicelove

One of  my friends sent me a video link that featured a stand up act by UK’s Micheal McIntyre http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvi0ZLEHj3A. It is so so funny. You have to watch it. It centers around a conversations that spices have with each other in a pantry.

3.  A Nutmeg is like that guy at the back of the class who never takes notes. Like him, the flavour of the nutmeg needs to be cornered, prodded and appreciated to show its true colours #spicelove

The nutmeg tweet triggered a Mace one –  mace, its cousin (javithri in Hindi) it’s like the kid who went a little wild because nutmeg started to shine and decided to become a spray to defend the girls

4. A Cardamom is like a quivering virgin. #enoughsaid #spicelove

The garnered the most number of sly responses both on FB and twitter. 

5. Salt & Pepper are like the soul mates I knew once.They travel the vast foodlands together, bringing alive the blandest of scapes. #spicelove

I quite enjoyed doing this series. I would love it if you feel inspired to start one of your own. If you do, tag me or mention me on Facebook so that I can catch up. I would love to read your ideas about what these spices mean to you. Meanwhile if you are feeling spontaneous then you can write about it in the comments!

A Versatile Blogger Award- It Couldn’t Get Any Better

16 Mar

This year has been benevolent and has offered me so many opportunities to improve and grow. Recognition in any form is a motivator like no other. The gorgeous Cassandra of Foodmyfriend was so kind to bestow the Versatile blogger award to me. Thank you so much Cassandra for the award and the generous words that you wrote about me and my blog.

Cassandra’s posts are usually short ( unlike mine!!)  but fully convey her passion and love for cooking and baking. She shares the little tidbids from her life and that make for such a warm read. She also gives amazing pointers that I always keep in mind while baking something and they have always worked.

Cassandra – A BIG THANK YOU AGAIN.

The rules require me to do three things – link back to the blog that gave them the award, list seven things about themselves and finally, give the award to five others.

Now about the 7 things about me:

1. I am a workaholic and that was the primary reason why I took a break after Mimi was born. Now that I am back to work, I try to not get into that addictive state of mind.

2. I do everything in extremes and do not understand the concept of the middle ground. Though consciously, for the past few years I am practising to be the balanced person that I hope to be. Some day.

3. I am a stickler for routine but pretend to be spontaneous

4. I hate peanut butter. #thereIsaidit

5. I cannot do without books and I have to read a little bit every single day.

6. I turned into a movie buff after meeting my husband. Otherwise I thought, watching movies was a waste of time.

7. I also thinking sleeping is a waste of time ( I know, seriously weird right??). I am restless and I have to be occupied with something at all times.

That was pretty simple; the  7 things about me, that you may have not known before!

Now for nominating the five wonderful bloggers that I love and I think are versatile.

1. La of Food Slice is a very dear friend to whom I often turn to for advice and general rant outside the blogging sphere. She is one of the most grounded people I have met in my life albeit virtually. I do want to meet her in real life and I am sure I will. I am sure it would be just like a Julia Child and Avis DeVito sort of moment, when we meet! I heart her style of writing and her traditional recipes.

2. Deepthi Rao of Naughty Curry – She is a gorgeous home baker and cook who shares her simple formulas to make some amazing treats. She masterfully whips up gravys and sauces which I find so useful. I have bookmarked them all. She loves to travel and has a very evocative style of writing which brings alive the scenes from her visits. I particularly enjoyed her post about her trip to the various must-visit places in Hyderabad.

3. Helene of Masala Herb – This Austrian expat lives in Goa with her hubby and knows so much about Indian food that it makes me hang my head in shame. Every post of hers is a revelation and packs so much that is useful. When she is not blogging and talking about food on twitter, she enjoys reading about medieval Europe and fine art. She runs a Portuguese restaurant in Goa and we have a pact that we would definitely meet when I make a visit to Goa. Hopefully soon.

4. Meenakshi of Masala Art – Her style of writing is what attracts me to her blog every single time. I hang on to every word that she writes because it is sure to make me laugh. Rarely do you find bloggers who have such a fantastic sense of humour and I would like to admit that I am addicted to her blog. She has varied interests which range from Fashion to movies to books and her Foodless Fridays are a must read.

5. Madhuri of Cook Curry Nook – I connected with Madhuri on twitter and terribly enjoy reading her tweets. The USP of her blog is that her bakes are eggless. She has a huge readership because of her straightforward style of writing and vegetarian delicacies. She is an architect by profession and teaches at design school. So she brings the same artistic sensibility to her cakes and bakes.

So that’s the inspiring list of bloggers and do hope you go to their blogs and appreciate the wonderful work that they do.

Taking Baby Steps With Some Chocolate Mascarpone Mini Cups

10 Mar

Just a few posts ago, I wrote about how I was homeschooling my toddler. I was enjoying that experience to the hilt and thought of continuing it for as long as I could. I could see how much it was helping my child learn faster and it was the best way to fill up my time as well. But life has its own quirky way of sneaking up on you and changing it without any prior warning. Usually I’m up for such change of tracks but this new development put me out of my comfort zone and overnight I was fraught with worry about how I was going to manage things from now on. I should have been happy and don’t get me wrong I am happy with this new development but when you are a mum, your happiness has to wait in line till your child’s priorities have been sorted out.

The thing is, after a gap of 2 whole years, I landed myself a job in Bahrain. This was when I had almost given up hope and decided on focusing on doing something entirely different with my life. My first instinct was to stress out about how I was going to manage Mimi. I wanted to home school her given its definite advantages but now with a full-time job which was too good to give up, I had to make alternate arrangements. My kind housekeeper obliged to play the nanny for certain part of the day until I got back home from work. So with that in place, I decided to look for a school that would not only accommodate my child in the middle of the year but also fulfill certain criteria that were important to me with respect to its curriculum and discipline. Most of the schools refused outright asking me to apply the following year and some just didn’t make the cut. Finally I found a leveler in a school that was close to my home and seemed right in most ways for Mimi to attend. Thankfully, they had one last place to offer her and the deal was sealed.

Her first day was on the 1st of March. I constantly spoke to Mimi the previous few days about how she was going to school and what she would do there. I even prompted her every now and then about waking up early since she had to leave by 7 30 am. I never in my dreams thought that she would actually pay heed to what I was telling her. For a  2.5 year-old , she is pretty smart, I must say. She woke up at 6 45 am on the first day on her own and quietly let me dress her up. To see her in her white shirt and beige skirt ( which was too long btw) and her red sweater, I was shedding a silent tear on the side. She posed for me and seemed happy to be going to school. The moment she entered the school compound, she let-go off my hand and rushed to the playpen. She was excited to see the swings, the slides and all her favourite fun activities in one place. I had a tough time coaxing her to see her class. Her class teacher seemed like a kind but firm sort of lady and that put my mind at rest. Leaving Mimi with them was difficult as she is not used to being restricted in a room. After some distraction tactics, I managed to slip away and come home. To return to an empty house seemed very weird. I found myself fidgety and anxious. I worried about Mimi and whether she would have had her breakfast or not or whether she would sit in one place or not. I used that time to bake something (obviously) so that I don’t combust and evaporate. I made these dainty little cups of joy using ofcourse our ( Mimi’s and mine) favourite ingredient Chocolate and another beautiful ingredient Mascarpone. Making these required some focus and that helped me calm down.

While I make/bake something with the intention of blogging about it afterward, I usually start the post in my head with the process. The story, the outline, the character building, the sweet reminiscences start swirling in my head as I start putting the ingredients together. And by the time the task is done, my blog post is ready to be published in my head. So then, it is only a matter of typing the words down on the blog page.

So during this chocolate mascarpone exercise, I thought about how Mimi and I are going through similar experiences in our lives right now. But Mimi has had a head start since she started school before I join work. I join work this Sunday ( 11th of March) and it would be my first after 2 long years. I have had some sort of preparation only because of the zillions of interviews that I had attended but to actually imagine myself in office- that was scary. I thought about how I would have to look serious all the time, wear stuffy coats and trousers ( as opposed to the breezy night pyjamas and comfortable Ts  that I never get out of) and attempt making adult-like conversations with my colleagues ( in contrast to the baby talk that I have practised with my child these 2 years). How in the world was I going to fit in? I am going to feel like a fish out of water the first day. And since my role is primarily going to be a client facing one, I don’t know if I still have it in me to hold anyone’s attention. All of a sudden, the whole job thing started to look like a mistake. I wasn’t feeling up to it. NOT AT ALL. My heart began to race and I had to call my mother. Though I didn’t tell her about my anxieties, but I told her about Mimi and her school. I always feel a lot better after talking to her. She told me about the time when she had to leave me and my brother with our nannies to go back to work and how difficult it was for her ( this was without any prompting from me about my chaotic mind frame).

Only when we have our own children do we realize what all our parents would have endured raising us and we take it all for granted. Unfortunately, these bursts of realization come very late. So talking to my mum laid most of my fears to rest and I concentrated on getting my tiny desserts done well. I don’t know where I got the recipe from but I must thank whoever that person/cookbook/blogger is. These fabulous pieces of ecstasy are meant for those special occasions; the first days sort of celebration. Indulgent but not being overly so.

Recipe for Chocolate Mascarpone Mini Cups

Makes about 20 cups

Ingredients

 100 gm plain chocolate ( for the cups. You will need petite -size paper cups to make these chocolate cups)

Filling 

100 gm milk chocolate

200 gm mascarpone cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

cocoa powder for dusting

Preparation

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Break 100gm plain chocolate into pieces and place it in a bowl. Set it over a saucepan of hot water. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Spoon the melted chocolate into 20 paper cups ( the smallest ones), spreading it up the sides, with a small spoon or pastry brush. I think the pastry brush helps to spread it out evenly and reduces waste. Place these tiny paper cups upside down on the baking tray and leave to set.

2. When set, carefully peel away the paper cases. You have to be very careful lest the chocolate breaks. I had some mishaps but I used those broken chocolate cups anyways. It is chocolate after all. I cannot let anything chocolate go in waste.

3. For the filling, melt the chocolate. Place the mascarpone cheese in a bowl and beat in the vanilla essence. To this add the melted chocolate until well combined. Leave the mixture to chill in the refrigerator, beating occasionally, until firm enough to pipe. I was excited to do the piping but my piping nozzle kept dropping off every time I tried to squeeze the chocolate mixture out of it, into the cups. Finally I gave up and used a spoon to fill the cups.

4. In case you have a better quality piping bag and nozzle with you, a star nozzle would be the best to pipe the mixture into the cups. Decorate the cups with a dusting of cocoa powder. Keep in the refrigerator until you want to serve.

*If you have paper cups of a thicker variety, it would be easier to have better shapes.

These were an instant hit with Mimi and my husband. I even sent some off to my friend Gayathri, whose birthday is on the 11th of March. I dedicate these chocolate mini cups to Gayathri and wish her a beautiful birthday. I know she would make a spectacular cake on her birthday for herself and I cannot wait to have a taste of it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAYATHRI

While you all read this post, I would be in office trying to look professional. I feel the giggles coming already! I must imagine how difficult it must be for Mimi to step out of her cocoon into an unknown territory without knowing a thing about what lies before her. Atleast I have 5 years of work experience before I took a break. In that terms, Mimi has it tougher but I am sure both Mimi and I will manage and succeed by taking baby steps while enjoying the process.

We need your best wishes and prayers so that we manage to tread these unknown paths with confidence and great optimism.

Muffin Mondays : Hazelnut & Cherry Jam Muffins

5 Mar

I missed Muffin Mondays so many weeks in a row. I have to admit that I did miss baking muffins.

What do I miss about it?

Well, making muffins was not just about baking muffins. It was the whole process, the journey of waking up early on a Saturday morning while the house is still sound asleep, tip toeing to the kitchen and looking at my Money plant that is growing so well. The the leaves are large and dark green, spreading themselves to form a sort of shade over the sink. I see new tendrils wrapping themselves around the older thicker stems. It is such a joy. Then I take a deep breath and look at my recipe book. Yes I have a recipe book which has sheaves of papers, cuttings, scraps of recipes, scribbles and food quotes. I rummage through them and find the latest recipe that An has sent us all. I had written it down quickly the night before so that I could start making the muffins, unhindered. I preheat the oven with a light of a matchstick and warm my hands. Then I grease my new heart-shaped silicon muffin moulds and suddenly just looking at them takes me back in time. I am reminded of my honeymoon, the day that I got married, the day Mimi was born, the day I resigned from my job, the day I walked off from office and took a plane to see my hubby in the UK and never returned for the next 1 year, the day when I fell terribly sick when my hubby was away and there was nobody to buy me medicines, the day when Mimi walked for the first time, the nights when I had to rock a 2 month old Mimi to sleep, falling asleep in the process.

Memories keep tumbling over each other, building blocks and then falling again. They race against each other for my time to reminiscence them in detail. I shake the unpleasant ones off and dwell on the nicer ones. The ones that make me smile as I mix the batter for my muffins. The roasted hazelnut reminds me of the smoky nights in Delhi when my hubby and I were still dating and he would drop me home. We would linger around at the door of my paying guest apartment wondering what we should do. To steal a kiss or a peck when nobody was looking and then I rush indoors while he lingered some more at the door before finally saying good-bye until we met again the following day.

The batter, now looked smooth and shiny with the hazelnut browned bits peeping out. I dollop a spoonful in the cups and then add a spoonful of cherry jam and then cover it all up another dollop of the batter.

I woke up from my stupor and realized I had spent a lot of time reminiscing and I need to prep everything by the time my family woke up. Breakfast had to be laid, tea had to be brewed, bread had to be toasted and fruits had to be washed. Yet again, I fell back into thinking about a time when we had no worries, my hubby and I would take off as soon as we woke up for a car ride across the city, right to the opposite end of the city to have a sumptuous breakfast at Chandni chowk in Delhi. Alas, such spontaneity I miss sometimes but life has given me so many moments to treasure and make up for the ones that I miss.

Now for the Recipe, I halved the recipe and got 7 muffins. But when I took the first bite, I regretted halving the recipe. It was a good, good muffin to have around the house for a mid day snack or a late night binge. The original recipe called for plum jam but I had cherry and fig preserves and used them instead. My toddler who is an ardent Jam hater ate around the jam and spat the fruit preserves out. So I think I can declare these muffins a hit, I suppose. I am jotting down the recipe with its original proportions.

The Recipe for Hazelnut – Cherry Jam Muffins

From Women’s Weekly

Ingredients

90 grams butter, melted

21/2 cups (375 grams) self raising flour

1/2 cup (55 grams) hazelnut meal ( I roasted hazelnuts and then ground them using mortal and pestle. They weren’t very fine and that gave the muffins a very nibble worthy texture)

2/3 cup (150 grams) caster sugar

1 egg, beaten lightly

1 cup (250 ml) milk

1/2 cup (160 grams) plum jam ( I used cherry jam and fig jam)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 200C/gas mark 6/400F

2. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan or line with muffin liners

3. In a large bowl, combine butter, flour, hazelnut meal, sugar, egg and milk.

4. Spoon half of the muffin mixture into the prepared pan and make a well in each muffin, spoon in rounded teaspoons of jam and top with remaing muffin mixture

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes


So you see, muffin making means all this to me; early mornings, tantalizing aroma of muffins baking and memory-walking. Like I mentioned before, it is a process and I enjoy every single step. But this time, I took it a step further and while my muffins were baking and turning into golden domes, I hurriedly walked to my cupboard and got my photo album out. I flipped through as many photos I could in those 20 minutes before I got my golden cups of hazelnut-cherry deliciousness out. I scattered the photos all over the table as I took my first bite and savoured the freshly baked muffin. Then the memories started to rearrange themselves keeping in order with the photographs that I had lined up. My Saturday morning was spent nibbling on this perky, full of flavour and jam-filled gorgeousness of a muffin. Every muffin baking adventure has had me going back and forth in time and that is why I enjoy it so much. The spell was broken when my toddler walked into the kitchen and promptly climbed my lap. We shuffled through the photos together, one by one and she was so happy to recognize every face in each photograph.

If you want to experience a wonderful weekend like I did, then you need to get in touch with Anuradha because Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week

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