Archive | December, 2012

Ushering the New Year with a Cranberry Upside down cake

31 Dec

How can I leave my blog untended on the last day of the year? It would very insensitive of me to do so. The very space that gave me an outlet to all my creative pursuits and my random meandering thoughts needs an acknowledgement on the last day of the year.  If you refer to my last post, it was bit pessimistic in its tone and pessimism isn’t the essence of my blog. I created this space to celebrate all the beautiful things and relationships in my life; my beautiful family, food that I love, my beautiful memories and in midst of that just to balance the mood, a few not-so savoury memories as well. When I think of the New Year, I want to feel optimistic and hopeful and happy. And so it was important that I write this note as the last one for this year and celebrate it with something absolutely spectacular like a Cranberry Upside Down Cake.

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Before I get into the recipe and beautiful thing that this Cranberry upside down cake is, I need to mention something. My previous post got plenty of mixed reviews both online and offline. The post was about what the things I could have done differently in 2012.  One person in particular whom I admire a lot pointed out that I needed to also look at what wonderful things have happened in 2012. There are plenty of wonderful things that happened in 2012.  I shall list out each and every milestone of 2012 with every intention of celebrating it in this post.

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1. I GOT A JOB!!!! – After searching for more than a  year, I was growing despondent with each passing day. I couldn’t see a single ray of light when each interview or job opportunity fizzled out. Nearly 3 years of being out of work can do a lot to damage one’s confidence. I didn’t feel up to it and doubted my abilities. I must also add I am extremely self-critical and for that reason I beat myself down more than anybody in my place would normally do. I had taken a break to raise Mimi and when it was time to pack her off to school, it felt like a great time to get back on the job front. Finally my prayers were answered and I found a job with a very reputed firm. This I would be the biggest milestone in 2012.

2. My baby started school – It was with great trepidation that I let Mimi go and attend school. To most with whom I shared the news told me that she was too young to go to school and to this date she is one of the younger kids in her class. But something told me that she was ready. Mimi has always been extremely independent, eager to explore and not scared of the dark or dinosaurs( I am letting you out on a lil secret here; the only thing she is scared of is ‘silly gilly gambo’ and I haven’t the faintest clue who or what that is. It is her own invention but the very mention of it leaves me in splits). She adjusted quickly and loves going to school every single day.

3. My brother’s wedding – My little brother ( not so little anymore), got hitched!!  His wedding was just a fantastic affair, that the entire family shall treasure the beautiful memories forever. It was a joyous occasion and everybody who was near and dear was able to participate in it. I wish him and his beautiful wife a wonderful and a prosperous New Year.

4. The launch of My beautiful Bahrain – A mesh mash of stories of, from and about Bahrain came together in a single book. Another awesome milestone of my life and not just this year. I can proudly tell my grandchildren some day that I wrote or atleast I was one of the co-contributors in a book. I have harped about it so many times on this blog already and I can’t have enough it.

5. We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary – Unbelievable!! Seven years of being together and it feels so effortless. My hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary on Christmas day ( there is no excuse to forget this date). It was a working day in Bahrain. We managed a lunch together midst our busy schedule and planned to stay in for dinner. It was a quiet sort of day but it meant so much just knowing that he is around and he hasn’t changed ( not much atleast) over these 7 years. It was a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that we celebrate our precious daughter every single day.

6. My parents built a beautiful home – My wonderful parents displayed such fantastic project management skills when they spent day and night planning their new home. The end result was nothing less than spectacular. We had the opportunity to spend about a week in their beautiful home and I observed how the smallest details were taken care of. I am immensely proud of my parents who carried out this mammoth project with enormous patience.

7. Mimi is the cutest kid in Bahrain –  Mimi won  a Facebook contest called the cutest kid in Bahrain. This contest was hosted by Summer Weeks who is  a professional photographer in Bahrain. I had to send Mimi’s picture to her and Summer uploaded that on her page. And all that was needed was to get maximum number of people to ‘like’ Mimi’s photograph. My family and friends (grandparents, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts, friends and their friends) gathered forces and helped Mimi win this contest. The prize as a part of winning the contest was a professional portfolio by Summer Weeks herself. We went to Summer’s studio on the 22nd of December and Mimi was photographed for her portfolio. It was exciting to win a contest and the competition was tough. It was more thrilling for the parents than the children themselves and Mimi hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on. But it feels great to be the mum to the cutest kid in Bahrain.

There have many such beauteous occasions throughout the year that brought such joy and happiness. I am thankful to God for everything that I have in my life right now and wouldn’t change a thing about it.

To mark the end of 2012 which has been wonderful to us and our family, I made a lovely cake from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I love Nigella because she never ever lets me down. Her recipes are simple to follow and her no fuss attitude infuses confidence. A little crack here or a slip up there in following instructions doesn’t disappoint. Au contraire, the result is very delicious and extraordinary.

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I made the cake in my new food processor that my hubby gifted me for our anniversary. It was such a non fussy recipe to follow that I know it by heart now. My recent trip to the market had me buy a big bag of extremely bitter and sour cranberries. Since I had never tasted cranberries before, I got tempted and bought an entire bag for an enormous price. I soon realized that I couldn’t ever finish those cranberries and popping each bitter berry felt like a punishment. Finally I flipped open my favourite cook book – Nigella’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” and fell into the preparation of this magnifique cake.When I flipped the cake upside down, that sight that greeted me filled me with great joy.

The crimson cranberries laced with syrup looked like melting rubies on a crown. 

Food makes me very happy, and beautiful food, even more so. My day was made when it got an exciting response from my family and friends. I hope you try this recipe as its extremely easy to pull it off. It requires just about moderate effort and the outcome is fabulous. I love such recipes and that is why Nigella is my guru.

I did not have a tarte-tatin pan so I used a spring-form pan and it didn’t affect the outcome at all.

I wish each and everyone of you a fantastic New Year. Hoping that all your dreams come true in 2013 and let the New year  fill you with the passion  to follow your long cherished dreams.

See you in the next year!

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Things that I would have done differently in 2012 + a hot chocolate pudding

16 Dec

It is that time of the year again, when I feel like taking stock, recounting the sweet memories and the not-so-sweet ones. Deliberating and understanding, prodding and ignoring, reasoning and retracing and finally packing them like the clothes I am never going to wear again. In this case, I can’t even give them off. I have to pack and arrange them in a way that when I want to call on them, I can. Well, in most cases the memories come rushing in without a prior warning; quite similar to  when I am feeling nostalgic and I just feel like looking at my old clothes and attempt to slip into my old jeans. Ofcourse all attempts result in utter disappointment. Old clothes are a definite reminder of what was right and what was utterly wrong in the past.

So I decided to compile a list of few things in the last one year that I would have differently if I had a chance. Just wishful thinking yet I thought penning it down would be fun.

1. My ensemble for my brother’s wedding (Feb 2012) : It was short notice and I was far away from the Mecca of traditional apparel – Ahmedabad/Delhi. I had to do with whatever my mum bought for me which was gorgeous; 2 kanjeevaram sarees. No complaints on that front. But I still imagined that for my brother’s wedding, I wanted to take that extra effort to make each outfit look special. Sitting in Bahrain, there was little I could do in terms of preparation. I am most thankful to my parents, to have managed 2 gorgeous sarees for me. If I had another chance, which means, not that my brother would have to get married again, but if I could go back in time, I would love to plan my outfits for each ceremony/event for my brother’s wedding. But for now all I can do is to feel content about the fact that I was able to attend it and it was such a memorable event.

2. Sangeeta Khanna’s diet plans ( March 2012) : I sought Sangeeta Khanna’s help to guide me into better eating habits. Sangeeta is one of the most inspiring people I have met in my real and virtual life. There are no dearth of examples that I can quote, where I have learnt a life lesson from this incredible lady. Ever hopeful, encouraging and infinitely patient, Sangeeta accepted my request to help me lose my post pregnancy weight. She veered me slowly and steadily from my random food habits to more systematic, wholesome food options. Her recipes are healthy and tasty which to everybody’s mind is as good as an oxymoron. It was the best opportunity for me to lose weight, had I focused on the exercise part more seriously. I just got lazy thinking, that by managing the right sort of food would produce miracles. Far from it. The weight didn’t budge and it depresses me that I didn’t capitalize on the wonderful diet plan that Sangeeta shared with me week on week. Also, I didn’t make the most of the encouragement she showered on me to go and exercise and in effect lose weight. If I had a chance, I would go back to March this year to begin her diet plans and exercise hard to lose weight, so that when I type this post, I wouldn’t feel the need to include this point in this ‘if -could-do-this – again’ list. But all said and done, I would recommended anybody who wants to follow any kind of special diet to seek Sangeeta’s help because this amazing lady knows her food well and would guide you in the right direction.

3. Book launch speech (May 2012): In May, I had the opportunity to be a part of  Book Launch – My Beautiful Bahrain. I was one of the co-contributors and was given the honour of making a small speech at the launch. I thought a speech would be like the easiest thing to do. I would just say a few lines on what my article was all about and then my customary thank yous to people who made it happen. Tada. But when we reached the venue,  we found the place was abuzz with photographers and media people. It was nerve wrecking. I went dry in my mouth and words starting flying all around my head. I realized I made a fundamental mistake in public speaking; I didn’t prepare well to deliver my speech. I stuttered and forgot my lines. I was sweating profusely and it was embarrassing when I got stuck at one word which I cannot still recall. It was one of the biggest events of my life but I took it for granted and went unprepared. If I had the chance, I would prepare a small and an effective speech that I would have the confidence of delivering without any confusion

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4. The fasting challenge for Ramadan (July 2012) – I even did a post about this and felt like a fool all the same. In my desperate attempts to lose weight, I went on a fasting spree for 3 weeks straight during Ramadan. It backfired and I actually ended up putting on more weight which I am still lugging around. CRASH DIETS DON”T WORK. My metabolism slowed down and I wasn’t burning anything. On the contrary, my body stored everything that came its way. If I could go back in time to convince myself about what a dimwit I was being by fasting and starving, I could have kept that weight off.

5. Corporate diplomacy (September 2012) – I thought I had seen it all in my 5 years of being in the Corporate. The senseless politics and the unnecessary stress was all experienced and well rehearsed. Yet the magnitude of this level of politics took me by surprise. . September and October were the toughest two months of my life. Work wise I felt I had given my best but it was all swept away in a single stroke into nothingness by the machiavellian ways of the Corporate. It was a tough lesson learnt well. But in hindsight I feel, I took everything on face value and was very trusting. Given a chance, I would have changed a few responses and hence the outcomes thus changing how I feel today about the months of September and October, and the people who ruined those beautiful months for me.

6. A hot chocolate pudding (December 2012) – It is common knowledge at my work place and with my friends that I really love entertaining people at home. Cooking for them and ensuring that everybody is having a good time while they are at my place gives me a big high. So a few days back we asked one of our colleagues to come home for dinner over the weekend. I was excited and wanted to plan a good menu since the person who was coming over was a big foodie!! But at the last moment I had some urgent work to finish over the weekend and I couldn’t cook as I had planned. So I compromised and decided to order some food from outside. Having done that I needed to atleast serve my food loving friend, a good dessert that he would enjoy.

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I decided to go ahead and make this delicious looking, easy to put together pudding from David Lebovitz’s blog. It seemed like a no brainer and looked absolutely stunning in pictures. In the past, I have tried a few of his recipes and with due respect to him and his culinary expertise, they did not come out well for me. Whether they were cheesecake brownies or cookies or anything, they didn’t just cut the mark for me. And I would never even imagine that the recipe that David would put out that everybody loved so much was the issue. I always assumed that the problem was in the way I made it. My amateurish baking skills were the key problem area. Anyhow, I gave this pudding a go and I thought how wrong could this go? Well it didn’t!! It took very little time to prep and bake and when serve with toasted almonds and ice cream it looked like it was  a shot out of a gourmet magazine. It cheered me instantly because I was in the mood to compensate for not being able to cook for my guest.

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But, but, but  the pudding (in my opinion) did not taste good at all. It was just meh! I was shocked. It looked great, I followed the recipe to the tee and then this!! It was really shocking. I was very sure my poor guest did his best to not hurt my feelings and swallowed the bitter, tasteless pudding. But he swore that he loved it. So did my hubby. I am sure they were just being very kind to me. I guess again it wasn’t David’s recipe that was the problem and for that very reason I am giving it out here for everybody’s benefit. I would earnestly urge that anyone who reads this blog should try this recipe and tell me if the pudding is really good or am I just very fussy?

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I love David’s blog, his written work, his book ( Sweet life in Paris) and his incredible insights about the City that I would love to visit one day. But I guess his recipes are just not for me for some strange reason. I read his blog regularly and wonder why his recipes don’t work for me. Just chance I suppose. But for the sake of this list, I wanted this pudding to be here because given a choice, I would have made my dessert loving guest a raspberry brownie with an icecream so that he could have gone satiated and with wonderful dessert memories.

There are many more such bloopers that I would like to go back in time and correct, but then I wonder, if I did have a choice to do so, how will I have the chance to sit back and muse about it. It was a good thing to write this post and get it out. There is much more that I want to but for the sake of the people reading this blog, I would stop here and spend time contemplating some more.

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Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Why baking is so important to me!

8 Dec

A few days back,  one of my colleagues asked me why I baked. I was taken aback by why she should ask me such a question. I told her, I baked because:

  • I love to bake;
  • It gave me a breather;
  • A creative outlet;
  • The satisfaction of practicing a craft;
  • I need to keep my blog going, so I had to bake;
  • Because my daughter requested cakes and cookies and joined in during the preparatory process

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Every single reason more compelling than the other. Baking gives me such comfort and helps me de- stress. I told my colleague that I find myself baking more on weekdays, after I come back from office since it simply dispels the stress that I have accumulated in the entire day. After a long day’s work, when the defeatist in me is working hard to put me down and beat my confidence into smithereens, baking restores in me the hope that an action as simple as mixing, flour, eggs, chocolate, butter and sugar can create magic. These days my 3 year old is plenty excited to do her bit in helping me bake her favourite kind of cookies and cakes. She helps me with the mixing bit and keeps asking me in between ” Is it done mamma?” Every other evening, when I come back from work, I find her enthusiastically waiting for me at the door and the moment I open the door, she would leap at me and give me a big, tight hug. She would then relate her classroom and Ms. Linda (her class teacher) stories of the day before making a request for chocolate cookies. She would then say she wants to help me bake cookies. She would rush to get a balloon whisk from the kitchen drawer. Most days I try to dissuade her by distracting her with her story books or some homework. But some days I feel I need that tiny speck of magic to dazzle and sparkle the fag end of my day. My daughter makes sure that she is a part of it.

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On one such overwhelmingly difficult day, when I came back from work, Mimi said she wanted to bake chocolate cookies. I was reminded of a lovely chocolate cookie recipe on Himanshu’s blog. I felt drawn towards it more because it looked like just the kind of cookie, I would love to sink my teeth into to dissolve my depression. Crinkly and sinfully chocolate-y, these cookies have the power to singlehandedly ensure world peace. No, I am not exaggerating. I wouldn’t try making the same recipe twice. But with these cookies I did.  Himanshu’s cookies seem like they have just dropped from some professional baking magazine while mine were not the most eye-catching. Both the times. But my official tester ( Mimi) passed them by gobbling 2 of these giant cookies straight out of the oven; so I was pretty sure that these would be a big hit even in office.

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I made a few changes in the recipe, which are:

  • I reduced the amount of sugar
  • I used white chocolate for the chunks
  • doubled the recipe

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