Tag Archives: Bread

Goat Cheese, Prunes and Pistachio Savory cake

24 Jan

Traditionally, cake would evoke images of sweet bakes with or without frosting. In France, cakes can be sweet as well as savory. The French savory cakes use ingredients such as strong tasting cheeses, ham, prunes etc. while the Americans call it a loaf or bread such as zucchini bread, tomato bread, cheese bread and such. These savory cakes/ breads are  served in France as before dinner treats along with drinks. This particular savory cake that I share with you today is a Rachel Khoo recipe. I have been following Rachel Khoo’s inspiring story and her videos on BBC. You can read her story in this interview here.


Ms. Khoo calls herself a ‘Food creative’ which is a title good enough to create intrigue. She promises that her’s is a fresh approach to all things edible. Flipping through her recipes made me believe that she does keep her promise. Her recipes seem simple yet interesting enough through their flavour combinations. I have tried two of her recipes and both of them turned out marvelous. One of them was the flourless chocolate swirl cake and  then I attempted this savory cake.


I was quite sure that my family was going to reject this unusual cake on the table for evening tea. The strongly flavoured goat cheese, the soft sweetness of the prunes and the nutty flavour of the pistachio rendered the cake an exotic taste. My family was hooked. I served it toasted and with salted butter. It is a match made in heaven.


The next time I make it I would love to see how it would taste with whole wheat flour. If it works well, then I have a healthier version to keep for future use. What I also loved about the loaf is the fact that despite it looking so simple it photographed so well. The hint of green from the pistachio, the black from the prunes and the white from the goat cheese against the yellow-brown load looked wonderful.

CPPC4I see my list of bookmarked recipes and am startled to find that most of them are Rachel Khoo’s recipes. It goes on to show much her recipes have drawn me in. I have to get her “My little Paris Kitchen” or her latest cook book ” My little French Kitchen” which I hear has her own hand – drawn illustrations.


For the recipe, here goes:


Hope you guys try this cake and see for yourself how wonderful savory cakes are as well. I am a convert for sure.

Pita Bread – Fresh from the Oven June Challenge

31 May

It is an honour to host Fresh From the Oven’s June Challenge. I would like to thank Michelle Rice of UtterlyScrummy and Claire of Purely Food for giving me this opportunity. It has been wonderful attempting challenges with yeast and each month I wait eagerly to know what the month’s challenge is going to be. For the month of June I would love everybody to participate together in make these easy-peasy pita bread. The details for how to participate are here and link to
http://purelyfood.wordpress.com/fresh-from-the-oven/ and the round-up for this ( for the month of June) will be done by Purely Food.

I have been living an expat’s life in Bahrain for the past 2 years and the food of this region fascinates me more than others. The addictive tastes, the rustic textures, the haunting flavours, the clever methods of cooking, the influences that this part of the world takes from other cultures shines through from the Arabic Cuisine. In my time here, I have enjoyed cooking these Arabic dishes as much as I have enjoyed eating a hearty meal outside in restaurants. The food of this region inspired me to do a full-blown article on the Food of Bahrain called Bahrain: A culinary Oasis which got published in a compendium of sort called, My Beautiful Bahrain.

An excerpt from the book would tell you how fascinated I am with the food of this region. I went food-hunting literally, to write this article and the this insightful journey is the one I will cherish for a long time.

“About the famed bread making- Khuboos shops of Bahrain:  It is fascinating to watch a queue build up by nightfall outside these traditional bakeries. A burning clay hearth and experienced pairs of hands slap the dough to make khuboos, the most popular flatbread that the country eats every single day of its life. This hearty bread forms the base for almost all the food that is served at homes and in restaurants. A freshly baked Khuboos emanates an aroma that tantalizes the senses with its simplicity and flavor. Khuboos comes in a lot of sizes, shapes and flavors; sesame, melted cheese, honey brushed, to name a few.  My personal favorite is the plain khuboos that I love devouring bit by bit with some vegetables and Hummus (chickpea dip).

Below are some photos of how Arabic bread is made traditionally in these Khuboos -houses.

Charmed by this, I have replicated the Arabic bread baking process in my oven very, many times. Pita “Pocket”  bread, in this part of the world is also called Lebanese bread though there is no evidence proving that this bread originated from Lebanon. This bread is popular all over the Arab world and the Mediterranean region.

 To make these, I usually use a combination of wholemeal flour and All purpose flour but for the challenge, I used All purpose flour entirely. You are free to experiment with different types of healthier flours to make your pita. You can follow my lead  with step by step pictures for your better understanding:


3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon sugar or honey

1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, room temperature

2 tablespoons olive oil

(I apologize for missing out the proportions of ingredients as I have made this so many times and remember it by heart. It just made me focus more on the method of preparation than the quantities. )

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low-speed for 10 minutes.

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil.

Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into any number of pieces depending how big or small you like your pita. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone like I don’t too, then just use a normal baking tray, like I did.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling-pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to 1/4 inch thick approximately. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it is not mandatory. I did, because that is how we like pita bread; a little brown and crisp. Not all my pita puffed up but some did and it was a delight to see them puff up.

It is advisable to have pita bread as soon as it is out of the oven with hummous ( chickpea dip) or labneh dip ( yogurt dip) or even with meat or vegetable curries. It can be stored for many days in an air tight container and can be microwaved to soften them ( by sprinkling some water before putting it in a microwave)

Hope everybody who attempts this finds it easy and tasty an endeavour to try again and again.

Bagels for Fresh From the Oven – February Challenge

27 Feb

It is Bagels this month for Fresh From the Oven – the incredible bread baking community. This month’s challenge was hosted by Claire of Purely Food. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. Bagels are my absolute favourite but I keep away from them because it invariably means I will have to slather it with plenty of cream cheese and then chomp-chomp it down with some hot coffee. It is my ideal breakfast, after eggs on toast. Okay, bagels fight for a second position with Granola, fruit and yogurt in my list of favourite breakfasts.

The first time I sampled bagels was in London and it was a close friend who bought my first bagel-cream cheese breakfast for me. From then on I was hooked. I ran an extra mile just so that I could have a bagel with cream cheese. It was like I had found manna. The only other time I felt like that was when I discovered Hummus. Love that thing!

I had a favourite coffee shop in Cambridge ( I was there in 2006 for a company project) and they had the most amazing bagels. I would have them just fresh out of the oven. The cafe owner told me that bagels taste better 5-6 hours after they have been brought out of the oven. I thought, fresh out of the oven they tasted nothing short of divine. The other tiny tidbids he shared with me were – Bagels taste the best when toasted and they have to be golden brown all over to taste the best. If the bagels are  blondish in colour it means they haven’t made the ‘great bagel mark’. I remember all that so well. It didn’t mean much to me as my only concern was how much cream cheese was I getting in my bagel. I guess he must have noticed that my liking for bagels was bordering on obsession and thought I might be interested in such trivia.

Bringing my batch of freshly baked bagels out of my gas -fired oven made me dizzy with nostalgia. They didn’t wear a golden brown that the cafe owner would have approved of but I knew that once toasted they would gain a beautiful colour. I am so happy that Fresh from the Oven made this possible and sent me down a wonderful memory lane.

Recipe for Bagels

Makes 7 


Strong white flour -450g
Fast acting yeast -7g
Salt -2 tsp
Warm water -250ml
Honey -2 tbsp
Vegetable oil -1 tbsp
Egg, beaten – 1
Your choice of topping – I used roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame – black and white, caraway seeds


1. In a large bowl add the salt to the flour and then the yeast (I usually put the yeast in a small well in the centre to keep it a way from the salt).

2. Measure the warm water and then stir in the oil and honey.

3. If kneading by hand, make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquid in gradually, bringing the dough together with your hands. Turn the dough on to a clean, dry and floured work surface. Start kneading the dough by stretching it away with the palm of one hand and folding it back again with the other. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour as you go if the dough is too sticky.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with cling film or a plastic bag to create a draught-free environment and put in a warm place (not hot) for between 1-3 hours or until doubled in size.

5. Lightly oil two baking trays.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down to knock the air out and knead briefly.

7. Roll in to a sausage shape and divide into 7 chunks. As you work one, keep the others covered with a clean tea towel.

8. There are two ways to shape the bagels. One is to firmly roll out each chunk in to a long sausage shape, then form a ring and seal the ends together with a tiny splash of water and squeezing. The other method (my prefered method) is to roll each chunk into a ball. Piercing a hole in the centre with your finger, pull the dough open wide by twirling it round your index fingers (wider than you think you need as the hole will shrink when the dough proves, is poached and then baked).Place on the prepared baking tray and repeat with remaining dough.

9. Cover and allow to rise for a further 10-20 minutes.

10. Preheat the oven to 220C  (200C fan), gas 7. Fill a large sauce pan with boiling water (from the kettle) and return to a simmer. Gently lift each bagel into the water to poach (do not try to put too many bagels in at once as they will expand slightly). Poach for about 90 seconds on each side, turning gently with a slotted spoon.

11. Remove the bagels from the water, allowing them to drain first and place on the prepared baking trays spacing them about 3-4cm apart.

12. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with your choice of topping. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn upside down for a further 10 minutes to cook the bases. Cool on a wire rack.

The recipe instructions were so easy to follow and I felt no need to refer to any other source for further explanation. The largest chunk of time went in poaching the bagels. I have to admit I was pretty bored by the time I was on my 3rd bagel. Rest of the steps take no time at all.

Toasted, these bagels were an instant hit with my daughter, my hubby and my friends. With cream cheese they were already addicted. I have only 3  left and I baked them last night.  I know I will be baking these again for sure.

Rosemary and Potato Dinner Rolls & So Many Thoughts

6 Feb

Warning : Long post ahead

I am going to jump from one subject to another with such speed that you might want to hold on to your seats! This post may not make a whole lot of sense, but at the moment there is this violent vortex of thoughts churning in my head and I have to vent it out. It contains extracts of my thoughts on an impending wedding, parenting, the changing seasons and Bahrain.

And here it comes—

1. In  4 days time I will be in India attending my brother’s wedding.  The entire family has been excitedly looking forward to this event and we all feel such joy to welcome a new member  ( my sister-in-law) into our family. It is a Gujarati wedding and hence the rituals will be in Bhavnagar where my  would be sister-in-law and her family live. I cannot wait to get there and enjoy all the wonderful Gujarati food, music and their traditional dance ( Raas and garba). I am hoping to dig into the authentic Gujarati cuisine that includes Undhiyu, Kadhi, Shrikhand etc. Dressing up, putting on make up, jewellery and meeting family and friends is going to be the norm of the next 10 days. The Reception programme is to be held at my dad’s native in Kerala and that would mean onslaught of good food, again.  I can barely wait to be on that flight to India.

2. I have been homeschooling Mimi for the last 3 weeks now. It all started when I joined a Homeschooling group that had mums who home schooled their children seriously and didn’t have any intention of sending them to school. Ever. So I joined them and realized their enthusiasm about this informal system of education and what it was doing to their children. I was profoundly impressed. So that the child doesn’t miss interacting with children his /her age, they meet once a week at a mum’s place ( A group is allowed 5 mums and max of 7-8 children). The host -mum decides the topic for that day and prepares fun activities, games, study material and craft around it for 2 whole hours which also includes 10 minutes of snack time. It is a hectic, fun-filled 2 hours with plenty to do and learn. I have gone for 4 such sessions at different mums’ homes and the 5th one was hosted at my place. It was such an interesting one week, planning for lessons and activities and craft around Sea Animals. Other varied topics that other mums hosted were ‘Patterns and finding them in the world around you”, ” Farm animals”, ” Your favourite books”, ” Cars and car safety”.  So in order to orient Mimi to this new system of fun and study, I decided to do it on a daily basis barring the weekends when my hubby distracts both of us with lot of cuddles. I am enjoying this experience so much that I do not seem to have any time to do anything else. Only weekends are reserved for some baking and me- time. I hope to keep up with this since it has helped me know Mimi even better and this is such a great opportunity for us to bond. It makes such incredible use of my time and secretly I enjoy doing all her craft.

The Sea in the box - Prototype by yours truly


sea-in-a-box by Mimi


Farm Animals - The sheep building project

3. It is that time of the year when Bahrain doesn’t revel in the magic of Valentine’s day like the rest of the World. It is that time when tension is brewing underground and you can feel it in the air, the conversations between absolute strangers standing at the super market billing counter waiting their turn and the lack of Valentine Day’s celebrations advertisements in the newspapers and magazines. Last year, this time, Bahrain was midst a lot of Political turmoil and for locals and expats alike, it was something they wouldn’t forget in a hurry. The sights of the army pulling in the residential areas with their tanks, the security personnel stopping every single car for thorough scrutiny and the mass exodus from the island are still fresh in everybody’s mind. While I would be away for my brother’s wedding celebrations during this time, I hope and pray that Bahrain stays peaceful.

4. Bahrain has experienced its share of glorious weather this winter season. The most pleasant of all months, we have the pleasant, more pleasant and most pleasant climes, these last 3 months. It has been both joyous and inspiring to write, to cook, to bake, to go out, to visit friends and to generally laze around at home with hot soups and crispy snacks. This is  the time that we visited different places, different events like the (not-so) grand air show, some beaches and new restaurants. When the weather is great, then everybody you meet or see is either smiling or being nice to the other. Recently we have had a cold wave that has had us shivering to our bones but I love it. It gives me the liberty to experiment with different soups when the markets are inundated with the freshest of produce.

That is when I felt I needed to bake some home-made bread to go with the soups. I am addicted to flipping through Peter Reinhart’s, “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. It makes such a good read that often times I find myself kneading dough in my head, following the master’s instructions carefully. Sometimes I feel, I might as well bake through the book since it has always exceeded expectations. So with that thought in mind, I set out to make some Rosemary and Potato dinner rolls that looked so appetizing in the photographs.  It took me 2 days to get my act together. I needed fresh rosemary and I needed to make biga. I made the biga and kept it in the refrigerator to rest overnight and the same evening I bought fresh rosemary from the supermarket. Rosemary has such a strong scent that rubbing some between your fingers can have you smelling for a long time.

To Make the Biga

The biga, after the overnight rest in the refrigerator

It makes about 500 gm biga , out of which only 200 gm will be used for the dinner rolls.


Unbleached Bread Flour – 2 1/2 cups

Instant yeast – 1/2 tsp

Water ( at room temp) – 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. I had to use some more to get the kind of dough that felt ‘right’.


1. Stir in flour, instant yeast, water and combine well.  Knead till the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.

2. Transfer it to a floured surface and knead well for 4-6 minutes

3. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough, coating it well with oil and keep it covered in a warm place. Let it rise for 2-4 hours or until it doubles in size

4. Remove the dough and degas it and return it to the bowl and refrigerate it covered overnight. It can stay in the refrigerator for 3 days and can freeze upto 3 months.

Recipe for Rosemary and Potato Dinner Rolls

It makes 18 dinner rolls but it gave me 19!!


biga – 200 gms

Unbleached bread flour – 3 cups plus 2 tbsp

salt – 1 1/2 tsp

Black pepper , coarsely ground – 1 tsp

instant yeast – 1 1/4 tsp

mashed potatoes – 1 cup

Olive oil- 1 tbsp

Coarsely chopped rosemary, fresh- 2 tbsp ( A little goes a long way)

water, at room temp- 3/4 cups pluse 2 tbsp. I had to use about 1 cup plus 4 tbsp

roasted garlic – 4 tbsp

semolina flour /cornmeal for dusting

Olive oil for brushing on top


1. Remove the Biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to bake and cut it into pieces. Use 200 gms of it and let that sit for 1 hour to take off the chill. Keep the rest covered, back into the refrigerator or the freezer.

top left - biga; top right - biga, cut into pieces; bottom left- after mixing all ingredients together; bottom right- after kneading for 10 minutes

2. Stir together the flour, salt, black pepper and yeast in a bowl and add biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary and water. Combine everything together very well. May knead some patience to do it.

3. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough and continue to knead for 10-20 minutes. Add more flour or water as required to have the dough soft and supple in your hands. It should also pass the window pane test to see the gluten development. If the stretched dough breaks then it needs more kneading.

Top left- window pane test to see gluten development; top right - adding roasted garlic; bottom left - after the first rise; bottom right - dinner rolls shaped.

4. Flatten the dough and spread roasted garlic. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it for about 1-2 minutes . Transfer it into a well oiled bowl and coat it with oil and let it rest for about 2 hours. It should double in size by then

5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 18 equal pieces ( Strangely I got 19)  and shape them into dinner rolls. Line a pan with baking parchment and dust lightly with semolina or cornmeal. Place the dinner rolls touching each other so that they have the pull-apart effect. Mist it with olive oil and then cover it with a plastic wrap. Let it proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Fresh from the oven

6. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 400 F/ 200 C and place the oven rack in the middle. Remove the plastic wrap and brush the rolls with more olive oil and score them if you like. I scored them using a scissor and that is how I got the design on top of my dinner rolls.

7. Bake it for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking.  In total, it will take about 35-40 minutes to bake completely. They will be golden brown all over and will sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool well before serving with hot soup.

I loved the flavour from the Rosemary and the pepper which I found to be more prominent. They make for a good snack all by themselves and even with some butter.

I did feel they were hard(er) on the outside but full of flavour on the inside. I like my dinner rolls soft, both sides. So somewhere, something was amiss and but couldn’t place a finger on what I didn’t do right. Overall, I am not entirely satisfied with the endeavour but I have fallen hard for the flavour.

If anybody does make this, I would love to know how it turned out.

Panettone : Fresh From the Oven November Challenge

28 Nov

With Thanksgiving being celebrated in most American homes, I felt the excitement rub off on me after I visited some food blogs. All the talk of good food pushed me into baking something spectacular. In the lieu of such delicious circumstances, the Fresh From the Oven November Challenge couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate challenge. Sarah of Maison Cupcakes challenged us to make the very popular Italian Panettone. This bread  is eggy, ever so slightly sweet and full of buttery goodness.  I added plenty of black raisins, chocolate chips and candied fruit in all my excitement. I even bought a special tumbler like mould to bake my Panettone since I couldn’t get hold of the traditional Panettone mould anywhere.

When I had a first look at the instructions, I felt intimidated beyond measure. I read it couple of times and it seemed like I could break it down into parts and implement it. This recipe required the dough to rise 4 times for an average 2 hours atleast. The baking time was broken down to 10 +40 minutes. All this was quite overwhelming considering my nascent approach towards bread making and the first mistake I committed was to follow the instructions blindly without tallying it with the ingredients list. In my haste I completely forgot to add the vanilla essence, citrus zest and two egg yolks as prescribed by the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the instructions fell short too. The part where the 2 egg yolks+citrus zest+ vanilla essence were to be added weren’t mentioned at all. I read it once, twice and thrice but my mind was more pre-occupied by the number of rises than taking note of whether all the ingredients have been incorporated or not. Ignorant, I continued in my pursuit of baking the Panettone. The results were less than impressive for obvious reasons. My dough did not rise at all inspite of the tediously long time I provided it. From that instant on, I was skeptical about the output. But I went ahead with it nevertheless and in the end I had a very ugly-looking but a delicious Panettone. Pardon me for the hideous pictures as my Panettone wasn’t an inspiring subject for photography.

Sarah was kind enough to add the missing instruction later but it was way too late for me to rectify. My Panettone was fabulously tasty but lacked the texture of the traditional Panettone.

Recipe for Panettone

Serves 1 large loaf

7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
75g sultanas (I made up the weight with raisins too)
50g candied orange, diced or finely chopped
50g dark chocolate chips (or more fruit)
40g unsalted butter to finish
Makes enough to fill a 15cm tall cake tin or panettone mould. Bear this in mind if improvising with smaller round tins.
1. Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand or dough hook. Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. ( I completely missed out this step because the original post missed it out too, but I should have checked and read well).
2. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. Sprinkled a little of the remaining weighed flour over the top of the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers or the dough hook on a slow speed. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for ten minutes  (or use the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. Depending on the flour, you may not need it all or you may need a little more. (Mine was fine).
5. Cover the bowl with cling film (I used a tea towel as well, mainly because it feels “rustic”) and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
6. Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. Cover again and let it double in size again (1 to 1.5 hours although I left mine 2 whilst we had Sunday lunch).
7. Meanwhile combine the sultanas with the chopped peel and chocolate chips. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
8. Prepare the tin by lining with parchment paper. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
9. Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit and chocolate mixture on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed.
10. Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop into the prepared tin. Cut a cross into the top. Lay a sheet of cling-film loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again.
11. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. (My loaf was going very brown after 30 mins and I had to cover with foil to stop it burning).
13. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin.
14. Cool completely before slicing.
This experience has been an enlightening one and I understand more than ever why only bread makers are called ‘ Artisans’ and no other branch of baking is revered so much. I have learnt a lot from this experience and wish to make the Panettone once again and see how I fare.

Weekend Dinner – Veg. Lasagne, Whole Meal Loaf & Tomato – Feta Salad

26 Aug

You must all know Mimi by now. What you may not know about her is, she is a very peculiar toddler. While I know of kids who love to eat out and gorge on fried chips, munchies, chocolates, biscuits, flavoured milk, burgers and cola, my child detests it with all her might. She prefers eating home-made meals. Hot and piping, right off the stove. Going out with her never means a break for me from the kitchen. I have to make her meal, feed her and only then step out. Else I have to carry her dinner of roti & sabji or dosa & sambar and feed her on the go. When I rant about it to my girlfriends, they feel, I am blessed. They narrate to me their struggles of trying to get their children to eat home cooked meals.

After all this while, I realize, I am truly blessed, for various reasons. Mimi’s habits not only ensure that she eats  healthy and fresh meals  but also prompts me to try different cuisines in my kitchen. One such weekend dinner was about experimenting with Italian. Vegetarian only.

I prepped up for some vegetarian lasagna, a crusty loaf and some easy tomato – feta gorgeousness of a salad.

Vegetarian Lasagna : The silly thing about reading recipes is that they make you feel that it is the simplest thing in the world to do. But when you get around doing it with your bare hands, you realize you completely lack co-ordination. It happens to me all the time. Lasagna was tricky to make especially the boiling of the sheets. I wanted it all ‘al-dente’ and micro observed to get it right. But when I was done, peeling them off of each other was a task that took me the maximum amount of time. The vegetable part was easy since it was just about going chop, chop, chop. The white bechamel sauce was something I make  regularly so that did not take any time either. Layering was enjoyable like artwork. Cheese scraping was done by my friend Namit to help me get the dinner on the table before the clock struck mid night. The result was remarkable and worth all the effort. Mimi loved it and had an extra  helping. This is definitely winner of a recipe.

Recipe for Veg. Lasagna


Lasagna sheets  – use as required, I had to use about 24 of them since I had a large tray to fill

Salt to taste

White Sauce* – 1 1/2 cups – 2 cups

Cheddar cheese grated – 1 cup ( more the better)

Oil – 2 tbsp

Butter- 2 tbsp

Garlic crushed – 8 cloves

Onions chopped – 2 medium

Mushrooms  chopped finely – 7-8 nos.

Brinjal / aubergine chopped finely – 1 large

Zucchini chopped – 2 medium

Capsicum chopped – 1 no.

Tomatoes chopped – 4 medium

Dry Basil – 1 tsp

Dry Oregano – 1 tsp

Maggi vegetable stock – 1 small cube

Fresh Parsley chopped  – about a handful or less


1. Heat a lot of water in a deep pan. Add enough salt such that the water tastes like sea water. Add lasagna sheets and a little olive oil to the water. Boil it for 10 minutes and take them out. Spread them out carefully without burning your fingers and cover with a damp cloth.

2. In a separate pan, heat oil & butter. Saute the chopped onion till they are translucent and then add crushed garlic. Add the Maggi vegetable stock cube. You will see it dissolving in the oil in sometime.

3. Add all the chopped vegetables except capsicum and tomatoes. Let them cook. Add salt but with care since the Maggi vegetable stock has a lot of salt in it already.

4. Now add the tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Once they turn soft add capsicum, dry basil, dry oregano and parsley. Mix well and cook for some more time. Take it off the stove.

5. Preheat the oven to 200C  and butter your baking dish.

6.First lay down a the first layer of the pasta and then the white sauce on top of it. Then put another layer of pasta and a layer of the vegetable mixture. A layer of pasta and then the white sauce. Alternate layers like that and fill up the baking dish.

7. Once the last layer of pasta has been laid, spread grated cheese on top and cover completely. Shove it in the preheated oven for about 20-22 minutes or until the cheese has turned golden. Serve hot.

*Notes – For the white sauce/bechamel sauce,  you need 4 Tbsp of all-purpose flour, 2 cups of hot milk, 2 tbsp of butter, salt to taste and pepper.

To prepare- Take a heavy bottomed pan, put it on the stove and melt the butter first. Add the flour and stir well. Do not let it brown and cook well for about 2 minutes. Add the two cups of hot milk and stir continuously. You will find that the sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper and let it cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from fire and let it cool. While using if the sauce has thickened too much then you could add a wee bit milk and heat it a bit to loosen it.

Whole Meal Loaf – Sometimes I feel, we demand a level of convenience that is immodest. But when you make bread with your bare hands, kneading and toiling , it presents itself as the most humbling experience. I followed the same recipe as in the post about Nigella Lawson’s bread. Only that I shaped it like a baton and made some deep gashes  atop to give it a rustic feel. The loaf was crusty on the outside and on the inside the crumb was a delight to bite on. I made some garlic infused olive oil which was such a splendid accompaniment along with blobs of butter.

Tomato-Feta Salad – First, this salad is such a stunner to look at. Second it demands nothing out of you except a few firm and sweet tomatoes sliced and arranged on a plate adorned with a few pinches of feta. No seasonings required to perk it up. The feta does what is required of it, that is, give it that tangy-salty twist.



The dinner goes down as one of the most memorable ones. To be able to put a smile on my family’s and friend’s faces makes it worth my while. Every attempt that I have made that seemed outside my comfort zone has met with mixed results. But it is only practising the craft again and again that has made all the difference.

There is so much more that I yearn to learn through such wonderful dinners.

For the beautiful collage and photographs I have my friend, Namit to thank. While I was busy preparing the dinner, he made use of that time to click some wonderful frames. Thank you so much for your patience.

Nigella Lawson’s Bread

24 Jul

There is something very comforting about bread-baking. I am not sure if it is just the kneading process that makes me break into a sweat and gives a feeling of a task accomplished. It could also be that making something as fundamental as bread at home, could be so ridiculously easy, surprises me each time. People feel intimidated when they have to go about using yeast, whilst, I am comfortable handling yeast. So in order to enhance the little knowledge that I already have gained by reading the material available on the internet, I decided to gift myself, Dan Lepard’s ” The Handmade Loaf”.

He is an artisan bread maker and renowned for his almost no-knead technique of bread making. His book covers bakers from all across Northern Europe. It is fascinating to note, that there are so many different methods, ingredients (some I have never even heard of ), leavening agents to make hearty loaves. Stunning photographs of local bakers, their rustic ovens and handsome loaves make it such an interesting read. He stresses on making your own leavening agent at home. I find that part a bit intimidating and hence never got down to doing it.  So if Dan Lepard would ever read this post, I would want to apologize to him since I have dared to use the infamous Dry Active Yeast to puff up my bread. Next time, I would show more respect and buy fresh yeast from a local bakery here in Bahrain to bake my bread.

More than the recipes it is the technique of making the bread – Dan Lepard style – that holds my attention. I tried my best to incorporate his method in baking Nigella Lawson’s Simple White Loaf of bread.  The results were no doubt, spectacular.

I  have Nigella Lawson’s ” How to be a Domestic Goddess” which is another fabulous book.  Known for her non fussy comfort cooking, Nigella inspires home bakers like me.  So in this post, I shall share with you Nigella’s recipe and Dan Lepard’s  technique as simply as possible. It wasn’t possible for me to take pictures at each juncture of the bread making process but in words, I will try my best to explain how and what I did.

Recipe for Nigella Lawson’s Simple Loaf of Bread


31/2 cups of bread flour plus more for kneading ( I used the wholemeal organic bread flour)

1 package /1 tbsp of dry active yeast

1 tbsp salt

approximately 1 1/3 cup of warm water ( I could manage with less than cup of water. So it entirely depends on the kind of flour that you use to make the bread)

1 tbsp of unsalted butter, soften

2/3 cups of pine nuts or any other kind of nuts/seeds that you would like to incorporate


1. Put the flour, yeast ( dissolve the 1 tbsp of dry active yeast in little warm water and let it dissolve. Let it stand for about 7-10 minutes before you add it to the bread flour mixture) , salt in a bowl and pour in about 3/4 cup of water, mixing as you do so with a wooden spoon or your hands. Be prepared to add more water as you require to convert the flour mix at hand into a mushy mess.

2. Add the butter and pine nuts and mix in.

3. Now using Dan Lepard’s method of no kneading, transfer the mushy mass on a lightly oiled, clean patch of work surface. I used a wooden cutting board. Knead for 5-10 seconds. Stop kneading before the dough absorbs the oil and sticks to the surface. Flip the dough over and leave it to rest. Cover with a cloth. Leave it for 10 minutes covered on the work surface, which is what I did. Alternately you could transfer it to a well oiled bowl and cover it.  In either case, leave the dough covered for 10 minutes.

4. Come back after 10 minutes ( which is the time , I chose to catch with “Come Dine with Me” on BBC LifeStyle) and start the kneading processes again for 5-10 secs on a well oiled work surface/wooden cutting board. You would feel that the dough is easier to work with and more resilient. I repeated this entire process of kneading for 5-10 seconds and then going away for 10 minutes 4 times. By time time, I had a very obedient mass in my hands that was ready to kept away for an hour or two to rise.  I kept it, covered in a well oiled glass bowl,  in the warmest corner of my kitchen so that the yeast could act faster.

5. After the designated time, I had the pleasure of punching the air out of the dough that had doubled it’s size.

6. Then preheat the oven for 425 F/ Gas mark 7. Knead the deflated dough for a scant few minutes and then round it into the desired shape. I pushed mine into a loaf tin pan which was generously greased. Leave it for another half hour and let it rise some more.

7. After the half hour lapses, push the loaf tin into the oven to bake for 35 minutes. I dusted mine with a little flour for the crusty loaf.

8. The way to check if the loaf is done all the way through is to lift up the loaf or remove it from its pan and knock with your knuckles on the underside; if it makes  a hollow noise, it’s cooked; if not put it back in the oven for a few minutes. When ready, remove to rack and let it cool.

It is simply divine to have your own handmade loaf with a blob of butter. The soft interior and the crusty exterior of the slice with the nuttiness of the pine nuts is all good by itself too. By using Dan Lepard’s method of repeated kneading, resulted in the crumb of loaf having an open texture. Since I used the wholemeal bread flour, it was denser in texture but absolutely delicious.

Another point to note is that the bread quality depends on the quality of the flour you use. I found a marked difference when I used organic flour to bake bread vis-a-vis the normal wholemeal bread flour. The taste and the texture was extraordinary.

On a final note, in Nigella Lawson’s own words, ” Home baked breads can look bulging and full of cracks and fissures – but that’s fine, that’s because they’re homemade”.

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