Tag Archives: celebration

Bahrain’s 42nd National Day celebration with Baklawa

20 Dec

Bahrain celebrated its 42nd National Day on the 16th of December. The entire island country is painted in the colours of red and white – the colours of the National flag. At night, it is a spectacular display of red and white lights which illuminate every road and building and turn it into something like a set from a Baz Luhrmann movie. However busy our lives might be, it is difficult not to get caught into the whole festive spirit of the nation. We enjoyed our long awaited 2 day off (16th and 17th December) from work and packed it with exciting things to do. Most of the restaurants were running  discount in the honour of the National Day and the Accession Day (17th of December). Most of the malls were jam packed with people shopping and dining. There were bands playing and entertaining the crowds too.

We managed to savour some authentic Bahraini breakfast at the Saffron in Muharraq. They have a set menu that they never change and despite that they are ever so popular. The breakfast is an extended affair so be prepared to be served courses after courses of wonderfully unique breakfast savories and sweets and breads. All this washed down with cups and cups of hot, karak tea.

Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq

Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq

On the personal accomplishment front, I managed to tick off two items from my culinary bucket list for the year during the mid – week holiday. One of them was baking my favourite dessert – The Baklava and the other was learning how to pipe. The piping post will follow soon.

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Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo sheets, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts are also sometimes used is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. So you have alternate layers of phyllo sheets and chopped nuts. Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelogram, triangles, or rectangles.

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A syrup, which may include sugar, honey or rose scented or orange scented syrup is poured over the baked baklava and allowed to soak in for many hours. Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts. I attempted the Turkish baklava which is traditionally  made by filling pistachios, walnuts and almonds  between the layers of phyllo dough soaked in cold orange-lemon sugar-honey syrup.

I used the recipe from the Purple Foodie’s blog.

I was less than satisfied with my attempt and wouldn’t mark it as a roaring success. After baking and post soaking the phyllo+nuts filling with the citrus scented syrup, the phyllo layers were quite flaky and not soft from the syrup. But from a taste perspective, it was beyond delicious. After much contemplation and reflection I realized my folly. I finished the ritual of laying down sheets of phyllo and buttered them with melted butter and then a layer of nuts on top and let it rest for more than 2 hours before putting it in the oven to bake. The butter sheets hardened and after became quite crisp. So if you attempt this recipe which is seriously amazing – DO NOT LET THE BAKLAVA REST FOR MORE THAN 15 mins and immediately put it in the oven to bake!!!

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Despite that technical hitch, I shall confidently cross of the Baklava off my Culinary Bucket list and move forward to attempt the next one.

Here I share some random pictures from in and around my visits to different places in Bahrain and the interesting things that caught my eye.

The local Superman

The local Superman

The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq

The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq

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A traditional kebab shop

A traditional kebab shop

Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop

Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop

fish monger

fish monger

Arabic Coffee flask

Arabic Coffee flask

Traditional Coffee shop

Traditional Coffee shop

Kebab

Kebab

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

30 Nov

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

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All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

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And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

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Celebrating Deepawali with Jalebis

1 Nov

Another one bites the dust!

Well, not literally.

These days I am obsessed about my culinary bucket-list and am focusing on getting them done before the year ends. I finished with the Pavlova and the bbq, done with the oysters too. Then I thought since its festival time, why not attempt jalebis and see how I fare. I googled plenty of recipes – with yeast and without yeast.  Finally I settled for a recipe on Showmethecurry site. If you haven’t seen this site before, you should definitely see what a treasure cove of video-recipes it is.

Jalebi is “made by deep frying maida (all purpose flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup”

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A good jalebi depends on:

1. The consistency of the batter

2. The temperature at which it is deep fried

3. The sugar syrup’s richness and flavour ( cardamom /saffron)

I read about all the dos and the don’ts before attempting the recipe to be very sure about getting it right the first time. The only investment I made was in on an empty squeezy bottle ( the ones that you would use for filling up ketchup and mayo)

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Dipped in saffron infused sugar syrup

Just before I get on with the recipe and other formalities, I would love to wish each one of you a beautiful Deepawali. I hope this Deepawali ushers in light, joy, prosperity and luck to all your lives. Usually during Deepawali we are in Delhi where we celebrate it with my in laws and extended family. It is a wonderful time to have family get togethers, dinners, shopping, gifts and food. Delhi is a land of wonderful food and once you get a flavour of Delhi food, its difficult to love food anywhere else ( Ahmedabad comes a close second). This year we aren’t travelling to Delhi and we will miss the crackers, the sweets and all the family gatherings. Mimi will miss being with her cousins and bursting crackers.

But munching on this juicy, crunchy jalebis provides succor to our Delhi-Deepawali-deprived souls.

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Click on the image to view the recipe

Click on the image to view the recipe

The only hitch I thought was that the sugar syrup wasn’t enough. Otherwise the recipe is top notch.

 

Once again, a very happy Deepawali!!!

Eid Mubarak with Nafisa’s Shir Korma

9 Aug

How infinitely true is it when you think about friendships and realize that the friends you have had in school were the best sort. They all come with no conditions apply policy. And as you grow older through college and then work, all the friendship become more conditional. As children in school we have no expectations when we get into a friendship. Wish I could say the same about all the friendships through the rest of the course of my life.

Ofcourse, there are exceptions to this all the time. I have a fair share of such unconditional friendships even now. Touchwood.

Well this is a special Eid post inspired purely because one of closest school friends happened to share an awesome Shir Korma (vermicelli milk pudding) recipe with me.

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Nafisa and I go a long way from school to now being whatsapp buddies. The thing with her is that there is never any awkwardness even if there were long periods of being out of touch. As a matter of fact, we were 5 friends, – Sunita, Nafisa, Kavita, Poorna and me. Whenever I think of one, memories of all the others come on automatically. There was never anything that we did not do together.  Sunita was the prankster, Nafisa the level headed one, Kavita was everybody’s agony aunt, Poorna was quirky and funny while I was the nerd. We made such a fantastic team together and never tired of having fun all the time.

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Nafisa and I also played basketball together for many years. That is where we got extremely close. We could discuss anything and everything under the sun – teenage crushes, gossip, everything.

IMG-20130809-WA003We parted ways after school and during college we couldn’t keep in touch as much as we would have loved to. Life took over and then here we are living our busy lives with our babies and husbands. She is a proud mother of a 2-year-old (nearly)  beautiful Naisha. Thank God for technology and here we are chatting up on whatsapp whenever time permits; discussing motherhood woes and joys.

Eid was a special time while growing up with Nafisa. I remember Nafisa and her sisters wearing splendid shararas / ghararas and looking so beautiful. They invited us to their homes where we were served delicious Shir Korma and other delicacies.

S1Nafisa’s mother is such an excellent cook and so is Nafisa.  So during one of our whatsapp rants I asked her to share her Shir Korma recipe. Shir Korma is a milk based pudding with vermicelli, nuts and raisins. This is usually made during Eid celebrations.   I have tried to replicate it with the best of my efforts just to capture the essence of the Eid celebrations with Nafisa’s family 20-25 years back. Nafisa is sad that she wouldn’t able to spend this Eid with her mother due to some special circumstances. Perhaps this post will rehash all her Eid memories and make her spirit a little lighter.

Thanks so much Nafisa for this wonderful recipe and taking me back in time.

Nafisa, here’s wishing you and your beautiful family all the happiness and prosperity on this Eid.

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My Beautiful Bahrain & a No-Bake Blackberry Cheesecake

26 May

5th of May, 2012, is a date that shall go down as one of the most defining days of my life. This day, a book was launched by the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, called My Beautiful Bahrain.  I am one of the co-authors along with Namit Bhatia, whom you all recall being mentioned on this blog innumerable times. Our article – Bahrain, A Culinary Oasis got accepted as one of the 40 articles written by 50 authors, all of different nationalities.

Co-authors of Bahrain: A Culinary Oasis

My Beautiful Bahrain is the brain-child of Robin Barratt, who is the founder of Bahrain Writers’ Circle, the first of its kind – writers’ club in Bahrain. He encouraged every single one of us, members to give out our story that talked about Bahrain and how beautiful this island is. He kept at us for months together when members like me thought, we weren’t good enough to have our names printed as authors in a book. He motivated, compelled and even bullied to have us write. Finally the book is out and we can’t be proud enough. Atleast for me, it means the world to have my name in print for the very first time. I was over the moon when Robin asked me to read out a passage from the book at the Launch. I was filled with trepidation but I practiced my speech couple of times and felt prepared.

Robin Barratt presenting us the copy of My Beautiful Bahrain

Reading a passage from my article

With Hubby..

A baby who didn’t care about the book launch

My Beautiful Bahrain in Robin’s own words,

With lots of fascinating personal ‘life’ stories, quite a few tourist-type information and fact based contributions, some wonderful poetry, an occasional piece of fiction (set on the island) and a mixture of other diverse and captivating prose, with fifty contributions from forty writers from fifteen countries (almost 300 pages), My Beautiful Bahrain is both varied and unique, and an undeniably indispensable guide for travellers and visitors to the island, as well as a ‘must-read’ book for people living here, doing business here, or just interested in what life is like living on this tiny, tiny island in the Arabian Gulf. 

The aims and goals of this book are to show the world that; firstly, there are a great many terrific and talented writers on the island that most definitely should be read and heard and secondly, for most people here, Bahrain is a wonderful place to live!”

As simple an agenda as that wasn’t the easiest to manage since finding a publisher who would do it for absolutely nothing was a tough task. But Robin persisted for everybody’s sake and the result is for all to see. The first edition is already sold out and more are being printed as I type this post. To download, you could check this out.

My parents were able to attend this mega-event of my life and that makes me feel super -blessed. My husband, my daughter and friends – Namit ( co-author ), Pooja Rajpal( who has her own article in the book called ‘Newbie’), Gayathri( who came by to wish me luck) made me feel so special.

My Beautiful Bahrain has given me the confidence to not stop with it but to continue writing to be published in the future. It was just the right sort of nudge required.

To celebrate, I made a No- Bake  Blackberry Cheesecake with some blackberry sauce. The cheesecake looked devastatingly gorgeous ( coming from the creator, it seems narcissistic, but it was stunning to look at). I am in love with the deep purple colour and now I know what color I am going bring into my wardrobe soon. The cheesecake is entirely my concoction, ingredients, proportions and all. I just kept adding ingredients whilst mentally noting down the proportions in order to write down the recipe later.

Mimi has special fondness for dessert in Ramekins and thinks of them as ice creams. So I spared some from the total batter to fill her ice cream -ramekins

The biscuit base was crumbly, just the way we like it.We aren’t a big fans of the snappy sort of base that usually comes with bakery cheesecakes. As for the cheesecake, the flavour was spot on.  The tart blackberry flavour and the smooth creamy texture on my tongue reminded me of a purple satin dress that I had once and how it felt against my skin. It is indulgent, celebratory and gorgeous ( did I mention that already?) to look at.

From here on, as I dip my dessert spoon into a heavenly slice of the blackberry cheesecake, I reflect on how My Beautiful Bahrain is just the beginning. There is so much more coming in the near future.

I can see it.

Baguette Bread Pudding for Mother’s Day

12 May

I realized how lucky I am when I was browsing through all my old photographs. My parents have inevitably been a part of every milestone of my life.  Be it my first singing performance in front of a large audience, Annual sports day, or  my graduation day ceremony, my wedding (ofcourse), at the birth of my daughter, her first birthday, the launch of my first book ( a post coming up soon with the details) and so on. I feel blessed and so loved by a set of parents who have helped, guided and supported me in all my life’s decisions. 13th May being Mother’s Day, I take this opportunity to tell them how infinitely lucky I feel to have them in my life and how much they mean to me.

These days, they are visiting us in Bahrain and it has been the most relaxed, stress free period in a long, long time. Mimi had a small accident where she fell of the sofa and broke her right elbow. The impact of the fall was quite severe and her right arm had to be plastered for 3 weeks. I was at my wits end when I couldn’t figure out how I was going to manage her, my work, home and everything else. I do have the most dependable nanny in the world but I was still apprehensive considering how Mimi was going to spend her whole day at home when I was at work.  So I asked my parents to come down and they obliged without a thought. They had a lot of pressing commitments back home but when it comes to their grand-daughter, they pushed everything in the back burner and hopped on the first flight to Bahrain. They have been here for the last 3 weeks and we have another week with them. I feel sad already thinking that they would be leaving soon and soon there will be  heart-shaped void for a long, long time before things get back to normal. Mimi’s cast is off and my parents have been a great influence when it comes to teaching her new things, our language and every little detail. Mimi has started speaking a lot more and expresses herself more clearly. When my parents leave Mimi will miss them more than ever.

While they are here, I made sure I  made every day count, especially the weekends. My dad is extremely fond of baked goodies so I made him an apple cake, raspberry brownies, the chocolate cherry cupcakes, Palmiers ( post on the way), hopefully a cheesecake and some fruit cake before he leaves. My mother is passionate about cooking and loves to watch me in action so that she can go back home and try some of it on her own. She gives me ideas on how I can improve something or change ingredients. She has a creative streak in her which she unleashes effortlessly in the kitchen. My father has a way with words and he gives me ideas about how I can write new posts on my blog on varied topics. Both of them read my blog with great interest and give me their honest opinion about it.

So you see, it is a win-win.

I know I am going to miss them terribly when they leave and I cannot wait to plan my next trip to see them in Kerala. Though it is Mother’s Day tomorrow, I would want to wish my dad also because they are a team; my mom and dad. They have do things together, take decisions together and there not a single instance that I recall where they haven’t stuck together during the thick and the thin. These are the values they have passed on to me and my brother – Family always comes first.

 I made them some baguette bread pudding and they loved it more than all the other baked goodies. Bread and butter pudding has been my eternal favourite as long as I remember. My mother used to make a non-baked version of the bread and the butter pudding which I used to love. Unfortunately she doesn’t remember how to make it after all this time. That is the reason why she encourages me to detail it all down on my blog for posterity.

The baguette was a few days old and that really enhanced the flavour of the pudding. Also, it is important not to be stingy when it comes to butter because bread and butter pudding requires loads of butter-love. I added cranberries because I wanted their tartness to shine through the dull sweetness of the custard. I remembered to soak the cranberries in rum overnight and in the morning they had soaked in all the alcoholic goodness.  I blow torched the bread pudding to give it a brownish-black crust because my hubby loves a little burnt taste in his bread pudding. Burnt sugar on the top provides the much needed textrue to the otherwise ooey-gooey bread pudding.

Though Mimi doesn’t know it is Mother’s Day tomorrow and what it means to our relationship, I know for a fact that she would run to me when I come back from work. The delight on her face is beyond compare and lights up the dreariest day. I look forward to that reaction every single day after I come back from work. A few years down the lane, I am also looking forward to the hand made beautiful cards she is going to make for me 🙂

Wishing all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day because this day like every day is  a testimony of the fact that we are the moving force in our child’s life. We have the power to mould them into the individuals that they are today or would be in the future. To carry out this  immense responsibility I wish from the higher power to give each one of us enough strength and determination.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting ( Birthday Post-1)

5 May

It was my birthday a few days ago and it was wonderful. I can go ahead and claim that it was the best birthday that I would have had in a decade. Unexpected and infinitely fun, this birthday goes down in my birthday history books of records at the very top until ofcourse another more fantabulous one comes along.

Birthdays and me, don’t really have a thing going as long as I remember. I was never the one to look forward to one, more so after I crossed the “30” milestone. Its been a week now that my birthday’s gone, but the good taste and feeling still remains, lingering in the air somewhere. I catch a whiff of it sometime and you can see me smiling for no reason at all. It was that wonderful. You may also know that I enjoy doing a lot of analysis. I have to know why something was good, or bad, or why it happened or what was the best way of going about it etc.

There are few straightforward reasons as to why this birthday was so much more amazing than the other ones:

1. The biggest reason is my parents are in town. How can a birthday be anything less than wonderful when your parents are with you. They lavished all their attention and love on me (for a change) otherwise everybody has eyes and ears only for Mimi.

2. My husband promised to bake a cake for me ( rest of the story follows later in the post)

3.  My daughter, Mimi can say Happy Birthday to you now and can sing it even better

4. I got plenty of gifts which include a much sought after cake stand, a gold ring, shopping vouchers, flowers, delicious home baked  chocolate cakes, a lovely bag and dinner at one of the best restaurants in town. It cannot get any better than this. I profusely thank my husband, Amit, my parents, my friends Namit, Anamika, Ashish, Gayathri and Pooja for making it so memorable.

5. I think the most deciding of all factors was that I was expecting nothing. Zilch.

A few days before my birthday I noticed that people at work brought cakes to office on their birthdays, so I thought that I should join in on that trend and push some of my bakes on my co workers. I turned to one of my least used baking books – Nigella Lawson’s ” How to be a Domestic Goddess” and flipped open to the Chocolate Cherry cupcake recipe. What caught my eye was the morello cherry jam that was used so generously in the recipe. I love the taste of Morello  cherry Jam and instantly knew that it was going to be a great recipe to try. But I didn’t fancy the chocolate ganache frosting and starting thinking of other ideas for frosting the chocolate cherry cupcakes.

Do you see the lovely photo of the cupcakes and the one with has the recipe written in it? Its the work of my friend Namit. He comes up with the most glorious ideas that help make my blog look a whole lot better. All these photographs were shot by him since I had no time to take pictures and was sure that there was no post coming out of this one. But he made sure that not a single bake was missed. Hearty thanks to you Namit.

Now to my story where my hubby promised me that he would bake a cake for my birthday. Well, he must have had a few sleepless nights after he made this promise to me during a rush of emotions. I was quietly enjoying  him getting anxious and uneasy as my birthday approached. For everybody’s information, he can’t cook AT ALL. He can make his tea and instant noodles and his culinary expertise ends there. Finally on the day before my birthday he came home with an envelope and handed it over to me. On opening the envelope I saw shopping vouchers. He apologized about not being able to make a cake for me and instead pleaded me to make do with these shopping vouchers. I stared hard at him for sometime while my brain did some quick analysis and soon came to the conclusion that these shopping vouchers would definitely make a better gift considering the latest collection that I had an eye on at Zara and Mango. I quickly accepted his gift with a lot of gusto! When I think back I realized he bribed me and I accepted it without a thought. That is what 7 years of marriage does to you, I suppose.

Shopping vouchers Vs Hubby baked cake —> Shopping vouchers win hands down!!

Look at the cake stand. Lovely isn’t it?

The cupcakes came out moreish and were appreciated all round. My co workers came back for second or third helpings and I was sold out by the end of the day. I think that is a good indicator to how wonderful these were. You could distinctly taste the fabulous flavour of Morello cherry jam which made it so enchanting. The white chocolate frosting idea was completely mine. I used Lindt white chocolate with sour cream and icing sugar to create a confectionery sort of sweet icing. I wished I had a piping bag, it would have made the frosting even more appealing. The crumb of the cupcake was soft and cake like. I would highly recommend making these on special occasions and guarantee that they would be a huge hit. In case you have some kirsch then it is even better since the flavour of kirsch provides a well rounded smooth cherry flavour.

I have another post lined up which will entail the Party details. Cheers until then!

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