Tag Archives: nigella lawson

The last of my bucket list : Khandvi

18 Jan

How much I enjoy cutting off items on my list! I don’t regard myself as some one with an OCD yet when it comes to making plans and lists, I may just be one. The final item on my list which I finished before the end of the year was Khandvi. Khandvi is a savory snack from the Indian state of Gujarat. I am extremely fond of Gujarati food because I was brought up there. Though my roots are in Kerala, my heart is with Gujarat. I speak and write fluent Gujarati but not my mother tongue which is Malayalam. Every October, during Navratri, I pine to go to Ahmedabad (where I did my Engineering degree) to enjoy the 9 days of festivity. Then comes Uttarayan, the festival of kites in January which I miss more than ever. When I think of Gujarat, I think of vibrant colours, cheerful and hospitable people and lip smacking food. Gujarati food tends to be sweet, even the savory ones. It is believed that a meal is not complete until it encompasses all the tastes of savoury, pungent, sweet, bitter and tangy. This holistic approach to food makes Gujarati food satisfying.

K2My mother mastered a lot of typical Gujarati recipes including dhokla and handvo. I have never managed to get any of these right at the first attempt. It only means these recipes are a bit tricky to master and require considerable practice. I had a similar experience while making Khandvi where it took me to two back – to- back attempts to get it right.

K4Khandvi is prepared usually from bengal gram flour but it can also be made using moong dal/ mung bean flour as well. The flour is mixed thoroughly with yogurt or butter milk and spiced with tumeric and ginger-green chilly paste. This is cooked on a low flame until the flour-yogurt mixture is done well. There is a test to figure out whether the Khandvi will roll without breaking. For that, you need to scoop a spoonful of Khandvi batter and apply it on a greased plate ( with oil). Let the Khandvi cool and with delicate fingers try and roll it out. If the Khandvi does not roll it means the batter is not done and needs more cooking. Sounds easy? Its NOT!! After rolling out the Khandvi, it is tempered with sesame seeds, mustard seeds, dried red chillis and curry leaves. The final touch is to garnish it with chopped, fresh coriander leaves and fresh grated coconut.

Khandvi should melt in your mouth! Mine did and I was happy the way it turned out.

K9I used the Late Tarla Dalal’s recipe – the pioneer MasterChef of India. She passed away last year leaving behind a legacy of amazing regional recipes and ‘Continental’ ones too. If you want to take a look at Tarla Dalal in action, here’s the link.

Here’s the recipe for people who are intrigued enough to try it themselves. It is a great recipe and so simple too. But simple doesn’t always mean easy.

K1

Now that I cleared my bucket list, I was meandering  around my statistics and discovered what my top 5 recipes posts have been in 2013.

1. The Apple turnovers

apple turn overs

2. The Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

blueberry swirl cheesecake

3. Poached eggs in baked beans

poached eggs

4. Flourless Chocolate – Orange Cake – Nigella recipe

choc orange

5. Chocolate Mousse

chocolate mousse

It has been a fantastic year for me as far as my culinary achievements go. Crossing off a culinary bucket list, visiting France and enjoying oysters  on my birthday, contributing recipes and other food related articles to magazines and attending several food related events in Bahrain have been the highlights. All this reflection and contemplation on the year gone by only tells me that there is so much to do in 2014 that I can hardly wait to start. I take this opportunity to thank each one of you readers of  my blog who take time out to come to my space and leave your thoughts in the comments section. Reading these comments always, ALWAYS  makes my day. It only means that you do enjoy my words and this creative space of mine. Thank you again!

Mimi’s 3rd Birthday with Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

6 Oct

One of my friends mentioned on my Facebook, against one of Mimi’s photographs – Tempus Fugit ( Latin for Time Flees/Flies) and it stayed with me for the longest time. Is there no way to capture it all and bottle it up or have moving photos like that in Harry Potter books? No videos can ever do justice to the essence of the moment. It can never capture the way my baby smells ( at each age; in months, at 1, at 2 and now at 3 years of age, she smells differently), the way she pronounces Mamma and how it has changed to a more definitive and more confident, Mamma now that she has made that transition from being a baby to a toddler. She has very strong preferences about the colour and the kind of clothes she wants to wear and the sort of food she eats and the activities that she wants to do. She can recognize most of the fruits, vegetables, colours, things, people’s names, shapes, animals, birds, numbers until 30, all the alphabets and talks in whole sentences. When did this change come about? It is most extraordinary when I see her perform with such poise and confidence her rhymes with her own set of actions to go with it. She is growing up way too quickly. I feel helpless and happy at the same time watching her grow up so quickly and into this fiercely independent individual. Birthdays are such powerful reminders of how time is just slipping by without warning. I want to hold on to each moment, want to savour it by being in it, revelling and participating in it. But countless such brilliant moments just pass by without recognition and sometimes even without awareness.

Her 3rd birthday was an eddy of emotions like that

It was unfortunate that on her 3rd birthday she was very sick; down with a severe throat infection and high temperature. Medicines kept her spirits up but not mine. I complained that it wasn’t fair that she should be sick on her special day. All my plans of making a cake and sharing it with her schoolmates were thwarted by this disease that seems to afflict my child ever so often. Sweet and considerate friends came over to make her feel special with gifts in tow. She blew a solo candle on a banana chocolate chip muffin that I had on hand. She was beaming from all the attention she got and the songs that were sung for her. She did her happy dance.

She got better a few days after that and we quickly planned a party to thank all our friends who made Mimi’s day by either visiting or calling to shower her with their blessings. A birthday party, that was simple and uncomplicated as Mimi’s own concept of what birthdays are. When I asked her what she thought about her birthday, she said, ” Cake, blow candles, sing birthday song for Mimi”

Such a simple philosophy and so much I learn from her each day about keeping things simple.

Mimi loves chocolate and a chocolate cake is just what she wanted. So Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake was just right for this simple occasion. I was inspired to try this cake from Thanh’s blog. Nigella’s bakes are fool proof and so uncomplicated. Quite like Mimi’s philosophy. Nigella’s old fashioned Chocolate cake was just right for the mood. Simple, homely and delicious. The sour cream addition to the cake the frosting lent a special flavour. It is a special cake and you can take my word for it. In the recent past, I have collected some real good chocolate cake recipes and this one’s an addition to that best- chocolate- cake- ever list.

All photos courtesy : Namit Bhatia

I changed the recipe a little by doubling the quantity of baking powder and baking soda and have incorporated that change in the recipe card in the post. Instinctively it felt that the original quantities of the baking powder and soda might not be enough to hold the cake up. I was glad that I made those changes in the quantities as the cakes turned out beautifully fluffy and moist too. The chocolate flavour was rich inspite of the fact that the recipe used only cocoa powder. I strongly feel that it was the sour cream, that did the trick.

My daughter and her friends enjoyed their cake slices and more so enjoyed picking out the M&Ms off their slices. The other guests ( my friends) enjoyed it too. Both the cakes were gone soon. Disappeared! with only the crumbs to show as evidence. It is with a lot of trepidation that I embark of baking special day cakes as most of the times, the pressure gets to me and my whole effort is wasted. The cake almost never turns out to my satisfaction. But this one did. Nigella promised that it would and it did. That is why I love her and turn to her for special occasion bakes.

It was such a joy to see all the children in Mimi’s party waiting for the cake cutting ceremony. Waiting with bated breath as the candles were being lit and as the glow of the candles reached their eyes,  the cake was the center of their universe. There was a race to blow all the candles in a single breath and once the candles were blown out the eager eyes trailed the path of the knife that sliced the cake laced with their favourite M&Ms. M&Ms were devoured first and then the cake with all the sumptuous attention it deserved. Happy children made everybody smile and the atmosphere was set for the rest of the luncheon. From then on it was more giggles and laughter, conversation and chatter. It was beautiful party indeed.

 

 

 

The belated Eid Holidays Post

8 Sep

It is past Eid holidays and I have taken my own sweet time to do this post. Like I had mentioned, I wasn’t looking forward to this 5 day break as   we had no vacation planned like many of my friends. It was disheartening and unfair. But  to my great surprise, the holidays turned out a truckload of fun. Here’s my day by day brief of how wonderful these holidays turned out for me.

Day 1 : Watched Salman Khan’s ” Ek tha Tiger” with great trepidation. I am not a fan of this big Bollywood star and my general opinion is that his movies are rubbish. I had hoped to watch Pixar’s “Brave” but got late and missed the show. Finally I settled to watch this Eid big release – Ek tha tiger and to my utter astonishment, it was quite enjoyable. The script was tight and Salman Khan was quite bearable. I came out of the movie hall with a good feeling of having watched an entertainer, not to mention how beautiful Katrina Kaif looked in the song ‘Mashallah’

Post this entertaining watch, we had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant- Beyroute and ended a perfect day with good food memories.

Day 2: This was more relaxed and I spent the day doing chores at home and spending some quality time with my daughter. Post lunch, I took off to a cafe and spent that time until dusk working on my novel ‘ The Come Back‘. I am yet to wind up the pending chapters and nearly done with my first draft. I am excited as it nears the end and it feels like a dream that I managed to do a 50,000 words plus novel. Never thought I had it in me to write so much. Ofcourse this is just the start, as I would have to spend time editing it; adding and deleting chapters to make it tighter.  That same night, we had a small wine and cheese tasting party at home. Nothing elaborate but it was fun to do it between us and enjoyed the different tastes as they came together to create a wonderful culinary experience. It was educational as it was exciting as I got to know about the different cheeses; their names and tastes. In conclusion to this wine and cheese tasting event, I realized, Blue cheese was completely unpalatable and the stench was so overpowering that I doubt I am ever going to try it again. Rest of the cheeses were quite appetizing.

photo courtesy : Namit Bhatia

Day 3: Eid was declared and we were invited to my dear friend, Farheen’s home for special Eid lunch. I baked brownies for Farheen and her lovely family. These are Nigella’s BEST brownies ever and I have to admit, they are mine too. These brownies were received well and I made 3 batches already. One of which I took to Farheen’s home. Each batch makes a minimum of 48 pieces. Even if this recipe makes so many, you don’t have to worry about a thing as they would vanish just as quickly. I guarantee that.

Photo courtesy : Namit Bhatia

At Farheen’s home it was wonderful to catch up with my other writers’ circle pals – Melissa and Dhanya. Conversation flowed about books, about writing, styles of writing and hours just passed by. In between, we pigged out on Farheen’s delicious Chicken Biryani, Chicken curry,  Gajar halwa, Sevai, and so many other goodies. It was a wonderful lunch and fantastic time spent together.

extreme left onwards( Dhanya, Farheen, me and Melissa)

all the yummy Eid food

Photo Courtesy: Namit Bhatia

The same evening, we watched Pixar’s Brave and it was so enjoyable. Perfect end to a perfect day.

Day 4:  This day was a bit slow and I had planned it such. Post lunch, I took off to a cafe closeby to spend some time writing and it turned out to be quite a productive pursuit. Took some time out in the evening to shop for some props and managed to get a good deal at Daiso. In the posts that would follow this one, you are likely to see many props in my food photos. So excited already!

Day 5: With the 5 day holiday coming to a close, it was quite depressing to think about going back to office. But on the whole, I was content that all the 5 days were spent well doing all sorts of different things which made the vacation really wonderful. I decided to spend the day making jammy dodgers. The post of the same will be out soon. They turned out lovely and I took them to office to share with my Bahraini colleagues who had spent the entire month fasting during Ramadan.

In between I did do some shopping and INVESTED in some office wear but I can’t quite place which day that was.

So that is how Eid vacation came to a close. I wasn’t disappointed at all and on the contrary, it felt like a holiday well spent. Having said that, as I type this post, I am still craving for a vacation. Hopefully, I should be able to plan for one soon.

 

 

 

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!

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

Ingredients

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

Preparation

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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