Easter recap

As we move into another weekend, I am struck by the contrast between this week and the last, when we were busy preparing for Easter. As during every other festival at our home, food was the focal point of the observance and celebrations – the main departure from last year was the absence of my mother-in-law and the joys of eating the food she cooks. This year, for the first time, ever, inspired by her rendition, I attempted to make Pesaha (or Indiri) appam, which is essentially unleavened bread served and consumed on Passover night. This savoury bread is eaten along with jaggery-sweetened coconut milk called pesaha paal (Passover milk). Continue reading

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Chocolate cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes

You may have read articles on how motherhood makes you a better professional at work – with this post I tell you how it has made me a better cook and manager (of situations and resources). The cupcake you see above is the result of this evolution.

I have never been one to follow recipes to the letter, even when baking. But I was converted recently after I bought this snazzy looking kitchen weighing scale; I mean why put a good gadget to waste, no? Anyway, what I learnt soon after was that no matter how spiffy the tool, if you are not paying attention you are likely to run into trouble. Now, I can’t say exactly what happened (most likely too little flour) but what I ended up with was a cake-shaped substance that was set on the top layer of .0001 micron, while the rest of it remained, well, liquid.

Having burnt many a concoction in the past while baking, I usually set the oven timer for shorter time than that recommended. I put the current state of affairs to that caution. To put matters right I baked the batter a little more, and then some more and then some more again. When the “cake” refused to bake after an hour-and-a-half, I had to accept not all was right. To be honest, the loose consistency of the batter when I first poured it in the tin should have been my first clue to the ensuing disaster but then I wasn’t in the mood to pay attention on the day or rather night – by the time i ended up with goo on my hands, it was well past midnight.

Loathe to get rid of the batter, I bunged the tin into the fridge. Next morning and much googling later, I was none the wiser on how to bounce back. OK that’s not all true. I did kinda sorta knew what could be done but my confidence was in the boots for obvious reasons. But after half the day was gone looking for that elusive spark from the internet gods, I took recourse in my own judgement. Adding a bit of flour and a bit of milk got the batter into dropping consistency. I poured the stuff into parchment lined muffin tray instead of going ahead with the original plan for a cake. This was to ensure we had baked goods that were edible and presentable (and took a shorter time to cook).

The resultant cupcakes were moist, fluffy and lasted about half-an-hour.

If you are keen to make the cake I originally intended to bake (minus the frosting and fancy looks) follow the recipe for Mary Berry’s Celebration Chocolate cake. Hopefully you will get it right the first time round… but if you don’t you know what to do 🙂

Fast and flavoursome

Much as I would like to order food in on weekdays, I don’t. Simply because a) I want to eat something fresh and wholesome after a long day at work b) I find cooking to be relaxing.

Having said the above I hasten to add that on weekdays I prefer to cook a dish which is quick and requires minimal effort. Something a friend of mine suggested I post more of on the blog because she too would rather cook than defrost for a working week dinner – and she needs ideas.

The following recipe is a current favourite and inspired by Nigel Slater’s Thai Green chicken curry (find the original here).

Other than lemongrass, rest of the ingredients are store cupboard/fridge regulars.

Thai Green curry inspired chicken dish

Thai Green curry inspired chicken dish

Thai Green curry inspired Chicken curry

(Serves two)

Ingredients:

For the curry paste

a)      Lemongrass stalks: 2, tougher outer leaves discarded,

b)      Green chillies: 3

c)       Garlic: 3 cloves, peeled and crushed

d)      Ginger: 2 in piece, peeled and crushed

e)      Onion: 1, small, peeled

f)        Fresh coriander: 2-3 sprigs

g)      Freshly ground black peppercorns: According to taste

For the curry

a)      Chicken: 500 gm (boneless or with bones- both work)

b)      Groundnut/vegetable oil: 2 tbsp

c)       Coconut milk: 300 ml.

d)      Chicken stock/hot water: 1 cup

e)      Fish sauce: 1tbsp (it can be quite strong so rein in the desire to put more if you can’t taste it just yet)

f)        Basil: medium-sized bunch, shredded

g)      Fresh coriander: a small bunch, roughly chopped

h)      Lime juice: According to taste.

 Method:

For the curry paste, bruise the stalks to release the flavour. In a food processor/electric chopper whizz all curry paste ingredients (roughly chopped) into a thick paste, pushing the mixture down from time to time with a spatula.  Set aside

For the curry:

  • Heat the pan, add oil and, when hot and sizzling, add the chicken and let the pieces brown on all sides. Try not to crowd the pan. Tip: do it in batches.
  • Remove the cooked chicken pieces from the pan. Keep the oil.
  • Add the curry paste and fry for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk (reserve 100 ml to add at the end) and stock, the fish sauce, peppercorns and half of the chopped herbs. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Return the chicken to the pan and simmer the chicken is cooked through. Add the remaining 100 ml of coconut milk, stir in the last of the herbs and keep the pan on fire/heat for a few seconds. In the end, stir in the lime juice. Serve with plain/jasmine rice. I served it with a side of stir fried vegetables.

On ingredients: When I use a recipe I tend to modify it to my taste. I find flavours to be a good guide when deciding on how much to put of a certain ingredient.

I have made this curry sauce thrice so far; the first time was without the coriander leaves to the curry paste. I prefer the taste of that version to the one where I added the green leaves. The choice, of course, is yours.

Even if you don’t like the taste of fish sauce, please try it, it takes the flavour to whole new level.

Hope you like this dish, which I found it to be simple to cook, fragrant and easy on the tummy.

Breakfast biggie

A lot has been written about the benefits of breakfast; even I have weighed in at one point.

In our household of two, we don’t usually breakfast like kings but on weekends an effort is made to have something more exciting than cereal or store bought croissants.

Till recently when I decided to do something about it, one of the issues I have had with breakfast is lack of creativity. Back in the day it was either a sunny side up with toast or paranthas or porridge or something akin to these.

Once the employment bug bit me, breakfast was just a time-consuming chore that was dispensed with in favour of an extra fifteen minutes of sleep. As a result I had made best friends with Digene, some of you may know its cousins Pepto-Bismol and Gaviscon.

My struggle with breakfasting changed a few years ago when I discovered the joys cereal – endless options of it, granola-yogurt  pots, croissants and on occasions, a full English. After a while, the charm of new things waned and it was back to mundane food mornings.

For now I have made my peace with the fact that b’fast can’t always be exciting. Till it is weekend that is. Weekend morning treats are now about experimentation and exploration. This post is about one such morning.

More brunch than breakfast: Filled omelette served on brown toast and a side of fruits (or Hot chocolate)

More brunch than breakfast: Filled omelette served on brown toast with a side of fruit (or Hot chocolate)

You may like to call it a Fritatta or a Spanish tortilla but I will stick to Omelette, albeit a robust one.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs: 4
  • Spring onions: 2-3 (I used both the bulb and leaves), chopped
  • Red (other any other colour) pepper: 1/2, cut into small squares
  • Tomato: half (de-seeded to limit the amount of liquid), cut into small squares
  • Chorizo: 50-60 gm cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Basil leaves: a bunch
  • Cheddar: a slice or similar amount grated

Method:

  • Heat the pan and add a little oil. Fry the Chorizo in it. I did not need to season the dish with salt or pepper because of the spicy sausage.
  • Add the spring onions and peppers to the pan and saute.
  • Add the chopped tomato.
  • Saute till the tomato is soft. Add chopped basil leaves and stir.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl; add to the pan.
  • Cook on slow heat.
  • Make sure you keep folding/breaking the egg to cook it through.
  • When the omelette is nearly ready, add/sprinkle the cheese and cover. Cook till the egg is done.
  • Serve on  a toast or have it as it is.

I topped the omelette with fried mushrooms. If you opt for this addition, fry the mushrooms in lots of butter and season with salt and pepper.

I served the dish with some pears and tart plums. It worked well.

If using fruits, leave the hot chocolate for later- the two do not go well. Believe me.

So now that you know what  I ate on the weekend, I would love to hear about yours. (it’s only fair, no?). Breakfast favourites and peeves; bricks and bouquets are all welcome.

“Chili”ng out

I am not a glutton. I am an explorer of food. Erma Bombeck

I  get all excited when I come across a thought I share with someone (this time a favourite author) I admire. Makes me feel that I am doing something right. You can psycho-analyse my statement later at leisure but first let me share my new-found enthusiasm (and recipe) for chili-con-carne with you.

A bowl full of comfort

A bowl full of comfort

Continue reading