Friday, June 18, 2010

It's the Thought that Counts?

Between virtuous decisions -

and giving in to temptation -

there stands the too thin freezer door.

Friday, March 19, 2010

U Make Me Wanna Bake..

Life seems to have come full circle. All through my childhood, I remember cakes having been baked at home in one of these round steel contraptions with a heating chord and a thermostat that we called "oven". That was way before the OTG (Oven - Toaster - Griller) and later the microwave (which may be many things, but an oven it sure is not) came along. I have heard a zillion times how for my first birthday a guitar shaped cake was created in just an oven such as this.

About 20 years later, my parents in a moment of misguided zeal to upgrade, did away with the oven and purchased their first OTG. The OTG disappeared too and along came the microwave.
A microwave, not an "oven" was one of my wedding gifts.

That was until cakes started to explode and souffles started to fly. It was then that I hunted every possible electrical shop for the long forgotten oven. Found this -

And it baked this -

It's a day of sweet nostalgia and baking triumphs!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Jumping Soufflé

I intended to write about the meat loaf first with all the pros like its 'baked-ness' and the cons like its too "ketchup-edness". Next I had intended to write about the "maal puas" in their holi-ness, but the jumping soufflé has muscled in ahead and I can't let this story go!

I was hunting around for a just dessert for Sushi - that is, for his welcome back home dinner and I thought "cappuccino soufflé" for two sounded the right romantic note. Consequently I went out and bought 2 little glass cups, much like Cinderella's glass slippers. This particular metaphor doesn't make sense now, but trust me, when inside a microwave, it sure will, and after all they are both glass!

So one fine Saturday not too long ago, I decided to have a dress rehearsal for the dessert that was supposed to make Sushi feel appropriately welcomed. First, the cinnamon was ground, then instant coffee found its way in it as did some vanilla essence. Some water was put in to dissolve the mixture, but cinnamon powder stubbornly refuses to let go of its grains so u get a bit of cinnamon crunchiness in your teeth when really, you were expecting a somewhat smooth texture.

That though, was the least of the soufflé’s problems. There came the egg whites. In an ideal world, you add egg whites and sugar and baking powder and whisk until the eggs go from "soft peaks" to "stiff peaks" stage....wha??!!! No! That’s no double entendre, that's standard cooking terminology!

Anyway, I don't know whether it was my blender or me or the eggs weren't enthusiastic enough - they simply got frothy, a bit like foamy butter milk, but no peaks whatsover.

It was however too late to be nit picking at this stage, so I simply added in the previously prepared coffee-cinamon-vanilla flavouring, mixed and poured into the cups not more than half full. Then I confidently placed the mixture into the microwave, set it to high power for 5 minutes and walked off. (Confidence, after all, can win many lost battles!)

Imagine my surprise, when not 2 minutes later, I chance to look inside the microwave and see that the soufflé has risen well over the baking cups. Not just content with that, dear God, I still find it hard to say it, it was such a shock! Well, pieces of semi-baked soufflé were seen flying around inside the microwave. It was almost like I had injected some helium into the eggs!

Me and mom between us, tried to coax the pieces back in and bake some more, but it was quite a task that! No sooner had we scooped up the pieces, put them back in and switched on the microwave, than they would start their aerial activities all over again. What you see in the picture is the domesticated version of my flying soufflé. It's content to sit quiet and be contained merely because the power had been switched off.

The nice thing about moms in general is that they tend to blame mishaps such as these on kitchen appliances, not on you per se. I'm now the proud owner of a conventional mini oven, gifted by mommie, prowess of which I'm about to try tomorrow and shall duly report on these pages. Also, I'm hunting around for ideas for dessert that would look pretty and dainty in the new glass cups.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What Passes for Burritos

When you think of burritos, if you do, do you think of something which loosely resembles above? Good. We are then on the same page.

At lunch hour today, I trotted off to the canteen and started scouring the place for viable alternatives. At the "Off Beat" counter, I espied something called "Mexican Set", which consisted of burritos. With the above in my mind's eye, it sounded like an attractive option. Accordingly I tried to make an order. The man at the counter clarifies - "4 or 5? " . Turns out 5 was quesadillas and 4 was burritos, my original idea. Contrary to my nature, I stuck with my original choice of 4.
After waiting for about a quarter of an hour, my order was done. What I see has me momentarily speechless. Being the polite person that I am, I quietly took myself off, order and all, to find a vacant spot. But then I could not reconcile it with my conscience to swallow that outrage. I marched right back and declared - "No offense, but stuffed rice, (chinese fried rice at that) in chapatis doesn't a "burrito" make". "If you want to see what burritos look like do a google image search!" "These! - are not burritos".

Having thus sufficiently impressed my point I made my strategic retreat. I do not know whether they are gonna google burritos, but I did my bit to ensure that when humanity goes looking for above, they are not subjected to below!

The red bits in the middle? That's "Salsa". Oh! and I'm still shuddering to think what might have been presented in the name of no. 5 - quesadillas.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Lonely Valentine's and Myriad Reminisces of Experiments Past

Sushi's away visiting (the) King of Prussia. It's Valentine's with a 12 hour time zone difference. I'm sharing a kitchen with dad. He does a lot of back seat driving, or more appropriately, "over the shoulder ladle stirring", even as he pretends he's letting me cook. We have frequent ingredient impasses and this puts me in a nostalgic mood. Just last week, I was sowing my own wild oats in my own kitchen. Here then, in chronological order are reminisces of my experiments in the past month -

1) The beans that might have softened Sushi's stand on Veggies.
Remember Tiger Prawn Malai Curry? Here. I thought, what works for the prawns might possibly work for the beans too. Steamed french beans, some roasted peanuts, coconut milk, even a dash of garlic n ginger and onion paste all went in to the pan. I might add at this point that I had the full blessings of Tarla Dalal, whose idea this was in the first place. What's not to like? Apparently not, for Sushi nearly bursts into tears and says I am never ever to do this to him again. Oh well.

2) Fresh Fruit - but add some calories first.

Picture this (though the picture ain't nearly so great), succulent, ripe, in all their pink-ness strawberries. Little green leaves left in to add some colour contrast and the fruit chopped into quarters. Whipped cream in a bowl with generous quantities of sugar. Then the pink and green co-mingles with the fluffy white. Ummmmmmm..."droolicious"!

3) The health conscious risotto.

You leave the cheese out and make the risotto. What's that? I haven't yet spoken about the art and craft of risotto making on these pages? Uh-oh... Easy really. Boneless chicken pieces, stir fried along with onions and chopped garlic and anything else which sounds Italian. Olives, for instance, belong with risotto, being most definitely Italian and to be discovered at great bargains in the kirana shop below my apartment. (Which is not to say, that they can't be had elsewhere.). Mushrooms, which for some reason remind me of gondolas in Venice can be thrown in too. The most exotic part is the rice - it's cooked in chicken broth instead of water. The twain are then mixed and if you are feeling reckless, or not breaking the weighing machine, go ahead, throw in a cup or two of grated cheese. Stir everything around until it's creamy enough..and watch Sushi's eyes sparkle behind his glasses.

You might not be able to do that last bit, the eye sparkling behind glasses bit, becos after all he's my valentine, not yours. Despair not though, because you might still have a great risotto to share with..someone, anyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It was a Merry and Slightly Overworked Christmas

And I want to write about it now while I'm still in the same year! Well, my family were invited over for dinner. Cradle babe and Water man (that's her man) were the guests of honour. We all agreed to a dress code - red and white. We added green as an option at the last minute to represent mistletoe and also because Sushi has no reds or whites in his wardrobe that's suitable for an evening of merry making. I decided to go with red and white both in honour of Santa Claus and my increasing girth.

Prawns in malai curry were on offer and so was Popeye Chicken. I baked my (trying to be) moist chocolate cake and whipped up some Egg Nog in keeping with the spirit of the season. That explains, why it was a slightly overworked Christmas for us.

The Egg Nog? OOoooohhh yeeeaahhhh! I discovered this last year, but the blog wasn't born then, which it is now. So without further ado, let me explain just how I whip up the egg nog.

Well, in a cup of milk, I add some cloves and nutmeg and vanilla essence, until the milk gets fairly aromatic without having come to a boil. Then, I add 2 egg yolks to half a cup of sugar and blend until the egg yolks go from being yellow to being lemon (as in the colour not the taste).

Now begins the tricky part. The milk mixture needs to be added to the lemony yolks mixture and the whole should be heated at very low heat until it starts to resemble custard. It is at this point that no matter how hard I stir, I start to get little omeletlets. Then, I hurriedly take it off the gas and try to mash out as best as I can, the omelet tendencies.

Next, I take out my seasonal jug from its place in the back of the cupboard and pour the above, sort of custardy mixture into it. The refrigerator does its thing for the next hour or two. As a last step, pour in 1 cup of cream (sinfulllll), blend gently, add a further pinch of nutmeg and refrigerate until your guests are in sight. Then, you serve them the egg nog in little glasses and observe reactions...

Hope you had a merry christmas too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiger Prawns Prowling in Malai Curry

This one was discovered while roaming the streets in Kolkatta at a little known (by me at least) restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace - in Kolkatta. (I didn't spend too many days in the town). The point is that this little known restaurant near the junction that lead to Baligunj from someplace in Kokatta served a dish that has me smiling wistfully at the memory as I type this nearly a month later.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you - "Tiger Prawn Malai Curry". It comprises of succulent jumbo prawns in a pristine white curry that gives you no inkling as to the delicacy and depth of its flavour. That you discover only when you shovel in the first mouthful along with rice. Then you start drooling all over the table and desperately demanding of the maitre'd - "Coconut Milk! It is coconut milk isn't it?". Alarmed, the maitre'd asks you to get a grip on yourself - "Calm down, calm down lady. Yes, it is coconut milk. It's anything you want it to be" .

With that as my first clue, I started researching the net for ways to recreate the experience at home. Sure enough, most recipes started out with coconut milk, but the photos showed not one trace of the pristine white colour, quite the opposite in fact. So, I do the only logical thing I can think of - leave out all ingredients that would add more than a slight suspicion of colour to the curry or substitute with neutral hued alternatives. Red chili, for example, makes way for single whole green chili. The onions are not browned, they are made into a paste. Turmeric powder is a strict no no. Garam masala powder is allowed because it disappears into the depths of the curry, adding flavour, but leaving no trace of colour. The other ingredients would be garlic paste, fresh garlic paste if you please, salt and the biggest prawns that you can get hold of.

Malai? Interesting that you should ask that, I was wondering along the same lines too and the explanation is simple really. Around 2 centuries ago (or is it 3 now), the British landed on our shores. The East India company was not their only import. They also brought along with them "Prawn Malay curry" from Malaysia. (I'm not perfectly sure what they were doing in Malaysia in the first place. Perhaps they made a pit stop on their way over to India.) Well then, in India, the "Malay" became "Malai" and that basically explains the utter lack of any actual malai in the curry.

The dish assembles really fast once you are done prepping your ingredients. First add a green chili, slit down the middle, to oil in a kadhai on fire. That adds a little zing and starts things rolling. Next goes in the onion paste and garlic paste. A dash of garam masala, saute a bit, some salt, and pour in two small tetra packs of coconut milk for 250gm of prawn. Speaking of prawns, I like to fry them a bit, just a little bit, beforehand with lemon and salt mixed in. This is to get rid of any odour that might later bother you. That pretty much wraps up the dish. Add the prawns to the curry, let it simmer a bit and you are good to go.

I do believe, I'm close to recreating the Kol curry. So far Sushi and me and Mrs DP have sampled it and given it a thumbs up. I'd say it's pretty safe to try if you are not one of those unfortunate people who are allergic to sea food.