Monthly Archives: March 2013

“Holi” Fruit ‘n’ Oat Muffins

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A Belated Happy Holi everyone!

It was Holi on Wednesday… the Hindu festival of colors, the day we welcome Spring & with it blooming flowers, new crops, a newness in the air. Of course in Bombay we skip directly to the searing Summer heat, but still it is one of the City’s favourite festivals.

Image Courtesy bloggermoms.com

The festival of Holi started Tuesday night, with Holika Dahan,with large bonfires lit in every neighborhood & lane in the City. People circle the fire pouring water around it & place coconuts into it. The roasted coconut fresh out of the embers with a little bit of sugar is one of my favourites!

The fire is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Each year while growing up, Mom would tell us the story of Prahlad,  who was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. His father, the Demon King Hiranyakashyapu, had been granted a boon that he could not be destroyed by day or night, neither indoors nor out, not on earth or in the sky, by neither man nor beast or any weapon. This made him arrogant & he demanded that all should worship him, & him alone. None were to worship the Gods in Heaven. Prahlad refused to bow down to his father’s will. In a final attempt to stop him from praying to Vishnu, Hiranyakashyapu, ordered  Prahlad to be lit alive on a pyre, seated on the King’s sister Holika’s lap. Holika had been given a boon that fire would not harm her. But as he sat on the pyre chanting Vishnu’s name, Holika  was consumed by the flames, while Prahlad was untouched. This burning of evil & salvation of good is celebrated as Holi.

Image Courtesy magicalmumbai.com

The next morning Spring is welcomed with the vibrant festival of colours. People throw colored powder, gulal, & colored water on each other. Traditionally the colors were made by crushing dried flowers like marigold & gulmohar. In fact in parts of North India Holi is still played with fresh  flowers. Playing Holi, breaks down or at least lowers all barriers of religion, gender, age as families, friends, neighbours all get together & celebrate.

As kids we would spend the better part of the morning becoming a right royal colorful mess with our friends & neighbours in the apartment complex we lived in. Of course Dad & Dadaji (Grandfather) would be totally paranoid that we would ruin the walls or furniture. We didn’t care 🙂 I loved the colours, even though it was a pain getting it off your skin & hair. We could tell which kid in school had the best time during Holi by the bright red ears or blue finger nails & green peeping through the hair!

Food is, as with all festivals, a very integral part of Holi. At home Mom would make these little dumplings with steamed purple yam (kand) & raisins, with thick sweetened yogurt (shrikhandh or matha). Gujjiyas too are a staple in the North. These are crescent shaped dumplings made with wheat flour & stuffed with grated, roasted coconut & dried fruit. My husband’s family, which is from Maharashtra, make Puran Polis, thin, flat roti-bread stuffed with jaggery & lentils.

Over time, I have stopped getting all colored up at Holi, though I make sure, no matter where I am, to be there for the fire ceremony. For some reason I feel most at peace when I walk around the flames… like I am letting go of all the negativity, the chaos of the year gone by & breathing in the newness of spring, with all its hope & tranquility.

This Holi, I woke up wanting to make something special. But I’m on a diet! All the traditional goodies are banned 😦 So maybe I could make something colorful, symbolic of the festival, yet which fits in with what I’m “supposed’ to eat!

Among other things, I’m “allowed” 2 tablespoons of oats a day with more egg whites than I care to eat, low fat yogurt, olive oil, nuts & fruit…hmmm… well what am I waiting for? Muffins it is!

Since flowers are the basis for all  the color, & hence significant to the festival. I got my little flower shaped muffin tins out with the pretty colored paper cases. The red plums & figs on top make the muffins more vibrant… I hope! In any case you could do this with Whatever’s in the Fridge!

I’m making these for breakfast. The proportions here are keeping in mind my daily allowance of ingredients. So it is  a true experiment.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons / 1 cup Oats
  • 1 Egg + 1 Egg White
  • 4 tablets Sugar Free / Sweet ‘n’ Low
  • 2 tablespoons Low Fat Yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • 12 Almonds
  • Zest & Juice of 1/2 an Orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 pinches Cinnamon Sugar (my cheat ingredient!)
  • a pinch Salt
  • slices of Figs, Plums, or any other fruit

Method

  1. Grind the oats with the cinnamon, almonds & Sugar Free tablets till it’s a coarse powder.
  2. Add salt, baking powder & baking soda to the oats.
  3. Whisk the eggs & vanilla till frothy.
  4. Stir in the yogurt, oil, orange juice & zest & whisk well.
  5. Gently fold in the oats. Do not over mix.
  6. Pour the batter into the greased & lined moulds.
  7. Arrange the fruit on top & sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on each muffin.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes or till the cake tester comes out clean & the top is golden.

Note

My allowance of the ingredients in the recipe, per day is: 2 tablespoons of Oats, 5 egg whites, 1 cup low fat yogurt, 4 teaspoons olive oil, 6 almonds & 1 fruit.

The muffins aren’t too sweet, so if you like, you could add some honey to the batter.

So this well within what’s  okay for me if I have 1 Muffin a day… Yay!

This recipe makes 4 muffins.

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Basa with Chillies, Garlic & Basil

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The Big Fat “W” Issue is taking over my life… again! Now don’t get me wrong… I’m super comfortable in my skin.I always used to be what they call “pleasantly plump” (I’m actually way past the pleasant stage now!) & that didn’t get in the way of anything… dating, work. In fact (touch-wood) I pride myself on my stamina & energy & the ability to zip around all over the place, multi-tasking. But my genes aren’t exactly that great, & I am 30-something (sigh)! And with every passing month it’s become easier to gain a kilogram than to lose even 100 grams!

Over the years I’ve tried the whole spectrum of gyms, diets, workouts, walks, yoga… Not that none of it worked. It’s just that I couldn’t get myself to be consistent! I’d work hard, lose some weight & then the interest. So basically over the past 10 odd years it’s been a cycle of kicking my butt (or getting it kicked), feeling & seeing the difference… then back to square one!

This time round it’s even more difficult because there’s so many recipes I want to try out… pies, cakes, quiches, cookies, breads… none of which are going to do anything for my weight watching quest! But I don’t have a choice… I’m on a regimen… get some exercise, eat at regular intervals & eat healthy!!

So I’m going to cook & post recipes that work with what I’m supposed to eat.  I’ll bake too… but I promise it will be for someone else, not me!

For tonight’s dinner I tried to recreate a Basa dish that I had eaten a month ago at a restaurant, which left me completely unimpressed! They gave us dessert on the house to appease us 🙂 I’m hoping to do a better job on it!

Basa is a freshwater fish, native to the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam & Chao Phraya Basin, Thailand. The flesh is moist, with a light, firm texture & no bones. The flavour too is pretty mild, which makes it versatile while cooking. Like most fish, Basa is high in protein & low – fat. Perfect choice for my dinner!

Basa with Chillies, Garlic & Basil

Ingredients

  • 400 gm Basa (fillets)
  • 1/2 each Red, Yellow, Green Bell Peppers (sliced)
  • 2 Spring Onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 stalks Celery (finely chopped)
  • 3/4 cup Basil (finely chopped)
  • 8 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 3 dried Red Chillies (soaked in warm water)
  • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Method

Marnated Basa

  1. Blitz 3/4 of the garlic & red chillies with a dash of soy sauce to make a coarse paste.
  2. Marinade the fillets with this paste & leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil  in a pan & add the rest of the garlic, onions, celery & bell peppers. Saute till soft.
  4. Move the veggies in the pan to the edges & place the fillets in the pan & quickly heat them on both sides.
  5. Spread half the veggies on the pan & place the fish on it & top it up with the rest of the veggies.
  6. Splash a little water into the pan.
  7. Season with fish sauce & a dash of Thai sweet chilli sauce & toss in the basil
  8. Leave on the flame till the fish is just about cooked. The take it off the flame & cover for about 5 minutes allowing the fish to cook a bit.

The Basa I had at the restaurant was pretty bland & not seasoned well at all. The fish sauce & sweet chilli sauce have added depth to the flavour, & really brought out the taste of the 3 key ingredients: the sharp garlic, hot red chillies & fresh basil.

Since I’m on a low-carb diet, I had this with a side of steamed veggies & a bowl of soup. You could serve this up with jasmine rice or plain steamed rice or noodles.

This recipe serves 4 people on my diet or 2 with regular appetites!

A 100 likes & La Fraise

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I got a 100 Likes on my blog! Yay!

Thank you all for taking the time to read & appreciate the recipes. I’ve really enjoyed writing the posts over the past month since I started writing the blog. And this is very encouraging!

So thanks again 🙂

Now I’m on a diet starting tomorrow! And I can’t bake desserts, cakes or anything sweet, fattening or unhealthy… basically all that is yummy-licious… for the next 10 days!! Even if it is for someone else! Poor me 😦

I had to bake a cake one last time to celebrate the 100 Likes on my blog!

This is my sinful, decadent, experimental swan song… for about 10 days! (Boy am I dramatic!!)

I made this Flour-less Chocolate Almond Torte with Strawberries, for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012-13. My inspiration was a dessert called L’Orange at Moshes, one of my favourite restaurants in Bombay. It’s an orange, hazelnut & chocolate cake & I absolutely love it!! The season for strawberries had just begun in Bombay around then & I just couldn’t resist the baskets of the lush, plump, red fruit I saw everywhere. So that’s what went into the cake instead of oranges & since hazelnuts weren’t available in my neighbourhood, I used almonds.

I looked up a bunch of recipes & eventually decided to merge 2-3 of them. It was a real experiment of sorts. I had no idea how it would turn out! My electric beater wasn’t working, so I didn’t get the volume & texture I wanted. And somehow the chocolate glaze hardened too quickly. It looked pretty & tasted great… I mean strawberries & chocolate – you can’t go wrong with that!

Our oldest, closest theatre friends (well they’re like family), that we were spending New Year’s Eve with, they loved it! These guys have been the most encouraging towards my food-foray! They’ve been guinea pigs, given feedback & generally been super, super supportive. Love them!

 

But for me… still not quite La Fraise (Strawberry in French)!

This is my New Year’s Eve 2012-13 Torte.

The Torte 2012

The Torte this time round seems to have risen better & is beautifully moist. (Okay so I sneaked a bite from a cup cake version I made to taste!!). I was a bit worried since I realized after popping the tin in the oven that I may have forgotten to put in the correct amount of a pretty important ingredient! But it seems just fine! Thank heavens! The glaze too is lighter & softer.

Fresh out of the Oven

I am not writing out the recipe yet as it is still a work in progress. I re-worked proportions, used an electric beater (my new one yay!), changed the glaze a bit,.

Will the experiment work? Will I be closer towards achieving the L’Orange result. Fingers crossed!!

La Fraise 2013

The Pre-Diet Torte 2013

In case you have a recipe or tips to help me get it right… please share!

Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato & Olive Loaf

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The last couple of days have been crazy… I’ve been zipping around from the North East end of the City to the South to North West to the Centre & back home! For anyone who is familiar with Bombay… that is no mean feat! The traffic is insane. Any distance which, in the the dead of the night takes not more than 15 minutes by car, during the day takes almost 45 minutes! And that’s not even peak hour!

Today I had to travel for an hour & a half one way for an appointment which lasted all of 45 minutes! Of course the return journey was during rush hour, so don’t ask how long it took me! Enough time for a nice, long nap in the auto-rickshaw (tuktuk)… again no mean feat!

Luckily I had cooked dinner before I left, a hearty Chicken Stew (recipe on its way!). I wanted to bake some bread to go with that. But by the time I reached home, I didn’t have the patience, energy or the time to wait for the dough to prove & rise. But then again… I had to bake!! I needed a yeast-free recipe. My trusted Australian Women’s Weekly Muffins & Breads came to the rescue… I made a muffin in a loaf tin! The original recipe had Prosciutto, which I didn’t, so I added Olives & Cheese instead.

Ingredients

  • 375 gm Self Raising Flour
  • 90 gm Butter
  • 1 Egg (lightly beaten)
  • 310 ml Buttermilk
  • 80 ml Milk
  • 50 gm Sun-Dried Tomatoes (drained & chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Basil (chopped)
  • 1 – 2 cloves Garlic (crushed)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Cheese
  • 6-8 Olives (halved)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

  1. Sift the self-raising flour & salt into a bowl.
  2. Gently rub in the butter till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the chopped basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic & pepper to the flour.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk & milk.
  5. Combine the liquid & dry mixtures gently. Do not over-mix.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin.
  7. Sprinkle the olives, some more sun-dried tomatoes & cheese over the top.
  8. Bake at 190 C for about 25 minutes till golden brown.

Crusty & soft with the Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato & Olives mingling beautifully. The next time, I will add some more cheese, maybe in the batter too. The looks & tastes light but is quite filling. I would toast a slice tomorrow, top it with a bit of Ricotta for breakfast.

This recipe makes a 7 inch loaf

Red Velvet and that Little Girl’s Smile…

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I first heard about Red Velvet Cake three years ago. My sister was going to have her baby in London & I went to help her out. Priti, foodie partner in crime & one of my closest friends told me, “You have to try the Red Velvet Cupcakes at the Humming Bird Bakery! They are divine.”

On another trip, I would’ve gone there on day 2! But at the time thanks to my adorable newborn nephew Ahaan, I didn’t go anywhere… Not even to watch a play. Didn’t want to miss a gurgle or a coo!

Back in Bombay, over the past couple of years, we tried looking for a “divine” Red Velvet CakeDeliciae Desserts at Out Of The Blue, Bandra, had a good one. Our favourite ones are from California Pizza Kitchen at Phoenix Mills  & Cuppa Joe’s at Bandra which unfortunately shut shop 😦

I had promised Priti that I would attempt baking her one & that too before either of us starts our diets (fingers crossed on that one!)!  So after a hectic weekend of  meeting some friends after months, hanging with the family & eating a big Sunday lunch at Mom & Dad’s… yesterday was the the day.

Also, I was very excited to use the latest additions to my kitchen – a new hand beater, with a stand & all (thank you husband) & a Spring-form cake tin (thanks Mom & Dad) 🙂

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I have used Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Chocolate Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting recipes.

Ingredients

Cake

  • Unsalted butter, for cake pans
  • 2 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Canola Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Red Food Coloring
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons White Vinegar

Note: 

I ran short of Red Food Coloring so I used a little over a 1/4 cup of Beetroot Juice in addition to the 20 ml bottle of red food colouring I had

Didn’t have Canola Oil so I used Sunflower Seed Oil

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz / 225 gm cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup Icing  sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Note:

I added the Zest of 1 lemon & a 2 teaspoons of Lemon Juice to the the frosting

The reviews of the frosting said it wasn’t sweet enough, so I added about 2 extra tablespoons of Sugar

Also I would cut down the butter by about a tablespoon or two… got too heavy for me.

Method

Cake

  1. Pre-heat  the oven to 350 F / 175 C & generously butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Sprinkle with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside. (I went with using 1 large cake tin)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (YAY!!!), combine the sugar and oil, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  6. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  7. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar until combined. Add to batter, and beat for 10 seconds.
  8. Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans (or into the one).
  9. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. (Mine took longer, almost 45-55 min)
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack to cool completely.

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Frosting

  1. Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese.
  2. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended.
  3. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth.
  4. Add vanilla & lemon zest, and stir to combine.
  5. I followed the advice on one of the reviews of the recipe & stuck the frosting in the freezer for 1/2 hour, after which I added the lemon juice & whisked it well.

Putting it Together

  1. Slice the cake in 1/2
  2. Cover the bottom 1/2 with the frosting & place the top 1/2 on it
  3. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the frosting

The result…  Quite yummy! The cake is soft & moist. The next time I would add more color or beetroot (which adds to the flavour). The lemon juice & zest in the frosting made it lighter & fresher.

OMG Shivani! It’s awesome!!” Priti’s verdict! 😀 Yay!!

      

This recipe serves 8-10 people

Quiche-licious!

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I’ve been a teacher for about 13 years. But nothing thrills me more than being on the other side! Okay, maybe not while I was at school… or maybe the last year or 2 at college! I’m talking about now. I enjoy being a student! The idea of entering a space with the specific aim to learn something new, or to do something you’ve done before in a different way… so exciting!

After I graduated, whenever I got a chance I would enroll in short courses or workshops – Comparative Mythology, Languages, Pottery, Dance, of course Theatre! But over the years I got caught up with work & home & generally life, that I didn’t really land up being a student “just because”!

Last year, call it a mid-life moment or an epiphany or whatever, I decided that it’s now or never! So I took time off, did not take on much work (it helps that I freelance!) & enrolled in a baking course. Those 6 weeks at baking class were something else! And I promised myself that I’m not going to lose out on any opportunity to learn… new techniques, new cuisines… whatever catches my fancy!

So I attended a workshop on South East Asian CookingBread Making  & yesterday I spent 2 hours learning more about making Quiches at The  Pantry, a French style cafe-bakery, courtesy Brown Paper Bag Mumbai.

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I did a bit of reading up on Quiche and was pretty surprised to find out that the French dish has its origins in Germany. In fact the word “quiche” has its roots in the German “kuchen” (cake).

WP_001385A Quiche is a pastry crust with a filling of eggs and milk or cream which, when baked, become a custard. Quiche Lorraine is originally an open pie with a filling of custard with smoked bacon or ham and cheese, usually Gruyere.  The bottom crust was apparently made from bread dough originally, but that has since evolved into a short-crust or puff pastry crust.f6b2b111-4578-4245-8504-b01faa7ed5c9

It is a versatile dish, perfect for a light meal, part of a brunch, a miniature one would do well as an appetizer & you can play around with the ingredients. Spinach, Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Corn, Smoked Chicken… mmmm! The seasoning is fairly simple too, salt, pepper, a bit of nutmeg. So it is really important that one uses fresh & really good quality ingredients especially the cheese. The surprise ingredient for me in the Spinach Ricotta Quiche that we made was Sesame Seeds… I didn’t think that they would use that in French cooking!

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I’ve made shortcrust pastry before & quiches too. Usually one uses ice cold water & butter & you leave the pastry to rest for at least an hour so that it binds well… but yesterday since the cafe was converted into a teaching space & there was a time constraint, the ingredients were at room temperature & we could not leave the pastry to rest. And guess what? That worked too 🙂

And what was awesome too was that the recipe booklets that they gave out, had proportions for single, individual servings. So if one afternoon I get a sudden craving for a Quiche,  it would be pretty easy & quick for me to experiment a bit with the filling & rustle one up! And when I do, I will post recipe & better pictures 🙂

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Crusty Cheese & Mustard Dampers

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It’s been one of those weeks… Or weekends… Or days… Or whatever! Been a bit unsettled & distracted… In an ‘HEA-Combo’ Funk…. You know the HEAD, HEART & the Bombay HEAT! I went for a long(ish) walk, watched romantic comedies on TV, chatted with the girlfriend and sister… Nothing helped! Not even the Kitchen managed to pull me out of my ‘zone’ 😦

I looked through some new recipes online… Was tempted to try some…. ok… All!

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies, Double Chocolate Hot Chocolate! Everything Chocolate! I realized that this would soon turn from a Comfort Baking Session to a Comfort Eating Marathon! And I so do not need the extra calories!

So the next morning I bundled myself into the car with the husband & headed into town to see Ma… When in a Zone Head Home… Always works 🙂 She said she would make me Broccoli Almond Soup (comfort without the calories!) & I knew just what I could bake to go with that!

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Sometime ago, when I was going through a Muffin phase, I had picked up The Australian Women’s Weekly Muffins and Breads. The recipes are simple & no fuss. And what I loved the most were the Scones!

I have been meaning to try out these Dampers, which are an Australian bread. Traditionally Dampers were made by stock-men & other travelers as they camped out in the bush, with not much with them other than sacks of flour, sugar, tea, available meat & a camp fire to cook on.  The original recipe used flour, salt & water or milk, with baking soda used sometimes as a leavening agent. The bread was baked in the ashes of the campfire. The travelers ate this bread with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup and almost always with a swig of rum or tea

And it tastes great with soup too!

Ingredients

  • 600gm Self Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 30gm Butter
  • 500ml Milk, approximately

Topping

  • 30gm Butter
  • 2 tablespoon Seeded Mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 120gm Parmesan Cheese (coarsely grated)

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Note

I didn’t have seeded mustard, so I used mustard seeds, interesting flavour!

Add a dash of Olive Oil to the Topping to make it easier to spread on the Dampers.

I didn’t have Parmesan, so used regular Processed Cheese.

The recipe did not call for salt, but I put some anyway.

I wasn’t concentrating enough… forgot the Cayenne Pepper!!

Method

  1. Sift flour & mustard into a large bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter & stir in enough milk to mix to a soft, sticky dough.
  3. Turned dough onto a floured surface & knead till smooth. Press dough out to about 1.5cm (5/8 in) thickness, cut into 7cm (2 ¾ in) rounds
  4. Place the rounds, just touching, onto greased baking trays.
  5. Spread the topping.
  6. Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

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Note

The temperature wasn’t specified in the recipe, so I pre-heated ay about 300C & baked at 250C

The first batch was pretty pale, so I brushed the tops with extra olive oil for the next one. They browned better.

Just for fun at Step 3, I spread the topping on the dough after pressing it out & then rolled it up tightly & sliced out little rounds. They looked pretty!

The result the dampers were crusty on the top & soft, light & flaky on the inside. The mustard seeds gave a smoky flavour. Warm with a dab of butter… Comfort all the way!

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This recipe makes 15 Dampers