Author Archives: theoddhourkitchen

About theoddhourkitchen

A theatre practitioner with a passion for food! I love to cook, feed & of course eat. Welcome to my Kitchen & join me with My Experiments with Food!

In a Jam!

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Our home was raided by monkeys! It’s a true story!!

We live in a pretty, green part of the City & every couple of months in the year our terrace & the ones of neighbouring homes are “vacation resorts” for roaming hoards of our primate cousins. A few years ago our terrace was a nursing / maternity home for a monkey family. We would wake up with the noise of them jumping up & down on the roof. “Daddy” Monkey once even managed to stare down my otherwise intimidating husband, when the latter yelled at the baby monkey swinging on the cable! While the babies are absolutely adorable, & it’s lovely to observe them through the window grills… It’s a bit scary when you walk into the room to see tiny, dusty almost human paw prints on the chest or TV & notice missing apples!! And you know you have been raided! One morning we woke up to the sound of my sister-in-law running round with a broom, trying to coax a tiny, frightened baby monkey out of the house. The poor creature must have snuck in through an open window & forgotten how to get out 😦 We somehow managed to get him out the front door.

Since then, they pretty much stopped visiting. Until this afternoon…

Bombay’s actually got a winter happening this week. So of course I make the most of the crisp, cool weather by keeping all the windows wide open! And I definitely wasn’t expecting any visitors of this kind! I had lunch, checked on the dinner that was made for tonight. The food was still too warm to pop it in the fridge, so I made sure the bowls were covered & went to my room to watch The Truth About Cats & Dogs (sucker for romcoms!) & get a little shut eye before I started on my baking adventure of the day. I came down to the kitchen about 2 hours later & saw a pack of biscuits & another of chips strewn open on the window pane. The steel box of chapatis (whole wheat flatbread) was lying open with at 4 missing & one lying on the table! The bowl of spiced potatoes with peanuts was uncovered with nearly half the contents gone, with bits of food all over the table! And of course the creepy telltale paw prints. I freaked out! A quick look around the house… I was alone! Thank heavens! And thank the stars for making me lazy today… else the monkeys would’ve been in for a treat! I usually place things to cool by the window… well never again!

The recipe I’m going to share today has nothing to do with primates! The only thing that’s relevant here is that the key ingredient is from an area known for its notorious monkeys! My parents brought in the New Year with friends at a hill station called Panchgani, about 280 km from Bombay. And when they returned they brought back 4 kg of strawberries!! Now we are a family of strawberry lovers & I love using them when I cook, like here or here. But still 4 kgs?! Well anyway, after distributing (some), indulging in strawberries & cream (a lot!), we still had quite a bit leftover. So Ma said, “Let’s make Jam! (To be translated as, “YOU make Jam!”)

I looked up a recipe or two online that didn’t require pectin, jam sugar or any preservatives. From ones I liked, one used cornflour / corn starch & the other was made in the microwave. So I merged the 2, added my twist & here it is…

Homemade Strawberry Jam!

Ingredients

  • 250 gm fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Juice of 1 small Lemon
  • A lot of patience!

Method

  1. Wash, hull & cut the Strawberries. I left the smaller ones as they were, as it’s nice to bite into a whole strawberry, once in a while!
  2. Mix in the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, & leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes in a sauce pan.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till the sugar dissolves.
  4. Bring to the boil & then reduce the heat to low.
  5. Now patience needs to kick in as you stir occasionally & wait for the jam to thicken. This could take up to 30 to 40 minutes.

And there you have it!

Note

Ma is a bit of a purist, so I made 2 batches of jam. One was with the above recipe & the other had “my twist”! I cut down the amount of lemon juice & added some orange juice along with mint & spices. I think it worked 🙂

This recipe yields about 250 gm of Jam & was absolutely delicious with:

  1. Candied Orange Peel & Rosemary Pancakes made with fresh cream as I ran out of milk and buttermilk! Can you believe that! 
  2. Raisin Scones I followed the recipe from my super talented friend Lidia’s blog. They were light, crumbly & yum!
  3. Peanut Butter & Jam Cookie Cups the baking adventure of the day when the monkeys attacked!
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A Happy New Year!

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A very, very Happy New Year to all of you from The Odd Hour Kitchen 🙂

It has been so very long since my last post that I forgot my password 😦 Silly me!

I have missed logging on & reading all my friends’ blogs, interacting & connecting with folks I’ve never met but yet who are like kindred spirits bonding over our love & passion for food. I have really missed that!

And I’ve missed writing.

So one of my New Year Resolutions, one which I do not intend on breaking, is to be more regular on my blog (at least more than once in 4 months!)… and to remember my passwords!! Fingers Crossed!!

Well one of the main reasons why I haven’t been blogging is that I have been baking… like a lot! I haven’t felt as centered, at one with myself or simply delighted than when I’m in my Kitchen, mixing, whisking, tasting away! I think I may have found my calling.

I took the plunge & decided to take my passion for food a step further… The Odd Hour Kitchen is now a small home bakery 🙂 So with the apron, I now have on a little entrepreneurial hat. And it is such fun! I get to bake all the time, in my Kitchen with my music and spread love & joy through what I bake! All this without the extra calories (& the guilt that goes with it!) from the earlier days, when I just had to bake & whatever came out of the oven went straight to my hips! To be fair, I did share with the husband (who complained about the increasing inches round his waist!), my parents (who honestly don’t need the extra sugar!) & of course eager friends & family. But now with this new “venture,” my food is helping me connect & reach out to so many more!

It started with the Raksha Bandhan festival in August, the day which, according to Indian tradition, celebrates the bond & love between brothers & sisters. The sister ties an ornamental thread or Raakhi on the wrist of her brother who promises to protect her all their life while she in turn pledges to pray for his well being. The brother has to then gift her something pretty, while the sister gets him something sweet… of course, what would an Indian festival be without any mithai (sweetmeat)! There are loads & loads of Indian Sweets… kaju katlis (diamond shaped bites of heaven made with cashewnuts), laddoos (ball-shaped sweets made with different ingredients like chickpea flour, semolina, coconut & of course sugar & clarified butter), I could go on, & on…

But it’s not uncommon to go with chocolates, cupcakes, cookies either. In fact some of my first experiments in baking were nearly charred brownies for my brothers on Raakhi day!

Now, since I don’t burn my brownies anymore, & I have added a few more goodies to my repertoire, it seemed like a great time to open up my Kitchen to more people on Rakshabandhan! So I updated my Facebook page, sent out emails, Whatsapp messages to friends & family & put out 3 products on my menu… bite-sized versions to go with the Indian mithai theme.

And I got a surprisingly decent response & with that the exhilaration of baking to meet orders & deadlines… very exciting! All charged up then, I participated in a Bake Sale & then opened up for Diwali, the Hindu New Year. So far, I’ve been working from festival to festival & with a fairly fluid menu. Of course if somebody calls me & asks me to bake something for them off the menu, any day of the week… I never pass up the opportunity 😀

I’m hoping to crystallize the menu, get more organized & get myself out there a little better in terms of visibility this new year… & lets see where this goes 🙂 Meanwhile I’m happy to be experimenting, trying out new recipes & baking on request!

So, if you live in Mumbai (or have friends & family that do), & want to indulge your sweet tooth you could call, mail or check out my little online store for comforting goodies.

Here are some of things that I’ve been baking over the past few months.

These CHOCOLATE STREUSEL Cupcakes are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee… not too sweet, with a delicious crunchy chocolate chip topping.

DEVIL’S FOOD CUPCAKES… Rich, Dark, Moist & Mysterious… with a surprise filling in each… Eggless too! For a friend’s dessert night

Light, Melt in Your Mouth… I made these ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIES the first time for a friend’s baby shower

This one’s a Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free CHOCOLATE FUDGE cake… The husband’s childhood buddy & his brother dropped by for dinner & stayed till 5 am! The brother had all these diet restrictions… so this is what I served!

I call these BROOKIES… A Brownie & Cookie Hybrid 🙂 I made these the first time as an experiment on my unsuspecting brothers… it worked! I do them with home made Salted Maple Caramel Sauce & Almonds / Peanut Butter & Snicker Bars / Orange Marmalade

So that in a nutshell is what I have been up to over the past 4 months… with of course a trip or 2 to Jaipur to teach at the school & a visit to Singapore to  see my adorable little babus, my nephews. I do hope to cook more, share more recipes & be around a lot more!

To sign off… Magic, Dreams, Love, the Time to enjoy a good Book, favourite Music or a Quiet Moment alone, the Spirit to give wing to your Creativity, loads of exciting Adventures (inside the kitchen & out!) & of course Joy, Peace & Health…. That’s what I wish for you all this New Year!

Chicken Khichda / Haleem

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It is Eid today… the day that marks the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. For the past 29 – 30 days, devout Muslims the world over do not eat anything from dawn to sunset. However when the sun goes down everyday, at Iftar, the fast is broken.

If you walk through streets around the Bombay Central Station, Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Mahim – There’s such an atmosphere of festivity! The streets are lit up with fairy lights, groups of people milling about, all dressed up & the roads lined with stalls selling everything from bright clothes to jewellery & shoes to… of course… Food! Oh! It’s such a treat! It’s been a while, but I remember for a couple years, going down to Mohammed Ali Road with my friends at least once during Ramzan during Iftar, to, well put it politely, stuff ourselves silly!

You wouldn’t know where to start! Of course, if you were fasting, you would with dates & some fruit from the dried fruit & juice stalls & then move on to the real stuff. But that never applied to us! We went straight for the meat & chicken Kebabs, Tikkas (marinated chunks of Chicken or Lamb grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection over charcoal), Naans (flat bread), Baida Rotis (thin, soft flatbread stuffed with meat, coated with eggs & deep fried), Biryaani (saffron & spice laced rice layered with a flavourful meat or chicken gravy), my favourite Khichda / Haleem! You can’t end the feast without anything sweet… so there are Malpuas (crisp little pancakes deep fried in clarified butter) served with Rabdi (sweet, creamy, thickened milk) or Phirni (a delicate rice pudding flavoured with cardamom) in little clay pots… The feast is surely not for the faint hearted!

For the past 8 – 9 years (maybe more!), we’ve been invited to be part of the Iftar & Eid celebrations at the Khan residence… & that is another experience altogether! Pure gastronomical heaven! The everyday food out there is out of this world… so you can imagine what these special dinners would be like! Nalli, Biryaani, Kebabs, Mutton cooked the Moghlai way, Khichda.. & of course Auntie’s special Sheer Khurma (a special vermicelli pudding)! How our dear friend turned vegetarian & more importantly, remained one, growing up in this household, is something that always baffles me!

Gosh I’m salivating as I write this, & feeling rather sorry for myself as I’m going to miss the festivities, being with my friends (who are more like family) & of course the food at the Eid dinner at the Khans’, for the second year in a row! I’m in my home away from home, Jaipur, working (for a change!) for 2 weeks 😦

I knew I was going to be missing out so, a few days before I left Bombay, I made my favourite Khichda / Haleem for my family! Khichda is a one-dish meal, comfort in a bowl… I love it! And this is my first attempt at making it!

I used these websites as a reference for the recipe – Khana Pakana & Kulsum Mehmood, & followed the tips & suggestions given to me by the lovely elderly Bohri Kaka (uncle) who sold me the ingredients at Crawford Market  (the one stop wholesale bazaar in Bombay for everything!) 🙂

So here it is the recipe for a meal that satisfies the soul, with a special Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Ingredients

Polished Whole Wheat

Mixed Lentils

  • 250 gm Polished Whole Wheat Grains
  • 150 gm Mixed Daals (red, white & yellow lentil & Bengal gram)
  • 450 gm Boneless Chicken Pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Red Chilli Powder (to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Dhania – Jeera / Cumin & Coriander Seed Powder
  • Special Haleem Spice (recommended by the sweet Kaka at the shop)

Spices

  • 2 stick Cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 Cardamom
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Mace
  • a pinch Nutmeg Powder
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter – Lots of it!

To Serve:

  • 3 large Onions (finely sliced & deep fried)
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Special Haleem Spice
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter

Method

  • Soak the wheat overnight (at least 8 – 10 hours) in a large vessel filled with water. Pour in 1-2 teaspoons oil & some salt. (Kaka’s tip: Do not wash the wheat or disturb it while soaking. It affects the cooking process)
  • Soak the lentils for about 2 hours.

Marinated Chicken

  • Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace & cardamom & grind to a fine powder.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, the spice powder from Step 3, nutmeg powder, 2 teaspoon Haleem spice, cumin & coriander powder & mint leaves. Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In a large heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of ghee, add the onions & sauté till the onions turn golden.
  • Add the marinated chicken & stir fry for about 10 minutes. Add more ghee if you need to, don’t be shy!
  • Drain the soaked wheat & lentils & add to the chicken.

Soaked Wheat Grains, Lentils & Marinated Chcken

  • Add enough water to cover the chicken & grains, plus some more & simmer on a low flame.
  • Now this is where patience kicks in! Allow the chicken & grains to cook for 6 – 7 hours, stirring regularly. (I kid you not! That’s how long it took! You could pressure cook the whole thing. But Kaka said the true taste emerges when the Khichda is slowly cooked over a long time. I believe him! It’s totally worth it.)
  • Add more water if it gets too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Once the wheat has softened (around 6 hours later), take the vessel off the flame, remove the chicken pieces & keep aside. Using a hand blender make the wheat & lentil mixture as smooth as possible. Add the chicken back to this thick, porridge-like mixture & place the vessel on a very low flame.

The Khichda Cooking Slowly

  • Add another 2 teaspoons of the Haleem spice & check the seasoning. (I find it easier to taste my way through a dish like this, so at this point if you feel you need to add more salt, chilli or spices, go right ahead!)
  • If possible, leave the vessel on the flame till you are ready to serve.

To Serve

The Condiments – Melted Ghee, Haleem Spice Powder, Mint Leaves, Deep Fried Onions, Lemon Wedges

Ladle the Khichda into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of ghee over it, sprinkle a bit of the Haleem spice, some mint leaves & serve with a wedge of lemon. Then sit back & watch the expressions of your family as they dig into it!

This recipe serves 6

Busy Week Baking!

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It’s been quite a week! The incessant rain, the work at home… And of course, my Kitchen Adventures!

We had a family reunion on Sunday at my aunt’s. It was amazing! Almost everyone was there, together after years! Great conversation, alcohol, food! I was requested to bring along dessert… which I did!

On Sunday – Flourless Orange & Almond Cup Cakes with Ginger & Spice Infused Candied Orange Peels

Then my dietitian, who’s helping me on my weight loss quest (Oh have I been cheating! Luckily she doesn’t follow my blog!), requested me to experiment & work on a few baked goods that are healthy…

On Monday - Whole Wheat, Jowar (Sorghum) & Bajra (Millet) Breadsticks And Whole Wheat & Millet Crackers

On Monday – Whole Wheat, Jowar (Sorghum) & Bajra (Millet) Breadsticks
And
Whole Wheat & Millet Crackers

On Tuesday - Oatmeal & Banana Muffins

On Tuesday – Oatmeal & Banana Muffins

And my Ma & Dad had guests coming over for dinner & guess who was in charge of dessert?

On Wednesday – Mocha Almond Cupcakes

And of course I read up a bunch of recipes & wanted to try them all! Maybe next week?

🙂

Amo La Pizza!

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I love Pizza… I so do!

The local Pizza Delivery number used be on our speed dial & up until 6 months ago it was dinner almost every Sunday evening. The husband & I would, at one time, order & almost finish eating 2 large pepperoni pizzas, between the 2 of us! I say Almost, because I would save a couple slices for breakfast! There’s something  oddly satisfying about leftover pizza, straight out of the fridge!

Well, that was 6 months ago. Now with the whole “We need to eat healthy!” thing that we have going & all the other changes we’ve had in our home & lifestyle, it’s been a while since we’ve reached for the speed dial! Though while I was recouping at my parents’ last month, we ordered from this new place that had opened in their neighbourhood, Francescos Pizzeria & it was so good! There was a Bianca, with 5 cheese, sage & a dollop of sour cream on the side & an Eggplant Parmigiana… I had never eaten eggplant as a pizza topping before this… & that’s pretty healthy too!! Indulgence without the guilt!

So when I read about a Pizza Making Class happening at Serafina, the Bombay branch of the popular New York Pizzeria, I was super excited! Back in the day Ma & my grandmother used to make pizza from scratch at home… dough & all. It was delicious but they didn’t quite make the thin, crackly crust that I love. It was going to be awesome learning how to… Specially since I’m still in my I love being a Student mode!

My friend Kiran (you should check her blog, All You Need Is An Egg Plant for her food experiences wherever she travels, gorgeous photographs & great recipes) & I decided to sign up together… We hadn’t met in a while, so what better way for 2 baking enthusiasts to catch up than over mixing bowls!

Serafina had a very warm & comfortable vibe & the chefs, specially Chef Rahul & Ashish, who were going to teach us were very good at what they do & extremely generous when it came to sharing tips & techniques.

I think making pizza is so therapeutic!  You vent out all your aggression & frustration while kneading the dough. And then you pour all your love into gently stretching & rolling out the dough, & spread the sauce & sprinkle the toppings with joy… And feel great & very proud on seeing a delish result!

My Very Own Hand Made Pizza…. Perfect with a glass of White Wine Sangria…. followed by a Red one!

The Pizza just before I popped it into the gorgeous Wood-Stone Oven. The sauce was made by the chefs using special tomatoes from Italy. I wanted to keep the flavours simple, so I topped the pizza with Black Olives, Mozzarella & Basil

I did it! I stretched out & shaped the dough by hand… & did not make the map of India! See, it’s almost a circle! I used the rolling pin just to finish it.

The dough I kneaded… but of course we didn’t use this one. The dough I rolled out had been resting in the fridge for 5 hours.

My work station just before we started… with all the ingredients neatly laid out, & a Recipe Booklet!

Some More Biscuits & the Facebook Page

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Well encouraged by the success of the buttermilk biscuits I made 2 days ago, I thought I’d experiment some more.

I used this recipe from Joy of Baking & tweaked it around a bit. I made half  a batch with Cheddar & Rosemary & half with Chocolate Chips & Lemon Zest.

Cheddar & Rosemary Biscuits

Chocolate Chip & Lemon Zest Biscuits

While the Cheddar ones were a hit with everyone (yay!!!) the Chocolate Chip ones didn’t quite live up to expectation… of course it’s chocolate so you can’t go wrong, yet they weren’t as delish as the cheese ones.

No problem! Gone Wrong? Made Right!

Inspired by an Ice Cream Burger (little Brioche buns layered with ice cream)   my friend Priti had at The Sea Lounge at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on Father’s Day this year, I decided to make my very own Ice Cream Sandwich!

My “Made Right” Ice Cream Sandwich

Slice a biscuit in half.

Spread a generous amount of Nutella & pop into the microwave for 15 seconds.

Scoop on a dollop of Chocolate Chip Ice Cream… And it’s ready!!

Oh! And yes… I have a  Facebook Page up now! Check it out & spread the love 🙂