Thursday, July 31, 2008

Argh!

I bought a MacBook couple of years ago. In June 2006 to be exact. It crashed in Dec 2006. They said it was a common problem with MacBooks, and they replaced the hard drive. I lost everything. After that, every month I backed up all my information. For 6 months. Then I got complacent thinking it can't happen again.

One year later, in Dec 2007, it crashed again. This time I lost everything again and they replaced the hard drive ... again.

Now its June 2008, and it crashed again TODAY. I hadn't backed it up. Yup, thought how could it happen THREE times? I lost all my recipes, bookmarks, files, photos, folders, miscellaneous information. Everything.

I'm so bummed. I'm a huge Apple fan and just can't possibly think of buying a non-Apple laptop (gasp!). Sigh. This is a warning to those who don't back up. Please do. Please!

All my recipes that I've been religiously trying out and perfecting are gone. Gone.

I'm off to wallow in self-pity and (secretly) bash Apple around a bit in my head.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Product Review: Poach Pods


A relative recently got these for me as a gift, knowing I absolutely love poached eggs. I've tried many methods to poach eggs, and though it does come close, they are not perfect. Well, if you are like me, the quest has ended.

Go out and get the Poach Pod. And have yourself perfectly poached eggs every time.


Its simple. Break an egg carefully into the poach pod. Fill a pot with a couple inches of water and allow the pod to float in the water. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes, depending on how well you'd like your eggs cooked.


Poach Pods can also be used in the oven for baking and molding a muffins/ cakes. Lots of details and information on their website.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spicy Banana Blossoms

The banana tree is extremely versatile and most parts of it are used in Indian cooking in one way or the other. The leaves are used as plates to eat on, and of course the fruit is one of the most favorite parts of the plant. Banana Blossoms are used frequently in south Indian food - especially in Kerala. It takes a little bit of prep - but the result is a wonderful, mild dish which is also extremely healthy.

Spicy Banana Blossoms

1 Banana Blossom, peeled and chopped
1 cup or more Yogurt, mixed with 1 cup water and salt, to taste
2-3 tbsp Coconut, grated
1 large Onion, chopped fine

For tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tsp Urad Dal
2-3 Green chillies, chopped
2-3 Curry Leaves

Here's the lovely banana blossom.


Peel off the lovely red petals, and you'll find a bunch of tiny yellow and white flowers. Each petal houses several of these flowers. Put the flowers in a bowl as you peel off the petals. As you go deeper into the blossom, you'll find smaller flowers that are white and tender. Save all the flowers.


Each flower consists of 4 parts - one long outer cover, one short outer cover, one white hard thread with a tiny head and lots of little thread-like sheaths. Remove the long outer cover and the hard thread, as shown here. Repeat for all the flowers. You can read more about this here.


Chop up the remaining bits.


Soak the chopped bits in the yogurt mixture for atleast 15-20 minutes. This gets rid of any bitterness that the flowers might have.


Heat a saucepan with the oil. Throw in the mustard seeds, urad dal, onions, curry leaves and green chillies. Saute until the onions are browned.

Drain most of the yogurt from the soaking flowers (don't drain it completely - the yogurt adds a nice flavor to the dish). Add handfuls of the flowers at a time to the cooking onions. Continue to stir fry. When you've added all the flowers, add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover and let cook for about twenty minutes. Check on it a couple of times and drizzle with water if it appears too dry.

When cooked and soft, sprinkle with the grated coconut. Serve warm with rice or rotis.


This is off to Rachna @ Soul Food for this month's JFI - Flower Power. JFI was originally started by Indira of Mahanandi.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paris!

Let's start with an entry for this month's CLICK - the delicious Caffe Mocha.


served for us with baguettes, butter and honey by

and here's the gorgeous baguette, butter and honey


the people at Paul were very nice and let me go around into the bakery to have a look at the bread-making process.


and around the corner, in the sunday farmer's market:


Say Cheese! :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zebra Pasta!


When I was partnered with Cooking In an Apron for this month's Taste & Create, I was very excited. I hadn't visited her blog before and its always exciting to visit a new blog - but I was in for a huge surprise - she's one of the most talented writers and cooks! Her blog is filled with fantastic cakes and cookies and I found myself putting on a few pounds just looking at the pictures!

For my part, I decided not to even try to recreate her delicious bakes. I went for the one pasta in her blog - and that was superb too! I recently acquired some gorgeously quirky black and white bow tie pasta, and it was put to great use in this recipe - which had no sauce - exactly the way I like my pasta!


For the exact recipe, please see her post. The pasta is tossed with olive oil and garlic, smashed peas and ricotta cheese. The only changes I made was that I substituted bow tie for penne, used paneer or Indian cottage cheese (yes, full fat!) instead of ricotta and made a veggie version without the sausage. It was gorgeous and became an instant hit at dinner.


Thank you for the recipe! And thanks, Nicole, for another great edition of T&C!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Papaya Guacamole


I know this is a really tiny recipe from Meeta's beautiful blog, What's for Lunch, Honey? but when Zlamushka announced that it was Meeta's blog being featured in the Tried & Tasted event, I couldn't wait any longer. This guacamole is one of the very first recipes I bookmarked when I started to blog hop. Its simple and delicious, and very healthy!

I made small changes, but it still tasted fabulous!


Papaya Guacamole
(original recipe here)

1 1/2 cups Papaya, cubed and slightly mashed with a fork
1/2 tsp Mustard (I used French Mustard)
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1 pinch Salt
1 pinch Pepper
1 Red Chilli, minced
1 tbsp Cilantro, chopped

Mix all the above ingredients together. I served it with wholewheat crackers. It was delicious. We ended up eating the guacamole on its own long after the crackers were over! Thanks, Meeta - this recipe is a keeper.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Savory Semolina Cake

I just discovered Anjum Anand's Indian Food Made Easy on BBC. She has a really cool presentation technique and her recipes are easy and delicious.

I made this in half an hour and it was a delicious, healthy meal.


Savory Semolina Cake
(original recipe here)

1 cup semolina
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup water
1/2 cup peas, cooked
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 tsp each chilli powder, turmeric powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

For tempering:
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

Mix together all the ingredients except the baking soda and the tempering.

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the tempering ingredients turn off when the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the tempering to the semolina mixture. Now add the baking soda. Pour the batter into a loaf pan and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from oven and let it cool completely. Anjum suggests serving this with a green chutney but I enjoyed it just as it was - the vegetables and the spices were wonderful flavors for the semolina.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Baked Samosas

Samosas are my primary love. I can have them any day of the week at all times of the day. Needless to say, this isn't possible - it's not the most healthy snack - especially when it's fried. But these aren't - or atleast they don't have to be.

This recipe was passed onto my mom by her college roommate, and is definitely an old, traditional Gujarati recipe.

Samosas

For the Shell:
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup melted butter

For the Filling:
1.5 cups boiled Potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup Peas, cooked
2 tbsp Amchur powder (dried mango powder) or Chaat Masala
2 tsp Chilli powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
Salt, to taste

Roast & Grind:
1/4 cup Fennel Seeds
1/4 cup Coriander Seeds
4-5 dried Red Chillies
3-4 Curry Leaves

Mix flour and butter and a little water to make a soft pliable dough. Take small amounts and roll out into circles, cut into halves and keep aside.


Mix together all the filling ingredients.


Scoop a heaped tablespoon of the filling into the center of each semi-circle. Fold the ends over as in the pictures.


Bake @ 350 deg F for 25-30 mts.


I had some extra filling and dough, and wanted to try something I'd seen a long time ago here. I shaped the rolled dough into a muffin pan. Then added the filling into the cups and baked for about 20 minutes.


These would be perfect as appetizers! And you can experiment with the filling. The dough is a winner!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Zebras and Leopards

I've been wanting to try making a Zebra Cake for the longest time. And then I tried it. And then I tried it again. And then again. And again. FOUR times!! Each time, something went wrong - when I fixed that, something else went wrong. And I now know the entire recipe in my head!

Here's my final attempt - and I thought it was pretty good. It's still not perfect - but the reason baffles me.

Zebra Cake
(I followed this recipe exactly)

Here you have the ingredients: Sugar, All-purpose Flour, Milk, Cocoa, Baking Powder, Oil and Eggs.


First beat the sugar and eggs together. Add the milk and oil and continue to blend well. Meanwhile, sift the flour and baking powder. Start adding the flour to the wet ingredients, little by little, until well combined. Do not over beat, and don't let those bubbles form as far as possible. Of course, since I was using a hand whip, the bubbles did form! Divide the dough into halves and add cocoa to one half.


Now comes the important part. In a buttered baking dish (I think you should use a round pan, though I tried both a round and a rectangular and didn't see much difference). First scoop about 3 tbsp or 1 ladle that holds about 3 tbsp of batter in the middle of the pan. Then pour the dark batter in the middle of the original batter. Here you go:

It will look like this when you're done:


Now bake for 40 mts at 180 deg C. And try not to peek, please!


When you cut it, you can see the beautiful stripes! Its really a gorgeous cake. Do you see the holes in mine? That's what happens if you have bubbles! It's still light and moist and delicious, though.



Leopard Cupcakes

Okay, now that we're done with the Zebra, let's move onto the Leopard, shall we? It's just that I had some batter left over from the above process. So I poured two ladlefuls into a muffin tin and baked it (one ladle of the regular batter and one of the cocoa). We got ourselves some spots.


Aren't the felines lovely? :)

My daughter was delighted with her "zoo" dessert! And now that we have stripey zebras and spotted leopards, she requests a giraffe next!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Simple Fried Rice

When my dear friend, DK, announced that China was the destination for this month's AWED, I really didn't know what I could contribute. I've tried very hard to replicate Chinese flavors at home, without much success - it always seems to require ingredients that I end up substituting, and then it just never tastes the same.

I love spicy food, but when it comes to Chinese, I'm not a huge Indian Chinese person. I much prefer stir fried Bok Choy and Greens to Cauliflower Manchurian. This is one of the staples we used to make - a very simple fried rice, which was always well appreciated.


Simple Fried Rice

1.5 cups cooked long grain Rice (chilled overnight in the refrigerator (leftovers are perfect) - the rice needs to be cold. I used Basmati)
3/4 cup or more Bean Sprouts
2-3 cloves Garlic, chopped
2 tsp Soy Sauce
2-3 Spring Onions (white and green parts chopped separately)
1/2 cup Mushrooms (I used button, but shiitake are preferable)
1 Egg, beaten with a tsp of water

Heat a tsp of sesame oil in a pan. When hot add the garlic, white parts of the spring onions, mushrooms and soy sauce. Stir fry until mushrooms are cooked. Remove from heat and keep aside.


Add the egg to the pan and swirl around to form a very thin layer. Let it set (about a minute), then gently slide off the pan and roll into a cigar shape. Cut cross-wise to form the restaurant-style strips.


Now add the cold rice to the pan, saute for a minute and then add the mushroom mixture. Toss with the rice for about 2 minutes until combined. Add the egg and toss through. I like to add some more bean sprouts at this point to add some crunchiness, but its completely optional. Now add the chopped green parts of the spring onion.


Serve with stir-fried greens.


This rice can obviously be made very personal by adding or subtracting any of the veggies. It tastes great with peas, carrots as well. Feel free to leave out the mushrooms or eggs if you don't enjoy them. This is a very basic recipe that can be easily customized for your taste.