breaking from the monotony

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every once in a while comes a day when i choose to unwind from the monotonous demanding routine. and yesterday happened to be one of those days. having worked the last two weekends back-to-back and with another hectic one on the horizon, i was even more looking to break free. i would choose to not do much on such days, typically potter around the house, read a bit, nap in between, be at my sloth-iest optimum. it’s funny how i think of ways of being productive at home whilst at work, and when i actually find myself home, i can’t seem to get off the couch. there are movies waiting to be watched, recipes waiting to be tested, reviewed and blogged about, half read books waiting to get to the appendix, a hundred pinned articles waiting to be read. and yet! i can’t get myself to do any. it’s like my brain giving me the silent treatment.

yesterday wasn’t any different. except that i decided to head out for a spin. and that notwithstanding the sweltering unforgiving summer heat that could put planet Mercury to shame. i chose to indulge in a bit of retail therapy. and for once, i was happy with my purchase. except that it also meant shedding a few kilos. and then came the part that i always look forward to. food! i decided to have Malaysian for lunch. “Nasi and Mee” in a busy neighbourhood is a charming little joint that serves authentic Malaysian/Thai cuisine. some shots from my time at the restaurant. after a satisfying meal, i was back home looking to spend whatever little was left of my day, productively, trying so hard not to think about my upcoming working weekend. i need more of this i say!

a restaurant with a Julia Child quote on its wall is a good one in my book!

my lemon grass cooler, what’s missing is the refreshing chendol that was gulped down before it could be caught on camera

chicken satay, succulent pieces of meat cooked to perfection

phad krapao gai – rice topped with a fried egg, stir fried chicken with thai basil alongside a refreshing salad

nasi goreng – malaysian chicken fried rice in sweet soya and chilli topped with a fried egg, served with chicken satay, sambal paste, fresh cucumber, and prawn crackers (my absolute favorite!)

breakfast porridge

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porridge transports me back to my childhood to the days when my mum made a basic, austere, but wholesome version of porridge, mostly with oatmeal, and other times with broken wheat or finger millet. she said it was healthy and fed me, and so did my grandmother in her times.

most people do not fancy waking up to a gloopy gruel when they could easily have fried eggs, crispy bacon and gooey melted cheddar sandwiched between generously buttered slices of toasted brown bread (well ok, wholemeal and multigrain at that!). but the health benefits of the unassuming humble oat are far too many to ignore, such as lowering of high blood pressure, reducing of bad cholesterol, regulating of blood sugar levels, besides being a vital source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. it is little wonder then that oats already happens to be the breakfast choice of champions, athletes and of those on a liberating not restrictive diet. read more on this study conducted at the Harvard University. my grandmother and mother did not need conclusive evidence then, kitchen wisdom never fails. period.

purists insist on porridge being made with oats, water and salt alone. i don’t see that going down well with anyone, leave alone me. now adding of milk surely enhances the taste and texture of what would otherwise be a goopy inedible unpalatable mess. and nobody wants that! my breakfast porridge is apt for those rush workday mornings and works just as good on lazy weekends. simple, wholesome, healthy, and flavorful. now shouldn’t a breakfast be all of that, if not more?


ingredients

  • a cup of quick oats (i use Quaker Oats)
  • a half a cup water
  • a pinch of salt
  • a cup of milk or more depending on how you like your porridge consistency to be (use full fat if you want it creamy, i use skim milk)
  • one heaping tbsp of light muscovado or soft brown sugar
  • a tsp of ground cinnamon powder
  • a handful of roughly chopped walnuts or almonds or a mix of both
  • a scant mix of dried berries (blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries)

instructions

take a small saucepan, pour the water in it and bring it to a boil. tip in the cup of oats, pinch of salt and stir until all of the water has been absorbed. pour in the cup of milk and stir. toss in the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until blended. bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and let it simmer for a while. turn off the heat and cover until ready to serve. pour into two bowls and sprinkle a mixture of walnuts and mixed berries on top of each bowlful. i believe toppings are personal. some alternate suggestions;

  • a drizzle of thick dark forest honey
  • a sprinkle of chopped dates and walnuts
  • greek yogurt and honey
  • a sprinkle of demerara sugar
  • any fresh fruit serving of your choice

serve right away!


as always, BBC Good Food and The Guardian have articles on how to cook the ultimate “anything”;

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/nov/10/how-to-cook-perfect-porridge

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-make-porridge-best-breakfast-ever

 

comfort reading and everyday brownies

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when i joined Instagram way back in 2011, it introduced me to a world of food, and with it, food bloggers, stylists, photographers and recipe developers. and following one led to another. i had with time compiled my list of chosen handles, of which the talented prodigy Kamran Siddiqi (@kamrantsg) was one. so it is little wonder when he was out with his first cookbook, i knew i had to bag myself a copy, which i also have to say at first was met with a lot of resistance from having to add to my stockpile of cookbooks, most of which i hadn’t even looked at in a while, leave alone the many recipes in my ever-increasing to-do list. now i know you must not judge a book by its cover but i think exceptions can be made with a cover that looks like this! before i knew it, i had ordered myself one.

when it finally reached me from the long shipping wait-time, it took me all of two nights to read/ogle my way through each recipe/picture trying so hard not to lick each page clean (how does he on earth get his bakes to look so good in print?).

  

  

if that wasn’t enough i ran through his blog sophisticatedgourmet only to find most (which at one point felt like all) of the recipes from the book already listed on his blog. *sigh*? well, no. because in a world where nearly everything has come to be digital, i still like my books. don’t get me wrong – i’m no bibliophile or bibliomaniac. but i still like taking a good book to bed. i like how the pages of a newly bound book smell. i like to feel each page, turn them over and insert a paper bookmark from where to take over next. the sensory experience of reading a paperback or a hardbound cover book is much too much to forego for an artificial light emitting e-reader.

i have to confess i don’t get around to trying recipes off cookbooks that easily. sometimes i’m short on time, sometimes on ingredients (in which case i would just give the recipe a miss ‘coz if it’s not made off simple pantry ingredients, i don’t even want to bother) but most of the times, it has to do with a case of extreme procrastination. today, i wanted to make an honest sincere attempt at overcoming that with these everyday brownies from the amazing cookbook i just babbled about at length. although i have only two definitive brownie recipes that in all honesty i swear by namely the baked brownie recipe and these cocoa brownies by alice medrich, i must say these ones by Kamran are unique for two reasons – one, they call for a small measure of dark brown sugar and two, they recommend using eggs straight off your refrigerator! now who wouldn’t prefer a recipe that does not have you preparing in advance getting all of your baking ingredients to meet strict room temperature standards?! moreover Kamran actually advocates the use of cold eggs for fudge-y brownies and room temperature eggs for cake-y brownies – a well guarded secret by some of the most renowned world test kitchens i say! and i must confirm it to have worked with these brownies turning out to be insanely chocolatey and fudgy while still holding their shape. everyday brownies, everyday exotic!


ingredients

  • 1 cup / 225 g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups / 300 g castor sugar
  • 1/3 cup / 65 g packed dark brown sugar (i used dark muscovado sugar)
  • 1 1/2 cup / 130 g unsweetened cocoa powder (i used dark cocoa from carrefours)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, cold
  • 3/4 cup / 90 g flour
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional, i left these out)
  • 150 g roughly chopped dark chocolate (optional, i left these out)

instructions 

line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper. melt the butter in a microwave oven on low power in bursts of 20-30 secs depending on how cold/solidified it is. with a whisk or wooden ladle, mix in both the sugars and cocoa. the mixture would look gritty at this point. stir in the eggs and the vanilla extract. whisk until a smooth batter is formed. fold in the flour gently just until it is incorporated, do not overmix. stir in the chopped chocolate and nuts if using. pour into the lined pan and bake in a preheated 165 degC oven for 40-45 mins or until a skewer reveals moist crumbs. let the pan cool for about 10 min. transfer the brownie square onto a wire rack to cool completely. i baked these in the night and left them wrapped in foil overnight to be cut the morning after. these will keep well in an airtight container for upto a week.


of memories and irani cafes

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i grew up in Bombay and lived most of my formative years there. it is my hometown. and although i’ve now come to build my home in Bangalore, Bombay will always continue to reign supreme in my heart. it is a place like no other, a place where i’ve made a chock-full of memories to last a lifetime. my earliest memory of a cafe was not the Starbucks of today’s modern times. it was one of old-world charm with a subtle colonial touch, basic and minimalistic, with high-end ceilings and large creaking fans, black-and-white-checkered laminated/tiled flooring, wooden/glass/marble-topped tables with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths, wooden/cane chairs that wore the brunt of time, large wall mirrors hanging precariously doubling up the floor space, large chiming pendulum clocks, and large apothecary jars filled with shrewsbury biscuits, nankhatai (shortbread biscuits), macaroons, madeira pound cakes, mawa cakes and other such characteristic bakery treats on display. legend has it, Iranian cafes were opened by Persian immigrants to India as early as the 19th century. there were hundreds of them then of which most downed their shutters over a period of time losing to competition from fast-food chains etc. leaving only a few handful to pass on their dying legacy. since they operate on a low margin making it affordable to the common man, their sustainability and survival is only a matter of time.

there are no Irani cafes here in Bangalore. but there is one that opened up in their name with the below objective;

With sodabottleopenerwala, we give you a concept that is unique to India; the dying legacy of the wonderful chaotic, crowded, bustling, colorful, quirky, cluttered, eccentric, and so real world of an Irani cafe. Our way of reviving the love for the edu and the disappearing race behind the cafes.

        i must say they did a pretty good job at recreating the cluttered and eccentric ambiance and the food, to some extent. here are a few shots from my time at the restaurant. 

    

i have been looking to bake these Irani mawa cakes for long now. cakes that time-travel into my childhood. i find they are ridiculously easy to make with basic pantry ingredients except for the condensed milk solids (mawa / khova) that a trip to your local supermarket or milkbar / dairy center should fulfill.

adapted from here


ingredients

  • 200g mawa/khova (condensed milk solids), at room temperature
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • a pinch of cardamom powder
  • a tbsp of almond flour
  • almond slivers

instructions

  1. blend the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and mawa using a hand or stand mixer at low speed in a large bowl into a smooth batter. add the cardamom powder and almond flour and blend until incorporated.
  2. whisk the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. fold the dry ingredients into the wet to form a muffin-like batter.
  3. spoon the batter into a muffin tin, with each hole about 3/4th full. sprinkle almond slivers on top.
  4. bake in a preheated oven at 150 deg celsius for about 30-35 min.
  5. serve warm with a steaming cup of hot irani chai!